A man confronting his demons about a fear he has
Started 9-18-18 The Dread Bridge Finished 9-21-18
The Dread Bridge
The ground crackles as each footstep lands on the gravel under him. The trees overhead form a tunnel of greenery. Large, old, wooden boards form this rustic bridge that lay in front of him. Some of them look old and weak, but he knows their stable, at least stable enough to support a carriages' weight. His heart starts racing and he's breathing rapidly. He finds himself starting to hyperventilate. The sick feeling that grows within his belly makes him wonder if he'll ever get across the bridge today. He has to back away from the bridge as a carriage rolls on through, startling him. Backing away causes him to begin to feel better, his breathing returns to normal, his heartbeat starts to normalize. Feeling a bit better, he tries to cross again. He feels sick to his stomach and then starts to sweat, he has to back away for the second time. Other people don't seem to understand his fears, hell, neither does he. Was it the height or possibly the deep river that flows a hundred feet below him? He's afraid to try to get a ride across the bridge for fear of being laughed at. He will just have to run halfway across the bridge, it's long enough that he knows he'll have to walk the rest of the distance to the end, he's too out of shape to make it all the way.
Closing his eyes he steadies himself while taking a deep breath feeling the air rush into and out of his lungs; he readies himself to run across the bridge at full speed. He has to, if he wants to get home. It isn't an option, it must be done. He looks around and finds that no one is creeping up on him. Looking back to the bridge he thinks to himself 'It's now or never!'
He runs half way across the bridge already breathing hard, even still, he makes it a little farther than halfway. Now he has to walk across the bridge, he can't turn back, that would just be stupid. With his head down and a knot in his stomach, he walks as fast as he can to the end of the bridge. Approaching the end, his vitals began to return to normal. He walks about ten yards past the bridge and collapses onto a cold, damp log to catch his breath.
"Why can't I just be normal, why do I have to be so damn scared?" Saying to himself shaking his head in bewilderment.
"Because I need you to be scared." Came a women's voice from inside his head.
"Great, now I'm hearing voices too?" He says almost jokingly. "Alright, I'll bite. Why do you need me to be afraid?"
"Because I will it to be." The voice answers once again.
"Why?" He asks. "Why do you want to scare me?"
"Because it delights me." She cackles loudly.
"Why do you need to be mean?" He asks in frustration.
"Enough of these questions, I am not here for YOUR amusement." He hears a sigh in his head. "Now . . . be gone I have had enough amusement for today."
Sitting on his log still trying to catch his breath, he wonders if that had actually happened. He looked at the bridge with the same angst that he had for the last four seasons wondering why he was scared, what had caused his fears. He shakes his head in exasperation and, feeling better, he gets up and walks slowly home.
He got to his little cabin and sat down at his homemade desk, thinking about what had happened nearly an hour ago. He had never heard this voice before, and he's only been afraid of this bridge for four seasons now. He had absolutely no idea as to why he had become fearful of that stupid bridge. This was the first time he had had a conversation with himself. He could write about the experience; that might be just enough to get this out of his mind and back to normal. He was good at writing; it was his job, so to speak. He wrote for this magazine called 'Fantasies of virtue.' It was a small publication that he and a friend had started about seven seasons ago. It had been largely successful due to the fact that they had other writers submit their stories for publication. It had been arranged it so that there were a variety of story types; but now he saw a story forming in his mind about the day's events.
He began writing a story about a man who talks to himself and starts going mad. This, of course, is what he was thinking was happening to him; so he must write fast before he DOES go mad. He would have to pen it before he goes crazy.
"Great now I'm worried that I'm going crazy. Is there anything else I can worry about?" He says to aloud while wondering if that voice will answer him. He walks across his one room cabin over to the kitchen area. He lights the small fire pit so that he can cook his dinner for the night, rabbit . . . again. He begins to build his story, he writes long into the night.
