Approaching the small wooden bridge, I hear barking in the distance. That damn dog barks every night, starting up as soon as I approach its yard. You’d think it’d be used to me walking past by now, but no, every night it barks its yappy little bark at me, putting me on edge. It’s darker than usual, but thanks to the only two working streetlights in the area, I can see the black clouds gathering, threatening to open up at any minute. I don’t have an umbrella and I’m cold. I just want to get home, and as the sky grumbles, louder than before, I find myself hesitating at the very bridge I force myself to bypass every night, adding an extra fifteen minutes to my walk. Normally, I’d happily give up those minutes to avoid this bridge, but those clouds tell me I just don’t have them to spare tonight. “It’d take a quick minute to cross it. Just a quick minute,” I tell myself, thinking of the warm fire and glass of wine waiting for me at home. Nervous anxiety swirls away in the pit of my stomach the longer I stare at the bridge and thunder claps right above my head, forcing my hand. ‘This is ridiculous! You are going to get saturated if you stay here any longer – just cross the damn bridge, Mia!’ Swallowing hard, and filled with a new sense of bravado, I quickly make my way to bridge, whispering encouragement to myself as it draws closer, “I’ve never known of anyone to go missing here. Never. The stories are simply not true.” Placing a foot on the rickety wood, I take a deep breath and step forward. There’s no turning back now.
This bridge is known as the bridge that houses the Glass Bridge Witch. The tale is a town classic and growing up, it was a favourite told at sleepovers to freak out your friends. The story goes, the ‘witch’ was an elderly lady, who simply enjoyed collecting and hoarding glass bottles, hundreds of them to be exact. Eventually, she was called out for this eccentric behaviour and with rumours of witchcraft circulating, was swiftly outcast from society, forced to live on the outskirts of town in a run-down house, by an equally run-down bridge. When a town official was struck down by a mystery illness, later dying, fingers were quickly pointed at the old woman. A swift, unjust trial followed, and she was found guilty of witchcraft. Just before she was burned at the stake right by the river she called home, she cursed the town, promising to get her revenge from the grave. Her house was also set alight, her beloved glass collection melting and flowing to the river nearby, seemingly joining her in death. Soon after, several townsfolk disappeared, never to be seen again, and after several items belonging to the missing were found by the bridge, it was declared she had indeed kept her promise and returned from the grave. Hysteria followed and the bridge was swiftly forbidden from use but left standing for fear of further retribution from the revenge-seeking shrew. And so the tale of the Glass Bridge Witch was born.
Of course, the town, and the witches’ legend had grown since then, with homes popping up right near the river and the still intact, still avoided bridge. I’m not ashamed to admit that I believe every word of the myth, and as I walk over the very bridge she is said to haunt, silently cursing myself for doing so, I stop dead in my tracks when I notice I can’t hear the wind and thunder I’d heard only seconds before. I’m near the end of the bridge, listening to the lack of noise when I hear it. Clink. A soft clink, almost like you’re putting the cover over something. It’s deathly quiet; the only sound my heartbeat whooshing through my ears as my fear grows. I notice how warm it is when only seconds before I was freezing. I see the trees just before me moving violently in the wind, but I am untouched by this breeze. My mouth is suddenly dry and my chest is heavy. I have to get off this bridge. I rush to the end of the bridge, expecting to step off it, only to slam into something face first instead. Something solid. Taken aback, I put my hands to my face, and after finding nothing is broken or bleeding, I try again, only to be met with the same resistance. I run to the other side of the bridge, but it’s there as well. An invisible wall. I touch it and it feels smooth. Tapping it, the sound echoes around me. Looking up, I spot some tree branches that look as though they are hovering in mid-air, but with a sickening sense of dread, I see that they are not magic; they have simply landed on something clear. A roof. Panic takes over as I realise I’m totally surrounded by glass –like a huge glass container. I race from one side of the bridge to the other, like a mouse caught in some kind of sick maze, trying to find a way get off, but it’s no use.
The rain finally comes pouring down, and as I watch it trickling down the walls of my entrapment, I try to stop myself from having a full-scale meltdown. Hot tears blur my vision as I desperately try to remember any part of the story that tells you how to escape the witch should you meet her, but my mind draws a blank. I don’t think the story ever ended with you getting away. ‘Wait! Maybe I can break the glass?’ my mind screams at me and I frantically start digging away in my handbag, looking for something, anything, that could help me when I hear it. Barking. That damn dog is barking again, only this time, it’s barking like there’s a burglar in my house and I need to know about it.
Every hair on my body stands on end as I make my way to the end of the bridge, hoping the dog is just barking at a stray cat, ‘Please let it be a cat.’ Looking out into the darkness, lightning lights up the sky, illuminating the riverbank in the process. Nothing but the river and trees surround me.
The dog starts barking more urgently.
I can see my reflection in the bridge’s invisible barrier, almost like a mirror. I stifle a desperate scream as I realise I’m not alone. Behind me stands a lady, an old lady, with white hair and deep wrinkles, her eyes a piercing blue. She stares back at me, a small smile on her lips, before suddenly disappearing from view. I’m frozen with terror as everything slows down.
Everything except her.
Her hands are fast and claw-like. One wraps around my mouth, pulling me back, the other around my throat, talons quickly breaking skin and digging into the flesh underneath. I can’t scream as the witch pulls me into the cold water below, the dark blue quickly turning crimson. I can’t cry for help as I drown in a tangle of long, white hair and glass.
The only thing from this world I can grasp at as I leave it, the last sound I will ever hear, is the sound of that damn dog barking.
– Belinda Brady
Belinda is passionate about stories and after years of fence sitting, has finally turned her hand to writing them, with a preference for supernatural/thriller themes – a nod to her first and everlasting love. Belinda lives in Australia with her family, and has been known to enjoy the company of cats over people.