. Monkey Woman Bridge .
The creeks ran all
over our county like distraught mascara sliding down a cheek. What seemed
like thousands was at least a hundred and they were fun to fish, swim, or
piss in. They had names like Cripple, Cow Killer, Overall, and Dry. There
was even one named Last Creek, as if it had been the very last one discovered
by man. I was an amateur fisherman and I creek fished as many as I could with
my friend Toby, until that fateful day we decided to try a creek so far removed
from the city, the map didn’t even give this tributary a name. I learned
the reason for this omission later, but at that moment Monkey Woman Creek
was still an anonymous line running down a map.
It was on a Sunday like many before when I finally staggered up about 10 am. I took a quick shower, put some old clothes on, grabbed my fishing pole and tackle, and headed to Toby’s pad. While most of America worshipped inside stuffy churches, Toby and I worshipped outside while wading some cool creek. We gave our praises loudly when we landed a big fish. We spent every Sunday in the summer like this: up at 10, early lunch or maybe a late breakfast, fishing until 6 or 7 pm, a fast food supper, and then video games until 11 or 12. It might seem like a big waste to most, or maybe seem boring to do the same thing every Sunday, but every creek was different and Toby and I had great conversations.
“Did you see that girl last night at Andy’s party,” asked Toby?
“The one with the short skirt?”
“Nah, the one with the big hooters,” drooled Toby.
“Yeah, she was nice,” I replied.
After that exchange of ideas, which really got to the heart of philosophical thinking, we settled into the silence that two best buds going fishing usually lapse into.
We made the outskirts of Dunsany, Illinois where we live by 11, so we stopped at a Hardlee’s Restaurant for some quick grub to fuel our fishing. It was another good hour before we neared the unmarked creek near the county line on our map.
“Man, I need to find a store and get me some cigarettes,” said Toby.
Cigarettes and soda; Toby was addicted to nicotine and caffeine. He could drink 2 liters of soda a day and smoke 2 packs of cancer sticks. He made me seem like a lightweight. Lucky for us, there was an old country store a few miles down the road.
“Would you look at that,” said Toby, “ I didn’t know stores still came like that.”
It was a sight. Hubcaps lined one outer wall, a long porch extended across the front with old fishing tackle hanging from the beams, while gnats swarmed over an ancient minnow box. A crusted tin sign swung lopsided hooked to an old motorcycle chain. “Wendell’s Market” read the sign. All Toby cared about was the cigarette ad barely visible behind a grungy window.
“Do you think it’s even open,” I asked Toby.
Just then an old, bald, dwarflike figure of a man burst through the screen door carrying a broom that looked older then his self.
“Looks like they’re open for business,” exclaimed Toby.
He could barely contain his joy since he had recently smoked his last cigarette. There were no neon displays, no posters of scantily clad women peddling beer, and no sign of any other life besides the wizened old guy who had grunted a greeting toward us as we entered. But there were cigarettes and some oddly named sodas to make our stop a success for Toby. I didn’t find anything and was wishing I had stayed in the truck. This place was hotter then the asphalt, which for some reason was still littered with pop tops, and stuffier then my first girlfriend’s bra. Toby finally got done looking at all of the ancient wares and took his bounty to the counter where the register sat. The little bald man was there waiting. He seemed to move like lightning when we weren’t looking.
“My name is Spook, Mr. Spook. How can I help you two boys,” asked this strange looking proprietor.
“I just want to buy this stuff,” Toby answered somewhat sheepishly.
“Why, you fellows ain’t from around chere now, are you?”
“Here’s my money,” said Toby.
Mr. Spook ignored him and began to speak to us in earnest, “What are you boys doing chere? Strangers need to be careful around these parts.”
I looked away from Mr. Spook and Toby toward the parking lot. It appeared Mr. Spook was what I had dubbed a “wonkah” person. It didn’t mean they liked candy, it just meant they were crazy and wouldn’t leave you alone. A friend of mine once met a “wonkah” person on a trolley and the guy followed him all the way to my friend’s fiancée’s home. When she came out, he asked how much my friend would take for her. I let Mr. Spook’s words drift over me like smoke and paid little attention until I heard him say, “Monkey Woman Creek is not to be messed with, boys. You chear me? The monkey woman will find you and you boys will be the one’s getting gutted.”
“We’re just going sport fishing,” Toby said.
I half expected the blind banjo player from Deliverance to spring out from behind the counter. Mr. Spook was really getting worked up over this monkey woman. I thought some humor would help get us away from him.
I told Toby, “Man, this monkey woman sounds like your last girlfriend.”
“You can wisecrack all you want, boy. The monkey woman will get you and you’ll wish you had never been born,” growled Mr. Spook.
“Mr. Spook, or can I call you Wendell,” said Toby.