The next morning he awakens at the first sign of light. He needs to bake some bread for breakfast. It takes about an hour to prepare and bake it, meanwhile he continues to advance his story. He thinks that maybe yesterday was just a fluke, that it was just in his head and that it won't happen again; but he's undeniably terrified that it will again today. He doesn't even feel like going to the press today, but he knows he has to. There have only been a handful of days that he has not been able to go to work. His fear can be so debilitating that it would prevent him from crossing that bridge.
There was another bridge some way down the road, however, he never felt as scared as with this one. He continually wonders about that. He had had a carriage at one point, well, at least a wagon pulled by a horse, but a bunch of Dwarves' made off with it before he became afraid of this particular bridge.
He finishes his breakfast, puts his story away and starts out to the bridge to face another day of terror. He desperately wishes there was another way to town. The woods seem extra quiet today. 'It's just my imagination.' He tells himself as he gets closer and closer to the bridge; and to that dreaded sound of someone else's voice inside his head.
"Are you afraid today?" The voice both startles him and just about scares him to death, even though he was half expecting to hear it again.
"What are you?" He yells loudly into the air, almost screaming, before looking around nervously. Afraid that someone else had heard him. No one was around.
"Your terror." The voice answers as if he should already know.
"Why do you do this to me?"
"It's fun." She states cheerfully.
"Well I'm going to cross anyway; I'm not going to be terrorized by a simple voice, so stop me!" He challenged her as he looks at the bridge and takes a deep breath. It helps that he doesn't feel as afraid to cross as he did last night; some days are just better than others. He takes a step on the bridge and then another; it was definitely easier than last night by far. 'Maybe I just had to think about something else.' He thinks to himself as he takes yet another, more confident, stride.
"Not yet." She says calmly and shows herself. She's standing before him suddenly. His stomach rumbles in turmoil and he fears his breakfast will make another appearance. She is not as he expected. 'This isn't in my mind?' He questioned, but surprisingly the voice came back.
"No, I am real; as you can see."
'Great! Now she knows what I'm thinking.' Thinking to himself knowing that she can hear him anyway.
A sickly figure stands in front of him. It's a decaying pygmy dragon Liche. He could see some bones through the rotting yellowish flesh that seemed to be oozing a gelatinous brown liquid. The figure bows at him.
"I am TyAcsun. (Tee-Uk-soon). I will be your torturer for the rest of your days." She says smiling, sort of. Her smile was a bit sickening in itself, he could see her gums and various teeth in her head through the rotting snout of a dragons face. He feels sick to his stomach again. His heart beat wildly now, he cannot move, he is frozen there speechless and paralyzed. She takes a step backwards to allow him to look upon her whole form. His muscles relaxed enough for him to move again. Thinking for a moment that this is some kind of wizards trick he looks around for one; he see nothing, there isn't even a slight breeze. It seems that nothing is moving. He was truly and madly terrified now. He began to hyperventilate and this time there was no stopping it. He ran back to safe ground and just heard a wicked laugh. With his heart beating fast he turned back around he saw that she had disappeared. Looking around he saw that no one was anywhere in sight; and the trees swayed in the breeze as he heard chirping birds once again.
He began to carefully walk across the bridge, but nothing happened. He saw no sign of her, but panic began to rear its ugly head once more. He started sweating and he could see those little white dots that appear in your vision after hyperventilating. He ran the rest of the way across the bridge, when he got to the end, he took his normal break so he could recover.
"I look forward to seeing you on your way home." The thing jested.
He made it to the press a little later than normal but the rest of his day went smoothly just the same. His mind would wander off to his story and decided this story would write itself. All he had to do was write his experiences. He had a little money, so after his duties at the press were finished he went to one of the three armories in town. He purchased a sword and a scabbard. When he told the owner of the shop what was happening, he showed him some basic defensive moves. It was hardly training, but it was something. He grimly and reluctantly walked down the cobblestone street right out of town, where his confrontation awaited him. He just hoped that with this new sword he could abate the situation at least a little.
