Legs dangling from the tiny wooden foot bridge, the drift of the brook carries my feet afloat. The air is damp and heavy this evening with a cloying fog left behind by the rains.
On warm summer nights like this, I often sleep on the screened porch so that I can hear the rain drum on the tin roof, feel its spray through the mesh covering the windows. When the rain stops, I wander without shoe or sock in the damp meadow bordering our small parcel. Beyond the meadow lies the thinning perimeter of a forest; tall, young birch trees skirting the edge. A dirt path leads to the foot bridge, the feel of damp earth on my feet a texture I enjoy as much as the wet grass. Sitting on the bridge in my pajama shorts and tank top, damp hair clinging to my face, I let the current stroke my feet clean.
Hearing a faint noise, I turn but can barely see the handrail of the bridge itself, let alone any farther. I dismiss it as a curious animal emerging from its den after the downpour. I hear nothing further, but the small hairs on the back of my neck begin to rise. I turn again, expecting to find something or someone upon me. Again, nothing is there. I refuse to be spooked by my own imagination. After several minutes, I neither hear nor feel anything further.
Legs still dangling, I lay back and rest on the wooded planks of the bridge. The late hour, calming fog, and soothing water conspire to lull me to sleep. I wake – after how long, I don’t know, but I notice the forest is eerily quiet, unnaturally so.
Pushing to my elbows, I wipe a hand across my face to clear my own inner fog. I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Whispering a tentative hello, I pull my legs up, but they don’t seem to want to work. Still focused in the direction of the movement, I reach down with my left hand to rub the feeling back into my limbs. I feel slick wood, slicker than it should be, but nothing else. Shocking paralysis grasps me by the throat; I go dead still, unable to move. Finally, my head obeys and pivots to look downward. Blood gushes from my severed knees, I stare in shock and disbelief, but still I feel no pain. Then I hear it, a growling that begins not from behind me, but from below me. I watch as it rises from the water and continues to grow in size. My voice once again finds me, and as I begin to scream; the low growl morphs to an enraged shriek.
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