Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge

Part II, installment 2

by euhal allen

“The Bridge” began in issue 99.
Part II, installment 1 appeared in issue 101.

There was a small popping noise, and Niels, with a shocked, surprised look on his face, fell forward into the dust and lay still. Katia knelt down and turned him over. He was still breathing, but she could not see what had caused him to fall.

“Katia, you must drag him behind the shed over there and leave him,” came the words in Cyr’s voice. “He would have killed you to show his superiors that he was loyal.

“The children are coming down to your boat by the shore; they will not see him here. You must put the children in the boat and sail out to the third pillar again. You must do it now.”

Katia, shocked and hurt by Niels’ hatred of her and her family, followed the Bridge’s orders and dragged Niels’ unconscious body behind the shed and returned just in time to see her children running up to the boat.

“Get in kids,” she said, “we are going fishing. I caught one big one and want to try for another.”

Soon the boat was nearing the pillar. Somehow, as later witnesses from other boats told the police, the boat floundered and tipped, spilling everyone out into the bay. It was sinking when the others got to it. They managed to keep it afloat, and towed it in with lines attached to their vessels. When they got it to the dock, they checked it over to see what might have made it tip. That was when they noticed the huge fish Katia had caught that morning.

Other boats were still out at the site searching for the bodies. They were not found. It was often the case in such accidents. There were strong currents out there, and often bodies were swept out to sea, sometimes never to be found.

Niels woke up from where he was near the beach shed. He must have slipped and fallen, he had a terrible headache. He heard the commotion over at the dock and managed to get up and head over there to see what was happening.

The villagers saw him coming and shrank back a little, their faces grim, causing Niels to give them a questioning look.

Old John Perry was the one who spoke up. “There was nothing we could do, Niels. It happened so quickly. They were there and then the boat tipped and they were gone.”

Niels, not understanding, asked, “What are you talking about? Who was there and then suddenly gone?”

“Your wife, Katia. And the children. They were out there fishing when their boat tipped over and threw them all out into the bay. We got there as fast as we could, but we couldn’t find them. They’re looking for the bodies now. We are sorry, Niels.”

Niels appeared to be in shock. All those years playing the good husband and just when a break seemed to be coming, this had to happen. Angrily he turned and stomped back to his house. What was he going to tell the President?

* * *

President Hobart was angry. He had just received the report of the air patrol vessel and had chewed them out vehemently for not picking that woman up. Now Niels, that fool, calls in and says she and the children have drowned in the bay. She was the best lead to the underground of Bridge lovers he was sure existed.

But there was no doubt that she was gone. Too many witnesses, some of them tourists in the area, saw the accident. Now he would have to start over again. Hopefully, Lockly would find where they were hidden.

Jonkil et Sharma read with satisfaction the report on the recovery of Alexis Shapirov, but he was deeply disturbed by the affairs around Katia, the keeper of the Bridge seed. The seed should not have been returned to the pillar so soon. And the loss of Katia and the children was devastating to the plan. This whole project had too many twists and turns in it. It would be a miracle if it ever came to a successful conclusion.

Alexis Shapirov hobbled down to the kitchen area of his living unit. It was good that he could get around now, it was good that he was getting stronger each day. Soon he would be able to do that something useful his doctor kept hinting at.

Ahead there seemed to be noises that should not be there. Alexis hurried, if one can really hurry with a limp, to see what it was that had become present to disturb the peace and quiet.

As he came to the door he saw a lovely young woman and two children noisily preparing a meal. The woman looked up and said, “You’re Alexis. You certainly look better than you did the last time I saw you. I’m Katia Harrigan, and these are my two children, Sean and Olga. Sean after my father, and Olga after my mother.”

“You’ve seen me before? Were you one of my nurses?” asked Alexis.

“Heavens no! I was on the Bridge when you were wounded, and the Bridge had to have you transported here. Since then I have grown up, have been married and had these two little problems added to my life,” Katia replied.

