Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge

Part 4, installment 2

by euhal allen

“The Bridge” began in issue 99.
Installment 1 appeared in issue 106.

As morning came the little boat made the final part of the journey into the harbor and headed for the dock. The Captain, seeing several people on the dock obviously waiting for him, began to worry some. Still the boat had to dock so that the request could be made, so it continued on until it touched the dock and was tied to a pier.

One of those waiting for him stepped aboard and said simply, “Come with us. You must do so, quickly, and then you must leave soon.”

Stepping back onto the dock the speaker reentered the crowd and led the way through the town and up the hill to the cemetery, the Captain and one very old crew member, following wonderingly. In one corner of the cemetery was a grave with a stone marker in Japanese.

The Captain, Denzo Kurihara, and his father, Kanaka, knelt down and read, through the tears in their eyes, this beloved son’s name, Seiji. Denzo carefully clipped some of the grass from the grave and put into a plastic bag for the trip home.

Then, slowly standing back up, they turned to those who had led him here and said, “How did you know we wanted to come here?”

“We heard in one of the Dream Singer’s song,” they said. “She sang of Seiji and the sadness of his death. She sang of your coming today to take something of him back home.

“She also sang of the danger to you if you stay. So you must go quickly before others — those who hate ones not like them — come and seek to harm you. You must sail out to the third pillar of the Bridge and wait a little while. We will bring supplies to you out there for your return journey. Now, go quickly.”

Soon the little boat was gone from the dock and anchored on the back side of the third pillar, almost invisible from the village.

* * *

Gloria von Seltzen was still angry. The night of the last party had been lovely, the sky clear, the breeze warm and the roses were especially beautiful and aromatic in the garden.

Also most wonderful was the dinner the help had prepared. There were elegant dishes with fruity Garden of Eden salads topped with lime sherbet for the dressing; next was a fantastic braised burgundy beef swimming in its luscious sauce, a sauce that was made to smother rich buttered lasagna noodles; and for a dessert to top off the evening there was Koenigungs Torte, three crispy layers of chocolate cake with crème filling in between them and then topped with a chocolate buttery icing and slivered almonds.

There was enough for all seventy-five invited guests. More than enough. Yet, of all those invited, only seven couples had come. Better had none come at all, than to have those fourteen to have seen her humiliation.

She had done her best to act as if she didn’t care, smiling and chatting with those there, saying that those who had not come had missed a rare treat. “At least,” she thought, “everyone present had agreed with that. Everyone there had thought the dinner was very impressive and most scrumptious.”

Still, her local Queen’s crown, having slipped again, was becoming a bore to her. What good was it to be the Queen of fashion and taste when there seemed so few who still admired her position and craved her favor.

Worst of all, when she was going to have all that food thrown away as a punishment to those who had not had the decency to show up for the party, her husband, in his misplaced generosity, had given it to the help!

* * *

President Hobart, searching through intelligence reports for indications, clues if you will, of the Bridge conspiracy, was angry again. Why didn’t those people get it right? He knew that those people were out there. He knew that all the greatness and traditions of the country were in danger of being destroyed when they made their move. Why were all those others unable to see it?

Vice President Lockly came into the Oval Office and sat down quietly, waiting for the President to finish reading the reports and to quit fuming.

When it seemed that the President was a little calmer, Vice President Lockly said, calmly, “Mr. President, the convention is in two weeks and you really need to look over your speech nominating me to continue in the office of Vice President. Those who pull the strings need to have this information so as to know which strings to pull.”

“There is a strong push to have you endorse Senator Gravely for the office, since he would balance the ticket nicely in a regional manner. But, you know that Gravely has privately told that he thinks that the Bridge conspiracy is a crackpot idea that should have ended when the Bridge collapsed and President Walters left office. That Presidents Fairly, Holden and now you keep talking about it, Gravely says, is ludicrous.”

The President looked up at Lockly and said, angrily, “He says that, does he? You’re right, John, it is time I made your name known as the one I want on the ticket with me. See if our idiot press agent is available to set up a news conference for us. I will present you as one who has done an excellent job as Vice President and the one most qualified to be elected in your own right.”

* * *

The people of the town, true to their word, made sure that the little boat was well supplied for its return journey to Japan. As they finished stowing the supplies away the one who had spoken before turned again to Denzo and holding a small box out to him, said, “We would ask a small favor of you, Captain Kurihara.”

Denzo, grateful for their kindness and generosity, replied, “Ask it and if I can do it, I will.”

“In this little box is a crystal key that we would like you to put into the tenth pillar from this one. You will find a small, black colored opening on the east side of the pillar, about three feet above the water level. All you need to do is open the box and put the key in and then continue your journey.”

