The 13 Bridges

**This is a conversation piece, so if you don't like that type of reading this may not be for you. I'm testing a new writing style, so by all means let me know if I need to stop. Thanks**

Deidra stared out the window of the car sulking over a fight that she'd had with her boyfriend, Jaylen, just before embarking on her all day shopping trip with the girls. She replayed their argument over and over in her mind as her vision became lost in the trees whizzing by causing everything to appear as more of a blur than the scenery. She could hear her friend Alyssa chattering about what shoes she intended to blow her boyfriend's money on once they reached the outlet shops just outside of Scotland Neck. She couldn't shake the vision of Jaylen begging her not to go because of this "bad feeling" he was having. Jaylen was very overprotective of her and insecure when it came to their relationship, so she saw his warning as a way of trying to control her and she was not about to let that happen. She had to physically push him away from her to get in the car before he stormed away highly irritated.

"Deidra" Cassie, who was driving, said trying to get her attention, "Deidra, girl let it go. Jaylen was just overreacting, as usual."

"I know, you guys, but he looked really upset." Deidra started knowing how her girlfriends felt about Jaylen's control issues or at least that's what they called them. She had to listen to Cassie constantly complaining about him wanting to know where she was during every waking moment of the day or Sandra's constantly making jokes about how he followed her around like a lost puppy. The only person who didn't have a problem with Jaylen was Alyssa and that was only because she knew that he could afford to send Deidra...and her friends shopping anytime they felt like it and all on his dime. So for her he was great and she only regretted that she had turned him away when he asked her to dance two years ago. She continued, "He was begging me not to go. He couldn't explain it...he just kept saying that he was having a bad feeling about us going."

"For God's sake," Sandra said from the front sit, "that boy looks upset if you go to the bathroom without him. Probably scared you're gonna find a man with a backbone on your way up here."

Deidra shot a dirty look to Sandra, which was pointless because Sandra didn't even bother to turn around, but it was Alyssa who jumped to handle the smart remarks saying "Don't mind these two heffers...they're just mad because while we are madly in love with men who love us enough to care about our whereabouts...they're stuck at home watching reruns of Sex in the City with each other." They all laughed and continued their playful banter for the rest of their trip.

The girls spent the day doing things that women do when they get together with money in their purses and sales as far as the eye can see. Alyssa had gone back to secure bags in the car four times before they finally ended their day trip in a place that every woman loves...the spa.

"This has been great, ladies!" Alyssa exclaimed as she sunk into the pedicure massage chair. They all agreed by nodding and smiling, while they received their respective treatments. "Only thing that would make this day perfect would be a spooky adventure...and I know how we can have one."

"How?" Cassie asked anxiously awaiting her answer. Cassie lived for Alyssa's spooky adventures along with the mayhem and mischief they provided.

"The 13 bridges." Alyssa giggled.

"The 13 bridges," replied a horrified Sandra who was always the one scared beyond belief during Alyssa's spooky adventures. "No way, you guys and I mean it!"

"You are such a baby Sandra-" Deidra started.

"Waaaahh!" Sandra interrupted, doing her best impression of a baby crying.

"Anyway," Deidra continued, "Let's do it! We haven't had a spooky adventure in a long time and the beginning bridge is only 2 miles away and if we leave here soon we can get there right before the sun goes down."

"Set the mood Alyssa!" Cassie shrilled with glee.

"Don't set any mood because we're not doing any 13 bridges." Sandra insisted.

"The story goes like this," Alyssa started completely ignoring Sandra "There are bridges starting at Old Hwy 33 entrance between Scotland Neck and Enfield and as you go over each bridge you count 1 Mary Francis, 2 Mary Francis and so on until you get to the 13th bridge where you say 'I can't see you, Mary Francis' and then..." Alyssa said letting her voice trail off when she was sure that Cassie was on the edge of her seat.

"Then what?" Sandra smirked, "what happens on the 13th bridge?"

