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