Author A. LaFaye is known for wandering -- both physically by traveling here and there and back again to visit schools, speak at conferences, and visit a zoo or two along the way AND mentally when she goes off topic on a wordy little tangent about who knows what. Read and find out.
Monday, May 28, 2018
Greenville University Storytelling Festival Winners
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
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
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
“I-I don’t understand!” Nathaniel
sputtered. “She was right here! S-surely she couldn’t have wandered off on her
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
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.”
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
“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
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
Nathaniel rose, sighing
softly, and turned to look at the place where the girl had lain on the side of
the road, but that