Note- The Girl on the Bridge is the other Garth Owen story I’m working on at the moment, first in a series called Adam and the Ghost. I wrote some time ago about how it was inspired by a manga called Itoshi No Kana. Other sources of inspiration include Buffy, of course, and I’m going to be investigating British beasties for some of the tales. Here’s the opening of the first tale-
The sky was still and blue and a heat haze distorted the tarmac of the bike path, but Adam had just walked through Arctic cold air. He had come to a stunned halt then taken a swift step back before the chill froze his joints. Now the hot, heavy air of a record heatwave raised a quick sweat and made it hard to breathe.
Adam reached out to touch the shaft of frigid air. His fingers tingled with freezer burn, but it only went print deep. He pushed, and imagined he felt a little give, like material, or even skin. The ends of his fingers were going numb from the cold, or whatever he was pressing was warming to his touch. He shoved the resisting air until he felt it give and move. He imagined he heard the scuffling of something moving along the ground.
The tips of Adam’s fingers stung now. He stared at them, as if that would give him an answer, then something stroked his forearm.
It wasn’t as cold as the invisible obstruction had been, but it still felt wrong. It was like being caressed by an insistent and very localised wind. The wind asked, very quietly, “Can you see me?” Then it grasped his right wrist. It was a light hold, and not as cold as previously. As what felt like the fingers and thumbs of two small hands held him they warmed up to almost skin temperature. Adam reached down with his left hand and drew his phone from his jeans pocket. With barely a glance at it and practised moves he opened the camera, held the phone in front of him and took a picture.
As soon as the phone made its fake shutter closing noise the grip on Adam’s wrist was released. He almost staggered back at this new shock, then reached out with his now free right hand to feel for the cold air. Which was no longer there.
Adam was on an old cast iron footbridge over a long abandoned, and recently re-purposed, railway cutting. He had set off on a wander to get a little lost on the South-east edge of Manchester. It hadn’t happened yet, he still knew this bit of Levenshulme, and now he was suffering from hallucinations because of heat stroke. He leant against the parapet, a tetanus nightmare of green paint held in place by rust, and looked around.
Below the bridge the cutting was overgrown, with one meandering hard packed path weaving between the would-be copses of willow. For this section of the path the tarmacked cycle path had risen to meet the end of the bridge and allow access to a mini wilderness beyond it.
Adam looked back at the street, running along the end of numerous terraces, he’d come from then at the trees and scrub on the far side of the bridge. He reached out and swung his hand back and forth. Nothing. He took a step forward and tried again. Still nothing. If anyone was watching he must look like the world’s worst mime. He gave up and headed back the way he had come.
It was only when he was off the bridge that Adam remembered his phone. He hadn’t known why taking a photo had suddenly become so important, and he didn’t expect it to reveal anything. He held the phone up and looked at it. And felt a chill deeper and more horrifying than any he had just experienced.