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Over The Thames
Charlie sat in the passenger seat of the car, staring passively out of the
window. A steady drizzle of rain fell from a gray, apathetic sky, pattering on
the pane of glass. It was just another depressing morning in London.
He sat up and looked ahead. The early-morning traffic stretched ahead
endlessly, like a slowly unraveling ball of yarn. The traffic suddenly moved
forward, but it was only by a few feet.
His car rolled forward, too, and Charlie noticed that they had reached the
center of the London Bridge. The cold, uninviting waters of the Thames River
sloshed hundreds of meters below.
“I wonder what’s causing all of this bloody traffic?” he asked his mother,
who was sitting behind the steering wheel. “Do you think there’s a wreck ahead?”
She shrugged. “I dunno, Charlie.”
She turned away from him, bent down, and dug through her purse. A minute
later she grinned and triumphantly held up a pair of tweezers. Then she pulled
down the mirror underneath her sun visor and began to pluck her eyebrows.
Charlie sighed and pulled out his cell phone. “I’m gonna call Rosch,” he
told her. “He’s usually a few kilometers ahead of us in traffic.”
He dialed Rosch’s number and pressed SEND. The phone rang twice before
someone answered. Instead of a voice, however, a strange, garbled noise filled
the receiver. “Rosch?” Charlie asked.
He frowned and listened intently. It almost sounded like... no. it sounded
like someone was drowning. He could hear water splashing, and a panicked,
gurgling scream could almost be made out.
Suddenly a low, snakelike voice rang in his ear: “Join us... Join us... Join
There was a click as the connection was terminated.
Charlie’s cell phone slipped from his nerveless fingers and dropped into his
lap. “Mum...” he whispered.
She looked up sharply at the sound of his voice. “What’s the matter,
“I think Rosch is in trouble.” He explained what he had heard on the phone.
She smiled and patted the top of his head affectionately. “Don’t worry,
m’dear. I’m sure there was just a bad connection. Try calling him again.”
Charlie shrugged and started to redial Rosch’s number, but a movement in the
side mirror caught his eye and he dropped his phone again. Walking along the
stalled cars behind him, apparently unseen by everyone but him, was a woman.
She wore a pink-and-green flowered dress that stopped at her knees; beneath
that, her pale, bare legs extended to the ground. Her feet were bare, too, and
Charlie was amazed that she could walk across the jagged concrete without
flinching. Wisps of black hair hung down in front of her face, but didn’t cover
it significantly. She kept her head down, though, so Charlie was unable to see
Early morning sunlight glinted off of her hand and shone in Charlie’s eyes.
He cupped his hands across his forehead and saw that she wore a gold,
diamond-studded ring on her left hand. The sunlight blinded Charlie again, and
when he looked back in the woman’s direction, she had vanished.
“Mum?” Charlie said again, a little nervous. “Did you see that?”
She looked up from where she was sifting through her purse. “See what?”
“There was a woman! On the bridge! She was walking straight towards our car,
She swivelled her head. “Where was she?”
His mother glanced in her rearview mirror. “Well, whoever she was, she’s
gone now.” She turned back to her purse.
Charlie frowned thoughtfully. He bent down, grabbed his phone, and sat back
The woman was peering at him through his window, less than six inches away.
Her face was a white, grinning skull.
She jumped and spun towards him, furious. “What is it, boy!?”
Charlie turned to point at the window, but the death lady had vanished
again. “No! She was right there!”
His mother yelled, “Boy, I’m tired of your blasted stories! Now be quiet!”
With a huff, she turned her back to him and bent down to her purse again.
Charlie gave an exasperated sigh, redialed Rosch’s number, and pressed his
ear against the receiver. The phone rang once before the muffled, gurgling noise
began again. A few seconds later, he heard that snakelike voice: “Join us...
Join us, Charlie... Join us BELOW THE WATER!”
Charlie felt something wet against his cheek and pulled the cell phone away.
Water was spraying from between the buttons! He screamed and dropped his phone,
but the steady stream refused to cease.
“Mum!” he yelled, unbuckling his seat belt. She didn’t move; her face was
still turned away from him, and her body remained hunched over. The car was now
three inches deep in water. Charlie’s shoes were soaked.
He tried the door handle, but it wouldn’t budge. He slid onto his back and
tried to kick out the windows. They refused to break. “Help! Someone help me!”
he cried. No one seemed to hear him.
He was suddenly struck by an idea, and he turned over to his slumped-over
mother. Her limp hand was still inside her purse. He pulled the purse up and set
it in his lap. By now the water was up to his knees, and it started to spill
over into his seat.
Charlie quickly dug through his purse until he found his mother’s cell
phone. He dialed 911 just as the sun glared in his eyes. His mother was starting
to stir, and the sunlight was being reflected off of her gold, diamond-studded
Charlie froze, unable to move his lips as the operator answered, “911, what
is the nature of your emergency?” He let his eyes trail across her
pink-and-green flowered dress and her pale, bare legs, finally letting them rest
on her black hair, wisps of which were now hanging in front of her face.
“Mum?” he asked tentatively.
She spun around quickly, revealing her abominable, empty skull. “Join us,
Charlie,” she hissed, and water began to pour from her lipless mouth. Now the
car was filled up to the windows.
“Hello?” the operator asked. “Is anyone there?”
Charlie’s mother reached for him with her long, pale fingers. “Join us...
Join us... Join us...” she chanted.
“HELP!!!” Charlie cried into the phone. The water was past his neck, and he
had to hold his breath to float to the top of the car.