Denzo was confused at the request, “Of course I will do this, but I do not understand. The tenth pillar is not far from here, why have you not done this yourself?”

“Because,” the speaker replied, “since the demise of the Bridge our people all along this coast have become very territorial of the fishing waters. The pillars are where the most fish are found. We, because we have recognizable American-style fishing boats, would not be he allowed to approach the pillar. Your boat sails under Japanese colors, and those living there will assume that you are tourists.

“It is important that this be done, for it is a debt we owe to our people.”

“Ah, so desu ka! Yes,” said Denzo, “debts must be paid. Yes, I will do this thing for you.”

Soon, Denzo’s boat was but a smudge on the horizon, one heading for the tenth pillar from the third one in the area, and the people watching wished for it a safe, and speedy, journey home, little knowing the danger it sailed into.

* * *

Piotr watched as the Kurihara boat sank below the horizon, and then turned to his wife, Blanca, and said, “Let us hope the Dream Singer is right, that he will make it home safely. Some of the boat crews that use that tenth pillar can be a bit nasty, even to tourists.”

Blanca looked up at her husband and, with a reassuring tone, replied, “The Dream Singer seems to know things that we don’t about, and what may happen. I don’t understand it, but what she indicates will happen, seems to be, mostly, just what happens. I believe that boat will make it back home just fine.”

* * *

Merle Johnson looked down at the bay and the village and felt as if he had seen it all before, even if he hadn’t. Somehow, he knew that it would be the last stop on their journey to find a home. “It was good,” he felt, “to finally be ‘home.’”

Turning, he went swiftly down the hill to his wife, Hannah, and took some of the load she had been carrying so that he could check things from the top of the hill.

“This is it, Hannah,” he said. “This is the place that the Dream Singer tells of in her songs. You can see it all from the top of the hill. There’s the bay, and the three pillars, one in the middle of the bay, and the other two out there, an hour’s sail in either direction. It’s all there, Hannah, it’s all there!”

Soon the whole family was at the top of the hill and looking down at the Dream Singer’s “Little Bay Home,” and their hearts were strengthened for the last little part of the journey into the first good Dream they had ever had.

A figure detached himself from the grove of trees on the hill and walked up to the Johnson family, smiling. “My name is Piotr,” he said. “The Dream Singer said you would be coming. The fishing has been very good lately and there is more work than we can do, so you will be very welcome here.”

“You will be staying with us tonight and we will see about finding a place for you tomorrow. My wife, Blanca, is making dinner for us all right now. I hope you like Mexican food.”

* * *

President Hobart’s announcement that he wanted John Lockly to be his running mate shocked the opposition and was welcomed by his supporters. Every one knew that the convention would give the President what he wanted and Lockly’s lack of political history would make it very hard for the opposition to find anything in his past that would be damaging to him or the President’s campaign. And, since Lockly had been in the government, in various and important positions for years, he could not be attacked as one who lacked experience.

* * *

Captain Kurihara’s boat was bearing down on the tenth pillar when a crewman noticed sails coming out from the shore. They were full and the boats they powered were coming fast. That there was no need for such speed made the Captain a bit nervous and he told the crew to add sail and he began steering a more direct course towards the pillar.

It looked like Kurihara’s boat would reach the pillar only a few minutes before the other boats and the Captain felt that if this had not been a debt that had to be paid he would have sailed off without approaching the pillar. Yet, it was such a debt and he and his crew did everything to squeeze as much speed as possible out of the boat.

“Captain,” called a crewman, “they are waving guns!”

Kurihara turned his glass again toward the other boats and the guns were quite evident. Those people were trying to kill them. To slow down and put the key into the pillar would give them a chance to get into range. To sail on without doing so would be dishonorable.

The pillar was very close now. Kurihara had the crew drop sail as quickly as possible as they passed next to the pillar. Kurihara saw the little black hole for the key. He had only one chance to insert it, and just as he did so the first shots rang out and the first bullets ricocheted above his head.

The key in, the crew reset the sail and the boat shot away from the pillar in a vain attempt to get away from the local fishing boats. Kurihara yelled to the crew to keep down as much as possible. Then doing his best to put the pillar between him and his pursuers he headed out to sea, knowing that, since the other boats were motor assisted, the chase could end in only one way. In less than twenty minutes, at the most, it would be over.

Looking at the grass clippings in the bag showing out of the pocket he had put it in he said, “I am sorry Seiji, you will not see your home after all.”

The enemy boats, knowing that they had won, stopped shooting and, instead, waited until they knew the shots would count. It wouldn’t be long now and they would have their prisoners and another boat for their fleet, and a big reward waiting for them back at the dock.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by euhal allen

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