Shuddersome Shorts

Tales of Suspense and Terror


The second of four brief little musings -- variations on a theme. Namely: a ring that grants the user one very special wish.
And this week, a sinister get rich quick scheme promises wealth beyond imagining -- but watch that first step, it's a looloo, heh heh...


The Ring Quartet:
"Taking the Falls"


By "Terrible" Talbot Pratt

Chris Derek perched like a gargoyle on the railing of the Rainbow Bridge. Behind him, the white froth of the Niagara Falls rumbled like an avalanche. While below, the swift, turbulent waters of the Niagara leapt and swirled in eager anticipation. He slipped the ruby ring off his finger and held it up to the moon.

“Well, baby, it’s all up to you now,” he said aloud. “You’re the one who decides the game. Cash and comfort, or a long swan dive into oblivion.”

He held his breath as if half expecting a response from the glittering jewel.

“So, what’s it to be, baby? The man said you were magic. Said you could give me a ‘body exchange’. Tell you, I sure hope he wasn’t giving me a load of Mexican mumbo-jumbo. ‘Body exchange’ -- hard to swallow. But, who knows, eh? I didn’t used to believe in magic either. But we change, baby. The world makes us learn. I’ve read the books. Tried the spells. Used the evil eye. So why shouldn’t I go for the big one? ‘Body exchange’…”

He gently eased himself into a more comfortable position.

“Oh, I know maybe it seems a little low. After all, that rich dude doesn’t even know me. But maybe that just makes it better. I’d be pretty dirty to do this to a friend, eh? Besides, he won’t even know what happened. He’ll just find himself in mid-dive and then… Anyway, he’s lived hasn’t he? A lot more than yours truly. Rich dude, all alone in his rich house, with his rich dog. Probably has his ice cubes imported. And travel? Probably been around the world five times. Me, I made it to Mexico and that’s it. So, why shouldn’t I get to live a bit? That big, fancy pad all to himself. I could probably run his place better than he can.”

He chuckled.

“I am going to run it better than he can.”

Slowly, carefully, he rose to his feet holding onto the railing with one hand, the other hand clutching the ring.

“Just hold the ring and say the name, the man had said, and if one body ‘perishes’, the switch is permanent. Well, perish you’re gonna, Mr. Slocum. Happy landings.”

Almost leisurely, Chris stepped off the bridge. End over end he tumbled still clutching the ring. The water looked incredibly distant, and he found himself almost mesmerized by the moon glow on its writhing surface. But he retained control and, over the wind which howled in his ears, he shouted, “Slocum!!!”

Momentarily, he felt an icy chill. He waited. Nothing happened. Again he shouted, “Slocum!!!” Still he continued to fall. Panic began to set in. What had gone wrong?! Why wasn’t it working?! He shouted again and again… It was a long way down.

“Lousy night,” said the police officer to his sergeant. “Had to pick a body out of the river. Some teenager named Derek decided living wasn’t worth the hassle. Jumped off the rainbow bridge. What a mess. Why the hell do they do that?”

“Who knows,” answered the sergeant. “Loneliness? Poverty? We can’t have it all.”

“Maybe,” mused the other. “Except, some rich guy took the plunge at about the same time. Guess even money can’t buy happiness.”

The End

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