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Staghorn Gorge

by TANIKA SMITH WHEATLEY 4 months ago in Horror
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by Tanika Smith Wheatley

Just one more rise to go, under the full moon...

Staghorn Gorge

By Tanika Smith Wheatley

“I’d like to go to the Staghorn Wine Festival on Friday,” June sipped on her coffee, “what do you think, shall we all go?”

“Sorry; Paul and I have other plans already, for this Friday. We’ve been invited to a neighbor’s birthday party.” I sipped on my coffee; June and I had met for a regular coffee catch-up at Mantagna’s, one of our favorite cafes, Mary was supposed to meet us also, but she was resting up at home, nursing a bad cold instead.

June sighed. “Next year then,” added June, “with Mary too…” she was always trying to find places for us all, besides her and Mary, Paul and I, and a couple of other couples, all best friends, to go to.

I met June and Mary at work, they had trained me, so they were the first friends that I had there, and we remained friends, even after our jobs had been outsourced overseas and we’d ended up all employed at different places. They had both recently become single again, their husbands had both left them for other women, when we first met, but they were both actively going out, hoping to meet new men, so Paul and I were being taken to events and festivals with them and a handful of other close friends, all over town. Paul and I didn’t mind, everyone laughing and dancing was much better than watching their broken hearts and loneliness, otherwise. They were pretty women, and over the years, we saw a few attempts at new relationships with men that they’d met and liked, but to date, none of these attempts worked out – Paul and I suspected that perhaps they were too keen to commence their new lives with their new loves, that it scared off the men, but no matter how we tried to convince them to take it easy, they didn’t – nearing middle age, perhaps they were afraid that they would end up old and alone, which would make them try all the more harder, to find new love…

“It’s a date; hang on,” I almost choked on my coffee, “Staghorn…Staghorn Festival? That - that reminds me of a dream; the dream I had, last night…”

We’d had a perfect picnic, a large group of us friends including June, Mary and Paul and I - we had all climbed into a friend’s large people mover vehicle, and had headed for the yearly Staghorn Wine Festival, an hour’s drive south of the city, among the vineyard countryside. We’d spent a couple of hours tasting and sampling good wine and delicious food, then decided to continue on to the beach, another quarter of an hour’s drive south, on a dirt road alongside Staghorn river, and through Staghorn Gorge. Although we’ve been here before, we always gasped as we drove over the final rise to suddenly find the splendid ocean spread out in front of us. And we giggled happily. No-one else was here, we had the place all to ourselves. We parked by the river outlet into the sea and laughed happily as we removed our shoes and let our feet sink into the warm sand as we stepped down out of the vehicle. We enjoyed a walk along the beach, with incoming waves lapping at our ankles, just enjoying each other’s company - even in May it was still warm enough to swim and some did, others sunbathed, some played with a soccer-ball, including Paul, but some of us, and I was one of them, was content just to sit in the warm winter sun, still sipping on wine…

When the sun started to go down and a cool breeze came in along with the long dark late afternoon shadows, reminding us it really was winter after-all, we decided we’d better grab our shoes and soccer ball, and head for home - we were just about to take off; Paul and I ware making ourselves comfortable about two seats down from the front of the vehicle, when a teenage boy and his younger sister suddenly appeared outside before us – seemingly, from nowhere - he knocked on the door of the vehicle, on the side where Paul and I sat, and I was in the window seat, so I was able to hear every word he said…

“Please watch my sister for awhile,” the boy spoke to our driver, the owner of the vehicle, “my motorbike has broken down. We live nearby, and it’ll be quicker if I run home to get our dad to come and pick her up…I’ll only be gone a few minutes…just keep an eye on her, she’s blind…”

Then the boy took off before we had a chance to consider the situation or reply. There was no more room in the vehicle for any extra people anyway, let alone a motorbike, so for awhile, we sat there waiting in our vehicle, as the boy had asked, while the blind girl stood outside…

The sun had almost completely set; when we must have all started wondering what to do next, all of us looking at each other nervously. We had no way of knowing which way the boy had gone; he had not left a telephone number or address, and for all we knew, he may have abandoned her to strangers forever - all sorts of things like these possibilities must have been going through everyone’s minds, they were certainly going through mine – and although there were some perplexed whispers going around the inside of our vehicle; we could not speak our thoughts out loud, for the girl was blind, not deaf, and we did not want to alarm her…

