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Hi everyone,

So I’m finally on holidays again, which means that I get to spend the next two weeks reading, writing and watching YouTube!  😛

Today I thought I’d share a short story I write for my English class. We were studying the Gothic Genre last term, so in one of our last lessons, we were given a short scenario and asked to write write a short story about it and what happened next, including certain words. Well, we never went back to the task after that lesson, but I ended up finishing it and I wanted to share it.

This is the Gothic first story I’ve ever written, so I hope you enjoy it.  😉

– Rose  ❤

~~

The Phantom Hitch-hiker

The meeting had gone longer than he had intended it to.

Brendan Woods sat in the front seat of his car, blinking wearily. The road ahead was long and dim. His job took him to the city three days a week, and despite the little lighting and the rain beating on the old, steep road, he knew his route back to Birkenhead well. He sighed, rubbing his eyes – he could have been home by now. His boss was a lovely elderly woman, but these days she was rather hard of hearing. Any conversation with her took twice as long, and this caused issues at meetings.

As he drove along the road towards the Mersey tunnel, he yawned and stretched his aching muscles. Not long now. He could picture his daughter’s face as he walked through the door. Gracie refused to sleep until he was home safely. Her face would light up and he’d scoop her up into his arms, just as he always did and tuck her into bed. Then his wife would smile at him with adoring eyes and go make him a nice, strong cup of tea.

Once, he had asked Gracie why she waited for him to come home each night.

“I don’t want the Ghost of Mersey tunnel to get you, dad,” is what she’d said.

The Ghost of Mersey tunnel – a silly fantasy made up by the older children at young Gracie’s school, to scare the little kids on Halloween. The story went that years ago, someone had died in a crash on the last turning of Mersey tunnel, his soul becoming trapped there. To release himself from his prison, another had to die in the tunnel, to take his place. Only then would it be set free. The ghost succeeded, but then his victim was trapped with the same fate, and so for years the process happened over and over, causing the long history of car crashes recorded over the past twenty years.

“Oh, Gracie, there’s no need to worry. There is no ghost.” He’d chuckled at the thought. The tunnel is completely safe. I’ll always be there when you wake up in the morning, making you breakfast.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

The memory made him smile, but then something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye, outside the entrance of the tunnel.

The girl was young; she could only be ten, at the most. She was ghastly pale, her dark hair drenched and tattered clothes sticking to her fragile figure, her jacket hood over her face in an attempt to shelter herself from the rain. She stood at the edge of the road – no bags, no belongings – her arm outstretched, thumb out.

A hitch-hiker?

Bemused, but feeling dreadfully sorry for the child, he pulled over and wound down the car window.

“Alright there?”

The girl looked up. There was something unnerving about her gaze. Her eyes were a piercing blue. “I need a lift,” She said, stating the obvious.

Brendan weighed up the odds. If he agreed to help this girl, and her destination was in the next town over… His wife would flay him alive; Gracie had school tomorrow, and he knew she wouldn’t sleep until he returned. Not to mention it was against the law… His thoughts returned to Gracie. Young, innocent Gracie. This girl wasn’t much older than her. If it were his daughter here, windswept, soaked from head to toe…

He unlocked the doors. “Get in,” He said.

The girl clambered into the back seat.

“Where to then?” He asked.

“Birkenhead.”

Relief washed over him. “Well, what are the odds of that? It just so happens that I’m heading there myself.”

The girl nodded, shivering. Taking pity on the little girl, he pulled off his sweater and handed it to the her. “Here,” He said.

She took it from him, nodding her thanks.

“Let’s get going then.”

Minutes later they were back on the road and making their way through the tunnel.

“So, where exactly in Birkenhead do you need to go?”

She gave him the address; it wasn’t far from his house.

“You know,” He said as he drove, “I have a daughter around your age. Lovely girl. You may go to school with her – Gracie Woods?”

He waited for an answer. When he didn’t get one, he chuckled. “You’re not much of a talker, are you?”

He turned to give her a reassuring smile.

The back seat was empty. His jumper lay on the floor.

“Hello?”

Nothing.

A chill ran down his spine. Where had she gone? Was he going mad? Perhaps he had fallen into microsleep – it was, after all, nearly midnight. Yes, that had to be it. He had been thinking about Gracie and that had somehow triggered the idea of the girl on the side of the road. He laughed at himself – what kind of ten year old would be a hitch-hiker?

Still chuckling, he turned back to the road. Almost there, he thought, as rounded the tunnel’s last bend.

He hadn’t been able to see it at first – the corner had block it from his vision – but there was a strange glow in the middle of the road. He squinted, trying to make out what it was. To his horror, he realised it was a person; a young girl, to be exact, standing in the middle of the road. Her dark hair and piercing eyes were all too familiar…

Panicking, he jerked the steering wheel to the right, swerving to avoid her, making his fatal mistake. The road, slippery from the rain, caused the car to skid towards the tunnel wall. He slammed on the breaks, hoping that it would slow vechile down before it hit the wall…

I’m sorry Gracie.

It was the last thought that went through Brendan Woods’ mind.

~~

Gracie stayed up extra late that night, waiting for her father to return home. It was long after midnight; her mother had already gone to bed and it was becoming difficult to keep her eyes open.

“Gracie, there’s no need to worry. There is no ghost. The tunnel is completely safe. I’ll always be there when you wake up in the morning.”

Maybe Dad’s right, she reasoned. Maybe there was no ghost. Besides, her father had made her a promise, afterall.

Yawning, she lay down to sleep. She’d see her father in the morning, as always.

~~

He still wasn’t home the next morning.

Despite her mother’s reassuring words, Gracie could tell she was worried, and as she ate the eggs her mother had cooked, she started to have her doubts too.

She was just finishing her breakfast when the doorbell rang, and her mother went to answer. Curious, she followed her mother out. The door opened to reveal an officer standing on the other side.

“Mrs Woods? I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

~~

Gracie had been told her father had died in a car accident. According to her mother, the details were a mystery; no one had been there to witness it, afterall. The investigators had put it down to the weather conditions – he must have misjudged the turn and lost control of the car, they’d said. They all told the same story – Brendan Woods had died in a freak accident; there had been nothing unusual about it when they’d arrived at the scene. All, except one, who said he could have sworn he’d seen a young girl standing in the exit of Mersey tunnel, watching them take away the body.

Now in her teens, Gracie drives to the cemetery to visit her father’s grave every Thursday. There was a time when she had believed in the ghost story about Mersey tunnel, but that time is long gone. She doesn’t believe in ghosts anymore, just as she doesn’t believe that promises are impossible to break.

Ghosts aren’t real, she tells herself, and she almost believes it, but not quite.

Every Thursday, when she drives home, she takes the route through Mersey tunnel.

Some days, she swears she sees her father, standing just outside the tunnel entrance, hand outstretched, thumb out.

~~

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