The Bridge

“It’s a U.F.O. I can’t believe it, I’ve seen my first U.F.O.” Behind him, four eyes rolled heavenwards, heads slowly turning in the direction which was indicated. Four rounded lights glistened in the distance, framed by the windows of a house. “It’s a house.” “It’s a UFO.” The argument continued for ten minutes.

The bridge swayed from side to side, unsteady above the freezing water. It shimmered in the darkness as the moonlight reflected upon the ice-coated wooden slats. Emi leaned back against the metallic bars, feeling the cold against the bare skin of her back. She exhaled, long and slow, watching the smoke gather before her face in twists and turns. Her eyes followed, trying to make out the shapes behind the smog. They looked ghostly. She closed her eyes and passed it on. Del took it, pursing his lips and making his eyes doe-shaped, face set in a come-hither manner. Del, they all called him Nina, it suited him better, took a long pull, and then let out a wheezy laugh. The laugh continued until Thea collected. Hands slipped out of a hooded jacket pocket, brought it to lips which were pale with cold, and perched it between them. She smiled, hearing the banter between the other two, not able to make sense of it at all.

There was a pause. Sitting in silence they watched the water ripple, move slowly, reflecting the light of the stars, the silhouetted trees and distant homesteads. They were comfortable in their silence, each in their own world. Del lifted the Smirnoff bottle to his lips, the vodka had been replaced with a cherry substance which made his lips so bright they looked as if they were bleeding. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the Caterpillar taking another pull, blowing the smoke into his face. He was talking in riddles, riddles that Del was straining to make out. “Can you repeat that?” The words that were spoken formed out of the smoke and swum in the air about his person. Del’s hands raised, he attempted to pluck each one out of the sky, attempting to make sense of them all. Once he had them all firmly in his grasp he realised what the Caterpillar was trying to tell him. Trying to tell him to let go. Del threw the smoke-words into the air and they tumbled into the water before his very eyes.

“This would be a perfect place to have sex.” Legs outstretched, barely long enough to reach across the entire width of the bridge. Emi touched the toes of her baby-doll shoes together, keeping her ankles apart. Distorted. She thought about the shadow-trees, and the slowly lightening skyline, and the bottle green lake which lay still beneath them. It would be a perfect place to share an intimate moment. The cold touched her skin and she imagined laying down on the floor, imagined feeling the ice slowly seeping through her clothes, or better yet, directly onto her body. She shivered, with cold, with excitement, and sighed. Inhaling, she could feel fingertips against her skin, a feathery touch, moving slowly. Exhaling, she could feel the warmth of breath trickling down her neck, over her shoulders, causing her to squirm. She whimpered, body numb.

Deep bottle-green mirrored the lake. Liquid sloshed within the bottle, and slowly touched Thea’s lips, warming them with the taste of whiskey. She swam in it, dizzy in her drunkenness. Thea breathed in and held it. After a heartbeat, she could feel her lungs burning, fiercely, but she did not let go. She held on until the last moment, the very last, then as she dived she opened her mouth once again. Half a leg above, half a leg below. To her waist. There was a torso, a face, arms, and they were all looking up at her beneath the surface. She could not find anything below the waist, no matter how she tried. Just her own legs. Who was this water-woman, distorted and swaying with the movement of the wind? Why was she staring so bemused, so lost? Thea let out her breath and opened her eyes. She sunk down to the floor of the bridge as the image of the water-woman was lost/faded.

Upon their knee’s they stared into each other’s eyes. His were bright, matching the tree’s in the sunshine, now lit up only by the artificial torchlight that shone upon their persons. Hers were dark, pools of nothingness, reflecting only his image back at him. They snarled, lips curling, glaring at each other, and then attacked. On the lunge, their was a cry, of laughter. Both bodies twisted together, slipping against the sodden ground. She was on top, he was below, he was on top, she was below. The bridge rocked with the raucous, nature waking to their animal calls. He howled and she echoed, a hyena chorus. In the distance birds twittered, sheep bleated, their space invaded by the dangerous predators who fought upon the bridge. Finally they broke apart, a cock crowing in the background as they panted. Faces were red, their breathing was laboured. They both grinned, and stared at the sky. They locked their fingers together, and held tight to each other.

