's 2018 Horror Write-off:

Under the Bridge

Submitted by Centipedal/Jackson Gilbert

Charlie Smith walked to the edge of the small cliff and looked at the old stone bridge. The thing was older than most of the city’s buildings, and the tales surrounding it were the subject of today’s investigation. It was a seven-foot drop from the cliff down onto the beach peppered with broken bottles, shards of metal, and probably tetanus. She looked downwards and sighed. What she had to do for a good picture. Charlie sat down at the edge before scooting herself off into the spiky pit of disease.

The cliff bent inwards from the top, forming a rather spacious pit that formed one of the city’s biggest populations of homeless. Of course, the sharp bits were more prominent inside than out- partly from the wind blowing in, and partly from the denizens themselves. Also scattered along the floor was Fourth of July apparel. The people, like the ground, were weirdly patriotic. A man was dressed in a tattered tank-top, with flag-patterned socks and a star-and-striped top hat. A woman had a large white winter coat over her bare chest emblazoned with the words “Uncle Sam Wants You!” and a grimacing eagle on the back. Another (almost completely naked) person had a flag wrapped around their head like a turban, and a lot of pennies and flag patches in a circle on the floor around them. Charlie figured that these people were the best to talk with about the bridge. After all, some of them had spent half a century here. They should have some great stories. Unfortunately, no one looked like they wanted to illuminate her. Well, a couple twenties (provided by the website, of course) should fix that.

“Hey! Any of y’all want some easy money? You just gotta answer me a few questions ‘bout that bridge.” Charlie drawled. Most of the people glared at her. A few went so far as to give her the middle finger. One old man whispered some unfortunate words under his breath. All in all, it was a tough crowd.

“I’ll help out, ma’am. There’s actually some pretty interesting stuff on the underside. Come on, walk with me.” The nude in the turban stood up and started walking. This was met with a chorus of displeasure.

“Jesus, Rick, don’t be an asshole.”


“Don’t come crying to me when She gets mad.” Charlie started to follow this Rick guy, but she felt someone grab her arm. A young man looked up at her. He opened and closed his mouth several times before actually speaking.

“Uh, miss, you sh-should, uh, take this. I-I’m s-sorry for bothering you. Please don’t be mad.” The kid held a penny out in front of her. Charlie wrested her arm from his grip and walked away. “No! Wait, uh, oh g-god, I’m so sorry for y-y-yelling. Please, miss. P-please take it.” The kid seemed to be on the verge of crying.

“Alright, guy. Don’t get mad, okay? See? I’m taking the penny.” She slowly took it from him and put it in her pocket. She took a few steps back, then rushed to Rick, who was standing almost under the bridge.

“So, Rick, what’s so special? I don’t see anything money-worthy.”

“Oh, you can only see it directly underneath the bridge. Come on, follow me.” The man disappeared into the shadows under the bridge. Charlie hesitated for a moment before following him.

The first thing Charlie noticed was the strange feeling. It was like cold metal was constantly running up and down between all of her muscles. The second thing she noticed was that everything around was dark, although she could still see things in a couple foot radius. Rick stood next to her, and he was hard to look at. In fact, anything that wasn’t obscured by darkness was uncomfortable to see. It was like every color was subtly altered in a way that hurt her eyes. She felt like she had spent the whole morning inside, only coming out at noon.

Squinting her eyes, Charlie said, “Rick? What’s happening? Are- are you seeing this?” She started to back away from him.

He laughed and said, “Pretty interesting, right?” The chuckling abruptly stopped, followed by an alert, “Wait, stay. She’s almost here.” After the sentence ended, a scraping, metallic noise emanated from in front of them. It was a horrendous sound, like thousands of nails scraping along the marble floor. The noise got closer and closer, until Charlie wanted to collapse with her hands over her ears. Then, it encircled them, the noise buffeting Charlie from all angles. Finally, it ended in front of them. And the solemn copper face of Abraham Lincoln- top hat and all- emerged from the shadows. As the rest of his upper body revealed itself, Charlie busted out laughing. Jesus. All that tension just for some guy in a Lincoln suit? She would’ve been angry about the waste of time, but this was just too good of a punchline.

“Ok friend. Thanks for the laugh, but you’re not getting the money. If you’ll excuse me, I gotta go find someone else who’ll gimme a better story. Unless you and your buddy got some good folklore?” “Lincoln” continued to come out of the darkness. The head rose up to a good eight feet above the ground, and the massive copper chest showed. The arms seemed to be around six feet long. Against the relatively proportionate head and chest, they made quite the impact. The bottom of its chin dropped out, revealing a toothless mouth of wet gums and a long tongue. Drool dripped onto the floor.

“What… Is… How…” Charlie stammered, before coalescing her thoughts into “The fuck?”

“Here you go, madame.” Rick said, before tossing one of the flag patches to the thing.

“Excellent. And what is your payment, miss?” The copper behemoth’s voice was high and feminine, and seemed to emanate from its tongue.

“Payment? What do you mean? Wait, Rick, where are you going?”

“See ya, ma’am.” He chuckled to himself and walked out of the shadows. Charlie started to follow him, but Lincoln swerved in front of her with surprising speed. One of the arms drifted towards her, causing Charlie to backpedal.

