Mother always warned that nothing good happens after midnight that couldn’t happen before then. So often I wished I’d listened more closely to her and followed the rules, but I’ve never been much one for towing the line. This was one of those times.
Our prank was to start at Watkin’s Mill by the old cemetery out on a county road. No telephone poles or electric lines are out there to impede the view of the stars, so we considered it the perfect place to do some sky watching. We wanted to tease Emily a little while we are at it. She’s always so gullible about that sort of thing.
The night began with a simple drive. A few beers never hurt anyone, and Perry behind the wheel with a can between his thighs was nothing new. He was a good driver and claimed to pay even more attention if he was buzzed. That sort of excuse-making someone does after the fact. But he said, “his car, his rules.” It’s not far out to Watkin’s, so no designated driver seemed necessary.
His friend, Aaron, rode shotgun, so Emily and I were in the back seat. My usual car sickness meant nothing to Perry either, and I suffered through by looking directly at Emily as we joked around and laughed on the way out there. She had no idea what was in store.
I admit it was a bad idea but blame it on Aaron. His crush on Emily had gone on for awhile, unrequited, so I was coerced to bring her along. Perry came up with the idea of pranking her, he being the sort of jerk I’ve now come to know.
Emily probably didn't think much of him either. We’ll never know the truth.
Old Waktin's Mill was built out in the woods, as the stream that used to feed it cut through that rough country. The road there is hilly, all peaks and valleys. All the better to jump as we sailed along at top speed to get there. Statistically, the road conditions and bad driving should have been what got us.
We made it to the cemetery alive, though, with Emily none the wiser. She was spooked by the creepiness of the darkness and the boys teasing us about spooks and wraiths. Mr. Watkins' own spirit was said to fly through the trees, and he might even swoop down and touch your hair. I can’t say I was totally comfortable with it myself. But the graveyard was only a ruse meant to make us go to the mill, stupid kids running scared and tripping over tombstones.
It was dark when we got out of the car at the mill, and both of us were so relieved to realize the group hadn’t arrived at the graveyard that we didn’t know how close we were to the stream’s edge. The mill used to run on water power, which was a lot more forceful back then. An actual river. The stream seemed so shallow now, so deceiving to the eye. An unbeknownst depth lurked there, though, and Emily’s yell accompanied the splash when she tumbled into the water. None of us realized Emily couldn’t swim.
It was so dark we couldn’t find her. Even the boys jumped in to search, dashing under the surface while I lay crying on the shore.
The first responders and County Sheriff couldn’t see Emily either. The rescue workers later found her limp body snagged on a fallen tree when they searched further downstream, as if its wooden fingers almost caught her in their grasp and pulled her aside to be discovered. Those limbs assured her parents would have remains to visit at her graveside for years to come.
Emily's time of death was noted as 12:10, just past midnight. My mom was right.
*This post was prompted by The Woven Tale Press - midnight.