“Slowly. Take it step by step. Part your lips. Raise it. Place it between them. Purse your lips. Suck. Suck it back. Swallow it back. Take it from between your lips. Then exhale.” Del followed with the actions. He moaned in ecstasy as he watched the smoke perform before his eyes. An Indian snake charmer, he hummed, and the smoke danced. First to the left, then to the right, raising, dissipating. “The boy who cries wolf will not be believed.” The Caterpillar broke through the silence. Dels eyes followed the Caterpillar’s as he finished speaking. He did not understand. The Caterpillar lifted the pipe to his lips, he put it between them, inhaled, took the pipe from his lips and parted them. The smoke rolled a tumult within his mouth, a tornado against his teeth and gums. Del mimicked the actions.

Emi’s heart was beating so fast she could hardly feel it. She lifted her hand and held it before her eyes. Moved her fingers, watching the patterns they made. Her hand felt heavy so she dropped it to her stomach, gasping as the touch seared her flesh. One finger trailed, side to side, slowly she slid it lower, raising her hips, gyrating at the stars. She closed her eyes. Emi could feel the hands moving over every part of her, heating her first internally, and then the external. She was floating on an ocean, hardly noting the rocking of the bridge, hardly noting the conversation around her. Someone blew over her stomach, blew over her breasts, blew upon her shoulders, blew over her lips. Another ran hands from her feet, to her thighs, between her legs, over her hips, probing and touching, teasing. Someone was biting, tasting each part of her, little teeth marks denting her skin, reddening the surface.

Her head broke the surface. She squeezed her eyes tightly, the cold water around her face and she could hear the blood in her ears.  Thea stretched forward her arms, and bought them down to her side, cutting – through the thick water. Though she had pushed away she had not moved, weighed down by an invisible force, being pulled to the bottom. Her eyes opened in alert, through the murky waters she could make out the shape of another. Was she sinking also? Pulled down by the undertow, unable to break the surface now she was under? “In all the darkness I feel like letting go.” Thea whispered a loud, though the words were unheard. She did not fight the sinking.  She did not attempt to break the surface again. She let go.

The packet crumpled within her fingers, Thea removed the last white button, pouting her lips at the fact. “Did anyone else play church with their buttons?” She parted her lips, stuck out her tongue a little and set the button on top of it, as if it were the host. Emi’s eye brow raised into a peak. “What?” Thea shrugged, “played church.” There was a pause, quite a long one, before Emi spoke again. “You’re fucking weird.” Three people collapsed in laughter, shaking their bodies against the bridge below them. None were composed for an awful long time. Finally, “I used to sing in the middle of the service. I wanted everyone to join in, thought that was how it worked.” Del this time. “Well it isn’t.” Again they laughed. Again it was Thea who broke this. “I used to play with my granddad, when I was little. We’d play for hours and hours.” Emi turned her head, gave Thea a questioning look. Why did this matter? Why was this relevant? “Do you believe in ghosts?”

“It’s getting longer.” “It appears to be getting longer.” “It is! Look, look!” The excitement edged his voice as he pushed forward, bending further and further attempting to look at the elongated object. His lips were close to the head of it. Before he touched it, his eyes shot up. “See!” He exclaimed, the grin on his face spread wide in a Chesire Cat fashion.  “You appear to be able to reach It.” “Because its gotten longer” The Catterpillar inhaled the smoke, waited a few moments, watching Del’s progress further and further, almost curled into a complete ball. His voice escaped in a slow, deliberate drawl. “Perhaps it has not grown at all. Perhaps you have become more flexible.” Del touched lips to head, and then nodded, reverting back to his sitting position, lopsided grin remaining. “Perhaps.”