Fifty or so yards from the bridge he stood, motionless. His mind was racing with different thoughts. When he finally decided that the thing had done nothing to him yet, She hadn't actually hurt him in any way, he really had nothing to fear. So why was he so afraid? He started forward towards the bridge. His body reacted more harshly the closer he got to the bridge, by the time he got there he was sweating much more profusely than normal. He had his new short sword in its scabbard. His pulse was on overdrive but he held steady anyway. That little sword and the few moves he had learned gave him a surprising amount of courage. He now stood at the edge of the bridge waiting for the next interaction, but nothing materialized. No Pygmy Dragon Liche, no voice, just nothing. He started walking across the bridge with his horror by his side. He heard a carriage approaching and turned to see how far away it was, when he turned back she was standing inches in front of him. He gasped, jumped backwards and gracelessly released his sword, pointing it towards her. He moved to the side to let the driver pass him. The driver just looked down at him with a confused look on his face, that's when he realized the driver nor did the horse see this thing. 'Yep, I must be nuts.' Just as the carriage was passing, the passenger inside let out a horrifying scream.
"You see I AM real." She says laughing manically.
"Did you see that?" The passenger yelled franticly at the driver as he was getting off the carriage to see what was wrong. "Standing next to that man with the sword!" The nicely dressed man looks but only sees the man in the middle of the bridge awkwardly holding a sword. "I swear it was a decaying baby dragon standing next to him. It was just there, I swear!" She was frantic in the carriage, her voice teetering on insaneness, the driver looks at her like she is crazy, then gets back into the driver's seat and starts off again.
"Now you see that I am not just a figure in your head, besides, what kind of crazy do you have to be to conjure up thoughts about me or my kind anyway?" She said accusatorily. "Would you like to run me through?" She asked politely. "Well . . . I await your final blow. Let's end this shall we." She said smiling. She lifted what was left of her decaying wings to her sides and held her head up high.
Thinking that he probably has only one shot to rid himself of her, but knowing that this all could be a trick but thinking that he can and should do this; strikes forward at where her heart should be. As the sword pushed through the tough scaly hide his blade started to putrefy. He pulled back immediately still holding onto what was left of the sword, the hilt.
"What the-?" Standing there in terror knowing that it is her turn. His stomach tightens and he begins to wretch. Now on his knees spilling lunch on the bridge, he looks up at her and she looks sorrowfully into his eyes. He knew then he should have also invested in a shield of some kind. It's too late now.
"Now that you have gotten that out of your system; it is my turn. I shall not take it now." She vanishes. "You never know when I will strike." Came that awful voice in his head. "Now be gone with you." Silence ensues. The thought of her killing him painfully wracks his thoughts as he walks off the bridge. Now he's even more petrified. He begins to wonder about how she will kill him. His stomach still in knots. Almost every commoner knows that a regular Dragon will kill with fire, but what does a Pygmy Dragon Liche kill with? He thought about his sword and how it just, sort of, got eaten away. 'Maybe its acid.' He shakes his head in dread; 'that would be most painful.'
He turns to walk away and tries not to think about his own demise any longer. Should he continue with his story when he gets home? Who will read it when he's gone? He walks home in deep contemplation and worry, so much worry.
The next several days he lived in horror, complete and total, all-encompassing horror. His friend was noticing his lack of performance at work. He finally gave in and talked to his friend. He talked about his initial fear and the fact that he had never been afraid of that bridge before. Then he told his friend about the Pygmy Dragon Liche that was standing in his way almost every day except these last few. That's when he explained the last encounter with her. His friend directed him to a mage who could enchant a sword should he get another one. He explained that the Liche was an undead creature so therefore it couldn't be killed, but it could be destroyed with certain spells or enchanted weapons.
