In the midst of winter (more specifically, in the early days of January)...
The sky was gloomy. There was pitch darkness everywhere. In the middle of such a night, an old, rusty and nearly broken car (it seemed as if even a gentle gust of wind was enough to disintegrate it) was going across the road to Derbyshire in the smouldering cold. Its driver was Robert Browns. The surrounding was a dismal and dreary moor. Not a single soul was to be seen anywhere. A deadly silence hung in the air like a thick veil of fog, which was occasionally broken by the sounds of numerous bats flapping their wings and the howling of wolves in the backdrop. The temperature was frightfully low, near freezing. The whole place had a spooky atmosphere. It was a moor so very remarkably vast, barren, and mysterious. The only solace of the traveller was the moon peeking out from between the clouds and floating mist which were half-concealing it.
However, Robert Browns was a fearless man. He didn't believe in paranormality at all and often mocked at the idea of its existence. To him, travelling did not seem difficult without a companion to accompany him. He rather liked travelling in blissful solitude. The destination of his journey was yet a long way to go.
He lifted the navy blue hat on his head to push back some of the thin strands of hair and then adjusted the wide brim just above his dark eyebrows. He wore a green velvet suit with similarly slim fitting trousers and a white dress shirt with a black bow.
The route he was going along was a shortcut path. People avoided this route as much as they could, and went through the other route which was much longer and consumed more time. Rumours circulated that a spirit roamed restlessly through the place which had vowed to devour the soul of any man who dared to trod upon her habitat. Some opined that the 'ghost' was the soul of a dead but rich woman who was murdered by her husband; this heinous act had provoked her wrath and she was determined to avenge herself by wiping off anybody that came her way. Almost all of the locals held the belief that the place was controlled by negative powers and the supernatural.
Robert Browns, as I mentioned before, was an extremely fearless man and didn't believe in superstitions as such those. He thought it better to use the short route as it saved his time. Besides, he paid little heed to what people said or thought right. In addition, he was not a person to believe in foolish supernatural tales weaved by the common folks. Thus, he set out his journey through the Oti Bridge, a route scarcely travelled, disregarding the warnings that came his way.
Finally, the bridge came in vision. Just before the bridge started, there stood a warning billboard upon which was enscribed 'If you value your life, you better not enter!' Robert simply sighed. He couldn't understand how very startingly stupid people could be.
While driving, he always listened to a cheery tune. Songs were a source of peace and comfort to him. He bore a special liking for Micheal Jackson's songs. One after another, cassettes of different songs began to play. At some time, Micheal Jackson's 'Thriller' started playing; he was enjoying the song awhile, when suddenly...
So, as he drove his car across the old tattered bridge... his car stopped abruptly when it had reached the middle of the long bridge.
"Damn it! It's the middle of the night and this useless car had to stop at no other time but now. Oh! What to do?" he grumbled.
He went outside to check what was the problem with the car engine. When he found that it was overheating, he uttered a brief curse and banged his fist on the car's matte bonnet with quite force, only to have the knuckles of his hand jammed. The car had caused him many such predicaments in the past and to say he was fed up with it would be an understatement. It was his father's car. When newly bought, it was a magnificent vehicle. At that time, it had been very expensive as it was the latest model in sale. Surely, it had cost his father a great deal of money. A prized possession of his, it had been at a time. However, years of service led to gradual wear and tear, and eventually obsolescence.
"If I wouldn't face so many losses in my business, I would surely buy a new car. This old car will torment me as long as I will live! But, alas! My poor family is starving to death and I cannot help them. I need money. I have so many debts yet to repay! Oh! What am I going to do? My life has become such a big mess!" exclaimed Robert, running a hand through his hair in desperation. His sorrows and miseries were endless. Money was the root of all his problems and so earnestly did he detest it. At the same time, it was money which was the solution to all his problems and he could not entirely abhor it either.
Water was required to cool down the overheated car engine and make it start again. Darkness surrounded the place and nothing was visible. Now, below the Oti Bridge ran a stream. Robert was left with no choice other than to accumulate some water from the rushing stream. He pulled out his clothes and gently climbed down the bridge with a bucket in his hand. Spotting a piece of loose land near the bank of the stream, he landed there.
