Skeleton Creek, p.8Patrick Carman
No word yet from Sarah. Where is she?
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 11:00 P.M.
The card game broke up early and I’m getting a bad case of the shakes. It’s dark outside. My window is a sheet of black in which I keep imagining Old Joe Bush’s face peering in, watching me, water dripping off his nose. Or is it blood? I can’t tell. It’s too dark out there.
That’s one thing about a very small town: It’s extremely dark at night. There are only three streetlights and none of them are near my front door. The moon is also absent tonight, so I’m sure the woods will be especially dark.
That is, if I make it to the woods. Getting out of the house is going to be a trick. Our house was built about a million years ago and it makes old house sounds, the kind that wake parents up. There are seven squeaky steps on the staircase alone. My hands are so clammy I keep having to stop writing and wipe them on my sheet.
I’m not sure I can do this.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 12:10 A.M.
Finally, an email.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 12:22 A.M.
It appears that I’ll be sneaking out of the house tonight to see the one person my parents have forbidden me to associate with. The two of us will wander off into the woods at 1:00 in the morning and cut through a chain so we can break into a condemned structure before they burn it down. And, meanwhile, her camera will be feeding the footage back to her Web site so that if we don’t come back, the authorities can — what was her phrase? — oh, yeah — find our bodies.
Has Sarah lost it?
What am I doing?
If I get caught, my parents won’t just move me to a new town, they’ll ground me for a hundred years and feed me boiled beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the rest of my life.
Even still, I almost wish I’d get caught. The alternative is definitely worse.
The dredge at night. I’m not even there and I can already feel the haunted presence of a ghost dragging its leg in my direction, asking me questions I can’t answer. And this time, when the ghost of Old Joe Bush comes for me, I won’t be able to run away.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 12:30 A.M.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 12:33 A.M.
I checked the site and saw her waving and now I have to go. I’m confused by this turn of events.
My hands are shaking and I can hardly hold my pen. I know why I’m shaking so badly. It’s the same reason why I have to go to the dredge tonight. I think Old Joe Bush has snuck into my brain, because there’s a nightmare I keep having. Every night I have the nightmare, only I don’t tell anyone — I don’t even write it down — because it’s a really bad one. It’s the kind that if someone reads it, they think you’re crazy.
Sarah is in the nightmare. We’re together on the dredge, going up the decaying stairs. When we reach the top she turns to me and leans in like she’s going to kiss me. I’m so surprised by this I lean back and lose my balance and I grab for her arm. The rotted railing breaks free behind me and I can’t let her go, even though I try. It’s like electricity is holding us together. We’re two magnets falling. We roll through the air and she lands beneath me. There is the sound of smashing bones and then I wake up.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 12:39 A.M.
I just had to stop and think for a second.
I remember struggling over the beginning of this story, rewriting it a dozen times.
There was a moment not long ago when I thought: This is it. I’m dead.
I remember how that opening set just the right tone. The reader would know that something bad had happened, but they wouldn’t know what it was. Things came easy after that, but were confusing, too. The Sarah nightmare bothered me.
Now I feel as if I’m driving around at night in the middle of nowhere. I’ve lost my sense of direction. Did I have all the videos before? Have I been retracing my steps and she’s already gone? Maybe tonight is the last chapter of a story I’ve already lived through.
I’m going to assume for the moment that the nightmare of Sarah crushed beneath me is just that — a nightmare — and that all of what I’ve been writing is real. I’m going to make this guess because if what I’ve been writing is not the truth, then my mind is trying to hide something from me. If I’ve been making all this up and something happened to Sarah and it’s my fault, then I won’t be able to live with myself.
I’m going to stand up and put all my weight on my one good leg and start down the darkened hall toward the stairs. When I look over my shoulder, Old Joe Bush will be outside, staring through my bedroom window with the raven on his shoulder. He’ll be watching me leave so that he can go to the dredge ahead of me and wait for my arrival. He’s faster on one good leg than I am.
When I reach the opening to the staircase, my heart will be pounding and I’ll look down and see that there is no light. It will be a long fall if I miss a step. My hand will be sweaty and it will slide when I hold the banister. I feel like I know this already, like I’ve done it all before.
Words and sounds will tumble in my troubled mind.
The Crossbones. Are you the alchemist? Daryl Bonner. Gladys with her shotgun. Old Joe Bush. Is that my dad’s name on the paper? A kiss. The sound of smashing bones.
And hanging over it all will be the one word — gold. It’s all about the gold, I know it is. Someone killed Joe Bush for the gold and now Joe wants revenge. He won’t rest until he gets what he wants.
It will be a slow journey through a quiet house and I have no choice but to leave. I have twenty minutes and it will take every bit to sneak out of here. I want to take this journal with me but I can’t. It will mean I’ve left the story behind for sure and returned to the real world. I’m leaving it folded into my sheets so they’ll find it in the morning if I’m not here.
Please — if you find this — go to sarahfincher.com. Use the password tanginabarrons.
There you’ll see what happens next to me and Sarah.
I’ve got to go now.
Director/Editor/Visual & Audio Effects
Production Manager/Director of Photography
Tom Rowley Jim
Kept Man Productions
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Rella Brown, Liaison for Oregon Parks
and Recreation Department
The City of Waitsburg
Markeeta Little Wolf, Mayor
and everyone at Scholastic
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Copyright © 2009 by Patrick Carman.
Cover Design by Christopher Stengel
Illustrations by Joshua Pease
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First Scholastic paperback printing, January 2010
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Patrick Carman, Skeleton Creek
Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman / Mystery & Detective / Horror / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes