Copyright — Adam Ickes
This is my July story for Storybook Corner hosted by Adam Ickes. Each story is supposed to be from 300 to 500 words in length, or longer if thought necessary, and be inspired by the photo prompt supplied that month by Adam. My story this month refused to be contained to 500 words.
Genre: Horror Fiction
Word Count: 794 Words
THE RUINS IN THE WOODS By P.S. Joshi
Brad Wilcox saw his pal Jeff in the camping department of the large chain store in the Briggstown Mall. “Hey Jeff, how’re you doin’?” he called.
Jeff moved closer, checking all other shoppers to see if any were near enough to overhear. “Brad have you ever gone huntin’ near the old Crawford place; the one that burned down about twenty years ago leaving just the fireplace and chimney?”
Brad now noticed Jeff had a look that brought back memories of guys on patrol in Iraq.
“Jeff, what’s the matter? What happened?”
Jeff shifted from one foot to the other, “You’re not goin’ to believe me. You won’t…you’ll never believe me.” He started to breathe heavier. “I was out there huntin’ rabbits and thought I saw somethin’ move near that ruin. You know how careful I am with a gun. I make damn sure it’s game.’
Brad shook his head in agreement. He took hold of Jeff’s shoulder. “Dude, let’s go to the mall cafe and talk over hot coffee. Come on, you’ll be okay.”
Ten minutes later they sat drinking coffee and Jeff had stopped trembling. Brad leaned closer. “Okay Jeff what happened next?”
Jeff took a deep breath. “Brad I swear this is true. I went closer and saw what seemed to be a man.”
Brad looked puzzled. “Seemed to be; what do you mean?”
Jeff lowered his voice and checked for listeners. “He had the normal body parts, but his skin looked shrivelled and raw. The little clothin’ on him looked like it had mostly been burned away. He had no hair, and the face, the face…. Half of his face on one side looked burned away. His remainin’ eye was lookin’ right at me.
He started toward me and, I swear Brad it was real strange. His feet were on the ground, but the leaves he was steppin’ on never moved or sank under his weight. I’ve seen guys burned in Iraq that looked like that, but they were dead. I know it sounds crazy, but Brad I think he was dead. I froze at first then started runnin’. I didn’t stop until I reached the edge of town and saw other people. Damn Brad. I haven’t been that scared since Iraq.”
Brad knew Jeff wasn’t a liar and had no mental problems. He decided to go and see the town sheriff to discuss it with him.
The next day it was storming, blowing so hard the rain beat down sideways, but Bud was determined. He entered Cal Doud’s office about 10 AM. Cal was sitting at his desk with a stack of paperwork in front of him. He looked up and smiled as Brad walked in.
“Hi Brad, what’s goin on with you? You look worried.”
“Cal I’ve got somethin’ to tell you and I’m sure it’s true. You know Jeff Bradshaw well enough to know he doesn’t lie or exagerate. I had a long talk with him yesterday.” He started to repeat what Jeff had told him.
Cal listened a bit then sent his deputy out for coffee. He told Brad to continue. When Brad was finished, Cal said, ” I’m goin’ to tell you somethin’ that happened when the old Crawford place burned down all those years ago. Several of us checked for bodies, but the only remains we found were those of the owner, Ralph Crawford. You know he was a mean cuss and had been there alone for years after his parents died and his wife left him, takin’ the two kids. You remember he’d been drinkin’ hard for a long time. We figured he’d passed out that day and his lit cigarette had set the bed on fire. I doubt he ever knew what happened. The body looked exactly like what Jeff described to you, but Jeff wasn’t there. He couldn’t have seen the body at any time.
We waited for the autopsy, and then gave the funeral director the job of arrangin’ a buriel. The Baptist church took up a collection to pay the funeral expenses and to buy a headstone. They let him be buried in the church cemetary too since the Crawford family had once belonged to the congregation and donated land for the buildin’. You can go and see the grave for yourself. Ralph’s widow inherited the land, but a lot of taxes were unpaid, so it came back to the town.
Don’t repeat what you heard and we’ll put up a high chain link fence and No Trespassing signs all around the land.
Brad told Jeff what the sheriff had said and the secret was kept. There were no more sightings of the ghost. At least none that anyone would admit to