By Lady Euphoria Deathwatch
The boys were playing in the woods. They weren’t supposed to be there because a rain storm was forecast for that afternoon. But they were doing just that, playing cops and robbers or pirates, I can’t remember which, when they all heard the sound of horses hooves pounding through the woods right past them. They heard the horse’s breath and a rider holler “Whoa!” They all felt the cold air on their skin. ’The Ghost Rider!’
Tony was the first to react. He dropped the stick he was using for his weapon as he ran for all he was worth back home.
Our house was the closest, and when they all got back to our garage, I was working on my bicycle. You could tell without asking that something was wrong. Their eyes were big and they were shaking, faces white and voices weak as they told me what happened to them.
Being Tony’s older brother I couldn’t resist poking fun at them for acting like babies. But when they wouldn’t let it drop, I knew they really did believe they had heard the ghost.
There wasn’t a kid in town that hadn’t heard the stories. A rider dressed in black on a jet black horse by day and glowing white at night, would appear in the woods south of town. Most kids thought it was a way to keep them out of the woods and closer to home. Some older folk’s claimed to have seen it when they were younger. None of these kids had believed them before that day.
It was part of the town’s history. A rider came to town long ago trying to outrun a thunder storm. He and his horse were struck by lightning, killing them both before they could find shelter. They were buried in a grave marked only by a stone saying ‘Rest in Peace.’ This grave was on the furthest edge of the woods where the stream passes the old oak tree. The exact place where they were said to have been hit by the bolt.
Most people thought the stories that were told about the ghost were just to keep the story alive around the campfire. That or to scare the young people in town like they themselves were frightened by the older folks story telling when they were children. But the people in town that had seen or heard the ghost themselves knew it to be true.
Harry and Sam didn’t want to talk about it at all after they had come back from the woods. But the others could not keep quite about it. In fact they wouldn’t talk about anything else for weeks. Charlie started to sleep with a nightlight in his room. Roger wet the bed after a bad dream about it. And Jeffrey couldn’t drift off to sleep without his mother in the room humming a tune. Tony would whimper in his sleep. I could hear him in the upper bunk bed. They all avoided the woods from then on.
I couldn’t help but be a little curious. After a while I gathered up the guys and we would ride our bikes on the well worn paths through the woods but we didn’t see or hear a thing. Soon school was going to start and the guys and I had better things to do than look for ghosts, so we let it go.
“Hey Ronny! Wan’a ride through the woods on the way home from school today?” John asked me as we unlocked out bikes from the bike rack in front of the school.
“Why? It’s not exactly on the way. And besides, don’t you have piano lessons?”
“Well not this week. Mrs. Harrison is out of town ‘cause her mother’s sick or somethin’.”
“Yeah, Okay. I don’t have anything better to do. Larry has to get his hair cut and Rob has wrestling practice until five.”
When I got home Mom made me clean out my side of the bedroom and take out the trash. After dinner I went to do my homework and couldn’t find my math book. I knew I had it when I got on my bike at school but I couldn’t remember having it when I put my bike in the garage. It wasn’t dark yet so I hopped on my bike again to see if I could find it on the ground between here and the woods. If not I’d have to call Larry for the equations.
The book wasn’t on the sidewalk or the street. I looked hard even under the parked cars all the way to the woods. I did see something on the trail just before it turned out of sight, but it was hard to see what it was because it was darker under the trees.
It wasn’t quite dark yet and Mom would be mad if I’d lost the book only a few weeks into the school year, so I took a chance and rode in for a closer look. It was my English book. My math book was further along the path around the bend in the path where my English book had sat. I was this close and nothing was around so I rode up to it. I got off my bike because it was in the ditch and I couldn’t reach it from my bike seat like my I could reach English book.
That‘s when it came. Glowing in the half light. A horse and rider black yet not. Coming towards me on the path at full speed!
Being in the ditch I knew I couldn’t get to my bike before he did so I threw myself under a bush at the side of the trail, hoping he would just pass me by.
I don’t know if it was the bike standing across the pathway or the fact that I didn’t run away, but he stopped and looked down at me. I was never so scared in my life. I think I stopped breathing because the next thing I knew was my Dad and a bunch of neighborhood men with flashlights were there helping me up. I was still clutching my books to my chest. My bike had been trampled, the spokes were broken and bent, and the men kept asking me who had hurt me. I told them about coming for my books and the ghost.
“That was hours ago and you weren’t on the trail the first time we came past.” My father said in his concerned voice. “And look at the dirt in your clothing and hair. You look like you were underground, but the leaves in the ditch are hardly disturbed at all.” They scanned the ground around my feet again with their flashlight beams.
As Dad brushed off the dirt from my cloths, my books slipped out of my arms. They fell to the ground along with the dirt in my arms and some old horse teeth stuck to a decaying piece of jawbone that was burnt on one end.
I was helped home and put in the bathtub. The water got so muddy I had to change it to get clean. But more then just the dirt went down the drain. My hair was white as snow from that day on. My mother thinks it was from the shock of what I had seen, but couldn’t remember of the time I spent with the ghost in the woods.
The strangest thing about that night wasn’t found until the next day. My homework was done in an odd, old fashioned hand writing and it was sticking out of the freshly turned earth of the riders grave. It was signed “Jonathan Grimmes, school teacher.”