[Mysteriousheartland.com] The Fallen’s dark blue Toyota Corolla skidded around a sharp turn in the gravel road in rural Coles County, Illinois. Mud spattered its black and yellow bumper sticker, which read “necrophilia is dead” in skeletal lettering. Greg, Davin, and Emmet joked, shoved, and elbowed one another in the backseat.
“Hey, who do you think is the hottest actress on Charmed?” Davin inquired.
Emmet, as usual, demanded clarification. “Season one through three or four through eight?”
“All of them.”
“Paige, no question,” Mike said from the driver’s seat as he swerved to avoid a stray dog that bolted in front of the car.
“Piper,” Davin countered.
“You would say that,” Greg sneered. “How could you not like Rose McGowan? Haven’t you ever seen the movie Devil in the Flesh? I like my women like I like my serial killers: homicidal. That’s probably why I’m still single.”
“If you weren’t single, you’d be dead,” Mike added with a chuckle.
Aurelia, sitting in the front passenger seat, sighed. “You guys are all a bunch of weirdos and perverts.”
“First,” Emmet added, “I agree—you’re all morons. Alyssa Milano is way hotter than either of those two. Second, please explain what we’re doing out here in the middle of nowhere.”
“I’m glad you asked,” Mike replied. “Since the trail has gone cold on that coydog mystery, I figured we would do some exploring. Around this bend is a place they call Airtight Bridge. Passersby found a woman’s torso here a couple of decades ago. Since then, people have reported strange events.”
“A torso?” Aurelia asked, her face contorted into a look of disgust.
“You heard right.”
“Are these ‘events’ related to drugs or alcohol?” Emmet interrupted with a chuckle. “I thought I had an event once, but it was just some bad pot.”
Feigning seriousness, Greg quipped, “The paranormal community frowns on your logic.”
“Shut up,” Mike demanded. “We should reach the bridge soon.”
Not long after the words left his mouth, the road curved sharply and the bridge’s rust-red trestle loomed into view. The Embarras River, swollen from the recently melted snow, swirled only a few feet below. The Toyota slid to a stop alongside the road before reaching the bridge. It soon became obvious they were not the only visitors.
Emily, Balor, and Malik, the three Satanists they met at Archer Woods earlier that year, stood in the middle of the bridge.
“How did they know we were going to be here?” Mike growled as he threw the gear shift into park.
“Sorry, guys,” Davin stuttered. “A few days ago, I told Emily we were coming here.”
Greg and Emmet, who sat on either side of Davin, slowly turned to glare at their friend.
“I thought she joined us!” Davin insisted.
The Fallen left their car and closed ranks on the road. They marched to the mouth of the bridge but did not go any farther.
“Didn’t you guys learn your lesson the last time?” Greg shouted. His voice echoed across the basin, rivaled in volume only by the swirling water beneath.
“Gross, I can smell them from here,” Emmet said under his breath.
“Tell us how you opened the portal,” Balor, an obese man with a tangled goatee and greasy, black hair, yelled back.
Without warning, Malik pulled a knife from his pocket. He grabbed Emily around the throat and pressed the blade threateningly against the soft layer of skin protecting her kidney.
Aurelia laughed dismissively.
“This is not amusing,” Balor snarled.
“Oh crap!” Davin cried. “Mike, you have to do something!”
“I do?” Mike replied with a shrug. “Why? She chose to rejoin those assholes.”
Before anyone could respond, a shaggy, black dog suddenly appeared, barking and drooling as it raced toward them from behind. It was the dog Mike nearly hit on the road leading to the bridge.
Aurelia wasted no time taking advantage of the distraction. While the others scattered from the feral animal’s path, she bolted toward Balor and shoved him against the metal railing along the side of the bridge. The top railing had fallen down long ago, leaving only the bottom one to catch his ankles and send him tumbling into the waters of the Embarras River.
Malik shoved his hostage onto the broken pavement and turned the knife on Aura. Aurelia prepared to defend herself, but before Malik could act, the black dog leaped at him and menacingly snapped its jaws. He fumbled with the knife and turned to run.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!” Mike ordered from the opposite end of the bridge.
“What about Emily?” Davin insisted. “We never leave anyone behind.”
“The Marines never leave anyone behind, you idiot,” Emmet shot back, “and she’s not one of us! She just sold us out, remember?”
A look of determination crossed Davin’s face and he sprinted toward the middle of the bridge, where Aurelia had begun to backpedal away from the dog and its new toy.
Davin quickly reached Emily, who tried to peal herself off the cement. Unfortunately for the two, the noise they made distracted the dog and it wheeled around to charge at them. Enjoying the frenzy, its giant tongue wagged.
Mike sighed and raced toward the middle of the bridge, followed closely by Emmet and Greg. Arriving moments later, Mike tackled the dog while Emmet helped Davin and Emily get back on their feet. Greg struck the beast with his cane and it yelped in anger.
“Crowley’s ass, it’s drooling all over me,” Mike growled as he tried to force the canine’s jaws closed with one hand while holding onto its body with the other. The black dog wriggled free and barked and snapped at Greg’s cane, which he was using to keep the animal at a distance.
Meanwhile, Balor managed to grab a tree branch mired in the floodwaters and pulled himself ashore. He emerged dripping wet, his black eyeliner streaming down his face.
The Fallen were so preoccupied with fending off the enraged canine, they hardly noticed Balor and Malik retreat to their car parked near the opposite end of the bridge. They quickly peeled away, leaving a cloud of white dust in their wake.
The wild dog, dim-witted and easily distracted, turned its attention toward the car and ran after it, barking and drooling until it disappeared into the smoke.
“Now’s a good time to leave,” Mike said between ragged gulps of air.
“But we just got here,” Greg complained with a smirk. “Haven’t you been having fun?”
“You call that fun?” Emily gasped. The rough gravel had torn holes in her black nylons and cut her legs. She examined the tear in her blouse where her former friend nearly stabbed her.
Mike turned and looked at her disapprovingly. “What the hell were you thinking?”
“I’m sorry,” Emily pleaded, shaking nervously. “They made me tell them where you were going! They threatened me!”
Mike eyed her suspiciously, but then turned toward the rest of the group. “Alright, Emmet and Greg, start filming and taking pictures of the bridge. Aura, write down your psychic impressions. Maybe we can salvage something from this fiasco.” He paused for a moment. “Oh, and watch out for that dog.”
Satisfied there would be no more interruptions, he took Davin and Emily aside. “You two have a connection,” he whispered. “That hasn’t worked out to our benefit yet, but never-the-less I want you to stick together. Davin, don’t let her leave your sight until we figure out how to get rid of those Satanists. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Davin replied. He looked at Emily with relief.
Mike leaned toward Emily. “You need to earn our trust. Do you understand? No more running back to your old friends. Otherwise you can just leave right now and I don’t care where you go.”
“I will,” Emily gulped, and then squeezed Davin’s hand for support.
[New episode every Friday…]
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