“Where are you? State your position,” the operator demanded.
Charlie’s mother grabbed his leg and pulled him underwater, still chanting.
He frantically kicked her hand away and swam back to the surface, accidentally
swallowing the foul-tasting water. He choked and spat disgustedly before gasping
out, “Over the Thames! I’m over the Thames!”
His mother snatched the cell phone from his hands and smashed it against the
The interior of the car was now fully immersed in water, cutting off all
sound. His mother released him and floated back into her seat, going limp. A
sense of calm fell across Charlie.
Suddenly the windshield in front of him flickered, like a TV screen. The
image of the traffic ahead disappeared, replaced by random scenes of his life.
There he was as a small baby, giggling and splashing around in a bathtub.
His innocent grin infected his parents, who were hovering over him.
Then he was six years old, taking swimming lessons at the public pool. His
nostrils flared as he took a breath every time he surfaced the chlorinated
Then he was nine years old, stepping across the stones of a creek with his
two best friends, Rosch and Chester. His foot slipped on a mossy rock and he
fell back, soaking his pants and the bottom half of his t-shirt. All three of
them laughed exaggeratedly, as only little kids do.
Then he was thirteen, kissing his first girlfriend in the rain. Their soaked
hair hung down in front of each other’s faces.
See, the water remembers you, said a soothing voice that echoed all around
Charlie. It remembers you, it misses you, and now it wants you back. So join
us... join us below the water...
The screen flickered once more, this time revealing the bottom of the Thames
River. Charlie reached out to touch the glass, and it effortlessly popped off.
He floated from the car, not bothering to swim to the surface. Instead, he laid
down on the riverbed, allowing himself to be lulled to sleep by the peaceful
calm of the water...
Chief of police Edward Watson and private investigator Nigel Wherter
converged at the center of the London Bridge, their coattails flapping in the
slight breeze. The slight drizzle of rain had (for once) stopped, and the sun
was actually beginning to poke through the clouds.
“Sorry I’m late,” Wherter wheezed, “but you wouldn’t believe all of the
Watson grinned as they shook hands. They had been best friends for years,
ever since they had met each other during their ninth year of the boarding
school which they had both attended. They had both decided to study and practice
law, but their methods were drastically different. They still kept in contact,
however, and their friendship had refused to dwindle over the years.
“What do we have here?” Wherter asked, surveying the scattered police cars,
fire trucks, and ambulances.
“There was a minor accident that occurred three-quarters of a mile ahead at
5:35 this morning. The passengers were fine, but the nature of the crash trapped
them inside their own vehicles. Along with the proper emergency vehicles sent to
rescue them was an ambulance, which is, as you well know, the law. It was the
last in the convoy, and when it reached the bridge, the driver claimed that a
large chunk of the road was flooded.”
He took a breath and pointed to a section of the bridge behind Wherter.
“Obviously, this bridge was specially designed so that all water would run off
of one side. So he’s either lying to us to cover up inebriation, or the water
moved by itself.” Both he and Wherter chuckled with amusement.
“They â€˜hydroplaned’, so they claimed, and swerved to one side. The ambulance
rear-ended a green Suburban, ran it through the side of the bridge, and flung it
into the Thames River. The passengers were a forty-two-year-old woman and her
Wherter shook his head sadly.
“The mother, Jane Earle, was trapped in the car by her own seat belt. It
locked up and held her down as the front end of the car crumpled inwards from
the force of the fall. The window on the driver’s side shattered, and we believe
that to be the reason that most of the skin was missing from her face.”
“Her son, Charlie, apparently wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was thrown
head-first from the car. We believe that he either broke his neck, was knocked
unconscious, or both. We can’t find the body, though, so it’s safe to assume
that he drowned.”
Wherter gave a wry grin. “Brilliant deduction, Watson!”
Watson raised an eyebrow and grimaced. “You know I hate it when you say
Wherter laughed uproariously and slapped him on the back. “Well, why did you
call me here, then? You seemed to have figured everything out.”
“Not everything.” Watson pulled a tape recorder from coat pocket. “911
received this call from Mrs. Earle’s cell phone at 5:42:19.”
He pressed PLAY.
Strange sound filled the air, emanating from the recorder. Wherter furrowed
his eyebrows and leaned forward. There was a sickening, gurgling noise, as if
someone was drowning. “HELP!!!” cried the voice of a young boy.
Wherter stood up straight. “I thought he was thrown from the car?”
“Shush,” was Watson’s reply.
“Join us... Join us... Join us...” hissed a low, snakelike voice. A chill
ran down Wherter’s spine.
“Where are you? State your position,” came the voice of the operator.
There was a pause, emphasized by the splashing of water. The boy started
choking and coughing. “Over the Thames! I’m over the-”
The tape recorder stopped.
Wherter’s eyes widened. “When did you say he called?”
Watson stuffed the tape recorder back into his pocket. “The recording lasted
from 5:42:19 to 5:42:51.” He paused for dramatic effect.
“The ambulance crashed into them at 5:48.”
Wherter’s jaw dropped.
Watson nodded. “Yes. Charlie and his mother were already drowning on the
bridge... five minutes before they were knocked into the Thames River.”
Wherter turned and walked to the edge of the London Bridge, dazed. He tried
to peer into the depths of the Thames River as it sloshed lazily against the
bridge supports. “What are you hiding?” he muttered.
Something wet struck his cheek, and he looked up to see a fat, gray cloud
hovering between him and the sun. In less than a minute the slow, dreary rain
had started again, washing away the morning’s tragedies and making this day seem
just like any other.