This one is based on a snippet of nothing I came up with a few years ago, about a town sunk into a swamp and a painter by the name of Tenebre. The town – and its inhabitants – have been mentioned or appeared in several of my stories, most notably “Night Falls on Tenebre” and “Tenebre Dark”. One day I might revisit Tenebre and its cursed inhabitants (I had an idea for a horror novel set there), but probably not anytime soon.
The bridge to Tenebre is still there, even if Tenebre ain’t. It’s covered in kudzu and eaten through by termites, but it still spans the Saxon River. What’s left might last a week or a hundred years. Probably somewhere in between.
No one crosses the river where the bridge sits nowadays, not after old Tenebre was flooded by the county to make way for the new reservoir, and new Tenebre…vanished. Or mostly did. Some folks blame the flood of ’68, when the Saxon swelled so black and deep that the birds drowned and the fish learned to fly. And it’s true enough. New Tenebre had been built at the water’s edge – too close, according to those who knew about such things – and when the flood hit, it was first in line after the new reservoir cracked wide open.
But other folks know better. Those folks who lived closest to old Tenebre, and knew what went on there, beneath the dark oaks. There was a sickness, they said. A deep, abiding rot that hid in the marrow of every man, woman and child in that place. A sickness that claimed them one by one, until only a pitiful few were left to vanish when the county moved them on.
There’s only a few houses from the new town left on that muddy shore opposite the remnants of the reservoir, but no one knows what’s in them. There’s no reason to go.
Too dangerous to go, really.
There are still things in Tenebre, folks whisper. Not people. Not anymore. Maybe they never were. Regardless, most folks know the water keeps them things back, keeps them contained. But the bridge…well, that’s a sticking point.
Bridges, y’see, are invitations. And them things that live in Tenebre, they wait for invitations. So the bridge was left to rot. A dead bridge is a failed invitation. A hand half-extended. There’s a way these things work, and a way they don’t, and everyone, alive or dead, knows it.
So the bridge sits and rots and on the other side among the low-hanging trees that hide the empty houses of Tenebre, things wait. And watch. They watch the bridge. Sooner or later, someone will make that invitation again.
Some people can’t leave well enough alone.