October 24, 2019 by thewashingteenian
By apollosbones, Staff Writer
I guess you could say I’m a little disheveled. A little broken, a little angry.
The remembrance of my childhood terror starts with the neighbors. Their baby passed away last week, and I can’t stand their crying. Not that I don’t feel bad for them, or that I haven’t been over to check on them every now and again, but their crying has gone on for three—four days. The wife won’t stop wailing, and I wonder if this is her first time living in an apartment building, because she doesn’t seem to know that I can hear everything.
Now, you’re probably thinking, Collin! How dare you say such a thing! Well, I’ll tell you how. I was like them once, mourning the death of a toddler. I was around sixteen at the time, and it was summer in Kingsville, Maryland. My family and I had just moved near Jericho.
Like any teen boy, I wasn’t thrilled. Moving in was just another chore on my list, and I had to babysit my little sister at the same time. Lily hated being bossed around, but she would comply if I made it into a game for her–or didn’t tell her it was a chore.
Our house was pretty big, or average for you owning-house-people. Since Dad left, we had to live in someone’s basement for awhile, renting it out, so this was a major upgrade. I chose whatever room didn’t smell like mold, hauled four boxes up to it, and gotten Lily to settle down for her nap, all by lunch time.
“Why don’t you go explore some, see what you can find outside?” Mom asked. She and I were just finishing our sandwiches. I gave it some thought, and remembered the little path I saw when we drove past the garden. “It’ll give you a break from watching Lily, Col.”
I told her that I would as I left through the front door. I wracked my brain for the last memory of the drive, to try and remember where exactly I saw the opening to the path. Near the garden.
Maybe it’ll be like a pretty meadow, I thought, or maybe it will be some kind of river. Close, but not exactly. I finally found the little opening and climbed through, there were lots of thorns and branches in the way as I followed the dirt path for at least half a mile before I saw it.
This odd bridge looked too unstable to stand on. The railing was red on either side, and it was covered in what I thought was chipped paint—or rust. By the gate to get onto the bridge, there sat a podium with little words whittled into it. It had the title “Jericho Bridge.” I thought I learned about it in History, but those memories were so supressed at the time that I didn’t think too much about it.
But the bridge started to pull me towards it, and the air thickened. It felt like a rope was tied around my neck, and was gradually drawing me into the bridge. I could jump any moment. It felt like that, just heavy.
After that, I knew I shouldn’t have gone back. But no, I wanted to explore more into the bridge and the river under it. One day, I threw a rock into the nearly stilled stream. The water looked clear from where I stood, but when the splash came up, the water was red. And, one day, I sat close enough to the bridge that I heard a voice.
“Jump in, Collin…” it would whisper, “come join us…”
I didn’t go back to the bridge until the curiosity started to kill me. I couldn’t figure out how it knew my name, or if I was just hearing things. But just remember, I never went onto the bridge itself. I felt like it was just calling my name, and it only got louder as I lay in bed every night until I went back.
“Honey, take Lily with you, please?” Mom asked me one day. She was at her desk, working on something for the divorce court case. I was about to head out to the bridge, to get some footage of the water and the things around it when she asked me. I groaned and went to get my little sister’s shoes.
“Come on, Lil.” I snapped. My little sister wore pink overalls and a heart themed shirt. When she sat down on the bottom stair of our house, I helped her get the shoes on. We headed out to the bridge.
“Col… I don’t wanna go in there.” She gripped my shirt when we got to the viney opening in the woods. I carried her through, even though she kept protesting against it.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You made a three year old go into the woods? To a haunted bridge? And the answer is simple: yes. But, for the record, I did say she had to stand behind my backpack when we got there.
“Stay here. I mean it,” I told her, making sure she heard me clearly. Lily nodded.
I already felt the neck-breaking pull of that invisible rope. It was like the loop of the noose was closing in tighter… and tighter…
I grabbed my camera out of my bag and went to the left side of the bridge, where I knew I could get the best photos of the water. The air was so thick, like blood, pooling up in my nose and mouth. I couldn’t stop myself from getting as close as possible, the freedom from that rope, from the air, felt more than good. I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I jumped in right then, I could fly.
I hit the ‘record’ button, and that’s when I heard it.
I shot out of my trance and looked to the bag, where it sat alone and emptied all over the dirt path.
“Lily?” I called. “Lily Marie!” As if using her middle name would help, I called that, too. There was no response until I shut off my camera, and that’s when the bridge spoke up again;
“Come on! Jump, Collin… jump in with Lily, Collin…” It was a malicious hiss. I backed up and stumbled over everything in sight.
Mom didn’t stop crying for three months.
So yeah, I’m a little annoyed with the neighbors. A little angry, a little torn up.
I know, I know that I shouldn’t have taken her that day. I know I messed up, and I know that I would still have Lily with me today if I wasn’t so obsessed with that damned bridge. It should have been me.
I hope you’re thinking, yes, it should have been you.
And yeah, I’m tired of the neighbor’s crying. I’m tired of crying. With every sob and wail the banshee next door makes, it pulls another one from me. So yes, you could say I’m a little sad, and a little disliked by everyone in the apartment building.
The difference between the banshee next door and I, though? When I cry, I’m aware that I have neighbors.