Edition 12: Over The Bridge by Lisamarie Lamb
One day, Iris thought, she might cross the bridge. She might find out what was on the other side. But she had a fear of the trolls that her parents told her lived beneath it, and a fear of the devils that they said lived across it, and so she stayed where she was. Safe on her side of the bridge.
But that didn’t mean she wasn’t curious about the world across the river. There was something there, there had to be, or the bridge would have no use. It must have been built for a reason.
Iris would spend hours simply sitting, staring at the narrow strip of moss covered wood that separated her from the other side with all of its seductive secrets. The greenery that grew up through the wooden planks was lush and plush and showed her that no one had crossed that bridge in a very, very long time.
Perhaps, Iris thought, she might be the first. The thought crammed itself into her brain so that it was all she could think about. And when there was no more room in her head, the idea leaked out into her blood and took over everything. There was nothing left. She pictured herself as the brave explorer, the scout sent out from the village to cross the bridge and find out what was on the other side…It was her duty. It was her destiny.
Her parents didn’t understand that they had given birth to the saviour of the village, the girl who would bring the world back to them. Only according to them, anything on the other side was bad, evil, and nothing that they should ever want or need to be a part of.
And don’t forget the trolls.
Iris wasn’t entirely sure that she believed in the trolls; fearsome, gruesome, hungry creatures; although something had happened to her friend Jemima and the grown-ups whispered in secret grown-up talks that she had crossed over the bridge.
The children of the village heard these hushed half-tales as children tend to do, especially when they are not supposed to, and embellished them with impunity and in the end the story—completely and concretely confirmed in young minds—was that the trolls had snatched Jemima, eaten her and used her smaller bones as toothpicks and the larger ones as drumsticks for their skin covered drums.
Despite knowing this, and despite the self-inflicted nightmares that followed, Iris was still intrigued by the bridge, even though as she sat and stared she could see nothing of interest. Certainly no trolls, but nothing else either. Just trees that made up a forest, she supposed. She had to assume that the forest was dark and deep since she could see no sunlight on that side of the bridge and neither could she see the sky through the murky leafy canopy. It really was a nasty, depressingly dismal place. She wondered, then, just briefly, why she was so desperate to get there.
She wondered how long it would take her to reach the devils that lived in the grimy, gritty dark if she were ever to cross…
Even though she never would.
Of course she wouldn’t.
There were trolls under the bridge, after all.
So she sat and kept watch, the sentry of the village, waiting for something to happen because nothing ever did. She sat and kept watch, even though her parents told her not to and punished her because of it. School became a distant memory. All that mattered was that bridge and the world that existed on the other side of it.
One day, as the sun began to set and the shadows were stolen by the twilight, she heard a sound. A rustling, crunching sound. The sound of fallen leaves being trodden on, being stamped into mulch. And it was coming from the other side of the bridge.
Now she would see.
Iris stood and ran as close as she dared and peered as far as she could into the deep, dark woods, which were suddenly deeper and darker than ever before, or so she thought. But they were not so dark that she couldn’t see the small figure of a little girl emerging from the trees. The girl walked up to the bridge. Walked onto the bridge and stood on its moss covered boards.
She stood in the very middle of the bridge, looked straight at Iris and smiled through dry, chapped lips. She beckoned to Iris with twig thin fingers and whispered, “Iris, it’s me, Jemima, do you see? I’ve come to get you. It’s wonderful here, on this side, it’s perfect, it’s fun and it’s never time for bed and there are no parents to ruin everything. But I’m lonely on the other side of the bridge; I need a friend. Come over.”
Jemima held out her hand, and Iris, not thinking, excited beyond all measure, stepped forward, and kept stepping forward, her toe just about to touch the moss covered planks when she stopped, scared and shivering.
“But Jemima, what about the trolls? Won’t they come after me when I cross the bridge?” Iris, nervous, butterfly-stomached and hopping from foot to foot, was scared too. Although she had waited and waited so patiently, she had never believed that she would see anything. Or anyone. Especially not Jemima.
The other girl laughed. “The trolls won’t bother you.” She beckoned her old friend again.
“But Jemima, what about you? Where have you been all this time?” If Iris had been braver, she would have asked why Jemima looked so pale, so ill, so unhappy. But she didn’t.
Jemima laughed again. It once was a pleasant, tinkling sound, but it now had an edge of grated glass to it, a scream hidden in a giggle. “I’ve been in a magical place, Iris, I’ve been in paradise.”
And this was enough; the other questions and queries didn’t matter anymore. Iris tentatively placed her hovering foot down, feeling the squelch and squish of the moss, the bridge itself dangerously slippery. Her feet almost slid away from her, but she stilled herself just in time. She didn’t fall. She edged towards Jemima, clinging to the railings, echoing the little girl’s smile in her own, happy to see her even under such strange circumstances.
When they finally met in the middle, Iris took Jemima’s outstretched hand and asked, “Where are we going?”
“Over the bridge, silly. All the way.”
Iris nodded. It seemed that this was the way it was always going to be.
The tiny children started to walk onwards, away from the village, away from everything Iris knew. She was not scared. The only thing that worried her, just a little, was the strange sound coming from under the bridge. It almost sounded like a quiet, thumping drum.
Lisamarie Lamb started writing in her late teens but it was only with the birth of her daughter that she decided to write more seriously, with the aim of publication. Since that decision almost three years ago, she has had over 30 short stories published in anthologies and magazines.
In November 2012, Dark Hall Press published a collection of her short stories with a twist, entitled Over The Bridge.
She has collaborated on—and edited—a project entitled A Roof Over Their Heads, written by six authors from the Isle of Sheppey about the island where she lives with her husband, daughter, and two cats.
You can connect with Lisa over at http://www.themoonlitdoor.blogspot.co.uk and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lisamarielambwriter.