“I ain’t no Wendell. I’m Mr. Spook and that’s all,” growled Mr. Spook.
“Anyways, have you ever seen this monkey woman? Is she anything like the Goombah Chicken,” asked Toby.
The Goombah Chicken was a character in a goofy song we had once dreamed up, so I knew Toby had decided to just yank this fellow’s chain a bit. Heck, if we were going to have to put up with his craziness, we might as well have some fun.
“Where do you get all of this monkey woman stuff from? The creek doesn’t even have a name,” I said while showing the old coot the map.
“Let me look at that.” He slobbered over it for a minute making grunting noises and wiping his snot all over it. “It’s just as I figured. This is a gov’ment map. Gov’ment maps ain’t worth spit. There’s places you boys can’t even imagine out there and ain’t no gov’ment maps can show them to you. The world ain’t like a butterfly you can pin to paper.”
He must have been getting sick of us by then because he finally took Toby’s money. When he gave Toby his change, he suddenly got agitated again and he grabbed Toby by the arm and instead of his former belligerent tone, an imploring softness surfaced in his words.
“I’m begging you boys, don’t even think about fishing that creek. Once you wade in, the Lord his self can’t save you if the monkey woman appears.”
Toby lunged back. Mr. Spook’s iron grip seemed to give a lie to his gentle words. “Ouch, mister that hurt.”
We made our way outside with the old man returning to his earlier screed about the monkey woman ringing in our ears. We got into the Toyota and Toby cranked it up, but nothing happened.
“Huh? That’s funny. It’s never done this before,” muttered Toby.
After several tries, I got out and popped the hood and found a battery wire had come loose. I went to connect it back when sparks flew up and a charge went through my hand.
“Shit!! Turn the key off you lamebrain,” I yelled to Toby.
My hand was hurting, but I managed to get the cable reattached and we were soon on our way.
“Is your hand going to be okay,” asked Toby.
“Yeah, it’s like a minor powder burn, no big deal really,” I replied. “I just wish you had taken the key out of the ignition.”
“That’s what’s weird, I had the keys in my hand,” answered Toby.
That was odd, but the weather was beautiful and the closer we got to the creek, the more we calmed down. We wouldn’t let some oddly named elf ruin our day. Soon we hit a dirt road and after about eight miles of bumps we found the creek. An old wooden one-lane bridge crossed the water so we stopped on it to take a look around.
“I guess this would be Monkey Woman Bridge,” I chuckled.
The bridge was in pretty bad shape, but Toby and me assured each other it wasn’t any worse then the bridge in the movie Evil Dead. Mentioning that movie got us to talking about how great the flick was and we didn’t even notice the sun going behind a cloud until it got very cold.
“Man, I thought it was August,” I griped.
Toby starting making Twilight Zone noises while he lit up a smoke. The sun reappeared and we got back in the truck and parked on the other side of the bridge. The horrible warnings from Mr. Spook were disconcerting, but we figured he was just trying to scare us away from a really great fishing spot. We had run across water moccasins as big around as a man’s leg, been attacked by snapping turtles, and almost drowned once when we stepped into some old leaf deposits which can suck you down like quicksand. A crazy monkey woman couldn’t scare us, at least as long as it was light out.
We got our tackle and poles and waded out into the water. Cool creek water up to your knees in the middle of the summer is so refreshing. The water was quite clear and the creek bottom was nice and sandy. It was almost like a trout stream. We made a few casts and soon discovered it wasn’t like a trout stream. It was a trout stream!
Toby liked to act like he was fly fishing with his open faced spinner and it sometimes landed him a bass or a redeye, but today it actually landed a trout. A big rainbow trout leapt out of the water as Toby’s line spooled out with incredible speed.
“Man, this is insane! Help me hold the pole,” exclaimed Toby with glee.
“Damn! That’s an honest to God trout. Now we know why this creek doesn’t have a name,” I yelled.
“Yeah,” said Toby as we wrestled the fish in, “take that monkey woman!”
We managed to get the fish out of the water. It was huge and it was gorgeous. It reflected the sunlight off its silvery gills. Toby unhooked it, held it up so I could snap a picture with my waterproof camera, and then he let it down back into the water.
“Tell all your friends to come say hello,” said Toby with a goofy grin on his face.
We must have stumbled on some trout release program we didn’t know about. That trout must have weighed ten pounds. Man was this going to be a great day. We walked down the creek some more, but didn’t get any more bites. Even the brim that you can usually catch at will seemed to avoid us. The sun went behind a cloud again and decided to stay there. A breeze began to blow and we began to get a little disheartened after such a great start. But we kept walking down the creek hoping one of us would land another fish, heck we would even settle for a slimy carp.
The carp wouldn’t even bite so we took a break while Toby smoked a cigarette. The sun just didn’t want to come back out and the creek was beginning to feel downright cold instead of refreshing. The steady breeze decided to turn into a very fast moving wind and I began to think about asking Toby if he wanted to leave.
