A short story about a man chased by an unimaginable killer beast tries escaping by crossing an endless ancient wooden bridge. Will he escape the terror and survive the potentially hazardous bridge and its unknown horrors?
My foot trembled on the wooden bridge as I took my first step forward. Behind me was a path I could not take and forward was my only way of escape. Beneath lay my potential doom, I must move across this decrepit bridge held together by ancient rope tying together splintered wood fashioned across a vast canyon river.
The bridge shook and swayed with a single step forcing my arms to tightly grasp the roped railing but it did not fill me with confidence, on the contrary, I panicked and wanted badly to return. But the beast following would soon catch me if I did not cross this bridge to another land. The beast whose attention I caught a ways back. It howled and raged at my sight and chased me through thicket and shrubbery to this canyon that I now must cross. It tore trees apart, ripped bushes from its roots tossing them at me and bent trees to the earth to reach me but I steered through the trees inhibiting the beasts movement at every turn possible.
As I ran I was stopped and surprised by a bridge. A sign welcomed me, The Five-Minute Bridge to Another Land. Presuming it took five minutes to cross the bridge, for no other reason I understood its name. The letters were carved into the wooden sign and nailed to a tree near the bridge, with its roots jutting out of the canyon and down the cliff. The edges of the splintered sign pointed and spiked every which way. Another sign laid nearby as if thrown to the side in defiance, cross at your own peril. I ran to the bridge skidding before knocking rocks into the canyon. I watched the graceful plunge of the rocks, mentally counting the seconds they took to splash in the river below. In the river, I saw crocodiles, or were they alligators? I was not sure. But even with a moment’s look, I saw them devour another creature in the water. Blood spilled and diluted the river. I feared that might be me if I wasn’t careful on this creaky old bridge. I looked behind, the beast was not near but I could hear its growl and hissing from even here. It trembled my knees, it shook my spine, it bent my ears, I wanted nothing but to survive the beast that made such horrifying sounds. I took my first step on the wooden bridge fearing the shake and twisting from my lead foot. I must escape, but to do that I had to progress down this five-minute bridge to another land.
I took a second step and a third. The bridge shook. It swayed. Twisted. Turned. But soon the bridge adjusted, allowing my presence like an animal allowing flies to come and go as they pleased. I relaxed. I held to the roped railing and made my way across with the kind of patience I was taught as a child when I would rant and rave about not having my way. Relax my shoulders, angling them down to the ground and be silent and salient for I was a statue. I could hear the music. Calming music. That’s what my mother would teach me. Hear the music, relax your shoulders, angle them down to the ground, be silent, and salient for you are a statue. Hear the music. If only my mother was here now to soothe me and release me from this harm.
The end of the bridge, the other side of the canyon and across the river seemed as far as my eyes could see. I imagined the ropes and wooden floor reaching the other side of the canyon and being nailed into two posts with another sign saying, The Five-Minute Bridge to Another Land. I feared the stability of the bridge but not as much as I feared the wonder of the construction of such a magnificent mixture of planks and rope to connect lands together and I thought who could have built such a thing. Such dreamers could only conceive of building great things and only madmen could craft such wonders. Oh, I fear the men who dared to build this five-minute bridge. I feared greater the reason they may have built such a bridge was to escape the beast that followed suit.
Imagining such a scenario. Settlers arriving in this promised land to farm and house themselves only to be ripped to shreds by this beast and to escape they built this bridge to another land that the beast could not cross. But why would the beast not be able to cross you may ask? It was too big to cross this simple bridge. It could hardly hold myself, much less a great beast capable of devouring a party. Deepening myself down this rabbit hole of thought and wonder, I wondered what stairs down the canyon wall would be like and how steep would they go. They would probably twist and curve in such steepness that would require great strength to climb and descend. Why not a rope and carry system? Why not a great elevator? Oh because the water below and animals would wreck and feast upon any that descends to their turf. So we’re stuck with this five-minute bridge to escape the beast. The rippling fury of howls continued to pass through my ears like a train. I smelled the odor, the stench of hells smoke. It’s coming.
I felt decent about my forthwith journey onto this bridge but it still swayed with the wind when it came through, despite my foresight of the breeze and appeared stillness the bridge swayed like a child’s swing. Two minutes in an unimaginable horror occurred. A plank broke loose and my foot went with it but my hands gripped the rope as my knee buckled and I pulled myself back out. I feared for myself and much rathered to return, but the growl and hissing grew louder. I dared not turn around and imagine if I did I would not be able to see the beast, fog filled the canyon and the water below became a murky swamp and the further I went the less I saw and with the less came terrifying sounds heard only in my nightmares. Terrible, screeching sounds that woke me in the night, the types that forced me awake and running to my mother’s room only to be assured that it was simply a dream and there was nothing to be afraid of.
But on this bridge, there was something to be afraid of. Something cruel and sinister.
A bird flew by scaring me. The bird was white, but the top of its body and wings were black and red. Its beak was long and silver. Deceptively appearing as an angel but I feared it was a flying hell beast. I tried to shoo it off but it made rest on a plank ahead. I stopped. I needed a breath. “Shoo! Bird go away,” I said. But the bird remained stubborn and determined. “Shoo!” I held on to the ropes and shook the bridge but the bird remained. I started my way towards the bird that I did not know what kind it was. As I approached my suspicion grew correct, the beast widened its mouth revealing nails for teeth as it spat a reddish slush at me that I twisted the bridge around to avoid, but too far as I did the bridge turned upside down. I held on with both my arms wrapped around the ropes twisting the bridge back. The bird was gone. I looked around but the bird was nowhere. I feared it flew high above and would return. I was on guard. I walked on but time was passing and I never saw the end of the bridge. I forgot about that, I held on. I walked.