“Stay now. I need payment. An egg or a strip of clothing, perhaps.” The eyes of the statue stared a good couple of feet above her. Oh god, an egg? Like, a breakfast egg or the other kind? Charlie shuddered and felt bile building in her throat. She quickly tore a piece off her shirt.

“Here. Here you go. Can I go?”

“No, I don’t want your second skin! I want your clothing!”

“But… this is… what?” Charlie’s voice trailed off.

“Shall I have to keep you until you produce an egg? For shame, to be unprepared. And may I say, you are not showing much deference towards your first Lord.” The thing sounded a little offended in a patronizing way. “He did create your beautiful country. Um-Air-Ika, yes?”

“I’m… sorry? Are you talking about George Washington?”

“Bah! I won’t fall for your tricks! That man was merely a pretender to the first Lord’s throne! Alas, him and his barons had to usurp Abraham's palace with their spiteful treachery! Thankfully, his twin Carver threw him out- with the help of my Hypogaean siblings. Truthfully, the Court had their own plans for that day. I do thank them for implanting Kenny. He did good with reaching our brothers of the Æther. If only they could pull him down from the moon, his barony would start behaving, I tell you that!” The thing snapped out of her tirade and tittered. “How now brown cow, you won’t get me distracted so easily!”

“What are you talking about?” Charlie had lost all fear to the onset of confusion.

“Enfantés these days! Here, let me show you!” It retracted into the darkness for a moment, only to come back with a thick, tattered book between its hands. “Peer, and become educated!” It shouted… pridefully? Charlie walked up to the book. It was covered in dried mud, and had many pages torn out. The thing pointed to a page with pictures of the presidents, with their time in office printed under each picture. “See? Now, this book caters to the Pretender, so it shows him first. However, we all know that Lord Lincoln was the first one. And here. Kenny on the moon, and his barons below him.” It pointed to JFK before gesturing at the presidents that came after him. Then, it flipped through the pages, first showing her a picture of Benjamin Franklin, then one of an astronaut- probably Armstrong. “Look! I have exclusive pictures of the Pretender’s chief wizard- you know, the one who invented the Frenchman-Powered Juggernaut and bifocals. What a shame he killed Tesla. Now that man, he was an excellent ambassador and wizard. His death ray was just charming! Ooh! I also have a picture of Kenny taken during his exile on the moon! Oh, how sad it is.” Suddenly, the thing dropped the book. “Wait, I forgot to show you my style! Oh, look upon it, how beautiful it is!” The thing quickly moved, becoming much closer to Charlie’s body. Then, it curved around her. Charlie saw that, instead of legs, it had a long, thick, wet, ophidian tail that reminded her of intestines. Stuck to the tail were thousands of pennies, almost covering it. The tail went off into the darkness, with no signs of stopping.

“Yeah, that’s, uh, nice, I guess. I like how it’s… covered in pennies?”

“I prefer the term eggs. It’s scientifically accurate. Slang absolutely disgusts me.”

“I’m sorry? Did you say eggs? Wait a second, wait a second.” Charlie dug in her pockets for pennies. She only found one, and showed it to the creature. “Is this good?”

“Oh, how delightful! Here, give it to me!” Lincoln stretched out a hand. Charlie tentatively dropped it in its palm, and asked,

“So, I can go now, right?” “Oh yes, dearie, you can leave.” Charlie started to walk away, then stopped and looked back at the creature.

“Actually, one more thing. What would’ve happened if I didn’t give you my pen- uh, egg?”

“Well, dear, I would’ve just kept talking to you until you birthed one! Or I became impatient and retrieved one from within you. I don’t know where they are stored, so I might’ve had to root around in there for a while.” Charlie paled, took a few steps, and was back out of the shadows. She shuddered as her body returned to normal, then quickly strode towards the encampment. Rick was gonna get a piece of her mind.

“Hey Rick, you asshole!” She yelled. The man walked away from his spot and looked at her. “Why did you leave me in there? And what was that?”

“We aren’t sure, ma’am. And you said you wanted a story.” He gave her a big, goofy, genuine grin. Oh.

“I’m sorry for yelling, Rick. I thought you were being… well, whatever. But that thing was dangerous. I could’ve died.”

“Don’t worry ma’am. We were gonna go in with some iron if you weren’t out in a bit.” “Iron? What does that do?” She asked.

“Haven’t you ever heard the stories?” He looked at her with incredulity.

“Uh, I guess not. Listen, I have to go. How can I get out of here?” She said.

“It’s on the other side of the bridge!” He smiled.

“Oh fuck me.” When Charlie got home, she quickly wrote up the story. Rick wasn’t wrong. It was certainly interesting. Her boss loved it too. He was going to put it in the fiction section, but he was proud of her for expanding into fiction. In fact, he wanted her to write more! Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the story was pulled back and scrapped. Her boss told her they had no control over it, and gave her some money in condolence. Meanwhile, the bridge was quickly and quietly dismantled over the course of a night. When the next heavy rain came down, thousands of pennies were washed down the riverbed. As well as the copper head of Abraham Lincoln, pierced with iron.