The track she was following curved and swerved through ancient trees and undergrowth, muffling the sound of a gurgling stream until she passed a gap. Pushing through tangles of brambles, she glimpsed sunlight sparkling on water and slid down the bank in her haste to reach it. A river coursed through the forest and, just around the next bend, a stone bridge appeared to leap across it. Stumbling along the muddy bank, dodging slyly needling nettles and more overt bramble thorns (oh, for a sword like Sleeping Beauty’s Prince!), she made her way towards the edifice.

On the nearside of the bridge, crouching in the water like a giant toad, was a rusted car wreck. It must have been there for years, a carbuncle on the landscape. She was surprised that nobody thought to get it removed. She rolled up her jeans, removed her shoes and stepped gingerly into the water, wading duck-like towards the monstrosity.

The skeleton sat in the driver’s seat, its fleshless fingers still gripping the steering wheel, the jaws of the skull angled into a scream that silently penetrated her mind. The birds stopped singing, the trickle of water froze, and the forest held its breath.

She would have to let the authorities know; someone was alive somewhere, perhaps not far from here, wondering why their wife, husband, lover, child didn’t come home, where they might be. She felt the gaze of the eyeless orbs, tried to blank them as she pulled a mobile phone from her jeans pocket and waded to the rear of the wreck to identify the registration number, which was raised above the lever of the water, while the front was wedged  into the river bed. The plate had rusted but a number and three letters were legible: 2 HELL.

Kim M. Russell, 1st September 2019

Image result for skeleton in a rusted car
Image found on Pinterest

My response to Imaginary Garden with Real Toads Telling Tales with Magaly Guerrero, a Pantry of Prose #7: Gothic Fiction

Magaly’s back with another Pantry of Prose. She whet’s our interest with a piece of dialogue regarding students on a Gothic fiction class course, a discussion about whether Gothic fiction relies on traditional tropes, as in such classics as The Castle of Otranto, Dracula and Wuthering Heights, or can be modern, as in The Thirteenth Tale, ‘The Yellow Wall-Paper’ and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Magaly invites us to write short Gothic stories (in 313 words or fewer), setting our tales wherever we please, with our characters wearing whatever they like! As a secondary option, we can take an old poem, which fits this week’s theme, and turn it into a new story (of 313 words or fewer).

29 thoughts on “Rust

  1. I like how you set up the scene with the plants almost seeming to want to trap the protagonist inside it. It made me wonder if this spot of the wilds was always like this, and the unfortunate driver was it’s victim. Or did the spirit of the driver, angry at being unable to escape, permeate that area so that no one else would as well?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh! My! Goodness! This is finely wrought. The skeletal fingers still gripping the wheel, mouth open in a silent scream, the license plate. Perfection! I especially love the water freezing and the forest holding its breath. So good.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love how you have set a scene and the thoughts of reflection on the view of the bones in the car still holding the steering wheel. Eerie and captivating leading to quite the ending. Wonderful prose writing Kim!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a wonderful and creepy… love the details of the setting, and how it changes from exploring until all goes silent when she sees the skeleton… If this was a film I could hear the eerie strings until the cello starts to hum darkly as the camera zooms into the license plate

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love so many things about this story: the way you tell us so much about the main character’s personality with a single sentence (her wish for a fairytale sword), how she thinks about those left behind even while she is in trouble… This is the sort of individual one wants to be in a difficult situation with.

    The idea of a haunted bridge is always spooky. Like with the Sleepy Hollow story (that bridge is just minutes from my house), once you are on it is not like you can escape very quickly. So, there she is trapped with corpse smiles a lot… and that license plate!

    From beginning to end, eerie and descriptive. Not to mention possible. I wonder what will happen next…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. With a silent scream the whole world goes quiet. I liked the juxtaposition of the “walker” in the ancient woods to the rusted car being “carbuncle” on the landscape, as if anything modern just doesn’t belong. The licence plate is a fantastic ending!

    Liked by 1 person

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