Monday, June 4, 2018

Microstory 856: A Bridge Too Far

We’re walking slowly, which I’m grateful for, because even though I’m in good enough health to move as fast as these horses normally walk, not everyone here is. The guy tied behind me is absolutely emaciated. He must not have eaten for weeks. If the men leading us to our deaths were pulling us along as fast as they sometimes do, he would probably fall down and die right here. I look up at the lead ranger. He has kind eyes, but they’re also sad. He feels a lot of empathy, and does not appear to personally want to be doing this, but it’s his job. He notices the starving man as well, so when the other guards aren’t looking, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a piece of bread. He hands it to me, and jerks his head over my shoulder. If he weren’t asking me to give it to the other one, I would have done it anyway. And I’m not just saying that because I’m going to die anyway, because I’m not. Unlike everyone else here, I’m lucky to have lived in this county most of life, and I know a secret about these tracks that no one else does. No one here is going to die; not if they listen to every word I say, and trust me. Execution by train is a fairly new concept in these lands. In the olden days, it was too dangerous; While 999 times out of ten, the train would be fine, that thousandth execution could lead to a derailment. Now that even rural areas used maglev trains, the government decided it was a good way of getting rid of its undesirables. It’s quick, and nearly impossible to survive, and they always do it over a high bridge, so the bodies fall off, and disappear downstream. If the prisoners try to escape, they’ll just fall and die anyway, so no harm done. They picked the wrong bridge today, though.

The extremely tall man ahead of me is actin’ real shifty-like. I can see his eyes dart from side to side, and he’s twisting the rope on his wrists, hoping to eventually get them off. But even if he does, he’s only a third of the way there. All of our arms are tied to the stomach of the man in front of us. All of our ankles are tied together as well, and the same goes for our necks. It’s possible to shake these restraints, but by the time you get all the way done, a guard has noticed, and then he’ll just shoot ya. Some men try this, thinking it better to die from a bullet to the head than the strike of a train goin’ four hundred miles an hour. They may be right, but chances are, they’ll be caught quickly enough to just be back tied up, and then it was pointless. Other prisoners have tried coordinating massive escape plans, which caused the guards to keep people scheduled for the same time and place locked up in separate locations until it was time to go. That didn’t stop every attempt, so they started adding emaciated people like the poor schmuck behind me, so the team has no chance of getting too far. Fortunately for this group here, they’re with me, and I have a plan; a plan that doesn’t work if the guy ahead of me tries his own fool’s errand. I sneak up when even the nice guard isn’t looking, and try to whisper to the other prisoner that he needs to trust me. We have to make it all the way to the bridge for this to work, and it will work, but he has to let go of whatever he’s thinking. He doubts me, but he knows how hopeless his situation is, so in the end, he gives up and agrees. Just in time too, because a guard turns around, and starts lookin’ at us suspiciously.

As we step onto the bridge, we begin to feel the vibrations, and hear the train up ahead. One of the guards urges us on. It’s best for us to be nearly on the other side, so we’re not thrown clear back to the road. But there’s a special spot on this bridge for what I want to happen to work, and it’s about three-quarters of the way there. I whisper up to the guy ahead of me again, and also the guy behind that they need to jump when I say. I can’t get any message up to the other prisoners, so the weight of us three will just have to pull them over. We hit the spot, and I can see the greenish ripple in the air that you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t staring at it. I scream for them to jump, and we jump. The guards try to stop us, but they’re not strong enough, nor do they think we have any hope of surviving the fall. What they don’t know is that the ripple in the air will transport you to the other side of town in an instant. No one in the county knows what it is, or how it got there, but we all know about it, and we all agreed to never tell anyone else. The old world is over, though, so the secret no longer matters. I remember jumping through the ripple as a child, and having so much fun with it. I also remember the three kids who died because they missed the ripple. You gotta go right at that ripple, or you just fall. Other people grew out of the exhilaration, but I never did. I continued to enjoy it all the way up until the world turned to crap, and today, I’m extremely grateful for it. We land on the edge of the Humphrey Farm, just like we’re meant to. I’m the only one on my feet, but the others scramble up quickly, relieved and excited about what happened, but still so very confused. I smile, and help the man ahead of me get his ropes off. The others start helping each other too, and we make plans to get as far away from here as possible, but then we hear rustling in the trees behind us. A half dozen men with guns come out and grin at us. One of them points his shotgun right at my gut, and cackles. “You didn’t think we knew about the spatial distortion, did ya? Glad to disappoint.” Then the firing squad squeeze their triggers.

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