“I know you’re out there! You can lose the dry ice ’cause you won’t scare me!” Her footsteps, hesitant at first, actually gained confidence as she crossed my bridge.
Snapping my fingers, I called off the tendrils of sunset mist and revealed myself.
“Prithee, why am I, who have terrified men for centuries, not frightening?”
She snickered. “Nobody’s scared of the ‘Headless Horseman’ anymore. You need to update your style if you expect to scare anybody!”
“And if she does, will thee be frightened?”
“Once, as Katrina Von Tassel, I spurned kind Ichabod, who sought to warn me of his rival Brom’s brutal tempers. For my future murderer’s love, I donned this disguise and ran Ichabod off my family’s bridge. Attacking him, however, sealed my own fate. Brom threw my beheaded remains into this very river three years later.”
“Blah-blah-blah. Standard ‘bad guy’ rant. Look, if I play along, will you let me go? I’ll even close my eyes.” She grinned at me and stood on my bridge’s last plank.
I frowned. Will the next traveler laugh at me? Perhaps I do need the girl’s advice.
“First off, lose the horse, the gigantic straightjacket, and the fiery pumpkin thing. You look like Ghost Rider from my brother’s comics!”
I shrugged out of the heavy greatcoat I had donned so many centuries ago on the night of the party, the night my father pledged my hand to Brom in marriage. A slap on the rump sent my mount off into the night.
As I drew closer to my bridge, the shifting gravel path grew barren, revealing the vile false-stone underneath.
“Oh, and if you were sexy alive, I’d look that way again too. You sound like a man! Perfect-looking women are scarier ’cause they don’t look like they make mistakes.”
My dressing gown transmuted into the fine dress I had worn the day I died.
I glided through the deep shadows of my oak trees’ great-grandchildren, which did not quite reach to my bridge’s foundation.
“Oh, and look dead. That way, when you try to kill people, you look, well, experienced and stuff.”
Tucking my head under my left arm, I carefully stroked a few stray hairs back into their proper place. My dress moldered and sagged over my now bloated skin, making my days in the river plain.
Although my sweet alto was husky from centuries of disuse, I managed to breathe into the girl’s ear, “You may open your eyes. What do you think?”
Her jaw dropped as shudders wracked her. Smiling, I stroked her neck with my free hand’s fingers.
She screamed, staggering backwards towards the railing.
Given my last quarry had feared my mount’s hooves more than me, her shaking and gibbering were a pleasing change.
The old injunction prevented further pursuit, but her clumsy desperation to escape made it unnecessary.
She fought the river’s current below me, just like Ichabod once had.
Who would have guessed? Updating one’s style was important after all.
H. Earl Wilkinson writes in Akron, OH. Publications include Quantum Muse and Flashing Swords.