The boys were up to no good — Miranda Gilbert knew it from the moment they drove up with Miss-Prissy-Pants, Ashley Nelson, saying that they had a surprise for their girls. Ashley sat in the front seat of Levi’s Mustang, looking like an excited puppy about to piddle on herself. Daren was behind the wheel. “I should’ve known that the little princess would insist on being in front,” Miranda told Levi without caring whether or not Ashley could hear, “I don’t know why you would let that idiot drive your…”
“Come on, babe, this is supposed to be fun. I know — hell — we all know that you don’t like her. Can you just pretend to get along for a few hours?” Levi placed his thumb on Miranda’s chin and gave her a kiss.
Miranda’s face twisted into a defiant grimace. “I’ll come. That’s the only promise I’ll make though.”
Miranda and Levi turned to get in the car. Ashley popped out as if she had springs in her ass and folded the seat forward. “Sorry Miranda. You know that I can’t handle that cramped back seat.”
“It shouldn’t be too cramped for someone who’s 4-11,” Miranda said.
“What? I’m 5-10. I’m even taller than Daren. It’s ‘cramped’ for me.” Of course, she would have never been complaining about it if Daren didn’t insist on dating the self-absorbed cheerleader. “She must be awfully good between the sheets,” she thought.
Miranda held her tongue for the rest of the night, even when Ashley steered every conversation to herself. The boys took them to the latest horror flick that claimed to be the next “Exorcist”. Miranda had high hopes for the movie — the trailers were awesome — but, as usual, all of the good parts were in the trailers. The rest was a snooze-fest. Ashley kept her head buried in Daren’s shirt for the whole film, as Levi and Miranda laughed at the absurdity of the plot. After the movie, they went to the local Dairy Queen — the only restaurant in town unless they wanted to risk Home Plate.
Dinner and a movie wasn’t the apex of the evening though, according to Levi, who had a smirk that Miranda could see through in an instant. She knew that they were up to something. They stayed in the Dairy Queen talking — mostly listening to Ashley talk — until closing. Once they were all back in the Mustang, Daren asked, “Are you ready for the big surprise?”
Ashley clapped her hands together, bouncing in the seat enough to make the whole car rock, and exclaimed, “Oh yeah!”
“Well, you’re going to have to keep your eyes closed until we get there. And just in case you’re tempted to peak, I brought these.” Daren produced two blindfolds.
“Seriously?” Miranda said.
“C’mon babe! This is going to be a blast,” Levi said grabbing one of the blindfolds and handing it to Miranda.
“Oo… I love the suspense!” Ashley giggled as Daren slipped the black cloth over her face.
Miranda didn’t like where this was heading. She had no idea what was waiting for her at the end, but she knew Levi and Daren well enough to know that they weren’t to be trusted. She shot Levi a look that said as much and put her blindfold on herself.
It was a twenty minute drive, but not being able to see made it seem a good deal longer. The car stopped and Miranda went to take her blindfold off. Levi grabbed her hands. “Not yet babe.”
“Have you girls heard the story of Bayview Bridge?”
“Cut the shit, Daren. Everyone in this stupid little town has heard that story,” Miranda said.
“Stop being such a killjoy. I want to hear my man tell it.”
“Here, Randi. This should make it more tolerable for you,” Daren said.
Miranda could hear the hissing sound of a carbonated drink being opened, and Daren placed a cold bottle in her hand. Upon sipping it, she realized that he had given her a Smirnoff Ice — her favorite. She gratefully sat back with the “bitch beer”, as Levi always referred to them, and listened to Daren tell the story.
“It was the summer of ’61, on a night — much like this one — hot and muggy and the fog on Bayview Lake hung low and thick. A young mother, Betsy Higgins, with her baby in the backseat sleeping, was driving back from her parents’ house. Despite the fog, she was speeding through the back roads, trying to get home before her husband got in from the bars. He was a good man sober, but had a nasty streak all liquored up, and she didn’t want to give him a reason to be mad at her, him being the jealous type and all. When she hit Bayview Bridge, going about 50, a woman appeared before her in the fog. She swerved to miss her, and drove through the failing railing of the old metal bridge. The car went into the lake. She was able to get out of the sinking car, but she couldn’t save her baby. A week later, Betsy, overcome with guilt and grief, hung herself in the big oak tree outside their home. It’s said that if you drive across Bayview Bridge, when the fog is low and thick, you can hear the baby crying. Some people have also said that Betsy has stopped them, asking for them to help her find her baby.”
The boys removed Miranda and Ashley’s blindfolds to reveal that they were parked on Bayview Bridge. The fog was dense and covered the water and the bridge to the point that the group could see nothing else.
“What’s the deal with the woman on the bridge? Who was she?” Miranda asked.
“That’s just it, Randi. No one knows. She wasn’t there when Betsy came out of the water. Some people say that she was a ghost.”
“No shittin’. I don’t believe in ghosts or anything, but there have been a lot of accidents on this bridge, when at its foggiest. That’s why they shut it down, I think. The new bridge is built much higher, over the fog.” Miranda pointed to the new bridge.
“What are we doing here, Daren?” Ashley asked.
“Levi and me thought it’d be fun to sit on the bridge and tell some ghost stories.”
Ashley nervously looked out of all the windows. “And this is your idea of a big surprise?”
Levi laughed. “I told you that she wouldn’t be into it.”
“What? It’s not like I’m scared. I don’t believe in ghosts. I just think that it sounds stupid.”
