This is a story that I have always liked, although I'm not sure why. I suppose I liked to have a good scare. This story is a real thriller. Found in Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, on pages 174-194 (with the conclusion found in the conversation of the neighborhood boys on pages 195-198), is The Ravine.
Francine has walked to Lavinia's house to pick her up for a movie. They are off next to pick up Helen, but first they have to cross the ravine. A neighbor calls out, asking where they're off to, what with the 'Lonely One' out on the loose. Francine tries to convince Lavinia to stay in for the night, but Lavinia laughs it off. "It's early. Lonely One won't be out till late." Lavinia is the only of the three women who lives on this side of the ravine, and is the only one who will have to walk home across the ravine, alone.
Unfortunately, as Lavinia and Francine cross the ravine on the way to town, they come across the body of Elizabeth Ramsell, who'd been missing. They talk to the police, and after the questioning, this has sealed it for Francine. She just wants to go home and bolt the door. But Lavinia persists. The movie will do them good, make them laugh, forget. So they go collect Helen and head to the theatre. Lavinia doesn't seem bothered at all. But then, after both Helen and Francine are dropped off after the movie, Lavinia still has to cross the ravine.
In the introduction to Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury says he used word-association to put out a story each day, adding characters to give it meaning and life. In an hour or two a story would be completed. Sometimes the ideas came from a memory. "I wanted to call back what the ravine was like, especially on those nights when walking home late across town, after seeing Lon Chaney's delicious fright The Phantom of the Opera, my brother Skip would run ahead and hide under the ravine-creek bridge like the Lonely One and leap out and grab me, shrieking, so I ran, fell, and ran again, gibbering all the way home. That was great stuff."
Bradbury continues, "Was there a Lonely One? There was, and that was his name. And he moved around at night in my home town when I was six years old and he frightened everyone and was never captured. Is the ravine real and deep and dark at night? It was, it is. I took my daughters there a few years back, fearful that the ravine might have gone shallow with time. I am relieved and happy to report that the ravine is deeper, darker, and more mysterious than ever. I would not, even now, go home through there after seeing The Phantom of the Opera."
A chilling tale, born from memories of Ray Bradbury, The Ravine is a good scare, one to get your heart pumping, your imagination flowing, and make you jump if someone interrupts you. The NPR radio broadcast is a great telling of this story, and is available to purchase on twilightzoneradio.com as an mp3 download.