Urban Legends: Yellow Fever Bridge by Valerie Willis
Welcome to Urban Legends: Author & Artist #SpookyShowcase. This autumn 2019, the strange and unusual is unleashed! Featuring the best authors and artists in the horror landscape, come back each day the month of October for a scare. You can find the master posting schedule here,
Expect dark stories, myths, legends, and creepy creations that will make your spine tingle. Remember, urban legends aren’t true…are they?
Yellow Fever Bridge
by Valerie Willis
Based on the urban legend the I-4 Dead Zone
The wine flowed, filling glasses between us as we sat on Mindy’s back porch. Florida summers brought on humidity and late-night thunderstorms that lit up the night sky. Lightning spiderwebbed through a cloud, a low rumble threatening the return of rain. The frogs were a chorus of shrills and chirps, but we were too busy talking about local gossip. It was rare for me to travel out to Deltona, a good forty or so minutes from Orlando. I had stopped drinking, letting my buzz wane with no plans to share the fold-out couch bed with Stacy. I’ve heard stories.
I had been lost in thought, staring up at the night sky from where I sat on a patio chair, snacking on chips. The girls were laughing and squealing, but when Mindy started to go on about her latest fling, I checked out. She had started slurring by this point, in fact, all of them had been burning through the assortment of wine bottles with great speed as I finished sipping on my second glass.
Recalling the bridge we’d driven across, I aimed to change topics, “Was that the St. Johns River I crossed on the way here?”
Stacy caught her breath, “Yes, it is, Haley.”
“Wow, didn’t realize it came over this far.” I lifted my eyebrows high. “What’s up with the one side with all the black marks and scuffs? It’s a straight shot but right at…” I stumbled over my words as I look back at the paling faces.
The laughter silenced, the rosy red cheeks from wine drinking replaced with pale stark expressions, and cups being placed on the table.
“You don’t know?” I never knew Stacy could speak so softly, a spark of fear in her eyes.
“Know what?” I marveled over their reaction.
“About the crashes on the I-4 bridge…” Mindy lifted an eyebrow and tilted her head. “The wrecks where no one knows why they happen, the car just turns on its own, not even the wheel…” She bit her lip and looked to Stacy as if questioning if she should say more.
“A ghost.” Stacy loved to deliver shocking news. For once she didn’t seem to take as much pleasure as usual.
“Ghost?” I twisted my lips, skeptical. “What nonsense is this?”
“No, really!” Mindy leaned over the table, getting closer. “It’s a local urban legend.”
“What? Does everyone find the need to make a hard right into the side of the St. Johns Bridge?” I chuckled taking a sip of wine, my scorn evident. “Ghost stories… pft!”
“Really, Haley.” Stacy scooted closer as well, nodding her head. “They say a little boy shows up on the bridge and the spooked driver rams into the side. If it weren’t for the railing, there would be a pile of cars in the river below.”
“And let me guess, he shows up at the strike of three.” I chomped on another chip, unconvinced. Still, the hairs on the back of my neck startled to prickle.
“That’s the weird part,” Stacy started. “They say he’s even been seen during the day.”
“It’s true! They call it the Dead Zone,” Mindy added.
I smirked, “I thought they called it the Dead Zone because there are no radio or cell towers in that stretch?”
“No, it’s because people hear things.” Stacy took the last gulp of wine down as if preparing to share war stories. “Growling, voices, and even children laughing.”
“That’s creepy… what do they say?” I crunched through another chip, “Anything juicy?”
They frowned at me, unamused by my sarcasm.
“Ok, so why do you think it’s such a hotspot for paranormal activity?” I picked out a folded over chip, drowning it in the French onion dip. “I mean, it’s not like they built the interstate on top of graves.”
Silence fell across the table. A breeze blew through the screened in porch and goosebumps rippled across my skin. Some snaked up my spin and my shoulders shuddered. The chip broke off in the dip, and I puckered out my bottom lip.
“I can’t talk about this anymore with ya’ll.” Mindy jerked up, throwing her hands up in defeat. “I’ll need to go to church if I keep going on.”
With that, she slid through the sliding glass door, leaving me with only Stacy. Crickets chirped in the stillness of the night. Despite the time pushing well past two in the morning, it was still hot and muggy. Florida summers in what used to be swampland could make you think you tasted the air on your tongue. A frog trilled in the distance and fished out my broken chip, narrowing my eyes at Stacy.