“C’mon Ashley. They’re just going to hound us until we give in. Who knows… it might be fun.” Miranda found herself confused to be on Ashley’s side. The whole idea did seem a little hokey, and she still had the feeling that Levi and Daren were up to something.
Daren opened his door to get out, and Ashley followed his lead, getting out of the car and folding the seat forward to let Levi and Miranda out of the backseat. Once Levi was out, Daren said that he forgot something, and got back in, opening the console and looking around. Levi helped Miranda out of the car.
“We’ll just sit down over there,” Levi said, pointing at an opening in the rail.
Miranda was thinking that this must have been where the last car went off — they had never bothered to repair it — when Levi hopped back in the car and he and Daren sped off before the girls realized what was happening.
“What the fuck? I knew those assholes were up to something.” Miranda picked up a rock and hurled it in the direction of the fleeing car. She would make them pay.
Ashley folded her arms around herself. “They are coming back, aren’t they?” she asked as she stumbled a little.
Miranda suddenly noticed that Ashley was wearing stiletto heals, and that the grating on the metal bridge must have been hard to maneuver. She also realized that Ashley was scared, and resented the fact that she felt some pitty for the prissy little cheerleader. “I’m sure they’ll come back. The question is how long it’ll be. Why don’t we have a seat?” She walked over to the opening and sat with her legs dangling off the bridge.
Ashley stayed back, looking anxiously at the gaping hole in the railing. “You don’t think that anyone died here, do you?”
“The thought had crossed my mind.” Miranda shivered at the thought, and then it registered that she might not have needed to say it. “Ashley, c’mon and sit down. They’ll be back.”
“This had to have been Levi’s idea. Daren would never have done this without…”
“Oh, shut up.” Suddenly any pity that she was beginning to feel evaporated and a genuine dislike returned. “I’ve known both Levi and Daren for years. We grew up together. I’ve played video games with them. I’ve played football with them. Hell, I’ve even gone camping with them. I know them better than you do, and believe me when I tell you that this was Daren’s idea. Levi only wished that he thought of it first.” Miranda knew this because Daren had always beat Levi to the really good hoaxes.
The girls had sat in silence for about ten minutes, when a low moaning came from under the old steel structure. At first, Miranda thought that it was the bridge groaning with the gentle breeze. The sound had an eerie, but human quality to it though. She realized that the boys must have parked the car out of sight and came back to scare them. She wasn’t going to be fooled again. Still mad at herself for falling for such a hokey joke to begin with, she was going to stand her ground.
It was Ashley’s turn to be irate though. She ran to the edge of the gaping hole with what Miranda thought was an incredible grace considering her shoes and the terrain. “Daren! Levi! I know it’s y’all. Get your asses up here and take us home.” She got no response. “Daren! You show yourself now. I don’t even know why I chose to date your loser ass.”
A tempest swelled up from under the bridge, knocking Ashley back. Her heel got stuck in the metal grates and, losing her balance, she desperately groped for the railing, but it was all in vain. Another wind swept across the bridge in the opposite direction and she toppled over the side.
“Oh my God! Ashley?” Miranda called.
Crazed splashing sounds came from the water below. Miranda thought that she heard someone dive into the water from the left bank, and felt a sense of relief, believing that it had to be one of the boys jumping in after her.
“Miranda… help… my foot… is stuck…”
Ashley was having a hard time keeping her head above water, Miranda could tell. Where were Levi and Daren? Surely, one of them should have made it to Ashley? Not wanting to be wrong, Miranda was preparing to dive in after her, when she heard a chilling scream that turned into gurgles and then to the sound of air bubbles rising to the surface of the water. Miranda could hesitate no longer and dove into the lake.
The water was bone chilling cold, and it was much darker and foggier in the lake than it was on the bridge. Miranda felt desperately around, praying to find Ashley somewhere in the blackness. A strong breeze swept over the water and, as Miranda shivered in the cold lake, the low moaning returned.
“Damn it! Are you all in on this stupid joke? Ashley?” Doubt crept into her voice, “Where are you?”
Miranda felt a cold hand on her shoulder. Ready to forgive the nasty prank and being genuinely grateful that Ashley must be okay, she spun around to see glowing, deep red eyes staring back at her. They looked angry and a raspy cackle came from the shadowy figure that owned them. Miranda could have sworn that she heard a baby crying in the distance. Suddenly, she felt a hand grab hold of her leg and she was violently pulled under water. No matter how hard she kicked, she could not get free. Her air was running out. She felt dizzy. Miranda had begun to sink when she realized that she could no longer feel the grip around her ankle.
Frantically, Miranda kicked her way to the surface. The air was painful as she gasped it deep into her lungs. A blood curdling screech came from behind her, but she never looked back as she swam for the bank. She could hear and feel something chasing her through the water. Trying to put her fear behind her and focus only on getting to land, she kicked her powerful legs with all of her strength. When her feet finally touched ground, she didn’t stop running until she reached a local gas station.
Levi’s mustang pulled to the side of the bridge. Roaring laughter could be heard within and, when the door opened, a couple of beer cans fell to the ground.
“That was one hell of a prank you guys concocted,” came an embittered voice.
A clammy hand rested on Daren’s arm. “That crazy bitch ran away. I guess she’s not as tough as she let’s on.” Ashley was pale and dripping water.
“What happened to you?”
She smiled as a deep red light flashed in her eyes.