Leeds

Feet pounding as fast as they can, I tear across the hard-packed ground. Tree branches slap my arms, scrape my face, tangle in my hair; I don’t think I’m gonna make it. I hear it chasing me, not quite on my heels yet, but close enough to make my skin want to crawl clean off my bones. At any moment, I expect to be snatched from the trail by god-knows-what kind of clawed hand. The thing is so near I can smell its stench. It’s enough to make me gag: make my eyes water and my nostrils burn. I set out to find it, to track it – to prove its existence. What a fool. I was never tracking it; it was tracking me the entire time.

If I can make it to the water, everything will be all right – that’s what all the stories say. Make it to that deep blue pool buried in the Pines and for some reason, the creature won’t come any closer.

I can’t be too far from the lake. Christ – I must have trekked thirty miles into the dense Barrens since leaving the road. It’s got to be around here somewhere; I’m right where the locals said the water would be. But there was something not quite right about the way those ‘Pineys’ were smiling…

My foot tangles in an exposed root where the dirt loosens and turns to a softer, sandier mixture. In near panic, I almost go down but somehow manage to keep my feet beneath me. The forest is thinning out quickly; I can see a much brighter patch ahead.

A guttural roar sounds from behind; it’s nearly on top of me. I can feel the air shift to the side as my eye catches sight of something black whipping by just off to the right. I scream – no sound comes out – but I don’t stop moving. Before I know it, the trees clear and I stumble onto a small beach.

I can see the water and whisper a silent prayer of thanks to those hicks who somehow managed to get me here. Flinging myself down at the water’s edge, I finally dare to look behind me. I can’t see it clearly, but I can feel it standing just under the dense canopy of the trees – hiding in the darkness.

Dunking my head into the cool water, I laugh when I realize what I’m holding. The entire time I was running, I was clutching my cell phone, but lost everything else. Can you hear me now? No! More hysterical laughter; the sound desperate even to my own ears. There’s no cell service out here. I can’t believe that in my panic the only thing I managed to save is this useless piece of crap. One last look at it and I hurl it as far as I can across the lake.

Leaning down again, I taste the water. At first barely a sip to make sure it’s safe, then small handfuls to quench my thirst. Making myself stop, I roll over and stare at the sun like it’s my newfound savior. The Pines are so dense; this small clearing is a godsend. I can still hear the thing rustling in the trees, but for now, next to the water, I’m safe.

I must have drifted off from exhaustion, maybe simple relief, I don’t know. When I wake, the sun is low and dim shadows have crept half-way across the small beach. I can hear it breathing and pacing in the brush. A spike of adrenaline slashes through me and I dive for the only hope I see; one long bow from a white cedar growing out over the lake. Scrambling to it, I climb as far out as I can, shimmying backward the whole while. From what I know of the Blue Hole, the water is deep as hell. Drowning is no better an option than feeding myself to Mother Leeds’ thirteenth son, and I would prefer to do neither.

As full night falls, I can see its red eyes glaring at me, along with the shadowy impression of a dark, winged figure. Its tail flicking from side to side accompanies the sound of tree branches being torn apart. Bellying down further onto the limb, I try for a little more distance. I know my chances of surviving the night are slim… Still, if I can keep my balance and stay awake, I might just make it until morning.

I hear a faint splash, and a responding roar from the woods – almost a challenge. Terrified to take my eyes off the beast before me, but more afraid of what lurks below, I chance a glance downward. Elongated, translucent hands reaching from the depths are all I see before I’m yanked from my perch, screaming for help that’s never going to come.

***

“Howdy there, Bob, Tomas,” the deputy says as he steps from his vehicle to greet the two men sitting outside the small shack that serves as a convenience store in this area of the Pine Barrens.

“Mornin’ officer,” they reply in kind. “What can we do you for?”

“Well, seems we found a car, one of those German import types, parked a ways down the road in one of the pull-offs. Little yellow thing called a Jetta. You boys know anything about that?”

Looking at each other, Tomas spits and says, “Might be we do. Some young girl in a yeller car stopped in here yesterday asking for directions to the hole. Could be it’s the same car.”

“Tell me you didn’t give them to her, did you?” exasperation plain in the officer’s voice.

“Might be we did. Don’t see why we wouldn’t if she asked,” Bob answers rolling a toothpick between his teeth.

The deputy reaches into his vehicle and grabs the radio handset. “Dispatch, we’re gonna need a tow out on Rt. 532. It’s a yellow Jetta – can’t miss it. Hang on just a sec.” He releases the com button. “Boys, she have anyone else with her?”

“Nope, but she had a crap load ‘a gear in the back seat of that foreign auto-mobile of hers.”

Clicking the mic back on, the deputy relays, “Dispatch, I’m gonna need a team on the ground looking for a backpack, tent, cell phone – any personal items they can find heading from that location toward the hole. Better make it a wide sweep, call all the guys in on this.”

“Copy that, Tim. Do we need a rescue team down there too?” the dispatcher asks with hope and concern in her voice.

Looking over the roof of his car at Bob and Tomas, seeing the grin on both of their faces, he answers, “Negative on the rescue team, just the cleanup crew and the tow.” Getting back in the car and replacing the now silent handset, the deputy tips his hat to the men on the bench as they nod in return. He puts the car in drive, and mutters to himself “Fucking city folk,” as he drives off.