As he started to fill the bucket with water, his sight fell upon a dark object floating in the fast flowing waters of the stream. A cold shiver ran down his spine. He hadn't felt such a sensation before in his entire lifetime. For the first time, he truly felt afraid. Slowly the figure floated towards him, and just at that moment a pale shimmer of moonlight shone upon that 'object' which allowed him to see what it really was. To his greatest surprise and horror, he beheld a corpse — the dead body of a woman. He let out a gasp in fright and froze in horror.
She certainly had been a rich woman. Rich jewellery hung from her neck and ears. The precious jewels and gems that were carved on her ornaments twinkled brightly in the silver moonlight. Greed overcame Robert's fear. Ah! This fortune will last me a lifetime. My family will be well off. What can these jewellery value to a dead woman? Surely she won't mind at all if I take these... — such ran the thoughts of Robert Browns upon seeing the costly ornaments of the dead woman.
He went into the water and began wading towards the dead body. The water was icy cold and there was every risk of catching a bad cold, yet he went even farther and began to pull the corpse towards land. Once the corpse was on land, he wasted no time in collecting the precious jewellery.
He could not pull out a most wonderful ring on the ring finger of the woman's right hand however much he tried. A stunningly beautiful piece of emerald was carved upon the ring. Small bits of diamonds and pearls were engraved in intricate patterns against the emerald bulk. The ring caught Robert's eye, and he did not want to leave such a precious jewel as that behind. He had to get out of the place quickly, so he took out a pen-knife from his pocket to slice that finger and took the finger along with the ring with him. He went up to his car as fast as his legs would carry him. He was able to start the car in a very short period of time, and he successfully made his way out of the frightful place.
Robert Browns grinned smugly at the thought of being rich. He could become a millionaire selling those jewellery. Life would be easier for him and his family which consisted of his two old parents, wife, and three very mischievous kids. And, he would get to buy a new car after all, instead of using his father's five-decades-old rotten useless car.
Midnight was approaching, and darkness engulfed him. He thought it better to stop and recommence his journey when morning arrived. Just then, a light could be seen in the distance. Hope fluttered in him. He drove towards that source of light hoping to find people who might offer him a shelter and found a huge bungalow. He knocked at the door; he planned to pass the night there if its owner permitted him so. After a few knocks, the door creaked open and an attractive lady with a candle appeared. He explained his case and the lady willingly accepted. He was to spend the night there.
The bungalow was splendid but very dark. She guided him towards the sitting-room where there was fire and light. Robert Browns was extremely pleased with everything, to include the woman, the hospitality and great care with which he was received, and the warmth, light and shelter she provided him with. She even prepared tasty meals for him which he gladly eat. The lady gave him everything he could ask for.
The blonde lady was intensely good-looking. Her eyes were the colour of fresh newly-picked blueberries and as bright as sapphire they were. Robert was first drawn to the pair of fine desirable eyes the lady possessed. Her hair gently cascaded down her fair body whenever she let them free. Her cheeks were as rosy and red as the roses of heaven. The platinum pendant on her thin silver chain glimmered in the candlelight. Frankly speaking, she was a paragon of women. Robert could help but observe her in sincere admiration. He simply could not take his eyes off her even for a moment. At first glance, he had decided on the spot that the lady was definitely the handsomest of women he ever had had the pleasure to get acquainted with.
However, one thing was very strange about her. She was much pale, unusually eerily pale. There was an air of mystery about her. Furthermore, she lived all alone in the bungalow. This fact seemed very strange to Robert. A lady living all by herself on a dreary moor was strangely queer. Curiosity bubbled in him and at one point, he could not help but question her ---
"Miss, do you live here alone?"
To this, the fair lady answered. "Yes, I do. Why do you ask?"
"Well..." said Robert struggling to find words that would not offend the young fair lady. "...it is quite unusual. Besides, do you not find it difficult living all by yourself in this intimidating place?"
She only laughed merrily. Robert Browns adjoined her in laughter. "Indimidating! What makes you think this way?" she spoke in amusement. He just shrugged in response. In this way, joyful time was spent at the bungalow.
For some reason or another, a suspicion arose in his mind regarding the woman, in spite of receiving all the attention a guest could have from his hostess. He felt that he had met her before earlier as her appearance seemed to be quite familiar. He could recall meeting her somewhere but he could not exactly figure out when, where, or why.
Just before retiring to bed, Robert happened to notice that the woman was missing a finger. This made him rather curious, and he could not contain himself from asking the woman how this happened.
