Bewildering Stories

Change the text color to: White | Purple | Dark Red | Red | Green | Cyan | Blue | Navy | Black
Change the background color to: White | Beige | Light Yellow | Light Grey | Aqua | Midnight Blue

The Bridge

part III, installment 2

by euhal allen

“The Bridge” began in issue 99.
Part III, Installment 1 appeared in issue 103.

Down in the control area, the Bridge, or Cyr (as he had learned to call himself years ago), monitored the area, keeping track of the comings and goings of the people in this little place that was planned to become a new beginning. Cyr knew how plans did not always work out. There must be no mistakes this time.

A Bridge could not serve a people that did not want it. It could never force people to follow its lead. Bridges were programmed to offer solutions that could work; programmed to help all peoples of a world to come to know and respect differences as opportunities to learn, not reasons to attack; programmed to supply a means for a world to become a unity at peace with itself.

Here, of all the worlds known and served by a Bridge, there had been a failure. Here, those in power had been able to create an atmosphere of hate too great to fight. Here the bright beginning had crashed before the new day had really appeared. There was now just one more chance to save this people from their hate-filled future. And, to save the life of one person, Cyr had jumped the Plan’s starting point years ahead. The odds had not been good in the first place, now they seemed astronomical.

But Cyr had learned something about this people in his years with them. They were different from others. Throughout all their history there had appeared special, charismatic people who would give guidance and help that was followed. Some gave guidance that was good and others guided their people to death and destruction. But there was never any doubt of their influence on history.

Those people were very rare. They did not often come, and little people were often made leaders; little men who were not really qualified to lead, little men who grew big heads from their positions and fought to keep those positions no matter what.

Somehow, Cyr thought, Katia was such a charismatic person. There was no guarantee that another such as Katia would come along for many years, maybe for too many years. That was the decision Cyr had to make, sacrifice Katia or change the Plan. Cyr chose, against the council of his builders, to change the Plan.

* * *

Dr. von Seltzen and his lovely wife, Gloria, were having another party. Their two children, Johan and Maria, were acting as little host and hostess for the guests in a most charming manner. The reason for the party (not that the von Seltzen’s needed a reason to throw a party) — their new ranch manager, Tommy Tinker — was doing his best to stay out of the limelight.

This was a new world to him, and all he could think of was that he had never trained for this kind of thing at Stony Gap, and he hoped that it would soon be over. His eyes widened as he saw Gloria von Seltzen coming his way — again. He liked Mrs. von Seltzen all right, but he wished she would leave him alone for a while. If he had to meet one more of the local girls he would run.

Only, this time she had a man with her, one who looked as uncomfortable as he did, and was only coming over because she was dragging him.

“Oh, Tommy, dear, you simply must meet Niels. He is such an interesting local character,” was her opening in the introduction.

Tommy stuck his hand out to shake and said, “I am glad to meet you, sir. Nice party, isn’t it.”

Niels grimaced, and answered, “No it isn’t. I hate parties like this.”

“Well,” said Gloria von Seltzen, “I see you two have a lot to talk about, so I will leave you. Ta ta.” And she waltzed off merrily, happy with her latest good deed.

Tommy, looking Neils over, asked, “If you really hate these things, why are you here? I am only here because I manage Dr. Seltzen’s ranch and he made it clear that his wife expected me to be here. Said that I was the excuse for this particular party and so I needed to be here to keep him out of trouble.”

“I know what you mean,” answered Niels, “but these parties are a big thing around here, and I come to keep an eye on things.”

Tommy stepped back a little and looked Niels over. “Keep an eye on things?” He asked. “What things?”

Niels lowered his voice a little, and after looking around a bit to make sure they were completely out of earshot of other guests, answered. “Bridge lovers. There are Bridge lovers in this area and it is my job to find them. I report to very important people.”

“Bridge lovers,” said Tommy. “That doesn’t make sense. The Bridge was destroyed years ago. There’s nothing left to love. It is all just a bunch of ruins now.”

Niels retorted, “You may think so, but there are people who want to have it come back. It is my job to find them.”

“Why are you telling me this?” asked Tommy. “How do you know I am not one of these so called ’Bridge lovers?’”

Niels got a self-satisfied look on his face and said, “We know all about you, Tommy. We have a file on you. We know that the Bridge is responsible for your uncle’s death and that you hate it almost as much as we do. We think you can be useful to us.”

“Useful to you? How can that be? I am only a ranch manager. I work with cattle and irrigation and things like that. How can that be useful to you?” questioned Tommy.