~ Nina D’Arcangela

© Copyright 2014 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.

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About Nina D'Arcangela

Nina D’Arcangela is a quirky horror writer who likes to spin soul rending snippets of despair. She reads anything from splatter matter to dark matter. She's an UrbEx adventurer who suffers from unquenchable wanderlust. She loves to photograph abandoned places, bits of decay and old graveyards. Nina is co-owner of Sirens Call Publications, co-founder of the horror writer's group 'Pen of the Damned', and if that isn't enough, put a check mark in the box next to owner and resident nut-job of Dark Angel Photography.

24 responses to “Leeds”

  1. Craig McGray says :

    Reblogged this on From Bright Minds Come Dark Things and commented:
    Great piece by Nina D’Arcangela. Leeds is this week’s free horror on Pen of the Damned.

    Like

  2. Craig McGray says :

    Wonderfully written, Nina. Loved the intensity and atmosphere, I smelled the panic and fear. Beware the safety of the clearing. Silly “city folk”. Great job!

    Like

  3. blazemcrob says :

    I think native-born New Jersey residents still cling to the old legends . . . legends which might be more than what they appear to be. You caught the essence of the Jersey Devil to the max, Nina! Great job. I thoroughly enjoyed this little tale. 🙂

    Blaze

    Like

    • Nina D'Arcangela says :

      Blaze, you should know better than anyone else that us ‘Jersey folk never forget to give Mrs. Leeds’ baby boy his due! Did you know the about the Blue Hole in the Pines before this? So far, I’ve found two possible candidates via satellite mapping, but haven’t gone hunting yet… yet! 😉

      Like

  4. Thomas Brown says :

    Love the characterisations in this one, Nina. I can hear the hicks’ accents as clearly as if they were sitting next to me while I write this (I’m glad they aren’t). I had ‘The Wendigo’ vibes while reading. You seem to be channelling the Master, Blackwood.

    Bad things befall those who tangle with the wilds unprepared…

    Like

    • Nina D'Arcangela says :

      Thanks, Thomas!! It’s a fun, quirky one. It’s how I envision my trip into the Pine Barrens to find the blue hole going… local yokels and all! (But I don’t drive a Bug!) 😉

      Like

  5. Magenta Nero says :

    really enjoyed this fast paced tale Nina. I liked the way you took us back to the beginning of the tale and filled in some more details from other character’s point of view, crafting a well rounded story. I’m not familiar with this creepy monster dude, so I was quite fascinated by the glimpses of him.

    Like

    • Nina D'Arcangela says :

      Thank you, Magenta! I had fun with this one. It’s a reboot from two years ago, but I love playing with local legends. New Jersey has its fair share. The first half is fully emotionally driven, the second – well, that’s just plain old silly fun! Thanks again!! 🙂

      Like

  6. Joseph Pinto says :

    I absolutely loved LEEDS, Nina! Obviously, being from New Jersey, I understand the reference and history behind ‘Leeds,’ the ‘Pine Barrens,’ the ‘Blue Hole’ and of course the lurking mother of all mothers, Mother Leeds and her infamous child – the Jersey Devil itself!! lol

    You took all these legends and cleverly crafted your own perfect tale – anything you write turns to gold in my book, and LEEDS is no different! You had me panting right alongside your character as she fled through the woods, and in typical horror fashion, what’s NOT seen by the audience is ALWAYS scarier than what is! 🙂 What was in the Blue Hole that sucked your character down?… And what are the authorities hiding by the way (loved that wrap up)?… These questions have me screaming for more! More, more!! lol

    So please…more!!! Gettin’ my drift yet? :}

    Like

    • Nina D'Arcangela says :

      Ha! I knew you’d appreciate an NJD tale. Plus a little Blue Hole lore mixed in… When you’re from ‘Jersey, there are just some things you can’t not love!! Thanks, Joe! I appreciate the support and greedily gobble up the kudos! Care to go hunting? I’ve got ‘Piney’ cousins right on the edge of the Barrens???? Could be hellish fun!! 😉

      Like

  7. the happy writer says :

    “Screaming for help that will never come…” oh, it gives me the chills!

    -aniko

    Like

  8. moondustwriter says :

    Nina, It was a delightfully blood chilling romp with the city gal. The hicks so well depicted as they rationalize away the “rescue.”
    Fiction yes but those small towns had their own “law.”

    Like

  9. zkullis says :

    I’m so sorry that I am commenting so late, Nina. I read this the morning it was posted and loved it! There is such a teasing mix of horrors here. Backwoods folks can be extremely disturbed and scary, and when you throw something monstrous into that hillbilly blender, “why us horror readers are as happy as a puppy with two peters!”

    Like

    • Nina D'Arcangela says :

      Ain’t ya’ mean a Peter and a Cat??? lol Thanks Zack – very much appreciated. It’s a fun romp through the woods. It’s also an older piece and I can see how my writing has ‘tightened’ since then. Ya’ watch out for that local PD, hear?? 😉 Muchos grass-on-your-ass for the kind words TE! 😀

      Like

  10. Karen Soutar says :

    I read this for the first time a while back, and always meant to ask about the title. Now that I read all these comments, I begin to get the idea… Y’know, I was going to visit you folks in NJ on my next trip to the US – now I’m not so sure… 😉

    Like

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