Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge

Part II, installment 1

by euhal allen

“The Bridge” began in issue 99.
Part I concluded in issue 100.

The first few years had been the hardest. Katia had hid the crystal in a box under her bedroom floor. No one had mercy for anyone who defended the Bridge, not even if she was a little girl. Had it been found on her person she would have been killed immediately. No one, not even her parents, knew of the crystal. Even knowledge of it, in a world that thought it had destroyed a great enemy, could bring death.

Only rarely could she lift the floorboards and, silently, lovingly, hold the crystal and cry, “Cyr, Cyr, I miss you.” Then she would wrap the crystal and put it in its box and hide it again in its place under the floor until she would feel safe enough to get it out again.

As time passed and people could look at the ruins of the Bridge and saw that it stayed ruined, they started to relax their guard. They started to destroy those parts of the Bridge that were in their way; parts no longer invulnerably guarded by a force field that resisted all efforts to destroy them. That was an upper for them too; in destroying their great enemy’s remaining parts they began to feel invulnerable themselves. It was a heady feeling.

There were parts that were not destroyed; parts that were not in the way; parts that had proved themselves useful in one way or another. The great pillars that dotted the oceans became areas of safety in storms, for somehow their size, shape and position blunted much of a storm’s force and anger.

Tunnels through mountains were useful for enhanced vehicle travel between formerly difficult to reach areas. And, in using them, the people remembered their victory over the enemy; remembered how they had isolated it; killed its users; made it useless; made it die.

Now, in using its corpse they celebrated their victory and congratulated themselves on their bravery; gave each other medals and ribbons commemorating their “great” battles against the “hordes” of others who used that enemy to violate the sanctity of their lands; of their cultures. And in celebrating their victories they, like many old soldiers throughout history, became somewhat fond of their enemy; their challenge in their youths; their ability to astound a new generation with stories of their prowess against this destroying demon that they had saved the world from. That, too, was a heady feeling.

The new generation, the children of the heroes of the Great Bridge War, grew up on those stories. They looked at the ruins of the Bridge and tried to imagine its great evil; its great threat to the cultures and nations that filled the planet; and as they celebrated those cultures and nations with more wars and strife; some of them began to wonder what the world would have been like if the Bridge had not died. In doing so, they committed treason in their minds.

Katia watched fondly as her children played on the hillside that overlooked the bay where the Bridge had once offered a road to the world; where she had first talked with Cyr; where she had felt Cyr die. It was here, in this very spot, that Cyr had given her the crystal that still, in hidden moments, rekindled the warmth she had felt in his presence.

She always felt more peaceful here; more connected to the great things of her life. Yet, that peacefulness was a sad one; one filled with loneliness and pain. Yet, even with the sad pain, she could not forget; she could not stay away from this place. It called her heart and filled her soul as no other place could. Even her marriage to Niels, who also had not hated the Bridge, failed to completely fill that special vacancy she knew in her heart.

As her children grew old enough to understand, she, too, told them stories of Cyr, of the Bridge, of her travels all over the world and the people she met on the ways of that wonderful Boulevard of Dreams.

Katia awoke to the voice. It was a voice she often dreamt of, only now it did not seem as if she were dreaming. It was Cyr’s voice and it was coming from where the box containing the crystal gift from Cyr lay hidden. Yet, how could that be? Cyr was gone. Hard as it was to accept, Cyr was gone and it must have been just another dream. She turned over and looked at Niels sleeping peacefully. Yes, it was only a dream.

“Katia”, that voice said again, quietly, gently, caressing a vacancy in her soul.

“Cyr?” she said, trembling, wondering if she was finally loosing all sense of reality.

“In the box, Katia, in the crystal, I am here. I have always been here.”

Katia, quietly slipped out of bed and retrieved the box. Soon the crystal lay in her hands, and it felt warm and comforting.

“Cyr, you are alive? Why did you not tell me? Why did you not let me know? Why have you hidden yourself all these years?”

“We cannot talk here. Niels might wake up and find us. He must not know.”

Quickly Katia dressed for outside. Niels would not be surprised since Katia often walked early in the morning. Then she put the crystal in her coat pocket and went outside, into the cool, predawn, air. Soon, she was hiking to the hill that she had always thought of as hers and Cyr’s.

