A lightning strike pierced the troubled horizon while below, a blue Camry snaked along the rim of Bradford’s Ravine. Maggie gripped the wheel and uttered a quiet prayer. She hated driving in storms and this one was about to release a torrent. She flipped on her wipers to deflect the approaching rain.
“How you doin’ back there, honey? Just a few more miles to go and we’ll be home with your daddy. Safe and sound.”
Glancing at her rearview, Maggie eyed Tatum fast asleep in her car seat, her little cheeks flush with the day’s activities. They’d had a full day of running errands and browsing the Beckensdale farmer’s market. Thirty miles away, it was the nearest town over. All Maggie wanted now was to put the baby to bed and soak in a hot bath.
The area surrounding Bradford’s Ravine was heavily forested. Dense pines interspersed with hardwood groves stood along the ridge flanking Highway 75. The route was a deserted, winding road that meandered through the countryside. It was a beautiful daytime drive for the occasional traveler, but after the sun went down, it was a different story. Even on a clear night, the route was precarious and dark. It was too remote for street lights and difficult to navigate after the sun went down. Add the chance encounter of a deer and going over the became a very real hazard to motorists who traveled that section of road.
The wipers thumped in rhythm as a second lightning strike assaulted the earth behind a row of ragged oaks. The sudden flare revealed dead pines rising from the forest floor like the fingers of a bony hand. Fog hazed and swirled over low lying areas as the car inched its way along the ribbon of road its passengers desperate to reach their destination.
The torrent came in a rush, sending Maggie into a panic. She hit the brakes which inadvertently put the car into a spin. After whipping around violently, the Camry drifted silently across the pavement to the edge of the road. With nothing to break her fall, Maggie slid over the side and down the wall of the cliff. A clamor of scraping metal was followed by a rumble. Then a crash.
500 feet down, Maggie turned her gaze to the rearview mirror where her baby lie lifeless in the back seat.
In the distance, an unearthly scream filled the canyon as Maggie took her final breath.
Jim Bradford was a mean-spirited gambler and everybody knew it. Over the years, he’d won a fortune in poker, and had murdered several men in the process. According to Jim, he had killed those men for cheating, but in reality he’d did it just because someone had won other than him. Needless to say, Jim played to win and hated to lose.
Jim was betrothed to one beautiful, but very reluctant Becky Hardy. She was the sole heir to a sizable estate. She had golden hair that framed her face and curls that cascaded down her back. Jim thought she looked like and angel and he loved to gaze at her beauty. He even suspected he could fall in love with her, which was something Jim never did. Jim had won her hand in a high-stakes game with her father, another gambler with a reputation for risk-taking and debauchery. Becky and the entire area outside Beckensdale came with the dowry, including modern-day Bradford’s Ravine.
Paul Hammond was Becky’s sweetheart since childhood. When Paul heard the news about Becky, he was devastated. For years, he had worked hard to make enough money so that he and Becky could be wed. He had moved to New York to do it, and the years of sacrifice were very hard on him. When he finally returned to ask Becky’s father for her hand in marriage, he discovered he was too late. He had lost his beloved in a poker game.
Paul anguished for weeks after the news, but eventually came up with a plan to get Becky back. He knew the only way to effectively steal her from Bradford’s clutches was to win her fair and square in a poker game. That was the only thing Bradford understood and the only way he would get her away from him alive.
The poker game was played and Paul won. When he did, Bradford wasn’t at all cooperative.
Bradford challenged Paul to a duel, and Paul won that, too. When the shooting was over, Bradford was mortally wounded, face down and bleeding in the dirt. His last words were to get revenge on anyone who set foot on his land.
He vowed that no one crossing over his land would escape his wrath.
100 Years Later
It was a blistering Friday afternoon and waves of heat shimmered up from the asphalt. Down the deserted road, a faint thumping approached from about a mile away. Approaching closer, the sound coalesced into a red Camaro with death metal pouring from its speakers.
Inside the car, two male passengers shouted a conversation over the music. They were more into their conversation than the road and oblivious to the hazards of their route.
Had they made an inadvertent wrong turn? The nearest on ramp was some thirty miles back. It was possible for someone to miss it and not even notice. There was no reason for them to know what lie ahead, or rather, beneath them. The cliff on their right was a sheer drop to the base of the ravine. The only barrier between the road and the dop were the rocks that jutted out from the sides.
The geography was obvious. Even worse was the thing that lived at the bottom. That knowledge was saved for the few who’d met it face to face.
It had been there a very long time, even before the road was built. There were no signs warning motorists to pay heed. No guardrails shielded them from the danger of what lie below. Nobody told them the risks and they had no knowledge of what had befallen dozens of unsuspecting motorists in the past who had navigated the tight curves.
There were two passengers in the car coming down the road. Both were male. Judging by their vigorous head shaking and air-drumming, they were engrossed in the music. Gravel sprayed under tires as the driver absentmindedly navigated the roadway, then hit the shoulder. The driver jerked the wheel and pulled the car back onto the pavement.
The curves along the ravine were tight. Yet, the two passengers felt impervious to the perils of mis-driven automobiles and sped on, shouting along to the blaring music.
The passengers didn’t think much about the gravel spraying underneath the tires. The driver jerk the wheel and brought the car back onto the pavement. Perhaps he over compensated because the car began to spin.
The radio ground out maniacal music as the rear end of the Camero whipped around to the front and the front to the rear. The driver didn’t know what happened. Round and round they spun, crazy in their ears. The final blow came when the tires hit the shoulder and gravel loosened their grip on the roadway. Braking hard, tires squealed and the car headed for the side of the road. Then it took a dive and sailed over the edge of the cliff, heading straight to the bottom.
When the car came to a stop, it was suspended on an overhang 200 feet above the canyon floor. Injured but still alive, the two passengers held their breath as the car rocked precariously on its perch. For a moment, they half-hoped they might survive. All that was needed was a rope or something to secure themselves and initiate the hard climb back up the cliff face.
Hopes were dashed when a car passed overhead spraying gravel up from under its tires. This started a chain reaction with deadly consequences. The gravel collided with a stone, which fell onto sand and launched a shower of rock and dirt over the edge. The shower fell on a boulder which had been ready to fall for decades. Fate chose this moment to loosen its holdings and when it began to slide, several surrounding boulders followed. As the mountainside rained down upon the car, the boys looked up and drew their final gasp. The boulder hit the car and sent it over the side.
There was a long silence. Nobody knew they were there. The only witness to their demise were the other tangled wrecks that had experienced the same fate. They littered the ravine floor by the dozens.
Then a scream erupted from the darkness. The fall never killed anyone. Death came by way of the thing at the bottom. They squinted their eyes and tried to scream, but it was too late. Darkness came and they became part if the ravine forever.
And so, Jim Bradford’s vows continue a century later.
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