"You see Mary Francis," Deidra replied with a sinister smile planted on her face, "and then you crash."

"What?!" Sandra exclaimed, "We are soooo not doing this!"

"You are such a wuss. None of it's true, it's just a stupid urban legend. Gheesh." Cassie responded to what she considered Sandra just being over dramatic. She continued asking, "Who the heck is Mary Francis anyway?"

"Mary Francis Bennett," Alyssa continued, "She lived on the outskirts of Enfield and was walking down highway 33 into town when she was hit twice by two cars approaching opposite directions on the 13th bridge. The car that hit her first was approaching from Scotland Neck, the driver hit the brakes to stop but was on top of her before he could stop knocking her into the lane of the oncoming car approaching from Greenfield who ran over her a second time. Of course Mary Francis was killed, the driver from Greenfield lost control of his car and drove off the bridge into the creek...the third driver however lived long enough for the police to arrive at the scene. He just kept saying 'I didn't see her, I didn't see her" over and over again before he finally took his last breathe and died before the ambulance could get there."

"Is this a true story or something you've made up in that manic little mind of yours?" Sandra asked.

"Oh, Mary Francis is real." Deidra chimed in giving her fully manicured hands a proper inspection before continuing "but what's supposed to happen on the 13th bridge isn't."

Simultaneously Cassie and Sandra asked two completely different questions pertaining to Alyssa story.

"How do you know she's real?" Sandra asked.
"What's supposed to happen?" Cassie asked.

"Well," Deidra started, "when you get to the 13th bridge your supposed to see Mary Francis standing in front of your car screaming causing you to drive either over the bridge or into it I can't remember. How does that part go Alyssa?"

"It depends on which way side of the highway you're on. Coming from Scotland Neck you slam into the bridge. If you're coming from Greenfield then it's into the creek for you." Alyssa happily responded to Deidra's request to fill in the blanks.

"Okay, why are we doing this and again how do you know Mary Francis was a real person?"

"Because," Deidra said giving her nails a final blow before saying, "She's Jaylen's great aunt."

The girls loaded up the car and started towards their adventurous destination. Once they were on hwy. 33 they could hardly reach the first bridge fast enough. The highway was long and pretty much deserted with the exception on a scatter house or two located back off the road. It was a standard two-lane highway winding along a forgotten stretch of the backwoods country, with trees lining the highway. The sun was just starting to set as they reach the first bridge with each of them calling out to Mary Francis. The road stretched across about 60 miles, passing through the occasional town large enough to have Walmart every now and then, but the girls soon lost track of their game and moved on to talk of men, money and drama.

All with the exception of Cassie, who stared out of the window eagerly counting each bridge and under her breath. She was determined to see if there were any truth to this urban legend and this why she could prove it false if nothing else. As they reached the eleventh bridge she got a nervous feeling in the pit of her stomach, which she quickly chalked up to her nerves.

"Is anyone still counting?" Sandra, who had lost the coin flip and had to drive back, suddenly asked.

"Counting what?" Deidra asked while trying to figure out how to work the features of her new digital camera. She and Alyssa had been taking picture nonstop trying to see just how pictures they could take before the batteries died.

"Bridges." Sandra replied somewhat relieved that they two who had cooked up the adventure were now lost in camera world. She was always taught not to play with things dealing with the dead because no one knows for certain what is true and what is not.

"I'm counting and we just went over number eleven." Cassie squealed as they rolled over the bridge leading into Foxfire.

"Stop counting seriously, Cassie. My grandma says that you shouldn't play with stuff like that." Cassie just smiled with no intention to stop counting now that she was so close to disproving the legend. Deidra had ignored Jaylyn's call twenty times or more throughout the day, but now she was missing him and couldn't answer his call fast enough.

"Cassie let me know when we get to 13 so I can take a picture of old Mary Francis."

