Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bridges Are the Enemy

Don't trust them. They defy the natural order of rivers and gaps. They attempt to defy gravity, one of the fundamental forces. Cross them at your peril.
- Master Emmond, Fifth Heron-Wing Dojo.
The traveler stands before the deep canyon, her dark-patterned cloak whipping about her ankles in the stiff wind. She carries a tall staff in her hands, unadorned and uncarved. Before her is a great bridge, iron-born with cables of steel and concrete towers plunging from their apexes to the canyon's base, the waters of the river therein rushing about them and covering their grey surfaces in lush, damp moss, filling the cracks that have appeared since the bridge's emplacement, so many years ago.

"I know your true nature, bridge," the traveler cries, her voice carrying clearly across the wide and empty expanse. "Show yourself!"

Nothing happens.

Then a slow rumbling rises from the depths. A quartet of cracks - boom, boom, boom, boom, each louder than thunder - sound within moments of each-other, as the bridge's towers sever themselves from their bases. The bridge begins to rise towards the traveller, slowly, inexorably, pulling up the asphalt as it moves; she is forced to dash to the side to escape being carried upwards with the roadway upon which she stood. The road, stressed beyond bearing, tears asunder, bits and pieces of shattered tarmac falling back to earth. The bridge continues to rise, its other side now following suit.

"Well," the traveller says to herself, a wry smile tugging at one end of her mouth. "I knew this wasn't going to be easy."

She took a breath to prepare herself; then she began to jog towards the bridge, rising ever more ominously into the bright blue sky. She accelerated as she went; by the time she arrived at the bridge's nearest tower, her legs have turned into a blur, halted only as she leaps forward to the near-vertical tower, clearing the ten-foot distance between it and the canyon's edge -

- tumbles as she flies through the air, such that she lands feet-first onto the edifice (facing upwards) -

- and begins to run up its length, still moving at the same incredible speed, her staff thudding rhymically against the bridge-tower as she moves.

She'd make a witty quip at this point, but she's saving her breath. Probably wise.

She stops at the top, briefly, to admire the view. Hundreds of feet below her, the bridge's towers move jerkily up the walls of the canyon, climbing. They're about halfway to the top by now. The roadway at the center of the bridge is broken and warped, filled with treacherous holes. "Obvious deathtrap," the traveller notes. "I'll take another route, thanks."

Turning away from the road, she begins to jog along the suspension bridge's cable.

At first the path is easy; the cable is monstrously thick, easily six feet wide, and steady as the concrete into which it is embedded. But the concrete is the flesh of the bridge; and so this stability does not last. The cable begins to sway, slowly at first, then faster, swinging back and forth as though it were buffeted by some immense, invisible wind. (Oh - did I mention? There's still a wind, of course. Just enough to get the traveller's hair and cape to billow dramatically when needed. Not enough to do anything like this.)

"Ha!" laughs the traveller, her face full of derision. "Pitiful bridge - is this all you have to offer? I've seen pedestrian overpasses that give more of a fight than this!"

The bridge rumbled. A series of sharp snaps began to echo from below - the stays of the connecting cables were snapping. One by one, they struck at the traveller like snapping guitar strings, whipping upwards with a speed belying their weight. But the traveller laughed at this, too, ducking under or leaping over each without breaking step.

"I think I overestimated you," the traveller shouted downwards, sidestepping another cable lashing up from below. "A ten-foot-long, rope-and-plank bridge would be more dangerous than you are. Heck - probably more useful, too. I mean, look at you! You're a joke!"

The snapping of cables intensified. Now more than one cable came at the traveller at once; any one of them, did it hit, would shatter half her bones and send her hurtling off the cable at high speeds, to splatter on the rocks half a mile below. But more and more were sent, two or three or four at a time, and still the traveller laughed, dodging some and deflecting others with her wooden staff (which seemed unharmed by the experience), never once breaking stride.

"Was your mother one of those wooden, decorative garden-bridges?", the traveller jibed, nearing the end of the rapidly destabilizing cable on which she travelled. The far tower was just ahead. "You know, those ones for bonsai gardens? Why don't you go back and cry to her, ask her to help? She'll do a better job than you have!"

One last rumble came; and then, with a terrible scream of shattered concrete, the anchor for the main cable came loose, and without any noise at all, it began to fall.

"Poor show," the traveller noted, and leapt. Behind her, the utterly destabilized bridge bent, twisted, and broke in two, plunging back into the canyon from which it came with an unbearable clamour. It had wrought its own doom in broken steel and stone.

The traveller fell.

"Hm," she said.

The canyon wall approached. The traveller grinned; she extended her staff before her. She hit the wall, staff-first, at tremendous speed - and then, in what was really a quite rude moment for the laws of physics, stopped.

The traveller hung onto her staff, protruding from the canyon wall like a nail someone hadn't finished hammering into the wall. Above her, broken asphalt protruded from the canyon's edge where it had been left from the bridge's abrupt separation. Below her, the bridge continued its slow descent into utter destruction, raising thick clouds of dust as its towers dragged along the walls they had sought to climb.

"Yeah," the traveller decided. "That could've been much worse."

From the dust below, one last cable arose, shooting out soundlessly to pluck the traveller into the abyss. The only warning of its coming was a tiny breeze, just before it struck -

- the staff that the traveller had pulled from the wall, twisting around it and catapulting it (and her) upwards, where she landed neatly upon the grass at the roadside. A tremendous rumbling began at the moment of her landing, continuing for several minutes; when it had ended, the bridge's fall (and its destruction) was finally complete.

The traveller paid no attention, looking instead at the long staff in her hand.

"Wow," she said, "a nine-ton staff really does come in handy."

"I should win more bets with monkey-kings."

1 comment:

Calvacadeofcats said...

they should have made a suspension bridge, because that is the strongest kind