After acquiring the sword and enchantments he walked to that bridge with much more confidence in his step. As he would soon find out, the sword was only a tool to give him the courage to confront the Liche and cross that bridge. But the sword was created to defeat a Pygmy Dragon Liche. He was also informed where to strike, take her head.
He made his way most confidently up the road, past the other bridge and all the way up to his 'Dread Bridge', as he had referred to it as.
"Come out TyAcsun!" He yelled. This time he didn't care who heard him. He walked out onto the bridge without hesitation.
"You are very afraid. Yes?" The voice was back in his head, this time it was a soft voice. A voice you would trust if you hadn't seen what it belonged to. "Otherwise you wouldn't have a magic sword with you this time."
That last comment got him to think, but he looked around him. He found himself standing in the center of the bridge. He hadn't realized that he had gone this far onto the bridge without feeling scared of it.
"I am no longer afraid of you." He yelled back. The sword suddenly flew out of his tight grip and slid across the bridge. Panic flooded his senses. A lump formed in his throat and he felt as if he was going to wet his pants. He realized that this had to be his last stand and he wasn't going down as a coward, he just wished he would've finished his last story. A regret he knew he couldn't keep. He wasn't sure how to let it go but it was time to stand tall that's all he knew now. He stood upright and strong. He held his head high and stood with more confidence than he had ever exuded before and he felt it too.
"What are you doing?" TyAcsun demanded angrily.
"Well, if you're going to kill me, then I am ready to die." He told her firmly. He shuffled his feet preparing for her final attack, wishing he hadn't forgotten that stupid shield . . . again. He closed his eyes and waited. He kept on waiting.
When he opened his eyes she was no longer standing in front of him. He looked around him but she was nowhere to be found.
"TyAcsun!" He yelled out into the air. "Where are you?"
He stood in the middle of that bridge for what felt like an hour, knowing it was only a few minutes, even still, every heartbeat felt like a minute in itself. The lump in his throat was gone and a calm wind blew into him. He knew she was gone. Something in him told him that he will never see the likes of her again. He calmly walked to up to his sword that rested on the far side of the bridge and picked it up. Looking around one last time just to be sure the feeling had left him for good, he no longer felt the fear that used to paralyze him so. He felt no presence about this bridge. The shock of it all was now wearing off. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath sucking air into his lungs before falling to his knees sobbing fiercely, and yet, uncontrollably laughing. He was broken, yet he was healed.
'No regrets.' He said aloud and then opened his tearful eyes. He was indeed happy that he could still draw breath. His breathing still rapid, and he couldn't figure out why he was laughing, other than the fact that he just left that bridge alive. He used his sword to hold him upright as the flood of emotions continued its barrage on his heart. After several minutes of hard weeping he had the strength to stand once more; turning to face the bridge, to face his fear, but it was no longer there.
He slowly turned around and walked home with pride.
The years passed quickly after that and he found his calling with his writing. Writing mostly of the high class cultures and the futuristic world of other countries: about things called cars, electricity, computers, and skyscrapers, as well as other rumored devices and marvels. He builds his stories about those communities battling magical dragons and the likes; of unsung heroes and high class princesses. It is all science fiction to his readers. He gets all his rumors from the royals who read and love his work. They pay him well for his stories. His magazine publication was handed off to his friend so that he could focus on his writings, but now he has money. Being a published author, he has the money for his own horse drawn carriage.
On occasion he still walks out to his bridge and sits to reflect on the trials that he had to, once, go through. He thinks about his irrational fear of the bridge itself and realized it was that Pygmy Dragon Liche that instilled the true fear into him. Sometimes he wondered if any of those events really happened or if he had gone temporarily mad due to his fear of the bridge. All he knew was that his confidence must have overcome his fear. He comes here often now, but he never did change the name, it stands, now, as a permanent reminder.
He was never afraid of that bridge again, but he kept the name anyway;
The Dread Bridge
Martin L. Racay