"I'm serious, you two stop." Sandra begged her pleas falling on deaf ears. Alyssa giggled knowing that she hadn't really been into the adventure since they'd crossed the 6th bridge. This game, to her, was for people who were on long road trips with nothing to do for the next 500 miles. They live in Roxboro, which was only a stones throw from Enfield, so once they crossed the 13th bridge they were basically home and that was the only thing that she was even remotely interested in. But still, it was fun to see Sandra squirm with fear over something that was nearly impossible to recreate.

Alyssa had changed some of the story around because deep down she really believed in it. Jaylen had shown she and Deidra pictures of Mary Francis from some old family albums along with old news clipping of the accident that had killed, so she knew that she was a real person. The truth about the story was that Mary Francis was said to be seen walking the same bridge that she was killed night after night, but the only way to not see her was to call her name along the 13 bridges. The only problem with that was, that if you called to her on each bridge when you got to the 13th bridge you wouldn't see her and you'd crash, so she was both nervous and anxious at the same time. She had stopped saying Mary Francis, because she wanted to see if she would be able to see her walking along the road that she was killed on.

"No way, Eric is doing it too? How far away are you guys?" Deidra said into her cell phone, "Roxboro! We're just leaving Foxfire. We'll probably get there the same time as y'all. I'm gonna tell Cassie to stop counting." She turned from her phone and started talking to Cassie, "Cassie stop counting because Eric doing it too and if we cross at the same time, somebody supposed to die."

"Get outta here," Cassie replied not wanting to hear anyone trying to get her to stop disproving this story, "That's just a stupid myth just like the rest of this story. Dammit, Deidra why are you and that lame boyfriend of yours trying to mess up our spooky adventure?"

"Cassie really this has gone far enough and I don't feel comfortable with doing this anymore." Sandra cut in trying to persuade Cassie to just let the game go.

"12 Mary Francis!" Cassie yelled out as they crossed over the 12th bridge.

"Jaylen, Cassie's trying to be difficult and she's not gonna give it up. We just crossed over the 12th bridge and she's still calling out to her. See if you can get Eric to stop and I'll call you back in a few minutes to let you know if you should just quit."

"Seriously, Casandra! Why do you have to be so difficult?" Sandra said hitting the steering wheel with her fist.

"Really Cassie, if someone else is calling to her on the 13th bridge and you two are crossing at the same time then you both crash the same way they crashed that day, recreating the accident...and someone could die." Alyssa said her nerves getting the better of her once she found out that Jaylen and Eric were playing the game also. She believed in legends and folktales, because it was her belief that all legends were built around some level of truth.

"Okay, you don't call me Cassandra," Cassie said pointing to Sandra and then turning her attention to Alyssa she continued, "...and you...I mean come one, Alyssa. Don't tell me you are buying into this bullcrap. You're the one who started this game and now you don't want to go through with it. What's really going on here?"

"I just don't want do it anymore. Besides you're not going to see her anyway." Alyssa replied. "You only see her when you don't call to her. Calling to her just makes you recreate the accident."

"Oh come on Alyssa don't try and change it now." Cassie shot back, not able to believe that she was hearing from Alyssa. Alyssa had never tried to back out of a spooky adventure and now she was sitting there acting like just a big a wuss as Sandra.

"She's right, Cassie. You don't have to do anything to see her. Jaylen and I have seen her walking down that road before and we weren't even playing the game."

"Whatever," Cassie responded, "I guess we'll see tonight." Cassie comment ended the conversation as they left Foxfire heading for the 13th bridge.

They barreled down hwy. 33, coming up fast on the 13th bridge. Deidra had tried with no success to reach jaylen on his cell phone. They all waited with bated breath staring anxiously down the road looking for any sign of Mary Francis. A determined silence filled the air as they passed a road sign warning that the bridge was ahead. Alyssa gasped as the sight of two headlights appeared in the distance. She readied her camera, bringing the LCD screen up, positioning the camera’s view between the driver and passenger seat so that she had a full view of the entire road.

She had just secured her position when she heard Sandra yell, “OH MY GOD, GUYS LOOK!” Alyssa snapped a shot on the camera unsure of what she was even taking a picture of.