“Well, would you look at that,” said Toby as he pointed up the creek. A huge bird was flapping its way toward a rock wall up ahead. It was a monstrous buzzard. We trudged ahead to get a better look. Toby joked about maybe finding a dead body ahead, but the water was turning so cold I could have cared less. We made our way haphazardly to the area where the bird had disappeared. The creek bed began to get extremely rocky and each step became dangerous. We rounded the turn and Toby took a big step only to completely go under!
“Toby,” I screamed!! I dropped my fishing pole and tried to run toward where he had gone under. If you’ve ever tried to run in water, you know how difficult this can be.
Slippery rocks under my feet did not help me. Something brushed by my legs and then surfaced. It was Toby’s fishing pole. I was just about to dive at the area where he went under when he finally surfaced a few yards ahead of me.
He found his feet again and shook the water from his eyes. I must have looked pale, because Toby asked me if I was all right.
“All right? You’re asking me? You’re the one that almost drowned.”
I edged toward Toby, being extra careful to avoid the hole. He might not mind being swallowed up, but it wasn’t my idea of fun. I was now more then ready to call it a day, but now that Toby had survived almost drowning, there was no way he was going to give up the hunt for the buzzard.
“Let’s go just a little farther around the bend and then we can get out on the bank and walk back to the truck,” said Toby.
I was thinking we should just get on the bank now, but if we got out of the water and then had to get back in, we’d be courting colds so his idea made sense.
We made our way haphazardly around the bend in the creek. The smooth sandy bottom had become just rocks and sludge. The banks were filled with huge limestone rocks covered in buzzard shit. A huge dead tree with gnarled limbs loomed over us at the next curve and the cloudy day became even darker as the scavenger birds began to fly in to roost for the night. The water began to get deeper. It rose to the dreaded “nut” level as we called it and quickly got to stomach level. I had now had enough and so had Toby. Then we heard the scream.
The buzzard shuffled on the limbs a bit and began to keenly stare at us.
“What do you think that was,” asked Toby?
“Maybe it was the monkey….”
And there it went again, except it sounded closer and louder. I’ve heard people say things are indescribable, which is just what this sound was close to being. The best I can say was that it was high pitched and seemed desperate.
“It sounds like an extra from a Tarzan flick, “ murmured Toby.
We looked at each other as the fright began to build in us brick by brick.
“Maybe there really is a monkey woman!”
We scrambled for the banks as fast as possible. The wind started picking up. Toby’s hat flew off. The water began to churn and whirlpools were forming. Another scream rang through the air. The buzzards took flight and began hovering in a great circle over our heads. There was nothing dead down here. At least there was nothing dead yet. The old man might have been right and if we couldn’t get back to the car we’d be the buzzards next meal and they knew it.
The next scream was right on top of us and it wouldn’t stop. But there was nobody or nothing to be seen. The high pitch of the scream modulated until it was even in pitch with the sound of the wind, which was now blowing so hard it was uprooting the small shrubs that grew along the rocky banks. Debris began coming down the creek bed. Tree limbs, and old garbage like used tires and beer can after beer can started swirling past us like some old environmental disaster film. The banks that had been close appeared to recede in distance until it now looked like we were in the middle of a big river instead of some no name creek. It was beginning to sink in to both of us that the creek was indeed Monkey Woman Creek.
By now, we had dropped our poles and were both scrambling to get out of the water. The water was chest high and continued to rise. Toby and I were scrambling over the rocky bottom and then we hit a leaf deposit. I could feel it sucking my legs down while the water got ever higher. Toby saw me sink, but instead of helping me he panicked and headed a different way. The buzzards were getting lower and closer. I could smell a sickly sweet smell that reminded me of the city dump. It came in waves and I realized it was the stink off of the birds. I managed to pull my legs free only to sink deeper on the next step. I could hear Toby cussing halfway to the other side. I turned to see him and it looked like he was making much better progress than me.
The creek water then turned to blood. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. It was a murky maelstrom of water filled with garbage one second and the next it was a murky maelstrom of blood filled with garbage. My feet sank deeper while I heard Toby say, “This shit sucks!” at the top of his voice. Then everything stopped. It was almost like time froze, but I know it really didn’t. The water became calm. The wind quit screaming. Beer cans listed and sank. Several tires began to just lazily rotate on the red surface. The blood was still present with an animal stench that made me want to puke. I lifted my legs out of the waterlogged leaves again and took another step forward and found solid ground under them again. I was almost ecstatic over this. It looked like I might make it out of the bloody water alive. Toby was not to be so lucky.
