In this creepy curse story, a successful tech programmer makes a deadly mistake. Is an ancient curse the cause of his bad luck?
The smell of burnt rubber is suffocating. I rub my eyes, hoping that I will wake up, and find that that it was all a bad dream. The Range Rover losing control as I sped around a corner, the orange reflective vest of the cyclist crashing onto the hood and flipping over the open moonroof of the Range Rover. The screech of my tires, or was that the scream of the cyclist? Maybe both – the screams of the tires and cyclist merging together to wake me from my alcohol induced reverie of what it would feel like to buy my first mega yacht. A cool breeze blows in through the open window of the Range Rover, and sweeps away the smell of the burnt rubber. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and gather my thoughts.
How many drinks did I have at the bar? I bought everyone a round of shots, and John, my lawyer, had gotten me a beer. Would I fail a breathalyzer test?
This can’t be happening. The day before I am set to meet with the CEO of The Social Network to discuss contract terms for the sale of my startup. My entire life has led up to tomorrow’s meeting. Unimaginable wealth will soon be mine – and I’ve messed it up. There is no way that I can explain this away – the police will want to take me down to the station and draw blood, to see if I have been drinking. California has terribly strict DUI laws. I am ruined. Unless… Well, why the hell was this cyclist out on the road in the middle of the night!?! And a deserted country road like this! The cyclist was in the middle of the road, no way I could have stopped – NONE. This was their fault. I could have died, I’m lucky that I was able to save myself. Maybe the cyclist did this on purpose, maybe they were suicidal. I am the victim here. Yes, this was all their fault, I cannot, no, I WILL NOT let this stop me now. I have come too far to stop now.
I press the release of my seatbelt, open the door, and slowly step out of the Range Rover. The smell of burnt rubber is stronger outside of the car. I take a deep breath, and walk around the car. The cyclist looks young, probably still in college from the looks of her. I lightly nudge her with the tip of my leather boot, bought last summer in Italy. She does not respond as I nudge her again in the stomach. “Definitely dead.” I mutter to myself. I clench my teeth, and say aloud to the still body, “This was all your fault.”
Headlights appear over the hill, about five miles away. My eyes widen, my body frozen with fear. Without a second thought I bend over and grab onto the girl’s ankles, just above her black converse shoes, and drag the body off the road and into the woods below. I get about one hundred feet into the woods and then sprint back to get the bike. The truck is less than a mile away, high beams illuminating the road. Gasping for breath, I sprint off the road and throw her mangled bike as far as I can into the woods, and sprint back to my Range Rover.
The Range Rover is awash in the high beams of the truck, which is hidden behind the blinding light. My body tenses as I wonder whether they saw me dragging the body off the road. I call out to the driver, “Hey there buddy, would’ya cut the high beams.”
The vehicle’s lights switch off. My eyes take a moment to adjust to the darkness. I look up to see an old man step out of an even older pick-up truck. He must be a local farmer. He ignores me, and walks around my SUV, looking it over. He stops, looks at me and says, “That’s a nice ride you got there, kid.”
A wave a relief washes over me. I grin, and say “You bet, wanted one of these since I was in high school.”
The farmer is looking over my car again. He frowns, and bends over near the hood, and says “I’m guessing you hit a deer? You’re hoods all dented up, looks like there’s some blood on the bumper.”
I take two deep breaths, walk up to join him at the front of the car, and say “Yeah, the damn thing went clean over the car, got up, and ran off in the woods. Coulda killed me, but thankfully the brakes on this Range Rover are top of the line.”
The old farmer grunts in agreement, and looks of into the woods. I sneak a look down at the hood and see a tuft of long, brunette hair stuck in the grill under the hood. I move in-between the farmer and Range Rover, blocking his view of the hair.
The farmer gives me odd look, shrugs, and walks back towards his truck. He calls over his shoulder, “Looks like you’re good to go, kid. Stay safe.”
I cannot help but let out a muted sigh of relief, and then reply “Sure thing, thanks for stopping.”
The old farmer starts his pickup truck, and brings the truck even with me. He leans towards his passenger window, looks me dead in the eye, and says “Look kid, I can smell the Jack Daniels on your breath from ten feet away. I ain’t gonna call the police on you, but I recommend you take some time to sober up before you drive home – you could kill someone.” I nod, meet his gaze, and say, “Yes sir, I’ll have a friend come pick me up, you are absolutely right.”
