Authors: Angela J. Townsend
Tags: #louisiana swamp horror ghosts spirits haunting paranormal
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
River of Bones
Copyright Â© 2013 by: Angela J. Townsend
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To my family who taught me to go after my dreams
To my sons, Grant and Levi who taught me that love is endless
To Milton Datsopoulos and Diane Larsen who taught
me the value of friendship
Who taught me to never give up.
“Let those curse itÂ who curse the day, who are prepared to rouse Leviathan.”
Sassy Smit was seven years old the afternoon she found Leroy Jebber dead. His pudgy body floated belly up in the slough, like a white blob of fat in a can of beans. A strangled scream rose in her throat. She knew it was Leroyâthe big bloated thing in the water. His bib overalls, the ones with the blue and green patches at the knees, gave him away. Sassy's mama mended Leroy's clothes for free, so he didn't mind the mismatched scraps. Sassy's legs trembled. She should have never taken the shortcut, never stayed so late at Betsy Ray's birthday party. She stared at Leroy, too horrified to look away.
Something slithered in the shallows just beyond Leroy's boot. Instinct took over terror, stabbing into Sassy's brain, screaming for her to run. Sassy bolted. Her legs pumping through the goosegrass, she tripped and fell, snagging her new pink tights. Scrambling to her feet, she rounded the woodpile at the edge of her parent's farm. Just a few more steps and she'd be home. She raced past the chicken coop and around a sharp bend in the worn footpath. The salty smell of fresh shelled lima beans greeted her at the front gate. She nearly tore it off its hinges.
Sassy's mama stood on the front porch, stirring a pot. Her black skin glowed in the evening light. “What's chasin' you, child?”
“Mama, Leroy's dead. He's in the slough.”
Mama's eyes went round. She leaned in close, snatched Sassy by the shoulders with her boney fingers. “You stay away from that pond, you hear me?”
“You listen to what I'm sayin'. That pond is cursed. You hear me?”
Mama lowered her voice. “Whatever went on there today ain't none of our business. Now you get inside and don't you ever go near that place again. Not unless you want to die, too.”
“We can't just leave himâ¦”
Mama wiped her hands on her gingham apron and narrowed her eyes up the weed choked path. Locusts hummed into the night. “Nothin' we can do for him now, honey child.”
Sassy never went near that slough again. Not for seventy years. Not even to tend the rusted wire fences near the property line, not even when the county warned her about the weeds. No, Sassy never went back, not until the new people came, and thenâit was only to warn them.
Terrebone Parish, Louisiana, 2013
My mother aimed our Volkswagen bus down the overgrown driveway, steering through endless rows of cypress trees, ashen with massive fluted bases and branches bearded with Spanish moss. We passed acres of swamp water interlacing the land like veins. She'd dragged us all the way from the windy plains of Nebraska deep into the heart of the Louisiana bayous, to a countryside that seemed to congeal into a shapeless living thing, a strange combination of liquid and land.
“Mom, look out!”
She slammed on the brakes, barely missing a fallen log in the road. She turned and glared at me. “Dharma! You know I don't like you calling me mom. I thought we agreed on this.”
“Okay!” I snapped. In my panic, I had forgotten that my crazy, hippie mother wished to be called Echo, a name given to her by a shaman who informed her that her streak of bad luck with men would end if she united with nature and gave up her identity. I tried to convince her otherwise but she wouldn't listen. Me, the voice of reason. The adult in the family. And the caretaker of my baby brother, Benny, whose dad could have been any one of an endless string of loser boyfriends.