"Good miss, may I ask you a question if you would not mind? You may not answer it if you do not wish so. I do not mean any harm. How did you lose your finger?" he asked her.
To this, the woman grinned very devilishly and quite sweetly at the same time. After a short while, she burst out suddenly —
"YOU TOOK IT, THIEF!!!! And, you will pay for it!" she screamed with rage, pointing her index finger at him.
Maniacal laughter and wicked, fierce cackling followed soon after. Micheal Jackson's 'Thriller' began to play in the background. It was impossible to say how, where, or why. The flames of the candles and the fire burning in the hearth flickered and all the lights went off afterwards. This scared the living daylights out of Robert Browns, the one who was considered to be blessed with an unparalleled valour. The truth struck him hard; he couldn't make even the slightest movement, his entire body felt numb, all he could do was gawk at the woman in utter horror and disbelief!
Half a century later...
The Rector's children attended their cousin, Camilla's birthday party along with their father. The party was deemed a great success. The trees around Camilla's house were decorated with jingle bells, garlands, and lots of mini lights of various colours. They sparkled in the darkness of the night. The food was particularly delectable; the party entertainment for guests was remarkable and all the guests had been highly entertained. Bands played music all night and people made merry. A most memorable event it had been. The children returned from the party after spending a most delightful time. At first, they had planned to stay at their aunt's house for the rest of the night. However, due to some urgent business, their father had to return home quickly. The children were reluctant to leave the place, but circumstances were not in their favour. The Rector had to make haste and preferred to take the shortcut path to Derbyshire (their place of residence) that went through the Oti Bridge. He chose the short route also for the children's sake, as they might get excessively exhausted after travelling through the long route.
"Papa, I am feeling scared. It's so dark here," whimpered the Rector's youngest daughter, Sarah. Hearing her speech, her elder brother John guffawed loudly, displaying his stained and yellow set of teeth. He jeered at her saying, "You scaredy cat, Sarah!"
"Stop it, children!" the angry voice of their father roared. "Behave yourself, John! And, Sarah there's simply to reason to be afraid of. It's just dark. Dawn will come soon. Have no fear. Papa is here." he added. To speak the truth, he himself was quite appalled by the peculiarity of the surrounding and he could not help but feel afraid. Decidedly, he resolved not to let the children realise that.
They were driving across the Oti Bridge through the night, when suddenly they heard a tune being sung by a faint, spooky voice which went as following:
It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark
Under the moonlight, you see a sight that almost stops your heart
You try to scream but terror takes the sound before you make it
You start to freeze as horror looks you right between the eyes,
"Papa, what's that?" asked Sarah, trembling; dread sinking in her stomach.
"I don't know. It's like a song. But, who can be playing a song at this night in such a place?" replied her father in extreme confusion.
The people stopped dead in their tracks as they notice two dark figures ahead of them blocking their way. The Rector stopped the car immediately upon viewing that. When they approached them, they could see that they were a man and a woman. Both of them were deathly pale and white as if they were devoid of life, as if no blood coursed through them. The woman looked quite charming despite her paleness and she wore fine clothes and platinum chains around her neck, as well as sapphire earrings. The Rector reckoned her to be the prettiest woman he ever laid his eyes upon. But, there was something about her which did not quite seem right. The man was an oddity. He was extremely pale and his clothes were worn, ragged, and threadbare. A bright navy blue coloured hat, crumpled and damp, hung about his head. His attire was that of a gentleman however, it had become quite shaggy. They waved their hands, signalling that they wanted a lift. The Rector did think that they were somewhat strange, but he considered appearances to be of little importance and often deceiving and was kind enough to take them into his car.
The children liked the new people, especially the woman. The man did not speak at all except for one occasion. He merely thanked the Rector for his generosity and then fell unusually silent. He regarded the children coldly. In contrast to him, the woman sent a warm smile at all her benefactors and expressed her deep gratitude to the Rector profusely and heartily.
She spoke to the children in a casual manner and they immediately took a liking to her. After they had said their farewells to their aunt, her family and the guests present at the party, their aunt had gifted them each a box of chocolate. Sarah offered some of the chocolates to the woman, and just then did she notice as the woman accepted them that she was missing her right ring finger. With mounting horror, she gasped at the horrifying sight and shifted away from her instantly. Right at that moment, a devilish smile spread enigmatically across the strange woman's face...