I looked out of my side window down to her. There was something strange about the girl outside. She had not fidgeted impatiently; since her brother had left, neither had she spoken a sound. But the weirdest thing of all, were her clothes - the Quaker type bonnet and long modest dress including apron; were not the kind of fashion a young girl would be wearing these days, but what unnerved me the most, was that the so-called blind girl seemed to be looking at me - at first; I thought it was just the way that the evening sun-setting and shadows through the glass window made it appear as though she was watching, and I turned from her as I tried to dismiss the thought, tried to convince myself that my imagination was playing tricks with my mind - but when I glanced at her again; her eyes followed my turning head, and I gasped - for since the time I turned from her and turned back; her eyes had changed from the pale cold blue color they’d been, to a shade so dark, that now they seemed quite black…

I did not want to alarm the others; or the girl, I added to myself, and tried convincing myself it was just a poor innocent young girl whose strange eyes were just a figment of my overactive imagination – however; I felt as though I needed to warn the others somehow anyway, so that they could at least be alert, and ready for anything, that things may not be as they seemed - I whispered my concerns to Paul, he almost laughed out loud, and shook his head, dismissing my words with I ‘don’t be silly’ under his breath. So I looked across to Mary, who was sitting on the opposite side of the vehicle behind the driver…she had always been intuitive and quick to respond to a potential problem and I knew that if anyone was going to understand my plight, it would be her - I raised my hands and with fingers tucked in my palms as if clenching, I crossed my fore-fingers into an ‘X’…

Thankfully she instantly understood my warning signal and also without making a sound, she reached out and tapped our driver on his shoulder. When he turned to face her; she had a finger to her mouth, signaling him not to make a sound, then with her other hand, she pointed to the windscreen, and just the way she did it, with a dark stern look, we all knew she was signaling him to…GO! FAST!

When I looked back out of my window, the girl was nowhere in sight; and for a moment, we sighed with relief - for a moment - for somehow the girl must have realized that we were not going to stick around any longer; and without having to turn around, with a spine-tingling sensation rising from my back to my neck, I knew she was behind us - not running after us, she had also instantaneously moved as we took off, springing into action, and had somehow run and jumped onto the back of the vehicle, and was now clinging on tightly back there, on the outside, looking in at us - opening her mouth wide - revealing long, sharp incisor-like fangs…

As quiet as we had all been moments earlier; as if we were all suddenly wide awake from our long, relaxing day, some were screaming, and others were crying - Mary yelled at the driver to brake, in an attempt to jolt the girl from the vehicle, but the girl’s grip was firm, she hardly even swayed from the sudden motion - then Mary was yelling for the driver to speed up again; to swerve to the right, and then to the left, but like a leech, the girl held on, her face twisting and contorting, taking on the features of a fur-less long-snouted, fanged wild animal - the phenomenon made me glance up to the darkening sky and sure enough, the rising moon was full, and seemingly sarcastically bright, as if it was enjoying our creepy plight…

Then suddenly the driver stopped; jumped out of our vehicle and ran around to pull the girl off. But in front of our eyes, with one hand, she effortlessly picked him up, bit his face off, and threw him away into the bushes at the side of the road, as if he’d been a rag doll, instead of a large man...

For a dazed moment, we were frozen by shock - then the girl jumped to the ground and started running around to our door. That’s when June, who had been sitting in front of Paul and I and had been closest to the driver, made for the driver’s seat - it was a race between June driving off, and the girl getting into our vehicle - June managed to slide into the seat before the girl made it to the door; but in a panic, our vehicle stalled - she managed to close the door, but one of the girl’s hands was jammed in it - I always carried a large bag with every possible requirement in it; including a small umbrella, water bottle, and can of hairspray; so with such heavy equipment inside, I ran to the door and swinging my bag in a wide circle, bought it down with a heavy bang onto the girl’s fingers - she screamed - I screamed for June to open the door, swung the bag around again into the girl as she attempted to scramble into the vehicle; which hit her hard in the chest, causing her to fall backwards onto the ground - I screamed at June to quickly close the door again - she did and finally; June also managed to start the engine at last, and we sped off again, skidding along the dirt road as we did so.

