Read Abram's Bridge Online

Authors: Glenn Rolfe

Tags: #supernatural;ghost;haunting

Abram's Bridge

There is a darkness in this town, and it’s buried beneath Abram’s Bridge.

When Lil Ron meets Sweet Kate under Abram’s Bridge he is mesmerized. And when he realizes this beautiful girl is a ghost, it frightens him, but also draws him to her. Curiosity and a drive to make things right lead Lil Ron into a tangle of small-town secrets involving his own father and other members of this otherwise quiet community. Bit by bit, he will uncover the truth about Sweet Kate, a story of heartbreak, violence…and fear.

Abram’s Bridge

Glenn Rolfe

Dedication

To Meghan, who pushed me to give writing a shot.

Chapter One

Li’l Ron Sawyer pedaled his bike down Aikman Street, relishing the cool rush of wind, the music in his headphones propelling him along. Metallica was one thing his dad had introduced him to that he could really get. The cutthroat opening riff to “Seek and Destroy” began; he coasted around the corner that led to Abram’s Bridge.

Crossing over the uneven wooden planks, his Huffy BMX bike bumped, riddled and rattled like the chains of the Ghost of Christmas Past. The MP3 player attached to his belt pulled free from his headphones and flew—a kamikaze going down—making its descent over the bridge’s edge. His heart lunged at the instant right cross of loss. Music is what got him through the mess life had decided to litter his path to adulthood with.

He stamped his heel backward, bringing the bike to a skidding stop on the worn blacktop beyond the bridge. He heard his MP3 player smack the rocks below, all hope of the device’s survival lost. The thought of so much Zeppelin, Metallica and Megadeth being instantly sucked into the ether of lost tunes was unbearable, so he decided to scout the area below, just in case.

He wheeled the bike to the side of the road, laying it down near a trampled walking path that led to the creek below. His dad had mentioned how the stream filled with all of the surrounding winter runoff in the spring, but now it was little more than a foot deep, running down toward Sheppard Falls. The trickling water, whispering of nature’s nonstop to nowhere, would be calming under other circumstances, but when Li’l Ron saw his MP3 player, he moaned in defeat. Sprawled out in more pieces than he could fit back together, what may as well have been his left arm made its final resting place.

“Fuck,” he said.

Stepping over the jumbled wet rocks, watching his footing as rushing waters (still trying to whisper their comforts) moved by like cars on Highway 9, he made his peace and kicked the small black remains of his best friend into the creek. He bent down, picking up the cracked screen that knew his fingertips well, and skipped it—once, twice,
plop
—into darkening waters.

The sun had an hour or so left on the day, but dusk was dropping slowly and steadily, like the tired eyelids of his old dog, Rosalita. The air offered a cold breath to remind him that he should be heading back home.

Home. There’s a joke for ya.

As he thought about telling his dad about the broken MP3, and the look of disappointment that would surely snap into place on the man’s tired face, a whisper, a voice not of the stream, exhaled somewhere behind him. Gooseflesh came to life, crawling up his spine like spiders in a nightmare; he spun to face his unseen company.

There was nothing. “Hello?” he called out.

He climbed the embankment beneath the bridge, toward where it plateaued just beneath the road above. Empty Pepsi bottles, Bud Light cans, cigarette butts and bright bits of plastic wrappers were strewn out across the mud.
GHOST CLUB
was spray-painted on the concrete holding up the edge of the bridge. He thought nothing of it and continued his search for the source of the voice.

If there had even been a voice.

Stepping out from the other side of the bridge, he gazed at the creek stretching down another couple hundred yards before curving east and getting lost in the thickening forest. It really was awesome out here. He’d never dreamt of leaving Bethel Park, the city was so huge, so alive…but so was this, in a different way, a grander way. He took a deep breath, hauling in a lungful of natural wonder before turning to leave.

Down on the rocks he’d just punted his broken MP3 player from, a blonde-haired girl sat. He held in nature’s breath, like it was a hit from his cousin PJ’s joint last Saturday night. She turned, looking up at him with eyes the blue of the water in those pop-up ads for vacation spots off the Florida coast. He stared, unable to look away. Raising a hand as pale as the dead, she waved.

