Below Bars | By: Brian Cross | | Category: Short Story - Adventure Bookmark and Share

Below Bars

                     The Betty McCloud Collection

                              Below Bars

     The pretty, five foot three inch teacher flexed her muscles, placing an elbow on the desk. ‘If you really think you’re up to it Dolly.’

     The bully stared down, hatred in her eyes. ‘I can take you anytime.’

     ‘Then be my guest.’ Betty raised her hand and smiled sweetly as Dolly clenched it, then watched as she strained and grunted, slowly exerting her strength until Dolly reddened and panted, plainly out-muscled.

     ‘Best of three?’ Betty asked, casually flicking her shoulder length, dark curly hair.

     But Dolly was having none of it as she stomped away, furious at being beaten out of sight and already planning her revenge.

     ‘Show us your muscles Miss.’ Debbie Langton stood applauding and causing her classmates to do likewise. Betty duly obliged by raking her fingers in her hair, causing her arm muscles to ripple like waves in an ocean, pushing through the sleeves of her red cardigan.

     ‘I’ll tell you the truth,’ she said confidentially, glancing as Dolly flew out slamming the door, ‘it was my weaker arm.’

     Debbie’s admiring smile faded. ‘Be careful Miss, she won’t leave it at that you know. You’ve made her look daft; she’ll try to find a way back at you.’

     ‘I’d best be on my guard,’ Betty acknowledged thoughtfully, ‘but if anyone needed putting in her place it was Dolly.’

     Debbie watched her schoolteacher march quietly out; when she was forty odd she’d be proud to be in the same condition as Miss McCloud. She was stocky but in great shape, terrific boobs and all. But she was known as “muscles McCloud” for good reason; she’d heard it said she could lift five times her weight, it sounded incredible but knowing Miss, Debbie didn’t doubt it. Fancy bone headed Dolly Bamber having the temerity to challenge her – well she’d paid with her ego, but all the same Dolly Bamber had friends and Miss McCloud would do well to watch her back.

     Betty slipped on her jacket and took her customary woodland walk home, through a narrow clearing cutting between dense oak, elm and birch, their leaves dropping slowly with the fall, creating a multi-coloured carpet of red, amber and green. It was a barely used trail as reflected by the undergrowth.

    The few who used the route did so cautiously, stories abounded about perverts who lay in wait, hidden by the terrain. But such tales held no fear for Betty, she would dispense with any aggressor by hurling them against the nearest stout oak trunk, and there were plenty to choose from.

     Further into the woods there was a small clearing, created when a snarling gale had brought down a huge oak leaving a seven foot hollow below ground. A rusting metal grate protected the public from a nasty fall but today the volume of leaves covered it completely.

     Entering the clearing Betty cocked her head at the sound rustling leaves behind; a sudden squall she supposed, though the weather had been bright, calm and still.

     Before she could turn shouts broke out, taunts of ‘bitch, cow,’ hit her ears and before she could respond a shove in the back sent her slithering feet first through the soggy leaves, and then the sensation of tumbling, of falling down a shaft, though with horror rising from the pit of her stomach Betty realised what she’d really fallen through – the hollow with its grid removed.

     She’d landed on her side in the small, confined space at the bottom, a faint numbness in her left leg, but what concerned her was the thunderous rumbling of the grid being replaced and three leering adolescent faces staring between the thick metal bars.

     ‘Take that bitch!’ Dolly Bamber snarled, ‘Now who’s got mud on her face, eh?’

     Betty rose unsteadily to her feet, hands placed against the cavity sides, ‘Get me out of here or I’ll…’

     ‘Or you’ll do what bitch?’

     Betty stared at the three faces defiantly, though she knew there was nothing she could do. She cursed herself for being so casual, for not considering the possibility of being taken from behind. She heard a crash as a foot struck the side of the grid, ‘Rot in hell, bitch!’