The water had calmed enough, he started to light a cigarette as he took another step toward the shore. He screamed in pain and dropped his cigarette. He rolled over into the water and then jumped back up. The reason for his scream was simple; he had gotten tangled with a trotline full of rusty hooks. After falling the trotline had wrapped around most of his body. Before I could yell at him to remain still, the wind picked up once more and the homicidal screaming started again. Toby’s body was getting gashes torn into it by the fishhooks and his blood was beginning to mingle with the red water. A tire came around the bend at full speed and knocked into him. Toby stumbled, but would not fall. He looked like he was in shock. The tire reversed direction and came back at him again. I caught a flash of light over the tire and then noticed a faint image flashing on and off like a motel vacancy sign. It was a person. It was the monkey woman!!!
She had the body of an ape and a face from hell. It was old and ravaged with scars and pits. Her hair was gruesome, filled with bugs and worms. One of her ears was chewed off. She definitely looked like somebody who’d hit every limb on the ugly tree. Except for her teeth. They were perfectly white and appeared razor sharp. They went well with the fingernails, which would soon rip into Toby. She cackled and hissed as she drove the tire into Toby once more. This time the tire didn’t bounce off. It held fast and she started raking at my friend’s head. There was nothing I could do but watch mesmerized. Then she glanced my way and my heart froze when I heard her say in perfect English, “You’re next”.
She turned her attention back to Toby so I started to really kick chicken toward the shore. I was almost ready to step onto the shore when I felt my leg grabbed. Something sharp ran along my right leg until it reached my shoe. I dared not look back for one look at her face that close up would have likely frozen me with fear. I had no weapons with me like Perseus so my only hope was of escape. But how does one escape something that’s obviously not human?
The horrible screaming rang in my ears as I pulled with all of my might to get loose. Pinpricks of pain broke out on my right foot and the monkey woman began to make slobbering sounds. I had almost given up when the shoe came loose and I tumbled head first into the bank. The monkey woman let out her most high-pitched squeal yet. I figured I was done for, but by getting to the bank I had exposed her weakness. She couldn’t touch me as long as I was not in the creek. She just glared at me in a stroboscopic gaze of pure evil. If I could just get to the main highway I would be okay. Except I was on the opposite bank and I would have to cross the creek once more.
Then I remembered that we had parked the Toyota on this side of the creek, and Toby always kept a spare key underneath it. I sprinted through the rocks and bushes, falling down at times, but I didn’t let this bother me. I got to the truck and reached underneath it for the spare key. I sliced my hand up as I swept for it, but I found it and that was all I could think about. I jumped in the driver’s seat praying there’d be no problems and it cranked right up.
I let out a triumphant yell and started toward the old wooden bridge. I could see the flickering image of the monkey woman on the water as I hit the bridge. Then the truck quit on the bridge. Normally, the momentum would have carried it right off, but this wasn’t a normal situation. The monkey woman had power over the bridge. I was just about to jump out and make a run for it when something inside me made me decide to stay in the vehicle. I rolled up the windows and I locked the doors. The Toyota began to rock back and forth and then the monkey woman began flying into the windshield repeatedly. A long crack appeared, but it held. Her claws scrabbled the roof and then the water in the creek started to rise. The sun was going down when I finally passed out.
I woke to the sound of keys jangling on a belt. The sun was back out dappled with rectangular shadows on the floor as the rays slanted down. An iron door opened and Mr. Spook strode in bearing a tray of food. “Here’s some goombah chicken for you, boy. The judge will be hearing your case this morning.”
“Thanks, Mr. Spook,” I replied drowsily. Before I could ask what he meant by a judge hearing my case, he spit out, “I’ve done told you, I ain’t no Mr. Spook. My name is Wendell, boy”. By the time I had looked at my food, the small man was already out the door and his jangling keys sounded far away. I slowly pieced together the previous days events and realized they must have thought I killed Toby.
Later that morning the judge arraigned me on the charge of murder. Every time I mentioned the monkey woman, he just chuckled. I was given a court appointed lawyer who told me to plead insanity, but I knew I wasn’t crazy. It all happened just as I’ve said and if someone would kindly go out and examine the roof of Toby’s old Toyota they could see the claw marks for themselves and maybe then I could prove my innocence.
Comments From The AuthorCo
Supposedly there really is a monkey woman bridge somewhere in Rutherford County, Tennessee where I grew up. Your car would stall on the bridge and she would leap out and attack you leaving her claw marks on the roof of the vehicle. I tried to find the location of the bridge for years without any luck. I’ve long since decided the story is just a myth and there are likely to be monkey woman bridges all across America. There are some in Tennessee who claim the monkey woman bridge is on display in the colonial village of Cannonsburgh, but it’s only a pedestrian bridge so there’s no real way to test that story. At any rate, I hope you enjoyed this O. Henry meets Poe story I wrote just to remind me of the days when I used to get goose bumps hearing about the monkey woman and her bridge.