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'Legend of the Bottoms:' Chapter One

I wrote the book, "Legend of the Bottoms" in 2005, but didn't attempt to have it published. I am presenting it here as a series.

Forest in Skuna River Bottom.

Forest in Skuna River Bottom.

The Horror Begins

Young Brad Aycock thought he was dreaming, but knew it wasn't conceivable; he was wide awake. Something was amiss in the forest of the Skuna River Bottom; there was complete silence. "This cannot be,'" he thought. "The forest is never silent! "Where were the night creatures; the owls, frogs, birds and not even the crickets, made a sound. The silence was deafening. It hung in the air as if it were the vestiges of some great disaster; the silence after the storm, but there had been no storm; no disaster. "Where were the creatures who occupied the woodland? What forced them to cease their nightly routine of calling to one another? Wait, could it be possible; that has to be the explanation." It was the only thing he could think of at the moment, anyway; he had lost his hearing.

Eerie tree roots in the bottoms

Eerie tree roots in the bottoms

The Smell of Evil

Brad felt silly, but he had to say something to see if he actually had lost his hearing, so he asked himself: "What's going on here." There he had done it. There was nothing wrong with his hearing, though his voice had trembled, and he had only whispered, as if he was trying to avoid bringing attention to himself Brad knew he was not alone in the dark forest. Someone or something was there with him; it was close; he could even smell it.

Brad had smelled some terrible odors in his young life, but this was the worst he had ever smelled. It smelled like a skunk's musk, but much more pungent. He remembered a dead cow he and his father had found one summer. It had been dead about a week and had laid there in the hot July sun. It smelled bad, but this was worse.

The subject of a nightmare.

The subject of a nightmare.

The Chase of Life or Death Begins

"Run," he heard himself say deep in his mind---"Run like you've never run before." It was as if his mind and body were on two different wavelengths, for he realized he was already running. It was as if his body reacted before his mind engaged as if his body had its own internal, survival mechanism.

As the twelve-year-old boy raced through the deep-dark woods, lightning flashed across the sky. A storm was coming, and it made the forest more foreboding, and he wished he had listened to his mother. She told him to stay on the main road and leave Jack's house in time to get home before dark.

Brad and Jack Watson were best friends, but Jack lived in the hills on the south side of Skuna River, and they had to cross the river bottom to visit each other. "Was this going to be the last time he visited Jack," he asked himself? He felt like he might not see his family again if this thing caught him. Brad wondered if this shortcut through the woods would also shortcut his life! He also realized if he made it home at all, his mother would question him about waiting so late to start home; he would think of some explanation.

A coming storm intensifies Brad's fears

A coming storm intensifies Brad's fears

Brad Reaches Skuna River

It was so dark under the canopy of foliage of the giant trees that Brad was only barely able to make out shapes in the woods, and the fact there was no moon on this night, even worsened his plight. As he ran, in what he hoped was the right direction to the river, he could hear a pounding noise that seemed to get faster, but not closer. It sounded like a crazed musician trying to beat the head in on a drum.

The smell of this thing was getting stronger as he ran, and each time he stumbled and fell in the darkness, he expected the thing to be there with him as he was trying to get up to run again, but each time he fell, his body was in control of his mind, and he was up and running before he could finish his thoughts. "Have I run in circles?" Brad thought..."I should have reached the river by now!"

Brad's mind was in a total panic; he could feel the breath of the creature on the back of his neck, and he was expecting it to have him at any moment, but then it happened! He was falling. Brad had found the river. As he plummeted towards the bottom of Skuna River, his thoughts were racing; "Is it in the water with me? Will it drown me, or tear me apart, or both?"

The storm rages

The storm rages

Prayer for Safety

''Please help me Lord," Brad prayed, as he fought the water. He was on the surface now, swimming wildly toward the north shore, not knowing if he was still being pursued, or if the thing had stopped at the river. It didn't take the boy long to reach the shore, and he dragged onto the north bank of the river. He could still hear the pounding and realized it was in his chest; It was his own heart beating.

Brad lay there on the ground for a second, trying to breathe, but the sound he heard from across the river, made his leap to his feet, and run again. The monster had wailed as if it had lost its prey. The sound reminded him of when he was younger, and an older boy had taken his Yo-Yo. He wanted it back more than anything, and he had screamed with anger at the other boy. He knew this being was screaming because it had lost its prey, him!

The lights of his house looked wonderful to him as he ran across the freshly plowed field. "I'm will make it," he yelled aloud; "I will make it!"

Brad's house near the river

Brad's house near the river

Brad Makes it Home

As Brad reached the front door of his house, he half fell, and half threw himself through the front door. The boy's mother screamed as he lay there on the living room floor, trying to breathe. His father jumped up from his chair and ran to the boy. Brad looked up at his father, who appeared to be in shock, as he stared down at his son.

"How bad are you hurt Brad?" he heard his father ask? "What has happened to you, son?"
Brad did not realize until now he was lying in a puddle of blood: fresh blood: his blood. It was coming from his back. He could feel the searing pain now in the small of his back. It felt like someone had stabbed him with a red-hot poker. It was even worse than when his father's mule, Ned threw him into the barbed wire fence. "Momma's gonna kill me," he thought as he looked at the blood on the floor. He was delirious now. and pleaded to his mother, "don't worry mom, I'll clean it up before it dries; I promise." These were his the last words he heard himself say before he passed out.

Indian Dreamcatcher

Indian Dreamcatcher

Brad's Nightmares and the Dreamcatcher

The haven from our worries and fears that comes with sleep, did not come to Brad Aycock that night. He has visited by horrible nightmares; one after the other, unrelenting He knew he was asleep, and tried to wake himself to escape these terrible dreams of being chased by this same unseen monster, only to find that when he got home, his parents had become monsters too.

As dawn broke. and the sun's rays crept through the window curtains, Brad opened his eyes, but everything was blurred. The loss of blood and the laudanum Doc Farley had given him, kept him from seeing clearly, but he heard the doctor tell his parents, "He'll make, but It was a close one. He's a strong-willed young man, otherwise, he would be dead now!" As Brad lay there, wrapped in bandages, he wondered if he had dreamed about a monster chasing him, or if it had really happened? He knew one thing for sure, he was drifting into unconsciousness again, and he didn't want to return to his nightmare world.

As he fell into a deep sleep this time, his parents and the doctor saw him smiling, and the doctor said, "the laudanum must be working." But, it wasn't the medicine that relaxed Brad; it was an image of an Indian Dreamcatcher blowing gently in the wind that made him feel safe.

"The Bottoms" is an ongoing series, and I will add additional chapters to complete the series.

© 2018 Gerry Glenn Jones

Comments

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 22, 2018:

Gerry, It sounds like your youth was spent in a wonderful place, and I am sure your imagination could run wild in that type of area. Thank you for the bit of history in your comment.

Gerry Glenn Jones (author) from Somerville, Tennessee on August 22, 2018:

Thanks, Pamela, I was raised in the real Skuna River Bottoms, and when I was young, the bottoms were covered in thick forests, and there were all types of legends about what the Chickasaw Indians dealt with in that place. There were Indian mounds there from the earlier Mississippian culture. The Mississippian culture was a mound-building Native American culture that flourished in what is now the Midwestern, inland-Eastern, and Southeastern United States from approximately 800 CE to 1500 CE, varying regionally. To me, it was magical, and I developed this story in my imagination. Sadly, most of the trees are gone now, and they have been replaced by agriculture.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 22, 2018:

This story certainly brings an element of terror, and that skull picture helped. I like this first chapter, and I will look forward to the next one.