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That infernal sound wakes me once again. At first I can’t place it as I ascend from the murky depths of sleep. Then I hear it again as the fog is clearing – the familiar honking of a car horn.
“Not again,” I murmur and turn over to face my wife, June, who is also stirring awake.
“What is it, Adam?” she whispers to me in a dry, hoarse voice.
“More pesky kids, I’m sure.” I slip out from under the covers and proceed to the window facing the pond. I step behind the lace curtain and separate the blinds at eye level. There is a car about 50 yards away, turning around on the dirt road on the other side of the pond. Within seconds its taillights fade away in a dust cloud and finally disappear altogether behind the trees that line the front of our property.
I drop the blinds and curtain and make my way over to the nightstand next to my side of the bed to pick up my wristwatch. At the press of a button, its face glows, telling me it’s 2:37 AM. I lie back down on my side of the bed, the spot still warm.
“All of this nonsense because of some stupid urban legend,” I say in a frustrated and resigned tone. I feel June’s hand rub my shoulder in that consoling way that I love so much about her. She always manages to keep me calm in times like this. I continue to mull over the events in my head until I finally find sleep again.
– – – – –
In 1983 there was an incident that took place on our property. We didn’t live here at the time, and when we first moved in, we had no idea how much things would escalate regarding the infamy of this land. You see, we live in the old farmhouse out on Route 41. Yes, THAT farmhouse. Back when this was a thriving farm, it was owned by the Carlisle family. They had moderate success with it for many years, but began to experience a gradual decline in the late ‘70s. The farm soon began operating in the red, and the 1983 incident was the final nail in the coffin, so to speak.
On that fateful night in August of 1983, a pair of teenage lovers found their way onto the farmland – to the pond, to be exact. They were there for a bit of harmless fun, no doubt. Maybe a bit of drinking – maybe a bit of smoking – maybe a bit of making out or skinny dipping. Whatever it was, it didn’t end well. Both of them somehow ended up drowning in the pond. Their bodies were recovered, but the investigation never determined why they had drowned.
Many rumors began to form as to how they’d died. These encompassed everything from a supernatural entity in the pond that would pull swimmers under the water – to a mysterious whirlpool that would suck people down – to aliens that had crash landed on the farm and were drowning people. If one could dream it up, it became a theory – and the weirder the better.
This is where the urban legend comes in. I don’t know how or when it started, or by whom, but supposedly if you drive to the end of the dirt road on our property at night, right up to the edge of the pond with your headlights shining out over the water, and honk your horn three times, you will see an apparition of the two teens that drowned floating above the water – almost as if they were walking on top of the water.
Over the years it has become a popular activity born out of dares, hazing traditions and just plain boredom to attempt this nonsensical ritual in the hopes of catching a glimpse at the dead lovers over the water. Much to my and June’s dismay.
– – – – –
I spend the morning standing out on the dock that overlooks the pond, hot coffee in hand. My breath is visible in front of me in the brisk air of late autumn. The trees on the other side of the pond look beautiful this time of year, especially when accented by the fog lingering above the water’s surface. The flaming leaves of orange, red and yellow appear to rise up from the dense, opaque air. I hear footsteps as June joins me on the dock with her coffee.
“Nice, isn’t it?” she asks.
“Yes. I’ve always loved it here. So peaceful. It would be perfect if not for the ‘tourists’.” I make a quotation mark gesture with the fingers of my free hand when I say that last word.
We both sip our coffees. Then I add, “I think I’m going to go ahead with what we talked about – fencing the property and putting up a gate across the drive.”
“Oh Adam, we’ve talked about this before. You know you’re not in any kind of shape anymore to be doing that kind of work.”
“Then I’ll pay someone else to do it,” I rebut. My reply is sharper than I had intended. After a brief pause I continue, “I’m sorry, hon, I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’m just so tired of all the honking and tired of catching people on our land. It’s just a matter of time until either someone gets hurt or someone tries to hurt us.”
“Now why would they do that?” Her tone is as calm as ever. She’s my rock.
“You know how people are. They visit the pond, and when nothing supernatural happens they may turn their attention toward our house – try to break in or something.”
June gives me a frowning smirk.
“Well, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, you know,” I counter, “especially if they’re high.”
June takes my free arm in hers. “People that really want to get in will still find a way in,” she says.
“I know, but I think it would cut way down on the number of people that try.”
“If that’s what you want, I’ll support you.” She kisses me on the cheek and turns to walk back to the house. “Don’t stay out too long,” she calls back over her shoulder, “it’s cold out this morning.”
I stand there for a few more minutes, soaking in the peace and beauty, and dreading what may come with nightfall.
– – – – –
This time we hear the commotion before we are even in bed for the night. In fact, we are sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch when we see the headlights approaching on the opposite side of the pond. It’s not completely dark yet, but the dusk indigo sky is quickly heading there. Tires make a crunching sound on the gravel and dirt as the car slowly pulls up to the edge of the lake and stops. At the angle our house sits relative to the pond, the car’s headlights are not directly on us, and I surmise that the driver cannot see us.
We remain still in our chairs and wait. We know what’s coming.
“That one’s pretty close to the edge,” I say.
Before June can answer, the driver sounds the car’s horn for the first time.
“Right on the edge,” she confirms when the horn blast ends.
A second honk rings out, echoing off the rolling hills of the farmland behind our house. I stand and walk to the edge of the porch. I’m annoyed and my nerves have had enough of this. I take a few steps down onto the front lawn.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” June calls to me. I wave her off and continue walking.