The farmer puts his pickup into gear, and slowly pulls away. I’m about to turn back to my corvette, when I see a rusted shovel sitting in the back of the pickup. I quickly snatch it out of the pickup, and watch the truck roll away, high beams back on.
The moonlight finds its way through the treetops as I make my way back to the cyclist’s body. I drag her body another hundred feet into the forest, and begin to dig a shallow grave. I purposely left her lying face down in the dirt, so that I wouldn’t have to see her face. It makes it easier this way.
When the grave is about three feet deep, I hear a soft moan behind me. I hunch over and start digging faster, ignoring the soft gasping coming from the girl. I mutter under my breath, “This was all her fault, she could have killed me. No one is going to stop me from selling my company.”
The hole is almost four feet deep when I climb out of it. My hands, accustomed to typing on a keyboard, are raw and bleeding from using the old shovel. The girl’s breathing is soft, and ragged. I refuse to look at her, and tell myself that dead bodies normally make these kinds of noises soon after death. I roll her into the grave with my foot, and begin to shovel dirt on top of her. A soft, broken whisper comes out of the grave, “Stop, please – help me.”
I hum loudly, as I shovel dirt into the grave more quickly. I focus my thoughts on whether I will buy a Ferrari or Lamborghini after I sign the deal with The Social Network tomorrow.
The girl attempts to crawl out of the hole, feebly pushing the dirt off herself. Something inside me snaps. My face heats up, and my knuckles whiten as my hands grip the shovel. I raise the shovel high above my head and scream, “Why won’t you just stay dead?!”
The girl looks up at me with a sad expression, and her eyes lock onto mine. I look away, and swing the shovel down with all my strength. The rusted shovel slams into her forehead, and the girl crumples back into the shallow grave.
A curtain of darkness descends throughout the forest; the moonlight no longer shines through the treetops. It takes a minute for my eyes to adjust to the blackness of the forest. There is an eerie stillness that is broken only by the sound of my shovel digging into the soft earth. My stomach is knotted, and I can’t shake the feeling that I am being watched, that something has changed for the worse within the forest. A black raven swoops low over my head. I duck, feeling the beat of its wings inches above my head. I shovel a few more heaps of dirt into the grave. Her body is completely covered by dirt, only her face is visible. The raven swoops down over me again, and lands in the grave. I yell at it, trying to shoo it away, but the raven ignores me, and stares into the lifeless, unseeing eyes of the girl. I swing the shovel, but the raven flies away to the safety a tree limb far above me. I finish filling in the grave, run back to my Range Rover as quickly as possible, dragging the girl’s bike behind me.
I throw the girl’s bike into the back of the Range Rover, and speed off for home. The first thing I see when I wake up the next morning is an open bottle of Ambien lying on my bedside table. I look at my clock, and curse violently. I had slept through my alarm, and there are three missed calls from the biggest investor in my company. I jump out of bed, and almost fall as I am blinded by a splitting headache. I mutter to myself, “How much did I drink last night?” as I rub my temples. My phone, still lying on the bedside table, begins to ring again. It is my lawyer. Today of all days, my entire life has been in preparation for this day, and I go and shoot myself in the foot by getting drunk at the bar last night. The phone stops ringing, and minutes later it beeps, telling me that there is a new voice mail. I ignore it, leave the phone on the table, and stumble down to the kitchen, trying to ignore my splitting headache.
A half empty bottle of Jack Daniels sits on my kitchen table. Why the hell did I come home and start drinking alone? I open the fridge, and drink orange juice straight out of the bottle, and head out to my garage.
The mangled bicycle is wedged into the trunk of the Range Rover. I groan as the memory of last night rushes back. The bumper and hood of the Range Rover are dented, there is a clump of long, brown hair stuck on the grill, and there looks to be a streak of blood going across the roof of the car. My head is pounding, the pain threatening to blind me.
