The Devil’s Bridge

It felt as hot and thick as drops of blood- like sweat itself coming from the sky. The heat seemed to always win against the refreshing coolness that was the rain; it twisted its refreshing nature and turned it against those seeking a balm.

Morning slowly crept away, giving up coolness to the stale swelter of those typical afternoons. The air was choked with moisture; it made the comfort of loose clothes pointless. The trees stood mute; the sting of the sun cut the whistle from the bird’s song in their roost. The branches did not sway and acted paralyzed in some lethargy. Sometimes the sun hid behind matted clouds but it didn’t seem to matter, in her memory it was always stifling.

It was true, that during those sweltering days that sapped you, all you could do was laze on the porch or a stoop. For what it was worth, she felt happiest in her youth and naivety. She conjured another memory in an instant when she was a few years older during one such summer:

Her grandfather sat there, looking out onto the street from their porch; it was peeling white and creaking at every stride of the rocking chair. The lines on his face seemed to map the experiences that chalked up his furrow. He spit noisily into a brown stained bucket at his feet. His eyes grew a sudden mist. His face hadn’t moved and his stillness spoke as loud as any shouting could ever. A very far distance was where he set his dull gray eyes. He gazed over derelict housing and broken streets, taking to the stars and through time itself. He seemed to have found the emotion he was after and the memory followed. He breathed deeply and spit again. Moving his face slowly, he drew his lips into a slanted oval and with slurred speech and scraggly chin he spoke.

They move tro’ the air…and pass locks and the ‘ardest of barred doors.” “These wee crayturs are that of make believe, aye, but tis as real to me as this here can o’ spit at me feet.” He continued and cocked his head while focusing an eye at me. With one hand upon his knee and hunched back, he leaned forward and entreated, “Do ya hear that?” Shaking his head, “Course not.” “But! They’re right here workin’, pushin’ tro’ the trees and up the floor boards; Tripping you and swaying on ta’ strides o’ willow wisps.” “And if ye deny em’ they sit on yer shoulder and course bad things come to ye’.” He spit into the tin and wiped his chin. “Superstition be damned.” He tapped his nose knowingly then returned to the chair looking suddenly tired.

His eyes seemed to the find that spot again, that was neither here nor there and began, “When I was a young man, I carried me pack and traveled many a high road all across this auld country. One day as the sun began ta’ set. I was at the old bridge north of Connemara.” He recalled the bridge, “T’was an ardinary one, made of many a grey small stone and it crossed a small straym, wit all sort of verdure.” He gestured with his hands as much as emotion danced on his brow. “I sat there with me naggin’ of whiskey, castin’ stones below its steps, when long came a shadow that stretched well over me.”

“Bedad, t’was not mine!” He hollered.

Moving forward in his seat, he turned his head toward me. “This shadow stretched over me and I felt as the ice in the great North Sea. I knew by its shape t’was not another man for there were harns protrudin’ from its head and the silhouette of claws and a horrible snake for a tail!” “I dared not to move and I clutched the whiskey dearly for if t’were all over fer’ me, at least I’d have one las’ drop o’ tha’ pure!” He placed his palms on his thighs and straightened his crooked spine as best possible, still looking with piercing points of steel. “So as I sit there shakin’, I gather enough courage to look behind me. Fair nuf’ it comes leapin’ at me just as a flash of dark horrible shade!” His eyes were wide and his eyebrows were high upon his brow and the tufts of his white hair lay disheveled. In dramatic intensity he rushed onwards, “I quickly turned back around wit me eyes closed shut preparin’ for death but after a second I summons up the last o’ me wit’ and kinda’ haf’ open me eyes…”

Now, the shadow lay a pace before me and as terrifyin’ as ever. T’wasn’t a shadow at all but giant daemon crayture!” “Its figure was covered in mud and obscured by the plaster that gathers at the bottom of the strayms and lakes; heat was risin’ off it and its eyes glowed like hot coals!” “Me jaw lay suspended in disbelief and then from behind im’, suddenly, white light came from the thick of the forest.” “The light took da’ shape of a claymore…a giants cudgel!” “As bright as a thousand candles…” His voice trailed off for a moment then hastily started. “…Nay!” He shouted.

“T’was as bright as the biggest star on the darkest eve and as blessed as the pope himself! And be it quicker than ye can say musha, the monster was sliced in haf’ by an almighty blow.”

“A horrible hissing-wail like the croon of a banshee came from its mouth as it burned from the light.” “I blinked in awe and for certes, t’was gone!” He adjusted himself more comfortably and took his eyes away from me and across the lawn. “The light lost its form and intensity then quickly retreated back into the wood followed by the laughter of boisterous children!” His mouth was half open and his expression had action about it. His knuckles where white but soon reddened as he removed his grip from the chair. He took an old rag from his pocket and wiped his forehead. He relaxed his face and sat more calmly in the rocking chair.

“Well mavorneen, I tell you, it still comes around. You best guard yourself with the faith of these wee ones! When ye see that devil shade, don’t hesitate tay’ run as fast as ye can for without their tiny blessings, you’d surely be doomed as a feast in hell.” He looked sharply at her as if trying to say something more. He stopped, looked away and sighed wistfully, “Lord bless the good people of te’ forest who saved me that awful night!”