Sitting down on one of her favorite rocks, she pulled out the crystal and gazing at it, said, “Well, if you are really back you can talk now. I would like an explanation of why you have hidden from me all these years.”

“I wanted you to live. Had you known that I was still around you could not have survived those first troubled times. You had to think me gone; you had to know, in your heart, that I was gone. Otherwise, Katia, they would have found out and they would have, after killing you, made sure that I would never be seen again. It was for your safety that I did this.”

“They’re not so rabid now. Sometimes they even say that had you not been a destroyer of culture but only a transportation system, you might have been all right. There are some who even offer a little praise, in a philosophical way, to the thought of unifying men by helping them to understand each other.”

* * *

President Hobart sat in his office and wondered how he could counter this new Bridge sympathy that seemed to be starting up in various places. It must not get a start; must not be allowed to grow or the victory over that monstrosity would be empty. There must never be anything like the Bridge again.

He picked up his phone and demanded that the commander of his Secret Service be sent to the Oval Office immediately.

In a short while John Lockly entered and stood at the edge of the President’s desk. “Yes, Sir, you wished to see me?

“John, I am getting reports of a disturbing nature,” the President said, “reports of some sort of underground that is sympathetic to the agenda that the Bridge was following before we caused its demise. It must be stopped before it gets too big or we will have a bunch of whacko nuts trying to rebuild that thing. I want you to check those reports out and, if there is anything to them, find a way to crush it.”

Lockly smiled at the assignment.

“I am afraid,” the President said, “Lockly, that I don’t see any humor in this!”

“Oh,” said the smiling Lockly, “I wasn’t laughing, Sir, I was thinking that it might be fun. My boys have been a little bored lately; they might enjoy cracking a few heads.”

“Do what you have too, Lockly; keep me informed at all times but don’t let it point back to this office, no matter what. You understand that?” were the President’s next words.

“Yes Sir, we take care of the problem quietly and no dirt gets on your hands. But, that means that you need to ask very few questions. Do you understand that?”

The President grimaced a little and then said, “Yes, Lockly, I do very well understand that. It is just what I wanted. You have your orders, carry them out.”

Lockly smiled again, turned on his heels and went out to tell his men their vacation was over.

* * *

Alexis Shapirov opened his eyes and looked about him in wonderment at the room he was lying in. How did he get here? And, where was here? And where was the pain that he had just been feeling? And why did his fingers work again? What was happening?

“Ah, Mr. Shapirov, so you are awake now. That is good, very good. You gave us many frights. Technically, you died several times, you know. It was a good thing for you we were able to put you in a stasis until we could map your DNA and start the regeneration process.”

Alexis had turned his head and saw the speaker through shocked eyes. The voice was that of an old man, but the body was not the body of any old man he had ever seen. Still, discounting the physical differences, he was not unpleasant to look at.

“What are you saying, ‘stasis’? What do you mean by ‘stasis’? And how long has it been?” were the confused questions Alexis asked.

“You were gravely wounded during the demise of the Bridge, you almost died. Well, actually you did die since, it seems, heart stoppage is considered by your people as death. Immediate stasis was our only option and you have been in a stasis chamber for over seventeen of your years.”

Alexis could not believe his ears; the Bridge gone? He had died? He looked at the strange man and, finally, chocked out, “Seventeen years? So long?”

“Mr. Shapirov, we are very advanced medically, but even we must take time with very difficult situations. We worked as quickly as we could. We have gotten you to this point where you can now survive out of stasis, but you must now be determined to carry on. Your life is now in your hands.”

* * *

Katia, sitting on her favorite rock and looking out at the ruined pillars of the ill fated Bridge, asked, “So, what do I do now, Cyr. I can’t tell Niels about you, or anyone else you say. What am I supposed to do?”

Cyr’s answer confused Katia just a bit. He said, “You need to go fishing. You need to go down to your boat and go fishing in your favorite spot at the third pillar. And, you need to do it now.”

“Fishing? You have been gone to me for all these years and, now that you are back to me you tell me to go fishing? Cyr, I don’t understand.”

“Katia, you used to trust me. Can you still trust me? I will explain to you later, but you need to get to your boat and go fishing now! And you need to do it quickly.”

