The dark water racing under the bridge contrasted sharply with the yellow and orange leaves riding atop the ripples. Balding maple trees shadowed the riverbank while the remains of a cornfield rustled violently in the cold wind. Standing on the cobblestones by his trusty wooden cart, he shivered. It was going to be a bad winter but they were well prepared. Suddenly, a strong gust brought the sound of maniacal laughter. He stepped quickly to the back of the cart, and threw back the burlap cover…

(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)


Threads of pink and orange had just begun to creep into the early morning sky as he approached the bridge. He was prematurely giddy with relief as he released himself from his harness and stepped away from his trusty wooden cart. He would rest for just a few minutes before strapping himself back in and continuing his journey away from her. This time he felt certain that he had escaped. He had gotten a good head start, stealthily moving through the night while she slept.

It would not be long after waking that she would realize he was gone. He recognized that the sole purpose for his existence was to serve her. It was a role he relished for many years, but she was not easily satisfied. He had failed her once many years ago, and she made it clear she would never forget. She was brutal, relentless and demanding, a heartless mistress who showed nothing but contempt for him, when she wasn’t meting out punishment. He had served faithfully over the years, but lately she had crossed the line. From now on, the only one he would serve would be himself.

Balding maple trees shadowed the riverbank while the remains of a cornfield rustled violently in the cold wind. He removed one of the tattered gloves from a bandaged hand, walked to the other side of the bridge and draped it over a low-hanging branch of a maple. He scurried back to the other side; he would not cross the bridge but if she came this far, he wanted her to think he had. A sprinkling of other personal effects peppered his path behind him.

He gingerly rubbed the ungloved hand wrapped tightly in cloth. Both hands were a mess, a build-up of hard scars and burns crusted with dried blood. She had smashed his knuckles with a mallet on more than one occasion, held his hands to the hot coals at the hearth, bit off the tips of his fingers. A few of his fingers had been broken at some point and failed to heal properly.

He rubbed the back of his neck which had been wrenched the last time she squeezed her hands around his throat until he passed out. Letting his hand fall lower, he could feel the ridges where the network of scar tissue roped across his back. She would whip the belt with a man’s force, the buckle splitting open the skin until the blood flowed. When the beating was finished, she would force him to wear the shirt she had sewn out of rough wool with her hair woven through it. Later when the blood had dried, pasting the shirt to his back, she would rip it off him as he writhed in pain.

Beneath the long sleeves of his cotton shirt and his threadbare trousers, his arms and legs were mapped with varying shades of purple, green, and yellow covering the paper thin cuts that crisscrossed over his skin. In the evening, she often liked to sit by the fire with him at her feet while she methodically sliced into his flesh with a fine shard of glass.

He adjusted his hat, which covered the bald patches where she had yanked out fistfuls of hair. He allowed himself to exhale, but not completely. He wasn’t safe yet. He had gotten further than he had on prior attempts but she had the keen sense of a bloodhound and eventually tracked him down. She would be vicious; there would be no end to the litany of retribution she would exercise. She always stopped short of killing him. He wondered why.

He was so tired. He watched the yellow and orange leaves riding atop the ripples of the water below. He felt his eyelids grow heavy as he was lulled into the rhythm of their movements. He decided to sit for just a few minutes at the roots of a tree, leaning back against the trunk. Without realizing it, his chin lowered to his chest, and he fell into the comforting darkness of sleep.

The sun was high in the sky when he rustled from his slumber. Immediately he sensed his mistake, and rushed toward the bridge. As he reached the cart, he felt her cold shadow fall over him. He shivered uncontrollably as a deep chill penetrated the very central core of his being. Icy tentacles pierced his flesh and coursed through his veins, as her maniacal laughter punctuated the silence.

A scream caught in his throat but could not overcome the evil laugh that rose from his chest. He fell to the bridge’s deck as she kicked and taunted him. He tried to crawl away, but she swooped down with her talons, pulling him up by the scruff of his neck, and hoisting him over the railing. He stared into the dark water racing below as he felt the final push that sent him over the edge. The laughing stopped.

A farmer was just coming up to the bridge in his horse-drawn wagon when he spotted the stranger, flailing about in the grip of some tumultuous rage. He watched in horror as the man plummeted into the racing water. Leaving his team, he hurried to look over the side where the stranger lay bloody and broken, splayed across a series of large flat rocks.

A strong gust of wind played with the edges of the cart’s burlap covering, crawled beneath it, teasing it away. It lifted, revealing the skeletal remains of her polished bones.