“You have a lot of immigrant workers. Some of them are part of this Bridge-loving scum. We would like you to keep your eye on them and report what you find.”

Shocked, Tommy asked, “And if I refuse? Not that I don’t hate the Bridge, mind you, but I don’t like spying on my workers.”

Niels smirked a little and said, “Your cousin Amelia might find things a little better if we receive your cooperation. If we don’t, well, things can happen, even to nice people.”

* * *

Elvira set dinner on the table and felt the tears come to her eyes as Ferd came limping to the table. ‘He,’ she thought, ‘was too old to be working so hard’.

Ferd was tired, so tired he could barely eat. This past month on the boat was nothing like he, an old farmer, had ever known before. And he smelled of fish. He always had that awful smell of fish. He wondered why Elvira didn’t sleep on the couch, or kick him there.

“Hon,” Elvira asked, “do you know a John Furgusen? We go a card from him today.”

“John Furgusen? Don’t recall a John Furgusen. Let me see the card, Elvira.”

Elvira handed him the postcard. It was of blue skies and blue water and a bridge. John looked on the back, at the little note in the corner and read what it said:

“A little more than fifteen years ago, this Bridge spread itself all around the world. Whatever else one says about it, it was a thing of beauty.”

“Elvira, I think maybe it would be best if you burnt this. There’s been talk of these cards around the docks. It hasn’t been good talk either. I think that these things could bring us trouble. Burn it. Burn any that you get.”

* * *

Blanca was upset, and afraid. There, in her post office box, were four more of those cards, each from someone with a Spanish-sounding name. She did not know any of these people. Why were they sending these cards to her?

Reaching in, she grabbed the cards, and then she pulled them out and tore them up over the trash bin, hoping that no more would come. Quickly then, she left the Post Office and started the walk home.

Niels, watching from a corner niche, came out and gathered the torn pieces and put them into a plastic bag. He grinned to himself as he thought about how he would show them to her. How he would explain what trouble she and her family could be in should she not see the advantage in cooperating with him.

* * *

Gloria von Seltzen was on one of her shopping trips in town again. She just loved shopping. Especially in this little town. Her wealth made her queen in any store she entered and being queen was what being Gloria von Seltzen was all about.

The shop owners would bow and scrape and say “Yes, Ms. von Seltzen,” and “No, Ms. von Seltzen, that is not too much to ask,” and “Certainly, Ms. von Seltzen, we will be happy to do that for you.”

And, best of all was all the attention she got from all the women of the village. She was the social arbiter and leader of the whole community. Every woman in the village was both envious of her and desirous of being counted as her friend. It was a delicious place in society to be in.

“Yes,” she thought, “being the richest woman in town certainly has its advantages. And I am going to have fun using them all.”

* * *

Tommy Tinker put the phone down. He felt a deep shame inside, but those sudden problems that Amelia had faced had been too much for him, and he had caved. The reports on his workers he had given to Niels had hardly been handed over and he got that call from Amelia saying the County Courthouse had called with news that there had been a mistake; that the she had not received too much in the state security check after all.

In fact, it seemed that she had been underpaid by the amount the first letter stated she had to pay back. There would be enough money from the settlement check to buy the kids some new shoes and clothes. Amelia had thanked him for checking things out, saying that Uncle Hiram would have been proud of him. Somehow, Tommy Tinker doubted that.

* * *

Piotr, even though he had never before worked as a fisherman, had enjoyed his new job. It was challenging and he liked those who he worked with. He liked telling his storied to an audience that had not heard them before, and he liked laughing with his workmates and friends. But, because of the postcards, that had ended. Now, those he worked with were suspicious of him.

It had started when the first postcard had come addressed to him in care of his company’s office. He had been called in to explain why he was consorting with people like that. He told his supervisor that he had never heard of the person who sent the card and had thought that it was the end of the problem. But it wasn’t. More cards had come to the company office, all of them addressed to him and all of them from people he told his boss he had never heard of. It had become embarrassing. And it had become known among his fellow workers.

Now Piotr had been called into the office again and been let go. He explained again that he did not know any of those people who sent the cards, but the boss only said that even if that was true, it was becoming known in the village and it was causing trouble for the company that the company didn’t need.

As Piotr walked up the road towards their house he wondered how he would tell Blanca. He had not told her that he had been having this trouble, hoping that it would stop. Now, without him working, they would have to move again. They would have to start over again. He felt tears creeping down his cheeks as he thought how unfair this was to Blanca and the kids.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by euhal allen

Home Page