“They were supposed to move them.” I almost didn’t hear her mumble the words.
“Move what?” Furrowing my brow, I poured another glass of wine to drown out the after taste of over-dipped chip.
“The graves.” A mournful look crossed her face and I choked on my wine. “There was a settlement, a small town really… St. Joseph’s, but they died… they all died.”
Coughing for a minute, I swallowed down the tickling in my throat to rasp, “How?”
“First the fire sent them out to build homes apart, then the Yellow fever came.” Her enjoyment, her smile, and the aloof drunken Stacy from earlier was gone, as if it had never been. She seemed compelled to tell me, possessed even. “We told them to move the bodies.”
“What do you mean by ‘we’ and… umm… Stacy? Stacy can you hear me?” My chest and throat tightened as my anxiety grew. “Stacy?”
“Even in Cassadaga we heard their cries, heard the sour lament of hatred in their voices.”
“Cassadaga?” I closed the chip bag, feeling it had betrayed me. “The psychic town?”
“We used the river as a means to keep their spirits from us, but we could pull power from them. It was a prime opportunity, living across from a true ghost town to test our powers.” She smirked, staring down at her half full wine glass. “But had we known they would be trapped there, even us…”
“Ok, Stacy,” I took a gulp down, my mouth numb to its flavor before I fussed further, “You got me. You’re creeping me out…and we both know I don’t believe in this stuff.”
“Stacy can’t hear you.” The nonchalant tone and raised eyebrows were off-putting, but it was the dull look in her eyes, the drunken glassiness long gone. “We told them to move the graves before building or the curse would grow. Those fools…” She hissed, throwing her wine glass against the wall.
I jerked to my feet, “What’s wrong–“
“SIT!” With a wild look on her face, pupils dilated and contorted expression, her mouth stretched into a deep scowl. I did as she commanded, my heart beating against my chest, sitting silent and obedient like a child reprimanded. “They leveled it, built that monstrosity on our deathbeds and for what? So you don’t have to take a hell-forsaken boat across!”
Spittle flew from her, the heat of it raining across my face. “We called forth a storm so great! The Madonna of hurricanes and thrust her eye down the path of the road and still, they did not stop the year of 1960! We have spoken, we have screeched, we have taken the lives of those we seek! In a year’s time, we destroyed forty-four scores of metal beasts to no avail! So we took four-hundred-forty more and still no one came to put us to rest!”
“Stacy! Stacy please stop!” Tears streaked down my face, my body held down by invisible hands, nails biting into skin and drawing blood. “Please stop! I believe! I believe it!” My heart pounded in my ears, blood rushing with icy fear.
“They came! They came digging!” She screeched, yanking locks of bleach blonde hair from her head. “So we called upon the storm, The Blood Prince looked down upon them with his eye and still, nothing! Tornadoes and mangled flesh and metal, still you dare leave us there in unrest! The psychics! They ignore us! Those gifted never cross the river, never cross us again! We demand rest or we will take blood! The new ones, the ones we’ve taken…” Her voice trailed, the hands on me loosened and she sat down, her body trembling. “They outnumber us and they have horrible rage, more so then…” Stacy began crying. “What a horrible curse Daddy started… and never can we find rest. Not Momma and me. We are doomed, we are lost…” Her eyes met mine, tears streaming down, then she blinked. “Haley? Are you bleeding?”
I looked on with a harrowing expression, the blood drained from my face.
“Oh God,” She realized she was holding clumps of her own hair. “This happens when I get too drunk…” She wiped tears from her face, “I didn’t say anything terrible while I was blacked out, did I?”
And I sobbed.
About the Author
Valerie Willis is an Award-winning Dark Fantasy Paranormal Romance author based out of Central Florida. She loves crafting novels with elements inspired by mythology, superstitions, legends, folklore, fairy tales and history.
She has received the Reader’s Favorite Bronze medal in ‘Fiction – Mythology’ and FAPA’s President’s Silver medal in ‘Fantasy/Sci-fi.’ Valerie is also known for hosting workshops at events sharing her expertise in self-publishing, novel writing, research in fiction, worldbuilding, character development, book design, reader immersion and more.
Her ‘Cedric Series’ is a wonderful blend of genres that appeals to a wide-range of readers described as “dramatic, lustful, and fantasy fulfilling.”