NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 1 Story: The Dead Man in the Ravine

The Dead Man in the Ravine
Melissa R. Mendelson

The flow of water moving downward filled my ears.  The wind rustled through the trees and over my flesh.  The green grass underneath me turned red from the bullet hole in my shoulder.  Sunlight opened my eyes, and the rocks cradled my head.
I had falling over the edge hard.  It was amazing that my body wasn’t broken, but moving my ankle nearly had me cry out in pain.  I slowly raised my head upward.  My eyes moved over the trees, but I could not see through the green.  Where was he?
Suddenly, a bullet struck the ground not far from my head.  I glanced at the hole and then over at the water. I could not touch the water especially because I was bleeding, so I remained lying on the small bank.  And he emerged from his hiding spot, and I realized that he had been there all this time, waiting to see if I was dead.
“You could have just put the bullet in my head,” I said, watching him shrug with the gun still in his hand.
“I need you to answer something first, and then I’ll kill you.”
I watched him lean over me.  His sadistic grin stretched across his face.  He was always a bastard, and I hated him.  And he hated me.  “Ask then. I have better things to do with my time,” and I watched him smile at that.
“You have no time left, my friend.”
“I’m not your friend.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Ask,” I demanded.
“Why did you call me out?  I thought we parted ways neutrally.”
“You call the bomb under my car parting ways neutrally?”  I watched him shrug again with the gun in his hand. “Maybe, I missed you,” and he pressed the gun against my right temple.  “Fine. You heard about the earthquake in Italy?”
“What about it,” and his gun dug deeper into my skin.
“One of the buildings that caved in unearthed something, a journal, my grandfather’s journal.”
“And?”  His finger wrapped around the trigger.
“And it was about this ravine.  The Dead Man in the Ravine.”  I watched the gun go limp in his hand.  “The legend is true.”
“It’s a bullshit legend that nobody proved true,” but I could tell that he was thinking about it.
“It’s true,” I said.
“Your grandfather disappeared along with his partner.  They were never found.  How did his journal wind up in Italy?”  It was my turn to shrug, and he smacked the gun against my face.  
“He was an archeologist,” and I spat blood on his shoes.
“Fine.  You found his journal.  What does that have to do with me and pissing me off enough to chase you halfway around the world?  I’m starting to lose my patience, friend.”
“I’m not your friend.  Maybe, we were once, but not after what you’ve done.  And you need two people to call him out.”
“So, call him out.”
“I can’t because you shot me.”
“I will shoot you again.”
“He won’t come, if there’s blood in the water.  It has to be you.”
“You want me to step into the water?”
“Yes.  You go in the water, and I’ll say the incantation.”
“You don’t have the journal anymore.”
“I don’t need it,” I said.  “I have a photographic memory.”
“I forgot about that.”  He continued to lean over me.  His finger itched across the trigger.  “Okay,” and he moved away from me.  “I’ll do it,” and he stepped into the water.  “Say this works.  He appears, and I kill him.  What makes you think that I would even share the gold in his heart afterward?”
“I’m sure you won’t, and I’m sure that you will kill me either way.”
“As long as you know that.  Now, let’s do this.  One last adventure.”
“Yeah.  One last adventure,” and I watched him stand in the water.
I pulled myself up into a sitting position.  I winced at the pain in my shoulder, and moving my ankle really hurt. I took in a jagged breath and closed my eyes.  I cleared my mind until I remembered that page with the incantation, and I slowly exhaled.  And I said the words.
A few minutes passed.  I opened my eyes.  Nothing happened.  It was just me and him, and he was still standing in the water.  Did I really think that the dead man was going to show himself?  I was such a fool.
Suddenly, the water behind him shot upward.  Droplets of water slowly fell downward, but they did not return back to the stream.  Instead, they formed a human skeletal structure, and before he could react, the dead man ripped out his heart.  As he ate it, I watched my old friend burst into a bloody red wave that washed away downstream.  His gun fell beside my ankle.
The dead man now focused on me, still hungry, but I moved fast, despite the pain that seared through my ankle.  I shot the gun at him, and he stumbled backward.  But I had to get him out of the water.  The last bullet forced him onto the small bank, and as soon as his foot touched the earth, he solidified.  He looked at me one last time with bits of my enemy’s heart still stuck in his teeth.
I struggled to my feet, brushing away some blood on my face.  I walked across the water, hesitating for a moment, but nothing happened.  I leaned over the dead man.  Nobody really knew who he was except that he was betrayed by his best friend, and the only way to call him out was for those similar to him and his friend to come looking for him.  I plunged my hand into his chest, but it was not gold inside his heart.  It was a bag of money, money that reminded me of the good old Western days, and it was enough to secure my way out of here and start a new life.


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