     Then silence as she struggled to breathe in the suffocating still air which reeked of dank earth, but with slow deep breaths she composed herself. Someone would find her, she had a supreme physique and along with it the endurance to last out as long as it took, until help came and then she’d –

     But be real – even she couldn’t last long in this hell below earth, the air reaching her lungs was stale and scarce, her massive strength would slowly ebb away until –

     She couldn’t let that happen, it wasn’t her way. If she could only reach the grid she could remove it, but at five foot three and standing in a hole at least seven foot deep how could she do that?

     The hollow was narrow, she had barely two foot width either side of her. Betty’s only weapons were her arms and legs but even she hadn’t enough power to transform the inside of the pit, though at least she could try to blast enough footholds to enable her to reach the grid. It was the only thing she could do apart from sit resigned to her fate.

     She blasted away in what little light there was, until it faded into total darkness whereupon she sank to the floor, hands clasped around her knees, rocking to and fro until her mind matched the darkness of the hollow.

              *                *                *

      Debbie had felt uneasy the moment she’d witnessed Dolly Bamber’s humiliation; Dolly just wouldn’t be able to live it down without some kind of backhand retribution – and the absence of Miss McCloud the following morning had increased her concern threefold.

     Dolly Bamber noticeably had re-assumed her normal boisterous, disruptive behaviour in league with her two cronies, seeming to delight in Miss McCloud’s absence, and the devious look given as Debbie glanced over in her direction confirmed something was cooking.

     But what?

     Debbie took a coffee at break, and as she did so a hand clasped like a claw on her shoulder. She shuddered as she felt Dolly’s hot breath in her ear, ‘Where’s your little schoolteacher friend today then? Feeling lonely are we?’

     ‘Shove off.’ Debbie backed away, beyond reach of Dolly’s heavy hand and headed across the yard in the direction of Miss Strode, the stand-in teacher.

     Where was Miss McCloud? She asked. The stand-in didn’t know – only that she hadn’t reported in, presumably she was sick.

     But Miss McCloud was never sick, and Debbie’s fears intensified. She could feel Dolly’s eyes like hot coals on her back and when she turned Debbie was standing there with that same stare.

     She knew what was ailing Miss McCloud and Debbie was intent on finding out what it was, though she needed to be careful. Dolly was alert to her suspicions.

    So she faked illness late that afternoon, thirty minutes before school ended. A quick look at Dolly showed she’d been taken by surprise, but there was little she could do other than follow with watchful eyes as Debbie headed out the door, bound for Miss McCloud’s house.

                *                *               *

     Betty forced her eyes open, a faint grey light overhead told her it was dawn. Her legs ached from being confined in the narrow space and her knees groaned as he got up.

     It was total misery but she couldn’t allow herself to dwell on that; she’d regulated her breathing and overcome the initial effects of confinement. She’d forced several deep indents into the solid earth by fist and foot but it wasn’t enough and now her knuckles were red raw. Moreover, there was no possibility of being able to create footholds higher up.

     Her greatest, her only weapon was going to be her stamina, her ability to outlast the crisis. But in a dismal, dingy hole any help seemed to be light years away.

               *              *             *

     Although it cut time, Debbie hardly ever took the woodland route that Miss McCloud frequently trod, on her way home. She supposed the only reason she did so now lay in concern for her teacher.

     The wind had risen a little during the day and a colourful array of leaves swept up from the ground to intermingle with those that were falling. She trod cautiously with regular glances back, half expecting Dolly to have sneaked out in pursuit, but the way behind was clear.

     She came to a clearing, recalling a concealed hollow covered by an iron grid, only today the grid wasn’t visible; it was covered in foliage so she needed to be careful lest she tripped. But the rising wind seemed to be clearing a way through for her and swatting flying leaves clear of her eyes she now saw the grid, partially exposed. She noticed it wasn’t properly centred, that someone brave or foolhardy enough to pass through the woods might hurt themselves.