My phone rings again, and I look at the clock to see that the meeting with The Social Network starts in thirty minutes, my management team is going to be pissed. There is no way that I can drive my SUV there, not with the bike still in the trunk, and the evidence of last night still on the hood. I can deal with this mess later, but first I need to get to this meeting as quickly as possible to that I can finalize the deal.
I walk back up to my room and swipe away the missed calls and voice mails, and request an Uber Black. Let my management team sweat. This is my startup. I had the initial idea, they would have nothing if it weren’t for me. Timothy, my largest investor, is a moron that inherited all his money from his Daddy. He thinks he owns me since he funded my startup when it was small, but he doesn’t know what I am capable of. I’ve earned everything I have in this life, and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect that.
A black Mercedes pulls up in front of my house. I step out of my house and walk towards the waiting Uber Black driver as I pop a stick of gum into my mouth.
The Social Network’s headquarters lay nestled in the lush green hills of Northern California, on the outskirts of San Francisco. I pull up in my Uber Black, ten minutes late, and prepare for my grand entrance.
The lobby to the building is empty except for a middle-aged secretary sitting at the front desk. I tap my fingers on the counter while waiting for her to tell me where they were meeting. A few minutes later a young intern scurries from behind a closed door and rushes up to meet me. My face reddens. The CEO should have met me in the lobby, and where the hell is my team? I am the lifeblood of this startup; without me they are nothing.
The young intern looks at me, rolls his eyes, and says, “Ya know, you’re a half hour late, they already started up there. I’d hurry up if I were you.”
I stop dead in my tracks, and narrow my eyes at the smug, pimply faced intern. I say to him through clenched teeth, “What do you mean, they started already? On whose authority?”
The intern frowns, and begins to turn, but I grab his arm, digging my fingers into his skinny arm. “Do you know who I am, I asked you a question.”
A loud, booming voice echoes down the hall, “Gentlemen, is there a problem?” I loosen my grip, and look up to see Timothy standing in front of the conference room.
Timothy begins to walk towards us with visible irritation. I let go of the intern, pat him on the shoulder, turn to Timothy and say, “Just sharing a little career advice with this intern here. How ya doing Tim – you guys already start in there?”
I do not give Timothy a chance to answer, and walk into the conference room. The meeting has indeed already started. Jake, who is my lawyer and Timothy’s best friend, is at the front of the room giving an overview of what my startup does. I stand at the door, waiting to be acknowledged, but Jake ignores me and continues with his presentation.
I smile at those sitting at the conference table, and give a nod to Chris Markener, the CEO and founder of the Social Network. He looks at me, and turns his attention back to Jake. My hands tremble, and I can feel my face turning pink from the disrespect shown by Markener. I stuff my hands in my pockets, and pretend to turn my attention to Jake, all the while thinking about how I am going to start a bigger and better company once I have Marker’s money. I will use that money to make another startup without greedy Timothy or conniving Jake.
Someone standing next to me clears their throat. I snap out of my daydream to find the entire room is staring at me. Jake smiles to the group, and says, “and he’s also a space cadet.” The room breaks out in laughter, even Chris Markener cracks a smile. I grind my teeth as I try to keep my cool. Jake is messing with the wrong guy – I might have to teach him a lesson, so that he knows who is in charge.
Jake motions for me to come to the front of the conference room, hands me a laser pointer, and whispers to me, “Just read from the slides and we got this.” I smirk at him and drop the laser pointer on the table. I can see Timothy standing in the back of the room, motioning for me to read from the slides. I shake my head, and smile, and say to the room, “I am the creator of the single biggest threat to your company, but my associates have convinced me to come here to give you the chance to buy me out. For the right price, you can buy my photo sharing app that has over two hundred million users for the small price of five billion dollars. That is only $10 per user, which-”
The door to the conference room swings open, and a girl in ragged, torn clothing walks into the room, and stands behind Chris Markener. I pause mid-sentence, and try to regather my thoughts. Probably another punk intern that thinks they are God’s gift to San Francisco just because they got a summer internship at The Social Network.
The girl walks around the table, and sits down in front of me. I can feel the blood rush out of my face, as I recognize her as the cyclist from last night. Her skin is pale and blotchy, and clumps of dirt cling to her hair. Her dead, unblinking eyes bore into me, and she motions for me to continue. I blink, look around the room, and see that all attention is still on me, no one else seems to have noticed the dead girl that just barged in. The girl tilts her head to the side. I see that part of her forehead is caved in, where I had hit her with the shovel. I take a step backwards, and then another, until my back is up against the wall.