Higher. The mountain was looming over her. Emi trudged on attempting to reach the top. Every few moments she’d stop, take in a laboured breath and reach out towards it, still not enough, still not quite there. The ice had already numbed her body, it was now starting to make it tingle. Her skin felt like it was alive, she’d gone from cold, and was now on fire. A finger tip touched to the snow around her. It melted on contact. She moaned, her head spinning. It must be the altitude. Higher and higher, just a little further, please, one last push. Emi rolled onto her stomach, squirmed back onto her back. She squeezed her legs together tightly. Her stomach felt heavy, her whole body felt heavy. But she pressed on, and finally she could see the top, finally she stood looking down. Exasperated. Moaning. Whimpering. She slowly began to descend from the mountain.

 

Beneath the water Thea opened her eyes. She could see the bubbles rising beneath her face in the murky waters. She was not drawing in breath, she no longer needed to breath. The slimy algae made trails over her skin. She felt numb. Slowly raising her hand before her face she saw the fingers connecting as gills, she could cut through the water easily. Before she knew it she was moving through the water like a fish. She turned, letting it soak her entire body, enjoying the new sensation. She had never felt so free, and unrestricted, exploring an entirely new world. The adrenaline running through a newly adapted system pushed her further, and further, until she cut through the surface, jumping the air and spinning through it, then sinking once again. Moving further and further away from the bridge.

“How do you see your life?” Emi enquired, once again upright and extending herself so she stretched across the width of the bridge. Drink against his lips, Del raised a half-shaved eyebrow. Deciding the question was not aimed at him, he took a long drink. Thea was the one who picked up on the question. “What do you mean?” She asked, mimicking Del’s drink by taking a swig of her own. Emi exhaled, closed her eyes and pondered how best to explain her enquiry. “I mean when you think about things you’ve done, or you’re doing, how do you see it?” Almost at once both answered. “Like a movie.” Thea. “Hazy.” Del. The two women grinned at Del’s response, they would have expected no less. Nearly everyone of Del’s memories were hazy, so it made sense. Thea decided to pick up the thread. “You know, I see myself doing stuff, with other people, and usually there’s a soundtrack.” She nodded as if to confirm her words. Del smirked. “You’re insane.” Emi nudged his side, which made him choke a little on the drink. She thought the same way, and refused to have it ridiculed. Deciding not to answer for herself, Emi moved on to her next enquiry. “What if you’re both a figment of my imagination?” Thea smiled. “Surely you can think up better figments?” Emi smiled back. She kind of hoped so too. Though as figments went…”It’s starting…”

With Thea’s exclamation the other two turned, and stood, to watch the sun rising over the hills of the mountain. It cast a strange silhouette over the land which made the tree’s look darker, scarier, and more romantic. All three held their breath. For Thea, who had seen many a sunrise like this, she was mesmerised with the expression upon her friends faces. Both had stopped, and both had an equally stupid and fascinated gaze. She did not think she had ever seen them so still, so peaceful, and so utterly bemused. Del was attempting to remember absolutely everything about this moment. He was seeing studying how orange the sky was as the sun rose, marking how it tainted the blue. He was watching the green of the fields slowly rising, trying to remember the exact shade. Was it; harlequin, emerald, or lime?  And for Emi, “It’s just like they say.” She had whispered the words, but even that whisper was enough to break through the reverie which had come over the group. “It’s what?” Thea inquired, Emi finally breaking contact with the sunrise. “Like they write.” Thea laughed “Well someone had to have seen it to write it.” She had not thought of that.

Finally, the sunrise finished, and everywhere was completely lit up. Emi picked her coat up from the floor, swinging it back around and slipping it over her shoulders, her arms inside. She grabbed the two bottles from the floor, and slipped them inside of her pockets, letting them ‘thunk’ to the bottom, weighing her down almost immediately. She palmed her torch, letting her finger slip over the button to switch off the beam, and then began to walk. Humming quietly to herself as she did so. She walked to the top of the hill, and there, she stretched out, taking one look back towards the bridge with a smile.