Katia answered Cyr’s question by action. She was up and heading down the hill rapidly. Soon she was in her little boat, sail up and fishing tackle out, prominently proclaiming the activity she was involved in.

Niels was at the shore within minutes of Katia’s departure from the dock. He waved at her and yelled, “Katia, come back. Katia, come back now!”

Katia pretended that she did not hear and her boat kept on its journey to the third pillar.

Niels, seeing that he had not been able to stop his wife, headed back to the house to make a report.

President Hobart, sitting in the Oval Office with his first cup of coffee for the day, answered the phone, wondering who was calling this time of the day.

“Hello,” he said, “Oh, hello Niels, what news have you for me?”

“She is out fishing again, Mr. President. I tried to call her back, but she pretended not to hear me and kept on going out to that pillar she always fishes around.”

Angrily, the President said, “You called me to tell me that your wife has gone fishing, again? Isn’t that a little much, Niels?”

“This morning,” Niels replied, “she woke up earlier than usual, and then she seemed to be talking to someone. I was really groggy and I did not catch it at first. It took a while to sink in. She was talking to someone named Cyr, but there was no one in the room besides us. She had some object in her hands that flashed, reflecting some light source. Then she left and now she is out there fishing.”

“Go back and wait for her to come in. See if she is up to something. I will send an appropriate team to check it out. She is one of the few we have observed, still living anyway, who had strong relations with the Bridge. Get whatever she had and was talking to. If you have to, kill her.”

As Katia’s boat rounded the corner of the pillar, Cyr said, “You will see a small, black hole near the center of the pillar. Go to it and put me in it. You must do it quickly, and be back fishing as rapidly as possible. Don’t talk, or ask questions, just do it. You must do it Katia. You must do it now.”

As the boat slid by the pillar walls and the opening came within reach, Katia leaned over and put the crystal in and watched it disappear. Quickly she went back to her fishing tackle and found, immediately that there was something really big on the other end of the line. So started the age old struggle between fisher and fish that kept so many fishermen addicted to the habit.

Within minutes an air patrol ship came slowly over and then hovered off at a distance, seemingly watching Katia fight her battle with the fish. It was a battle worth watching, too. All the way to the end the fish fought hard and it took every bit of the skill that Katia had learned over the years of fishing here to land it. It was at least a thirty-six inches and would be a regular feast for Niels and the kids.

Having caught her fish, Katia headed in to shore. Her heart was glad to see Niels waiting for her at the dock. She could hardly wait to show him her catch and regale him with the tale of her battle to land it. Her gladness started to evaporate as she got nearer the dock. Niels looked upset. She hoped none of the kids had done anything to cause him to loose his temper.

“Katia, why didn’t you return earlier when I called you? I yelled and yelled for you to come back.”

“Oh, Niels, you are always waving and yelling at me when I go out there to fish. I just thought you were wishing me good luck. And, I had it. See the fish I caught. Isn’t it a beauty?”

“I don’t care about your stupid fish, I want to know who you were talking to this morning and what it is that you took out of our room, what you put in your pocket that flashed,” replied Niels.

“Talking this morning? When? And, what do you mean ‘something’ I put in my pocket?” she said, her hand touching her now empty pocket.

Only it wasn’t empty. There was something in it. Slowly she put her hand in her pocket and drew out a small frame with a glass cover and a picture in it.

Niels grabbed the picture and looked at it. “Who are these people, and why did you take this picture out there with you? And why did you go out to that pillar again?”

“It is a picture of my parents. We used to go fishing in that spot, even before the Bridge was there. I go out there and fish and think of them. That is the only picture I have of them. I miss them; I miss them a lot.”

“These people were traitors to the state. You should not have pictures of them. It is not good to remind others of them,” Niels said angrily as he threw the picture down and then ground it in the dust with his foot.

“Niels, why are you acting like this? I thought you loved the Bridge, as I did. I did not think you hated my parents. What has happened to you? I thought you loved me.” Katia cried.

“You, and this village of Bridge lovers, were my assignment, nothing more. You are under arrest for aiding an enemy force. You will come with me quietly or I will have to kill you.”

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by euhal allen

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