Glass scraped beneath me and a smell of smoke and ash encompassed my nostrils with such foulness it offended my senses and watery eyes. What horrors lay below to make such sounds and emit odors of offensiveness, I did not know but cared little to and so I quickened my haste across this five-minute bridge.
Moths and large insects flew across me that I swatted away but something about them, my arm hairs rose. An itch on my neck. A chill down my spine. The moths were fanged and thorned. I swatted them away with my coat, then wrapping it around my arms and head but the bridge swung around like school girls playing jump rope. The creatures—the murder moths— flew around me to attack but the bridge took the opportunity to shake me off. The animal was fed up with this pest on its back, demanding it be gone. Oh five-minute bridge, I shall leave you as soon as I can!
My watch face passed the time of five-minutes, it has been ten minutes! I felt I walked two Five-Minute Bridges and time told that to be true. Incoming fog blinded the end of my journey and I knew not how far I was along. I feared broken planks and the stinging moths. Their wings flapped and reverberated through my ears I knew not how but it was drumming, beating down the doors into my head. The sound behind me grew louder. I must hurry.
I hurried along thinking about that beast. Its head was dark and horned, and the legs of a bear but it was no such thing. It had no cuddly fur and no teddy-bear smile. It was a void with white glass eyes cutting my soul and encouraged me to sprint as it fed. Its hind legs were large and looming, built to push great objects with great strength. Its arms were built with noticeable muscles of unimaginable power. The ends of its arms and legs were silver claws like chefs knives made of fire-tempered iron filed to razor blade keenness. This beast was bred to torment and terrorize. Sweat poured down my body. I broke out with my knees rising higher than ever until I reached The Five-Minute Bridge. I stopped. I contemplated the bridge, the walk, the height, but between a fallen death and a mangled death, I chose the water below. I walked along the bridge but cheer and celebration filled the atmosphere. I paused.
Something below grabbed my foot and pulled it between the planks. The foul smell came first, a burnt meal followed by a dead skunk on the black tar pavement. Then a crash like a car flipping off the road into a tree. The sound of a sudden thump and a hard stop of the car flopping on the ground beneath the unmovable tree. My hands reached out grasping the rope but my leg went all the way through. My hands held tight pulling the rope down with my leg. I used my other leg lunging myself onto the bridge trusting the shaking and swaying of the bridge. I used the ropes to lunge myself up again freeing myself of whatever cracked through the planks to claim my leg and my body but it claimed my shoes.
I looked behind to see nothing, whatever it was that clawed and bled my leg was gone. Shoeless I must leave this bridge for the howling continued to follow. Ignoring the uneasiness of the wooden bridge, I held onto the ropes and jogged through the fog to escape. I ran.
The hissing increased. The growl intensified. I wanted to escape. I ran. I ran. I ran as fast as I could possibly run. Faster than I ever ran. My hands escaped the ropes and the bridge cooperated with my movement allowing itself to remain still as I ran with cheetah speed across the five-minute bridge. The sound blared like a tornado siren, like a fire alarm, with my head being beside the alarm. My hands desperately wanted to reach my ears to cover, to protect, but my elbows swung back and forth as I ran. I hurried gracefully like a bird of prey diving on its meal. Gusts of wind blew left, blew right, trying to blow me back. But it came from the horrifying moths that flew around me like I wasn’t moving at all. Like I was running on a treadmill. I cried, I wanted to escape but I had no say in the matter. I was stuck here with no way out. I fell.
I tripped over a broken plank. Catching myself on the ropes I swung the bridge around going upside down. I watched my sweat drip below. I imagined it landing in the water. I wondered if my fall into the water would kill me or if I’d be consumed by the alligators and hippos, being mauled and shredded between the two animals like a rope pull competition. I held on with my hands with a burning grip around the rope. My body held on with what might I had assisted with the will of my soul. I had to hold on or be consumed and feasted upon by the fog around and animals below. What horrors from the crisping and burnt ash below I desperately tried to avoid. I tightened my grip and swung the bridge back around. The bridge wanted to be right. It wanted to be normal again. It flattened and stalled straight. I thanked the bridge for its helpfulness. Burnt cigarettes filled the air with a howling horror following. The beast was nearing me, I wanted to escape so I picked myself up, wobbled along like a penguin and said to heck with the roped railing, the killer moths, the death below, and the coming beast, I ran away from all that and never looked back.
Hope came through the density.
The fog cleared, I was at the bridge’s end.
I closed my eyes, trusting in myself and I leaped.
A splat a second later and with a cough, I spat out dirt.
My hands laid across the gravel and dirt, I finally made it.
I survived the Five-Minute Bridge. Looking behind me there was nothing there. No sign of the beast and I was greeted with the smell of grilling hotdogs. I survived the Five-Minute Bridge. I survived.
The area turned and something moved across my body but I no longer had any fear. A chill in the air, a calm, a celebration, and a hissing sound followed by a clanking of plates and spurting out of steam. “Johnny, children, it’s been five-minutes and your lunch is up, let’s go eat and see the other zoo animals,” my mother said.
“Coming, mom.” I descended the stairs and ran to the picnic table. Pizza!