Monday, May 28, 2018

Greenville University Storytelling Festival Winners
Storytelling Class 

Best in Show
& Best Short Film

Daisy by Joey Clinton

Best Short Story


“The Girl of Blue Bell Hill”
by Rachel Terry

            Nathaniel kept seeing her face. Her splash of red hair framing her features as she stared back at him with an unnerving blank expression, her eyes somehow appearing already dead, lifeless. And then the front of his motorcar had struck her and she disappeared from view.
            Had there been an impact, a thud as her body connected with the vehicle? Oh, God, he couldn’t remember, but there must have been.
            Only a few moments before, he had been driving down a winding road in the countryside of Kent as the light faded from the evening sky. Fog had coalesced, so thick his headlamps barely pierced it.
            Nathaniel would have sworn, under oath if necessary, with his right hand upon a Bible, that the young flame-haired woman had not been there. But a mere moment later, she seemed to melt out of the mist, in the middle of his lane.
            There was no time to swerve. Nathaniel slammed on the brake, but it was too late. Hands gripping the wheel with white knuckles, he watched as her body vanished beneath his car.
            When the vehicle skid to a halt, Nathaniel remained where he was in the driver’s seat, too shocked to move. Too afraid to step out, frightened of what his eyes would see.
            At last, he could bear it no longer. Moving mechanically, numb, Nathaniel put the car in park and stepped out, shutting the door behind him. He turned, glancing behind, a frigid wind blowing his coat open. Nausea slid around his gut, cinching tight. The young woman’s body lay motionless in the road.
            Forcing himself to move, Nathaniel approached her, apprehension gnawing at him. She appeared surprisingly unscathed, her red hair fanning out around her head and her white dress spread behind her like a broken wing. No bones were visibly broken—though that didn’t mean there weren’t any—and there was no blood to speak of.  
            Nathaniel looked around at his surroundings. The silent woods of the country stared back, melding with the mist, alien and unfamiliar. He had no idea where he was, but he couldn’t simply leave this poor woman lying in the middle of the road. Nathaniel was afraid of moving her, but there was nothing for it. Gingerly, he picked up her limp body, hesitating. She wouldn’t fit in the back of his car and the roads were so poor, littered with holes, that the jolting ride might do more harm than good.
            He carried her to the side of the road and set her down. She still did not stir. Fetching a blanket from the boot of the car, he draped it over her to shield her from the chill, vowing to return with help, and drove on until he reached the local village.
            “You all right?” a voice inquired, snapping Nathaniel out of his flashback. “You look a bit pale.”
            He glanced over at the constable beside him, clenching the wheel harder. “I hit someone,” he replied, his voice sounding strangely monotonous. “I may have killed her.”
            The policeman shared a glance with the local doctor in the back seat. The two men seemed irritatingly calm for what had happened. When Nathaniel had reached the village and explained what happened, the constables had huddled together in a small group and muttered amongst themselves as though gossiping.
            Their behavior was ridiculous, not to mention odd! Nathaniel had just admitted to striking someone with his vehicle. Why weren’t they frantic to rush out to help? 
            By the time the doctor had been summoned and the three of them set out, Nathaniel’s mood had worsened, becoming increasingly agitated and worried. He clenched his jaw, focusing on the road. The fog had let up a bit, but it was still too thick for comfort. For the life of him, why weren’t the two men concerned, even just a little bit? He supposed it was unrealistic to expect them to be as panicked as he was, but their unnatural calm only made him all the more edgy.
            “You’re not from around these parts, are you?” the doctor inquired.
            “No,” Nathaniel answered, glad the silence had been broken. “I’m from London.”
            “What brings you to Kent?” asked the constable, his tone casual.
            “I was visiting my sister.”
            “So you’re not familiar with the Blue Bell Hill area of Kent, then?”
            “No. I’m afraid I must have gotten myself lost after leaving my sister’s house.”
            The two men shared another knowing look. Nathaniel slowed as he reached the turn near where he had seen and struck the young woman. He brought the car to a stop and opened his door. “It was near here.” He had already informed the men of what he had done with the body, afraid to move her more than necessary.
            The men climbed out and followed him to the side of the road. Nathaniel had tried to use the drive to prepare himself for the sight of seeing her motionless body again, but nothing prepared him for the sight he was met with.
            The blanket he had draped over her still lay upon the damp grass at the side of the road, out of harm’s way. But the girl was no where to be found.
            Nathaniel glanced around in bewilderment. The constable had brought a torch with him and clicked it on, shining the beam about. The light fell upon the blue-gray blanket and scanned the bushes beside the road and the thick forest beyond. There was no sign of her.
            “I-I don’t understand!” Nathaniel sputtered. “She was right here! S-surely she couldn’t have wandered off on her own.”
            The doctor picked up the blanket. There was nothing underneath. No blood or even crushed grass to suggest where she’d lain. The constable switched off his torch with a decisive click that was dreadfully final.
            Nathaniel turned to him, stricken by guilt. “You have to form a search for her, immediately. She could be wandering about in the woods, alone and injured.” It was a fight to keep his voice from becoming hysterical. If the girl ended up dead because of this, her blood would be on his hands.
            “I don’t think you have to worry about that,” the constable said, with a hint of weariness in his voice. “I think you met one of the infamous ghosts of Blue Bell Hill.”
            Ghost?” Nathaniel choked out. “What do you mean, ghost? I saw her; I hit her with my car. I picked her up, for heaven’s sake! She was as solid and real as you or me!”
            He shuddered at the memory. She had been solid and heavy, like a real, living person should weigh. Had she been warm, like a living person? He couldn’t remember; in his panic that detail must have slipped his mind. But even if she weren’t warm, it was a chilly night, with the threat of rain hanging heavy over them. He wrapped his long coat more closely around his body and shivered—though whether from the cold or horror, he dared not guess.
            “And many a traveler have told the same tale as you,” the constable replied. “Many have seen a young woman throw herself under their wheels. It’s not an uncommon occurrence around these parts.”
            “They’re rumored to be the victims of a car accident in this area,” the doctor added. “Every one of them. A bride-to-be and her bridesmaids.”
            “A-and you?” Nathaniel said to the policeman. “Have you ever encountered one of these girls?”
            “I have not,” came the reply. “But if I should ever have that misfortune, at least I would recognize them for what they are.”
            The doctor patted Nathaniel on the shoulder. “I’m afraid the ghosts had some fun at your expense, mate. Giving you quite a fright, but no harm done.” He handed Nathaniel the blanket.
            The two men sauntered back to Nathaniel’s waiting motorcar and he knew they expected him to follow and return to the village. But he lingered for a few moments more before following and placing the blanket back in the boot.
            He moved around to briefly inspect the front of his vehicle. There was no dent, blood, or any evidence at all to suggest he had ever hit anything. He ran a hand over it, but he was met with a smooth surface.

            Nathaniel rose, sighing softly, and turned to look at the place where the girl had lain on the side of the road, but that

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