Peggy and her boyfriend Tommy were driving down a lonely stretch of highway at dusk when a thunderstorm came crashing down on them. Tommy slowed the car and they crept their way past a formidable abandoned house. Plastered all over the fences and trees were no trespassing signs.
A mile past the house, the car hydroplaned. Peggy screamed as the car slid off the road, plunging down into a gully. The car slammed into a large boulder, throwing Peggy violently into the door, before it came to a rest under a pecan tree. Her head banged against the window, and a stabbing pain shot through her shoulder and arm.
Tommy turned to her. “Are you all right? You’re bleeding!”
“Arm, shoulder. Feel bad,” Peggy managed to gasp.
Tommy glanced cautiously at her right arm. “I think your arm is broken,” he said, and he tore a strip off his shirt and pressed it to the cut on her head. “I’m going to call for help,” he said when it became obvious that the bleeding was not going to stop right away. But neither of them had their cell phones.
“That house we just passed will have a phone I can use.” Tommy said.
Peggy’s eyes popped wide open at this statement. Despite her pain, she remembered the creepy abandoned house. “Stay here. A . . . car . . . will come,”
“I can’t stay, Peggy,” Tommy said, “It could take hours for another car to come, and you‘re losing too much blood.” He tore another strip of his shirt and placed it gently on the cut on her head.
Then he went out and retrieved a couple of blankets from the trunk to cover her with. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He raced out into the storm, shutting the dented car door behind him.
Peggy drifted in a kind of daze. Something at the back of her mind was making her uneasy. She slid down on to the floor and put her head on the seat, completely covering herself with the blankets, head and all. Feeling safer, she allowed the weariness caused by the wounds to take over and fell asleep.
Peggy wasn’t sure what woke her. Had a beam of light shown briefly through the blanket? Did she hear someone curse outside? She strained eyes and ears, but heard nothing save the soft thudding of the rain, and no light shown through the blanket now. If Tommy had arrived with the rescue squad, there surely would be noise and light and many voices. But she heard nothing save the swish of the rain and an occasional thumping noise which she put down to the rubbing of the branches of the pecan tree in the wind.
The sound should have been comforting, but it was not. Goosebumps crawled across her arms – even the broken one — and she almost ceased breathing for some time as some deep part of her inner mind instructed her to freeze and not make a sound.
She did not know how long fear kept her immobile. But suddenly the raw terror ceased, replaced by cold shivers of apprehension and a sick coil in her stomach that had nothing to do with her injuries. Something terrible had happened, she thought wearily, fear adding yet more fatigue to her already wounded body. Then she scolded herself for a ninny. It was just her sore head making her imagine things. Somewhat comforted by this thought, she dozed again, only vaguely aware of a new sound that had not been there before; a soft thud-thud sound as of something gently tapping the roof. Thud-thud. Pattering of the rain. Thud-thud. Silence. Sometimes she would almost waken and listen to it in a puzzled manner. Thud-thud. Patter of rain. Thud-thud. Had a branch dislodged from the tree?
Peggy wasn’t sure how long she’d been unconscious when she was awakened by a bright light blazing through the window of the car and the sound of male voices exclaiming in horror. A door was wrenched open, and someone crawled inside. She lifted her head and looked up at a young state policeman.
“Miss, are you all right?” he asked and then turned over his shoulder to call for help. Peggy told the officers her story and begged them to look for Tommy. They deftly avoided answering her and instead called the paramedics.
As the paramedics carried her carefully up the slope of the incline, Peggy looked back at the car—and saw a grotesque figure hanging from a branch of the pecan tree. For a moment, her brain couldn’t decipher what she was seeing in the bright lights of the police car parked at the side of the road. Then she heard a thud-thud sound as the foot of the figure scraped the top of the totaled car, and she started screaming over and over in horror. One of the police officers hastened to block her view and a paramedic fumbled for some valium to give her as her mind finally registered what she had seen. Tommy’s mangled, dead body was hanging from the pecan tree just above the car, and nailed to the center of his chest was a No Trespassing sign.
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