Timothy clears his throat from the back of the room, and motions for me to wrap up my presentation. I nod, and mumble a thanks to everyone and quickly walk towards the door. An ice-cold hand grabs my arm before I have taken two steps. Her hand is terribly, painfully cold, and she begins to squeeze my arm with inhuman strength. The pain is unbearable. I lash out and push her as hard as I can. She falls backwards, and lays on the ground smiling up at me.
Jake grabs me by the shoulders, shaking me, and whispers “Shake out of it man, what is wrong with you, are you on drugs?”
I look to see the entire room staring at me, some look frightened, others confused. I point back down at the ground, but find that the girl is gone, and is nowhere to be found in the room. I look around confusedly and say, “I.. Uh.. She was just..”
The door the conference room opens slams open, and an annoyed Chris Markener is exchanging words with Timothy in a hushed tone. Neither look happy. I begin to walk towards them, I can fix this, but Timothy puts his hands up, and motions for me to stay where I am. Markener turns to the room, and announces, “The deal is off, thank you to everyone for making time in your busy schedules for this meeting. It is unfortunate that we were unable to close this deal.” He leaves the room without looking at me.
The room empties, while I stand in the corner of the room, stunned.
Timothy and Jake stand by the door staring at me. Jake pulls a binder out of his suitcase, and walked towards me. He hands the binder to me and said, “This is a copy of the original funding agreement you signed with Mr. Timothy Charles III. Please turn to Section II Subpart E.”
The headache was coming back, the sharp splitting headache that felt like my skull was being split apart at the base of my neck. I accept the binder, and pretend to read the section, but the pain in my head is blinding.
Jake continues, “As you can see in the original contract you signed, Timothy’s holding company, Angel Investments, has the option to buy out your stake in the startup, if extenuating circumstances allow. We consider your current condition to be an extenuating circumstance as defined in the-”
Timothy raises his hand to silence Jake and says, “Jake, enough with the legal nonsense.” Timothy turns to me and says, “Look, buddy, you did a great job getting this company started, but you need professional help. You’re not yourself right now, and the stakes are too high for us to let you screw this up.”
My head feels as though it is on fire. I look out the window, and see a raven sitting just outside the window looking at me. I point at them, and say urgently, “Look, you see them, I know you can see them.”
Timothy and Jake look out the window, and then at one another. Timothy frowns and says, “Uh, yea, man. It’s a bird.”
I take a step towards the window, and say, “No, no you don’t understand. It’s all connected. They’re the cause of all of this. Them and the girl.”
Timothy whispers something that sounded like call security, and turns to me and says gently, “Have a seat, bud.”
I smile, no, more like bare my teeth, and say “You’re in on this too, trying to steal my startup from me. I know it,” and sprint out of the building.
I run for a mile, before calming down. Maybe Timothy and Jake are right, maybe I am seeing things. I have heard that too much stress can cause hallucinations and paranoia. I call an Uber Black back home. Twenty-four hours ago, I was on top of the world. I need to rest, collect my thoughts, and approach this rationally.
The Uber Black drops me off at my doorstep, and I begin to regain confidence, and formulate a plan. I am still owner, on paper, of my company. Yes, Timothy and Jake might be able to take complete control, but only after a lengthy court battle. More likely, they’ll try to sell the company, and I’ll get a large payout. First things first though, I need to get rid of that goddamn bicycle, and clean up my Range Rover.
I head into the garage, and am terrified to discover that the dead girl’s bike is gone. There is absolutely no way that anyone got into my house without setting off my state-of-the-art home security system. It had to have been Timothy and Jake. Or was it the dead girl? I’m either losing my mind, or someone knows that I am a murderer. I need to get back to the scene of the crash, to check her grave. If her body is there, then I need to permanently dispose of it. If her body is not there, then I need to get out of the country as quickly as possible. I throw a shovel into the trunk of my Range Rover, and race to the spot where the I had buried the body of the cyclist. I park the Range Rover on the side of the road, and hike through the forest to the spot where I had buried her body.
