By Ali Diamond
I’d been dead asleep when I’d gotten the call. In fact, it wasn’t until the third time my phone rang, that I’d finally pulled myself from the grave my sleeping subconscious went. Groggily, I’d reached towards my nightstand.
It was my friend Maxine on the line. And she was hysterical.
“He’s gone.” She cried. Her words, almost incoherent through the sobbing. Adrenaline was pumping now, banishing any remaining cobwebs, and my room was thrown into sterile relief as I flicked on the overhead light. Heart pounding, I pulled on a pair of jeans and an old Harvard sweatshirt. It was old and gross; with a frayed collar and threadbare cuffs.
“It’s Jake,” Maxine said as I rushed over. I hadn’t gotten to her house until about 3AM; red and blue lights were flickering outside like ghosts. The cops had been there for about an hour and judging from the grim faces, they had no idea of what was going on.
Jake had gone missing.
The pit in my stomach suspected what I thought was happening. But the look on Maxine’s face confirmed it for me. Her twin brother… had gone to the River.
In our small Missouri town, there lies an enormous river that runs smack-dab through the center of it. It was windy and smaller in some parts, with weeds that threatened to clog it entirely. And in one spot, it was infamous for how many bodies used to be dumped there during the heyday of the Mafia. Nothing’s turned up for a few years but, still…
I’d heard stories about that spot. It was an unusually deep part of the river, with an unusually fast current. It flooded easily, with the nearby swampland sucking in all sorts of debris into its bottomless abyss.
All in all, a good place to go missing.
The Dead Spot. My stomach twisted at the thought of Jake heading there, alone. Maxine and I didn’t say a word, but we both knew that’s where he was headed.
There was also a myth about this place. While some of us grew up with “Bloody Mary,” we had “Bloody Moon.” Huddled in the decrepit bathrooms of our Middleton Elementary School, we used to chant these haunted words, giggling, while staring into the cracked girl’s bathroom mirror. Those words did nothing there, but chant them three times under the light of a full moon, while staring into the rushing waters of The Dead Spot and well, your wish will be granted.
Jake, like the rest of us, had always laughed at this. Said it was bullshit, a ghost story for tourists.
Until two days ago, when Jake’s girlfriend passed away in a fatal car accident.
“Where do you think he is?” Maxine asked, nervously. The forest whispered, as if in response. The drive here had been quiet and short. Frankly, in my opinion, too short.
“I don’t know.” I said, just as quiet. There was something about the silence of the forest that put my nerves on end. Not the silence of a quiet street, with the absence of cars. But rather, it was the quiet of a graveyard; where sounds were swallowed by the recently tilled dirt of freshly dug graves.
“Should we… split up?” Maxine asked. I looked over at her, about to call her 10 kinds of crazy, but something stopped me. Maybe it was the look in her eyes. Glittering, unfocused, and… familiar. The same thing I’d seen in Jake’s eyes when the surgeons told him his girlfriend hadn’t survived.
I felt my blood go still. “Sure.” I said, evenly. “I’ll start downriver.”
I’d only been here once before. Dragged here on a dare, with a boy who hadn’t been worth it in the long run. He’d taunted me, taunted my fears, saying they were unwarranted. I was known for being kind of a scaredy-cat, and he’d taken it upon himself to show me I was wrong.
By the light of the full moon, he’d gotten as far as two “Bloody Moons” before I started hysterically crying and begging to go home. That was almost four years ago, and I still thought about it till this day.
The Spot was exactly how I remembered it.
How the water danced, like a ribbon of living light. Whitecaps broke the surface, tossing handfuls of glittering jewels across the riverbed. The roar was deafening, washing out even the cries of Maxine for her brother.
How could I be afraid of something so beautiful? I thought to myself, the light flickering in my eyes. It’d be so easy to say it, you know, to finally put an end to all those rumors. Before I could stop myself, the words fell like rocks from my lips.
“Bloody Moon.” Nothing.
I paused. “Bloody Moon.” Still nothing.
Feeling a rush from the inevitable victory, I looked down and cleared my throat. “Bloody Mo-”
But suddenly, I stopped. My throat suddenly felt constricted, like hands had closed around the back of it.
It’d been so dark when I first walked up, I hadn’t seen it. I hadn’t… realized what I was standing next to. But now, in the light of the full moon, I’d recognize that jacket anywhere.
The hands gripped even tighter. Jake’s jacket. Next to the river. And just beyond that, in the water itself… I looked down to find Jake looking up at me, from just below the surface of the water.
I couldn’t move. His yellowed eyes caught mine, unblinkingly as I stood frozen on the shore. I couldn’t breathe. All I could see was his face, slightly upturned towards mine. His wide eyes; his bloated skin rippling, his lips… They were moving. He was saying something.
Before I could stop myself, before I could think, I started bending down. Then suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a pale, bloated hand start to reach for my foot.
Adrenaline spiked through me, and in a panic I turned to run. My foot kicked outwards, accidently throwing his jacket into the rushing river. It was visible for a second, the bright red against the flickering white light, but then it was gone.
I don’t know what he wished for, but I wanted no part of it.