I hear the laugh once again, calm and satisfied. A solid wave of rage starts between my forehead and the back of my head, overtaking my entire body. Teeth clenched so hard, I hear them grind. I scream, “What’s so funny, you sick bastard!”
Then a new sound, so clear there’s no mistaking it. A horse’s neigh, followed by the woody, hollow sound of hooves galloping right toward me.
Thirsty leaves rustle on the ground like littered newspaper in the wind. I stand paralyzed over my mother’s grave, eyes roving, searching for the source of the sound. A horse in the cemetery? Seriously? But there’s no one here! Yet the galloping feels a blink away.
I break free of the invisible straitjacket immobilizing my upper body. I plunge through the woods, boots pounding the earth in time with my breath, eyes focused ahead, dodging grave markers, logs, rocks, and fallen limbs in my way. Who’s charging me on a horse? The Headless Horseman is only a character in a story. A legend.
I run straight for the bridge, my breath short and choppy. Isn’t the horseman supposed to stop chasing his victims once they cross the bridge? How ridiculous that I’m considering the logistics behind a work of fiction. Maybe it’s not a real spirit at all, but someone playing a trick on me.
It’s unnervingly dark inside the covered bridge, but I have no other choice. The galloping is right behind me. I’ll have to go through it if I don’t want to sense a horse’s hot breath prickling my neck. I avoid eye contact with whoever is chasing me, in case paralysis freezes my body again.
I charge through the bridge, my breath loud in my ears, panicked footsteps echoing against the siding, plowing along the musty planks until I blast out the other end, nearly tumbling onto the ground. I check over my shoulder. Nothing followed me through. But next to the bridge, a hazy mist hovers above the ground in the shape of what could be interpreted as a massive horse with a rider on top. It stands at the edge of the river, watching me escape.
That’s no trick.