     Debbie tried to shift the grid with her foot but it was heavy, so she reached down to use her arms –

     And then she heard the voice from below –

     ‘Debbie, Debbie it’s me, Miss McCloud…’

     Debbie swept the remaining leaves away, looked between the thick iron bars of the grid and in the faint light made out the dishevelled shape of her favourite teacher –

     ‘A rope Debbie – I need a rope.’ Miss McCloud’s voice came through, crisp and calm despite her predicament.

     ‘What? Where from?’ Debbie shouted down.

     ‘My garage, the rope is hanging on the wall – here –‘ Betty felt in her pocket for the keys – damn – nothing, they must have dropped out in the rough and tumble. She scraped furiously around in the dirt, cursing, finally running her hand blindly over them.

     ‘Catch,’ she tossed them through the grid at her first attempt, ‘it’s the small key you want, now go…’

     Debbie rushed as quickly as she could through the remainder of the wood and in a few minutes it had fanned out to reveal Miss McCloud’s bungalow, one of several dotted around the woodland perimeter.

     She unlocked the garage and heaved the rope down, it was heavy and she struggled along with it looped over her shoulder, thinking she’d soon develop muscles like Miss McCloud.

     Panting, Debbie arrived back at the hole to find Miss McCloud waiting eagerly, ‘Good,’ she called up, ‘now loop the rope around the grid and tighten it as firmly as you can – it needs to take my weight.’

     Debbie scrambled to her knees, tightened it around the grid with all her might and then dropped the tail through, turning in alarm as familiar voices came ringing on the wind. Dolly’s trio were on their way.

     Betty grasped the rope with both hands, tested it then began winding her way up, working the sides with her legs for support.

     A couple of foot below the grid she stopped, steadied herself. ‘Miss, I won’t be able to move the thing,’ Debbie declared, her head shaking frantically, ‘it’s too heavy for me.’

     ‘You won’t need to Debbie,’ Betty said calmly, ‘just stand well clear.’

     Debbie watched open mouthed as Betty exerted all her power, and with creaking, screeching and groaning the rusting central bars of the grid contorted outwards, leaving enough gap for Betty to swing feet first through it.

     She sprang to her feet, tapped Debbie on the shoulder, ‘Thanks.’

   ‘Me?’ Debbie uttered in amazement. ‘All I did was to get the rope and tie it, but you were incredible, I’ve never seen such strength.’ She shook her head, diverted from the sound of approaching company by Betty’s feat.

     Betty nodded, her eyes on the clearing. ‘Well it wasn’t strength Debbie, perhaps a little, but age took its toll on the grid chiefly – now if that’s who I think it is I’ve a little surprise in store for them. Stand back.’

     Collecting the grid she’d mangled, Betty guided Debbie a yard or two into the undergrowth, while as expected Dolly and her two cronies ran towards the hole to inspect their handiwork.

     By the time they’d realised the grid had been removed it was too late, Betty sprang into the clearing ignoring the complaints from her stiff legs, before grabbing and hoisting the thirteen stone Dolly in one arm and a skinnier companion with the other.

     Debbie watched, marvelling at the athleticism and power of a woman old enough to be her mother, as dangling the screaming girls above the hole she dropped them carefully through – Dolly first, then her mate.

     Betty turned to the third, who prepared to run until Debbie blocked her path. ‘Thanks Debbie,’ Betty said, ‘I’m getting too old to chase after her.’ She raised the third as if she were gathering a paper bag, depositing the struggling girl onto her mates and then stood over the dark void, watching the three figures writhe.

     ‘Oh my,’ Betty said quietly, a glint in her eye, ‘it seems the tables have been well and truly turned.’ Ignoring the shouts for help she swung to Debbie, ‘Come on, I feel peckish all of a sudden.

     Debbie frowned, ‘Miss. You can’t just leave them there, you’ll get into trouble.’

     ‘Oh, more trouble?’ Betty ran a palm across her grimy face in mock horror. ‘Yuck, I need a shower. That’s it – a shower, a meal in that order and then I’ll think about pulling them out.’

     Betty dangled the rope above the hole teasingly before snatching it away. She leaned her head into the darkness, ‘See you later.’










Click Here for more stories by Brian Cross