“Holy Crap! I don’t believe it.” Alyssa said as her eyes focused on what looked like the glowing white outline of a woman walking on what was undoubtedly the bridge. The figure was partially in the street and was moving swiftly towards the other side of the bridge.

“That’s her!” Deidra gasped as she pointed in the direction of the moving figure.

“What the hell are you guys talking about? I don’t see anything.” Cassie puzzled straining her eyes trying to catch a glimpse of what her friends were seeing. She searched the area pointed out by Deidra's finger but the only thing she saw was darkness. She quickly made up in her mind that the girls were trying to scare her. There was nothing out there so this was their way of getting her to stop her game but they were in for a rude awakening if they thought that their little shenanigans would stop her from disproving this Mary Francis myth. She rolled her eyes and said, “Very funny, you guys. There’s nothing out there.”

“What are you blind? It’s right there!” Sandra said pointing to the figure moving across the bridge. She was so terrified that her lips were trembling with her breath was on the point of hyperventilation she voiced her realization, “It’s true. Oh no, it’s true! We can see her because we haven’t been counting the bridges but you…you were the only one counting and now…’re the only one who can’t see her.” Silence again filled the car, as Sandra pulled her foot off the gas pedal and slammed it hard onto the brake…but the car didn’t stop…it didn’t even slow down. For some reason, it sped up and control of the vehicle was lost to Sandra. Fear stole her words as she slowly took her hands off of the steering wheel, removed her foot from the brake and screamed as the car drove itself towards the bridge. Sandra screamed, “GUYS…THE CAR IS DRIVING ITSELF!”

“What!” Alyssa said almost coming over the back seat as Sandra lifted her hands above her head, while the car continued driving on the right side of the road with no help from Sandra.

Terror caused tears to well up in Deidra’s eyes. She had seen the ghostly figure crossing the bridge before but never had the sighting been filled with such foreboding. Something terrible was about to happen and there was no way to stop it. It was now that she wished that she had heeded Jaylen’s warnings and just spent the day at home with him like he’d wanted her too. She suddenly remembered that Eric had been counting bridges also and was sure that the approaching care contained her boyfriend and his friends. She shrieked, “Oh Lawd, y’all, Eric’s counting too!”

“What!” Sandra shrieked through the streams of tears washing over her cheeks. She still hadn’t put her hands back on the wheel, nor her foot, back on the brake but still the car pushed on towards its destination with no help from her.

“If Eric’s still counting then we’re going to crash…just like they did on the day of the accident. Cassie, you can’t count that last bridge.” Deidra pleaded with an unmoved Cassie. For her there was only one way to prove this myth as just that and that was by going through with what she’d started.

They all pleaded with Cassie as if their lives depended on it…and in a way it did, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Alyssa clicked away on her camera, taking photo after photo of the figure moving swiftly along side of the road but to her horror the figure wasn't appearing in any of the pictures. The closer they got to the figure the more apparent it became that it had stopped moving and was now standing directly in the path of their car. Everyone could see the whispy figure but Cassie, who was now being driven by a force that she herself had no control of. It was as if the will of something stronger than her was at work now.

The cars had both just entered either side of the bridge, when time seemed to slow to a crawl as Alyssa took one final look around the car. Terror was etched into Deidra’s face, while the sound of Sandra’s screaming drowned out the audibility of any words Deidra was saying. The energy of something other worldly charged the air in the car as Cassie’s insane laughter echoed throughout the car. The headlights from the approaching car lite up the side of Cassie’s face, illuminating her look of insanity, as she glanced over her left shoulder giggling the words, “I can't see you Mary Francis."