“Hi,” she said, the whisper from before reaching out again.

He finally exhaled and wheezed out, “Hello.”

“What’s your name?” she said.

“Li’l…Ron.”

“Is there a Big Ron?”

“Ah, yeah, my grandpa,” he said.

“Oh,” she said, turning her blue eyes back to the stream. “I’m Katharine, but you can call me Sweet Kate.”

The girl, Sweet Kate, was exuding an impossible blue-tinged luminance.

Sure she is, you’re really losing it, man,
he thought.

“Do you live around here?” he said, feeling stupid before the question fell all the way past his lips.

Of course she does, dummy, why else would she be here?

“Yes,” she said.

He waited for more, but she said nothing. She just sat, watching the water running on its way to someplace else. He moved down the embankment to her left, toward the path leading back up to the road, blinking at her glow. Trick of the eyes or not, he wasn’t sticking around for the night to come down around them. These woods were filled with all sorts of creatures.

“Well, Kate—”

“Sweet Kate,” she said, turning to look at him.

“Yeah, it was nice to meet you, but I have to get home.”

“I know,” she said. She dropped her eyes to the dirty white dress she was wearing. His eyes found a dark-red stain near the beltline. “Will you come back to visit me?” she said, her crystal eyes moving up and finding his. “I don’t have anyone to talk to around here.”

“Sure,” he said, not quite certain if he would or not.

“Okay,” she said. “Sweet Kate and Li’l Ron,” she looked away as the blue aura seemed to intensify. “Sounds like friends in a fairy tale.”

He moved up the path, pausing just long enough to notice she was gone.

“Where the hell you been?” his dad said, slumped in Nan’s rocker. Five empty Tall Boys stood single file on the floor next to him. The sixth one on his lap tilted left, threatening to fall.

“I went for a ride,” he said, grabbing a Pepsi from the fridge. “Where’s Nan?”

He popped the top on the can of soda, glancing back at his dad just as the beer hit the floor, spilling its sorrows onto (or across) the linoleum. His father was out. Li’l Ron set down the soda, grabbed a dishrag from the front of the oven and sopped up his dad’s mess. This had become the way of things lately: His dad got wasted on his days off from work, passed out by supper, and it was his job to tidy up before Nan got home from her church group.

“She’s not worth this,” he said, sitting on the cold floor with the beer-drenched cloth in hand. His father, mouth open and forehead creased, looked like a man catching flies and lost to a dream of empty promises. Ron’s own brow furrowed. Not for the first time, he wondered what his mother and her new beau were doing right now.

His dad’s drinking hadn’t been this bad before she decided to step out on him with their attorney. Anger—real anger, not some teen angst-type phase—boiled up under his skin. He threw the rag into the trash by the fridge and went to help his fading father from the rocker.

His old man had lost at least twenty pounds in the aftermath of his mom’s upgrade, making this part of the new routine a little easier. Twelve years old, five seven and a hundred twenty pounds, Ron was almost the same size as his dad. Placing his shoulder in the old man’s armpit, he said, “Come on, Dad, up we go.” Moving the mumbling man to the couch only stoked his frustration.

The headlights from Nan’s Buick Skylark lit up the room.

Just in time. He covered his father with a raggedy afghan from the back of the old couch and hurried up the stairs in the corner of the room. His nan may have been a churchgoer, but that didn’t change the fact that she was a cold, hard bitch. He didn’t feel like listening to her righteous psychobabble over his father’s condition. She let them move in with her in the wake of his parent’s split, but Li’l Ron wasn’t sure if it had been to help out or to drive home the fact that she believed his dad deserved it.

He dreamt of the girl from under the bridge, Sweet Kate. She whispered when she talked, and she spoke of sweet things. Her blue eyes—hypnotic and desperate—were much louder. They radiated a beautiful sadness, hanging on like a pit bull gone bad.

As if she were right at his bedside, he heard her soft voice say, “Come see me.”