“So, where is your husband? Is he around here for me to meet, too?” Alexis asked.

“I no longer have a husband,” she replied. “You see, I am dead, drowned in the bay near where we lived. Of course, that is better than being dead from a gunshot to the head, which was my husband’s plan for me.”

“Your husband was going to kill you?”

“Yes, and it is just a good thing that I had placed the Bridge seed in the pillar sometime before so that Cyr could whack him and erase that part of his memory. He “knows” that I am dead too. And he already has a live-in girlfriend to share the sorrow of my passing with.”

Alexis was now really confused and, in trying to get it all straightened out in his head, he said, “Your husband tried to kill you, but you drowned instead and are dead. Yet, you are not dead because you put a seed in the pillar and that allowed the Bridge, who has been gone for years, to rescue you; so you are not dead. But your husband, who wanted to kill you, and wasn’t able to because the Bridge hit him with something, thinks you are dead and has a girlfriend living with him to share his sorrow.

“I am getting a headache and I think I need to lie down.”

With that, Alexis stumbled back to his room, thinking that he was not as well as he thought, but, at least, his delusions were lovely.

* * *

Tommy Tinker stood, as he often did, at his Uncle Hiram’s grave in the meadow near Stony Gap. And, as usual, his thoughts were confused from the clashes in his memory of those long-ago years.

Uncle Hiram had always said that the Bridge was a good thing and yet its presence had caused his death.

The government now celebrated the disintegration of the Bridge with fireworks and parades and parties, telling them all how the Bridge had brought about the deaths of millions and the destruction of cultures wherever it was. Yet, Tommy had never seen the Bridge hurt anyone. And, he and Uncle Hiram spent that one winter, before the angry times, going all over world and meeting people.

Tommy wanted to be a good citizen and hate the Bridge, and sometimes, when he missed Uncle Hiram the most, he almost did. But it was hard and had to be forced. He could never get Uncle Hiram’s words out of his mind. “This here Bridge is good for us, Tommy. We will get to know people we never knowed before, and we’ll sure find out that they is just people, like us. I think, maybe, we will learn not to fight no more.”

Well, that didn’t happen. Once the Bridge went down, the old wars and hatreds came back, sometimes in greater strength than before.

Tommy just looked at the gravestone and mumbled to himself, “Help me, Uncle Hiram.” Then he turned and trudged sadly back to the house.

* * *

President Hobart sat and looked unhappily at Lockly. “You’ve found nothing? I thought your boys were good at this business. I want them found and I want them destroyed.”

Lockly answered, “We have been very thorough, Mr. President. We just haven’t found anything yet. Our best lead, if there is anything, had been Niels’ wife and now she is gone, and we only draw a blank where ever we go.”

“Don’t you,” questioned the President, “think it odd that she has that accident right when we were about to arrest her? She was out at that pillar that morning doing something. And, don’t you think it was a little too much of a coincidence that Niels has that fall coming down the hill to arrest her? Don’t you think all that was a little fishy?”

“Well, Mr. President, it was fishy all right. She caught one of the biggest fish I ever saw. The boys in the copter saw her out at the pillar and she was tangling with that thing. The people on the shore, saw the sail on the little boat catch what must have been a real gust of wind because it laid the boat flat on its side so quickly that she and the kids didn’t even have time to grab something to hold on to.

“Sometimes, Mr. President, coincidences really happen, and all the evidence points to this being one of them.”

“Mr. Lockly, those people are out there plotting to bring that Bridge back somehow. I can feel it in my bones. I want them stopped. And I want it done soon. Find them and stop them. Those are your orders and I expect you to carry them out.”

As he was turning to leave the Oval Office, Lockly said, “Yes, Mr. President, if they are out there, we will find them.”

* * *

Jonkil et Sharma walked down to the living area of the Earthers’ apartment. He was a little apprehensive at what he was about to tell them. It was very dangerous, and they had already earned a long respite from such danger.