Middle East FS

Advertisements

Devil’s Bridge

The street was humid and perspiring with dew from a morning shower.  The summers heat beat back the coolness that was the rain.  The losing battle of morning gave way to the stale swelter of the afternoon.  The air seemed choked with moisture and made the comfort of loose clothes pointless. It ceased its circulation entirely at about midday causing life to limp like a punctured tire.  The trees stood mute without a whistle for the birds refused to sing and the branches did not sway.  There was not even a reprieve from the sun, for it hid behind matted clouds

He sat there looking out onto the street amidst the haze of summer and the fog of his own mind.  His porch was peeling white and creaking at every stride of the rocking chair.  The lines on his face seemed to map the experiences that chalked up his furrow.  His stillness spoke as loud as any shouting could ever.  With mist in his eyes, the weathered man spit noisily into a brown stained bucket at his feet.  Without movement his dull gray eyes appeared to creep over the derelict housing and down broken streets, then suddenly, taking to the stars and through time itself.  I visually traced the spot where they seemed to be but got lost on the rooftops.  He seemed to have found the emotion he was after and the memory followed.  Breathing deeply, he spit once more.  Moving his face slowly, he drew his lips into a slanted oval and with slurred speech and scraggly chin he spoke.
“They move tro’ the air…and pass locks and the ‘ardest of barred doors.”  “These wee crayturs are that of make believe, aye, but tis as real to me as this here can o’ spit at me feet.”  He continued and cocked his head while focusing a gleaming eye at me.  With one hand upon his knee and hunched back, he leaned forward.  “Do ya hear that?”  “Course not.”  “They’re right here workin’, pushin’ tro’ the trees and up the floor boards.”  “Tripping you and swaying on ta’ strides o’ willow wisps”  “And if ye deny em, they sit on yer shoulder and course bad things come to ye.”  He spit into the tin and wiped his chin.  “Superstition be damned.”  He tapped his nose knowingly then returned to the chair looking suddenly tired.  His eyes seemed to the find that spot again, that was neither here nor there and the spark returned.

“When I was a young man, I carried me pack and traveled many a road all across the old country.”  “So as ye’ can imagine, I would be the one ta know a thing or two about this an’ that boyo.”  “One day I was idling at the bridge north of Killarney.”  “Twas an ‘ardinary one, made of many a gray small stone and it crossed a small straym wit’ all sort of verdure about it.”  He looked reminiscent but continued with intensity.  “I sat there with me naggin of whiskey, castin’ stones below its steps enjoyin’ a late spring breeze and watchin’ the sun set.”  “It was a long and dry day so I was well in me cups come the setting darkness of dusk.”  “The night air settled over the hills and the air grew quite chilly.”  “I sits there wrapped in the warmth of me pladie, when along come a shadow that stretched well over me.”  “Bedad, twas not mine!”

  He moved forward in his seat and his rocking ceased.  “This shadow stretched over me and I felt as the ice in the great north sea.”  “I knew by its shape twas not another man for there were harns protrudin’ from its head and by the silhouette of claws.”  “Its horrible serpent tail flickered like a whip!”  “I dared not to move and I clutched the whiskey dearly.”  “If it were all over fer’ me, at least I’d have one las’ drop o’ tha’ pure.”  “So as I sit there shakin’, I gather enough courage to look behind me and fair nuf’ it comes leapin’ at me just as a flash of dark horrible shade!”  His eyes were wide and his eyebrows were high upon his brow and the tufts of his white hair lay disheveled in dramatic intensity.  “Wit me eyes closed shut, I quickly turned around preparin’ for death.”  “After a second I summons up the last o’ me wit’ and kinda haf’ open em’.”

  “Devil be damned!” He whooped loudly with raised hands.  “I sure nuf’ seen alls’ the life I’ve had and sure nuff’ was gonna sees the end of it!”  “Ara, the shadow did not strike me that instant, instead, decidin’ ta’ lay a pace before me.”  “He was as terrifyin’ as ever and his face appeared ta’ be wholly made up of a  barbs and filth encrusted teeth!”  He shuddered and a genuine fright settled over the old man. With a cliffhanger effect he paused and sucked in all the air that he expelled over the last few moments.

He regained the luster and the fire was in him once more.  “Twas not a shadow at all but a giant daemon crayture!”  “Its figure was covered in mud and obscured by the plaster that gathers at the bottom of the strayms and lakes.”  “Heat was risin’ off im’ and its jeweled eyes glowed like hot coals!” “Me jaw lay suspended in disbelief and surely, I would draw not another breath…”  “…but then suddenly, from behind the beast, white light came from the thick of the forest!”  “The light formed to that shape of a…”  He stuttered a moment scrambling for the word “…a giants cudgel!” As bright as a thousand candles…” His voiced trailed off for a moment then hastily started. “…Nay! Twas as bright as the biggest star on the darkest eve and as blessed as the pope himself!”  “And be it quicker than ye’ can say musha, the monster was sliced in haf’ by an almighty blow.” “Thundering Jesus!” He hollered. “A horrible wail, like tha’ croon of a banshee mixed up with the agony of an ald’ lady burnt by scaldin’ tallow came from its unholy maw!”  “It burned from the light sending dark, dark soot all about the place.”  “I blinked, rubbing my eyes in awe and twas gone!
He rested his hands back on his lap and turned his head and reset his gaze.  His expression had action about it but his speech slowed.  Mystery and wonder welled up on his lips.  “The light lost its form and intensity and as quickly as it struck down the devil, it retreated back inta’ the wood followed closely by the laughter of boisterous children…”

His mouth was half open and held a crooked smile.  His knuckles where white but soon reddened as he removed his grip from the rocking chair.  He took an old rag from his pocket and wiped his forehead. His face relaxed his face as he sat more calmly. “Well boy, I’ll tell you, it still comes around feedin’ on the wayward, ramblin’ lot.”  “When ye see that frothin’, drippin’ shade, ye’ best rely on them legs for without faith of the good people you’ll be doomed to be a feast for hell.”  He sighed wistfully, “Lord bless those tiny crayturs and all their tricks and all their foolery…”  Like a clergyman finishing his sermon he spoke with finality  “…and most of all for the soft spot they hold in their hearts for us ungrateful folk.”ireland