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The following is Part 3 of a 4 part series: an urban legend tied to the painted rock in the Schuylkill River. The story was created solely by Jimmy Ettele.
David offered no conversation. He sat up straight with his hands on his thighs. His chest moved in and out slowly as he breathed. Anna took notice his outfit. By the glow of the dashboard, she saw his sneakers were full of mud. His shorts and shirt were both dirty but were not stained.
The mud covering his pants and shirt looked fresh, almost as if he had fallen down only minutes before she met him. There was a picture on the front of his shirt. Though it was smeared with mud, it was visible enough to recognize it as an Eagle.
“Looks like you had some trouble with the mud?” she said slightly joking and slightly wanting to know more about her strange passenger. David said nothing.
As she drove further, Anna noticed the car was beginning to get colder. Although the August night had been cool, this was different.
As Anna passed the West Reading exit on the bypass she could see her breath. She reached with a shaking hand for her heater.
All that blew from the vents of the Vega was cold, almost wet, air. Anna reached for the crank of her window but when she tried to turn it, it wouldn’t budge. David had remained silent but his breathing began to get heavier. Anna’s heartbeat picked up speed.
David began to cough. As they went further down the highway, David sounded as if he was choking. His body convulsed in the seat.
“Are you ok? David?” Panic could be heard in Anna’s voice.
She felt the hair on her arms begin to stand. Through her shivering, she could feel a twinge of fear run down her spine. Something was not right. Anna’s told herself David wasn’t drunk or high. Something told her to be afraid.
David’s choking became almost a gurgle; as if his throat was full of water. Anna turned her attention to him. The skinny boy she had just picked up from the side of the road was bloated and wet. Anna could see David’s hair, dry only moments ago, was now soaking wet. There was water running down his face. His arms and legs were beaded with water drops. His choking increased.
David spit up a mouthful of water on to the floor of the Vega. Now his choking had become relentless.
For the first time since getting in to the car, he turned to Anna, “Help…me…” His words were almost unrecognizable between his choking and the water being spat from his mouth. Anna understood his eyes more than his words. His eyes were wide with fear; his eyes pleaded with Anna Martin for help.
Anna could see David’s body swelling, as if he was being filled with something. She was paralyzed with fear. Her hands wrapped tightly around her steering wheel. David’s arms were now above his head and scrambling, like he was trying to get out of the car through the roof. He turned to Anna again. His face was bloated, his eyes rolled up in his head and his skin had taken on a sickly green and blue color. David could no longer talk.
Anna swerved the car off to the side of the road. Her Vega smashed off of the side of the cement barrier on the bridge overlooking the Schuylkill River. The car rebounded off of the barrier, spun around, and ended up facing the wrong way on the eastbound side of the West Shore Bypass.
The lights of the car went dark and the engine stopped. There was no light. Anna’s eyes were unable to adjust to the thickness of the night surrounding her. She heard nothing except the pounding of her heart and her quick, panicked, breaths.
*The story of was originally published on the COAL website at www.coal-co.com.
Jimmy Ettele is an Exeter Township Dad, husband and writer of the blog Founding a Father. Email him at foundingafather.com