He heard the noise of the children as he got nearer and he smiled to himself and thought, “It is the children we do this for; they must have a chance.”

Katia was sitting at the table showing Olga how to make her letters more neatly when Jonkil et Sharma came quietly in. Looking up and seeing the expression on Jonkil’s face, an expression she could not have read only weeks ago, she sent the children to their rooms to play.

Alexis, who had been puttering in another room, hearing the silence of the children’s absence came and, feeling the seriousness of the moment, sat at the table with his new wife.

“What is it, Jonkil? Why are you not smiling?” asked Katia.

“A decision has been made. The Bridge was not supposed to be reactivated for many years yet, but, in order to save your life, Katia, Cyr — as you call it — has forced an early reactivation. It must not fail again. We have only this chance to make it work. And, we will need your help, both of you must help.”

Alexis, looking thoughtful, said, “You think it will be dangerous, and you hesitate to ask us for that reason.”

“Jonkil, you must know,” added Katia, “that we would do anything to bring back the Bridge and its promise of peace to our world, anything.”

“Yes, we are aware of this, but are you ready to put your children in danger also? My people cannot separate children from parents for any reason. It would crush us to do so. So any decision you make must include the children.”

“Yes, Jonkil, we are aware of your people’s ties to their children, and we accept them,” said Katia. “They are part of the promise that the Bridge extends to our people. A future for our children that gives them the chance to enjoy life to the full, to become all they can be. Tell us what it is that we must do. Our decision can be based on that, can it not?”

“It will be very dangerous, especially for you, Katia. For you and the children. For Alexis too, but more so for you and the children.

You must go back to the bay where you lived before, where you replanted the seed. You and Alexis and the children. You are the contact for the Bridge seed; it is your mind that the Bridge knows best, and it is your reactions to things around that will help the Bridge time its steps.

We will help as we can. We will change your body physically so that you will not be recognized; you and the children. But you and they will recognize all the people there, and you will have to be very careful not to make any mistakes that might cause them to become suspicious.

Your ex-husband Niels is still there. You cannot but run into him often. You must never even give a hint of recognition to him.

I will leave you now, so that you may decide without my presence. I will understand whatever decision you two make.”

Alexis looked at Katia and said, “I will not let you do it. It is too dangerous; it is insane. If it were anywhere else, anywhere that you and the children did not have to pretend not to know anyone, it might be possible. But not there; you can’t go there.”

“Alexis, you know how much I have grown to love you these past few months. You know,” she said, “how precious our time together has been to me. You know how proud I have been of your work and of your love for the children. You have become their father ever so much more than Niels ever was. All this is important to me, you know that.

But I must do this. We must do this. My parents saw the future the Bridge promised. They took chances to reach that future for me, and it cost them their lives. My children have been brought up knowing that some things are greater than life. They, too, will choose to do this; they are like their grandparents.

“Alexis, we cannot stop being what we are. We must do this.”

“Oh, Katia, Katia,” Alexis murmured, taking Katia’s head gently in his large, rough, hands, “to be married to such bravery fills my heart with pride.

“Yes, we must do this, but, it scares me; the thought of you and the children in such danger scares me. You must help me to be brave.”

* * *

There was an apartment in the pillar base, hundreds of feet below the water’s surface.

There Katia and the children got accustomed to their new faces and new skin color. There they waited while their throats healed and their new voices began to make themselves known. There they worked hours everyday on their new accent.

There they studied many of the other cultures and worlds where a Bridge had brought stability and peace, and they truly began to really see the magnanimity of what they were training to do.

And, there they studied their enemies, the ones who would try to find and kill them: the ones, like President Hobart, who had the power, and the hatred to condemn mankind to a continuous future of war and destruction. There they learned to fine-tune their fear into a tool that would keep them cautious and alive.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by euhal allen

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