The horn sounds a third time. By now I am walking down the dock directly across from the car. Surely they can see me in the headlight beams. The driver, apparently in a panic, throws the car into reverse and nails the throttle. The rear tires spin, flinging chunks of dirt and gravel forward. I hear the particles clinking as they hit the sides of the car. With the loss of traction the car begins to slip forward. First the lower front valence of the body touches the water, then the motionless front tires. In an instant the headlights are nearly submerged. The driver lets up off the accelerator before sinking any further. The car sits idle for a few seconds.
I stand at the end of the dock and watch, frustrated as ever. The last thing I want is to have to go and rescue some of the punks that have been terrorizing us. Just as I’m putting a plan together in my head for how to go about helping them, the driver seems to have a moment of clarity. The throttle is applied gently, just enough to not break traction. Inch by inch the car moves backward, and in a miraculous turn of events, manages to work its way out of the impending watery doom. Once free, the driver executes a hasty turnaround and blasts down the path away from our property, fishtailing the entire way. Only a dust cloud remains on that side of the pond.
“That was a close one!” June says excitedly. She is standing at the edge of the porch.
I walk back toward her. “I’m telling you, June, I’ve had it! I just want some peace and quiet back here. Is that too much to ask?”
“We can always move,” she offers.
“But we shouldn’t have to. I like it here… minus the legend.” I point a thumb over my shoulder toward the pond.
She sighs and takes my hand when I reach the porch. I keep walking and she quickly follows behind, still hand in hand. The springs on the old metal screen door squeak as I open it. We enter the foyer and I release June’s hand.
“I guess I’ll call the fence people tomorrow,” I say as the door clacks shut. I close and dead-bolt the thick wooden door behind it.
– – – – –
-Three nights later-
– – – – –
Ronnie is driving back to Carlisle Pond with his girlfriend Christy. Dense trees of all gnarled shapes and sizes that line the sides of Route 41 come into view in their headlights, and vanish just as quickly – each individual tree seeming to relish its brief moment in the spotlight. Christy is visibly nervous, but Ronnie is determined to show her.
“Can’t we just turn around and go back?” Christy pleads.
“We’re almost to the turn-off. It’s somewhere up here on the left, just past a huge rock,” Ronnie says, ignoring her request.
Christy sees the rock come into view and feels a tinge of dread rush through her abdomen. There is all manner of graffiti painted on the rock – no doubt a marker to alert curious seekers to the exact location. Ronnie slows the car and turns onto the dirt and gravel road. Grass is growing tall in the center of the path, in between where the car’s tires grind on the small rocks. Dust kicks up behind them as Ronnie slowly drives the car around a sweeping right turn. Trees cling so tightly on both sides that branches hit the windshield and scrape along the doors. The car exits into a clearing and the pond comes into view.
“This place gives me the creeps,” Christy whispers, “and you came here alone the other night?”
“Yeah, isn’t it cool?” Ronnie stops the car several feet shy of the pond’s edge, his headlights revealing the escape ruts he left last time. He points into the distance out the left side of the windshield. “Look at that old house.”
“Gross, it looks all run-down. Like nobody’s lived there in decades,” she responds.
“But I swear I saw someone the other night. After I honked three times, he appeared. Just like the legend! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
Christy is glad it’s dark in the car so that Ronnie cannot see her rolling her eyes. It seems that this is all that he can talk about lately. He’s spent nearly all of his free time recently on the internet researching the history behind this urban myth. The product of his effort is now stashed in the form of printouts all over the car – a news article in the glove box – a firsthand exploration account from a message board in the console – and Christy believes she may be sitting on a Google maps screenshot with a red circle drawn around the Route 41 turnoff.
“Are you ready?” Ronnie asks.
Christy sighs in frustration and says, “Just get it over with so we can go.”
Ronnie sounds the horn the first time.
– – – – –
Inside the house, I look away from the book I’m reading when I hear the horn blast. June folds down the corner of her newspaper and glances at me from across the room. We share a look that says, ‘here we go again’.
I get up from my comfy armchair and head to the foyer. I unbolt the locks and open the heavy wooden door. Through the screen of the metal door I see headlights across the pond. I open the door and storm out onto the porch as June chases after me.
A second horn blast rings out.
– – – – –
“Did you see that?” Ronnie asks excitedly. “I see movement over there.” He points between the house and dock.
Christy gasps. “Is someone really living here?” she wonders. “But the article said that no one’s lived here since the Carlisle farm shut down.”
Ronnie sounds the horn a third time. “I’m telling you, Christy, no one does live here! I mean look at the condition of the house!” The movement in the shadows increases and soon, fully illuminated in the car’s headlights, are two figures – a male and a female.
“It’s them! It’s Adam and June!” Ronnie cries out. Christy recalls the names from the article about the young drowned couple. The figures approach the end of the dock and, in a move that defies all physics, continue their sprint across the top of the water.
Christy screams. Ronnie drops the gear selector into reverse and mashes the pedal. The tires spin again, but this time his caution in not parking too close to the edge pays off and he gains enough grip for the car to move backward. He makes a panicked turn-around, during which Christy looks fearfully out the side window. The apparitions of Adam and June are way too close now. “Go!” she shrieks.
Ronnie throttles the car forward down the dusty road, taillights disappearing behind the trees.
– – – – –
“I just want to be left alone,” I say to June, “to rest in peace.” We still float above the water.
“Shhh.” She rubs my back and shoulders in her ever-comforting way. “They’re just curious kids, Adam, and they can’t hurt us,” she reassures me. “Let’s go back inside.”
As we turn to head back toward the dark, dilapidated house I say, “I love you, June.”
She replies, “I love you too, Adam. Always will.”