There she was. Mary Francis. Standing in the middle of road screaming as if she had been caught off guard. Her face filled with the fear of a person seeing death closing in on them with no way to stop it Sandra grabbed the steering wheel, pulling it hard to the left while pushing the brake as far into the floor as it would go. The car jerked left as the right side of the car impacted the figure of Mary Francis, which surprisingly felt as if they had really hit a real flesh and blood person. The headlights of the approaching car flashed across the dashboard as it swerved into their lane, the sound of impact as Sandra clipped the tail end of the car as it drove past them and directly through where Mary Francis had just stood. The sound of broken glass crackling beneath the sound of the girls screaming as the car plowed on to its final destination. The screams continued until the blunt force of the car slamming into the guardrail brought them to a sudden and complete stop. The sound of screeching tires across the pavement followed by the loud sound of the other car crashing into the creek brought a deathly silence to the night.

Smoke rose from the car's engine, as the whistling sound of the front and side air bags deflating fill the inside of the car followed by the slow moans of the girls, who were a little shaken up but all still alive. Sandra coughed as the smell of damp grass and murky creek water wafted throughout the car.

"Is everyone okay?" Deidra asked feeling the spot on her forehead that had hit the back of the passenger seat when the car crashed.

"I'm okay." Alyssa said while quickly patting herself down checking that all limbs were still attached. Satisfied that she was still intact she said, "Cassie, Sandra, what about you guys?"

"Awwww, I've got scratches from the air bags." Sandra whined, "But I'm alive. Cassie?"

But there was no reply.

"Cassie?" Deidra said details of the legend flashing through her head. She suddenly feared the worse as she continued to call her friend. "Cassie. Cassie!"

"Oh my god, Cassie!" Alyssa shouted as she unsnapped her seatbelt and reached over the backseat to give Cassie's arm a shake. Sandra immediately panicked, unbuckling her seat belt before opening her door and running around to the passenger side door. She flung open the car door as Deidra frantically fought her way out of the backseat. Cassie sat slumped over with her head leaning forward, her hair had falling forward covering her face. The tears seemed to come instantly when Sandra gently brushed the hair away from Cassie's face revealing the wide-eyed stare and agape mouth of a person who literally looked scared to death.

Sandra's scream was filled with both terror and sorrow. "OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! SHE'S DEAD!! CASSIE'S DEAD!!!" She shrieked as plump tears rolled down her cheeks.

"WHAT!" both Deidra and Alyssa yelled frightened beyond belief. Sandra's screams were deafening as she trembled while backing away from the sight of her deceased friend.

The sound of Sandra's screams pierced the moist night air causing a frightening aura within the surrounding area. Her screams of "no, no, no," was more that Cassie could stand as she realized that her prank had gone to far. "Sandra!" she called to her friend as she unsnapped her seatbelt and got out of the car, "Sandra, I'm okay! It was just a joke, honey! I'm fine, see."

At first it seemed that Cassie's movement caused Sandra to become even more upset because she yelled even louder. It took a moment for her brain to process what exactly had happened, as she whimpered, "what?"

"You stupid whore, that wasn't funny!" Alyssa shouted as she finally got out of the backseat and walked around to join the rest of the group standing around a very upset Sandra.

"Yeah, Cassie, real mature. We just had a wreck and the only thing you could think to do was play dead." Deidra added as she tried to comfort Sandra by wrapping her arms around her while brushing out her hair with her fingers.

"Lighten up you guys. It was just a joke. I didn't think that she would get that upset." Cassie said while trying to grab Sandra's hand, "I sorry, Sandra. I didn't know it would scare you that much."

"You mean, you just didn't care!" Alyssa said slapping Cassie's hand away before she could touch Sandra. She continued, "You heard her tell say stop and you kept going. You don't know when to quite"

"It was a joke Lyssa!" Cassie snapped back, "God, nothing happened! We're-"

"Nothing happened?!" Deidra interrupted, "We just crashed into a bridge and nothing happened."

"You know what I mean." Cassie replied, "We're all alive."

"Barely." Alyssa snapped before the sound of splashing coming from the creek interrupted their argument.

"Oh my God, you guys, Jaylen." Deidra said before running across the bridge to look over the guardrail.