I sank down where June had originally sat, and sighed with relief - we all sighed; thinking it was over at last, thinking we were now on our way home and between deep breaths; we blinked at each other, too scared to return for what was left of our driver, but feeling safe from our horrendous encounter at last…

But the sound of breaking glass bought us back out of our reverie; somehow the girl had again managed to jump up in time and grab a hold at the back of the vehicle and this time, she had shoved a fist through the back window and grabbed one of the guys that was sitting back there – with fingers that had turned into sharp, jagged claws - just by the way the body hung limply from her grasp, we knew he was dead already - one of the passengers closest to him abruptly grabbed his body and shoved the poor soul out of the broken window, hoping that the weight of the body being shoved out and into her should loosen her hold, and both of them should fall from the vehicle - and for a moment; it appeared as though it worked - we could not see her anywhere…

Then, another sound of breaking glass from the front; from the windscreen, showed we were still not rid of the girl - that somehow she had moved around a side to the driver’s front window - Mary was now yelling at June to alternatively speed up, jam on the brakes, swerve to the right, and swerve to the left, all to no avail, the girl, legs flailing out behind, managed to hang on, glowering at our petrified expressions…

“DUCK!” I screamed and as June did so; I twirled my bag into another circle, smashing it right into the girl’s face - June immediately sped up and swerving again and this time; we had dislodged one of the girl’s hands, and she was flapping around uncontrollably, outside. I was about to yell duck again; when I noticed June was struggling to keep the vehicle on the road - as we were now rounding a pin-point corner, with a sheer cliff-drop over the side. This momentary pause in our fight against the girl and strive to stay on the road; gave the girl enough time to grab hold of the side mirror and June expertly maneuvered the vehicle so we narrowly missed going over the side - but this diversion was all the girl needed and by the time we were safely back on the road, the girl was on the bonnet and this time, she was punching what was left of the windscreen – I had lost my balance while we were trying to keep on the road; and it took me a moment to get ready to whack her with my bag again and in that time, I marveled at the bloody mess of the girl on the front of the vehicle, and wondered if her crazed attack on us was all worth it, for her - but it must have been, as she bared her fangs and snarled at us all inside…

“SHIT!” June swore, I’d never heard her swear before, but it was not the girl that she was swearing at, it was the precarious, gorge-like road that she was still desperately attempting to stay on…

I could feel the water seeping through my bag, as the water bottle had broken, while I’d been using it as a weapon; ‘Good’ I thought to myself, ‘the jagged bottle should do a lot more damage now,’ and twisting the handle in my hand, I prepared to swing it at the girl once more, but did not get a chance to…

“Out of the way!” Paul called out this time, he had remembered that we had a soccer ball with us, and as I deftly stepped aside, he threw the heavy thing out of the gash in the windscreen, to the girl on the bonnet; this really did catch the girl off guard, she finally lost her grip on our vehicle, and started falling to the road below, legs and arms flailing helplessly; the ball bouncing into a ditch, the wheels bumping over the hideous monster, confirming that we’d run over her as well…

Inspecting what was left of the girl on the road almost made us feel guilty; even in the dark, we could see that the eyes were no longer dark, they were pale again, and they really were sightless, now - and the features; no longer elongated, nor fanged, were of a pretty, little girl’s face - surrounded by soft golden curls, gently waving in the cool evening breeze, the ‘bloodied to the bone’ fists the only sign that she had ever been anything else…

Still, with what she’d just put us through, no-one felt any remorse when we rolled her body over the side of the cliff, and heard her body splash into her jagged, rocky and watery grave below – we watched in silence as the waves claimed her and dragged her out towards the sea…

And we remained quiet as we attempted our journey home; we should have been rejoicing, for we had escaped a frightening experience - but none of us could feel happy at surviving a nightmare when the monster had been a pretty, ‘doll-like’ little girl - we were all feeling baffled, worn and weary - too wretched to speak - all obviously wondering if we should go to the police, but would they believe us? What about the two she had killed, the ones that we were too scared to go back for? Will we ever be the same again, can we face our loved ones at home, and continue our lives? In the glow of the lit dash-board; our faces looked bleak as we all dismally watched the road in front of us, as we left the beach cliff area and drove around the winding gorge and river, the road which will hopefully take us back through the beautiful winery countryside, with the festive party lights now on and others still partying at the festival, then back onto the highway to the city, the city lights that we should see twinkling in the distance, to our homes, and hopefully, back to normality, hopefully…

“SHIT!” June again, while still driving through the gorge, at the final rise, but she did not have to point out to us the dark silhouette of the brother up ahead on his motorbike against the paler, night sky with the large, bright full moon behind him – waiting on the next and final rise of Staghorn Gorge, before getting to the winery countryside, patiently, waiting for us…

“If we do go to the Staghorn Wine Festival next year,” June joked as she finished her coffee at the cafe, “I’m going to pack a gun…”

“Me too…”

END

Horror

About the author

TANIKA SMITH WHEATLEY

When I was a young child, I would wake up in the night screaming because of nightmares. As time went on, I realized that I was looking forward to my dreams. They were much more exciting than my real life. So now, I write about my dreams...

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