Chapter Two

After school, Li’l Ron rode his bike down to Abram’s Bridge, and ditched it in the weeds. Shimmying down the little path, he found her waiting.

“I’m glad you came back,” she said; her white dress with the dark stain fluttered in the wind.

It was cold out this Monday afternoon—a November cold—the last hints of summer long gone, reminding Li’l Ron that fall in Maine is a different beast than back home in western Pennsylvania.

“Will you come stand with me?” she asked.

In a trance—induced by the creek’s constant trickle and the immaculate vision of this fragile angel—he was paralyzed.

She reached out one of her pale, delicate hands. “Please?” she said.

Her eyes locked on to his, assuring him that it was okay. He moved one foot in front of the other, taking her icy hand.

“Don’t be afraid,” Sweet Kate said, her gaze dropping, “and please don’t run away.”

“I-I wasn’t going to,” he said.

“They always run away…”

“Who?”

“Anyone who comes down here,” she said.

Li’l Ron glanced around the underside of the bridge, his gaze catching on the spray-painted concrete:
GHOST CLUB
.

“Are…are you…” he began.

“Yes.”

Li’l Ron was silent. There were too many questions, too many things to say, but they were all running into one another before they could roll off his tongue. She was real. A real ghost. Frightened as he was, intrigue had captured the flag.

She led him to the spot he’d seen her in the day before. They sat down upon the cold, hard ground, holding hands, listening to the melody of the creek. It was a sweet song, sweet like Kate. He wanted to know her story.

Chapter Three

“So, what happened to you? I mean, how did you…?”

“Die?”

“Yeah, sorry, I—”

“No, please,” she said, taking his hand in both of hers, holding it close to a chest no warmer than the earth beneath them. “It’s okay.”

He felt something bubble up within his guts; Li’l Ron’s insides warred between fascination, fear and attraction. Surely that last part was the product of the first two. You can’t have feelings for a ghost, right?

He bit back the words as she held him close, hanging on every syllable.

“When I was alive, I used to come here, to this bridge. I liked to listen to the water run. I always imagined what that would be like. To be free and on the run. Always going somewhere.”

He watched her brow lift, her eyes warm and widen. She was beautiful.

“There was a song I always liked. It was called ‘Runaway Train’. I never dared to actually leave, but this,” she said, glancing at the ground, “this was my station.”

“What about your parents?” Li’l Ron said.

“My mom and dad did not want to have children, but they did their duty as parents. I think my father may have even started to love me.”

The hurt slipped through, gliding across her eyes on wings of sorrow.

“My mother…she remained cold. She detested me. Wrong was all I could do in her eyes. Even when I did precisely as she asked, I failed her.”

Li’l Ron wanted to hold her now, but his fear held him back. The blue aura surrounding her was weak, but still visible.

“I was lonely. My parents didn’t have much, so I dressed in secondhand clothes. The others at school looked at me with pity or disdain. I made one friend, Tony, but he moved away in third grade. Mother never allowed him at the house.

“All those years, growing up, isolated—outside of school and supper—I accepted loneliness as fate.”

“You never had any girlfriends at school?” Li’l Ron’s heart felt like it did when his dog, Rosalita, died four years ago—a heavy, unfair, impossible heartache.

“No. I didn’t talk to them. I was afraid—”

“They would tease you?” he said.

“No. That they would act like my mother. That I would do nothing right, that I would be a burden and a bother.

“Then, I met a boy.”

Ron shivered.

“I’m sorry,” Sweet Kate said. “You’re cold?”

“I’m fine,” he lied. His hands, numb when they sat down, now ached.

“No, no. You’re freezing,” she said. Looking out past the shadows of the bridge, he watched her gaze at the sun settling in behind the pines.

Daylight Savings Time
. He hated it.

“It is going to be dark soon. I should probably start heading home,” he said.

“Yes. I wouldn’t want you to get sick,” she said. And he believed her.

Getting to his feet, their hands slipping from each other’s, another sad note sounded within his heart.

“Will you be here tomorrow?” he asked.

She looked at him with a weak smile. “I’m always here.”

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