The twisted bicycle is laying above the recently disturbed grave. “Timothy, Jake, where the hell are you. Let’s talk about this,” I yell, my headache beginning to worsen again.
Those two are trying to drive me insane, they must have followed me home from the bar last night. There is no way that this dead girl dug her way out of the grave, followed me to my meeting with The Social Network, went to my house, stole the bike, then came back here and buried herself again.
I walk towards the bike, intent on getting rid of the only evidence connecting me to this fiasco. I bend down to pick up the bike but am interrupted by a flutter above my head. I look up to discover that dozens, no, hundreds of ravens line the tree limbs above my head. Hundreds of black, beady eyes peer down at me from their perches.
“I’m seeing things. This isn’t real.” I say aloud. The nearest raven tilts its head at me, and then launches itself off the tree limb and dives towards me. I scream, drop the bicycle, and quickly pick up the shovel. I swing it as hard as I can, but miss. The raven’s beak digs into my hand, ripping out a small piece of my skin.
Two more ravens dive towards me, I kill one with the shovel, but the other bird dodges the shovel and digs its razor-sharp beak into my cheek. Its needle-like talons dig into my neck, as it continues to drill its beak down. I scream, and rip it off me, its talons slicing through my neck as I pull it away. I turn to sprint back towards my Range Rover, but feel an icy hand latch onto my ankle. I look down to find a pale hand wrapped around my ankle, rising from the grave beneath me. I scream again, this time shrilly, and try to pry the hand away with a shovel. To my horror, the dead girl’s second hand emerges from the earth and takes hold of my other ankle. I look up just in time to watch as the sunlight is blotted out by hundreds of ravens launching themselves into the air. My terror is animalistic, I break free of the dead girl’s grip, and sprint towards the Range Rover. Ravens swoop overhead, tearing bits of clothing, hair and flesh off as I sprint towards the road. I am being eaten alive, and the pain is excruciating.
Blood flows down my face, and my hands are raw, this is what is feels like to be flayed alive. Inch by inch I am being skinned alive. My vehicle appears on the road, and I urge myself to run faster. I’ll be safe inside my Range Rover. A raven latches its talons onto the side of my face, and its beak burrows into my right eye. I white-hot pain causes me to stumble, but I regain my footing and rip the raven off, letting out a hysterical laugh as I attempt to protect my remaining eye. I reach the Range Rover, and jump in. Two ravens make it into the car with me, and I kill both. I pass out in my vehicle from combination of pure exhaustion and blood loss.
I wake up days later in a hospital bed, with the majority of my body covered in bandages. I move to get up, but find that both of my arms are handcuffed to the bed. A nurse attending to me in the room calls out into the hall, “Officer, the patient has woken up. I’m going to get the doctor.”
A police officer steps into the room, and begins to read me my rights, “You have the right to remain silent.” I curse and interrupt him, “What the hell’s going on here. Why am I chained to this bed, what the hell happened to me?” The officer looks at me, and continues to read me the Miranda rights. He finishes reading, and then steps back to the door as a doctor walks in, quickly followed by Timothy and Jake.
The doctor tells me, “Son, you’ve been arrested on suspicion of murdering a bicyclist that disappeared a few days ago. As your doctor, I am here to make sure that you heal from whatever happened to you out there. We believe that you had a psychotic breakdown, possibly caused by abuse of Ambien. A hiker found you wandering around the woods in a delirious state. You appeared to have gotten yourself stuck in a thicket of brambles. We removed a thorn from your eye, your vision should return to that eye within a couple weeks. Once you’ve healed, you’re in the hands of the California system of justice.”
The doctor quickly leaves the room, and Jake steps forward, and says, “As Timothy’s attorney, I hereby inform you that you no longer have any ownership stake in our company, per section IV of California state law. Good bye, it was nice working with you. We truly hope you seek forgiveness for what you have done.”
I let out a primal scream, and lunge at Timothy and Jake. If I’m going to hell, then I will make sure that they join me. The nurse, police officer, and two orderlies rush in and inject me with a tranquilizer. As the sedative takes hold and I drift to sleep, I see the dead girl standing in the corner of my hospital room, smiling at me.