The bridge, once a rail crossing on the Arkansas River, was rejuvenated into a pedestrian bridge, although the old railway still exists on the top canopy. At the midway point on the river, an overlook platform juts outward. Standing on the overlook on a still night, as the mist reaches out with vaporous arms, it seems as if I can still hear the echoing clink-clank, clink-clank of metal wheels rattling the rails. In the background, there’s a thumping pulse of traffic and a rumbling hum of a motorcycle passing. Within the bridge’s confines, noises reverberate across the night as if within an echo chamber.
Golden coronas of light fight a losing battle against the dark. The fog slicks the surfaces of the bridge. The railing is damp and chill against my skin when I lean over to peer into the river below. The water laps at the pilings, grumbles across the rocks, each drop conversing sotto voice before rejoining the murmuring flow onward. In the distance, I hear a splash, and memories of every thriller and horror movie I have ever watched flood my mind.
Is it the sound of a body falling into the water? A jumper? Did someone toss a body off the bridge? Or, is it the slithering of some leviathan from the depths to terrorize the city? I search the murkiness in an attempt to determine where the noise originated. I feel the movement as each muscle tenses, creeping upwards until my neck aches. I see nothing but the denseness of a city night.
From somewhere behind me, shrouded by the fog, other sounds emanate. Something snuffling. Then a staccato clicking, a jangling of chain, and a thud, slide-shuffle, and another thud. Whipping around, I strain to see through fog-choked air, but shapes elude me as the mist ebbs and flows around skeleton of the bridge melting the stark wooden structure into a warped visage that would be at home in one of Dali’s paintings.
As a point of darkness intensifies, solidifies, blood thrums in my ears like the sonorous strum of a bass guitar. Nerves goose-pimple my arms, and my breathe wheezes between parted lips. Slowly reversing, my jacket whispers sibilantly against the solid upright as I pause to see whatever is coming my way. All I am able to think is “something wicked this way comes.”
Click-click. Click-click. Snuffle. Thud. Slide-shuffle. Like a snake shedding it’s skin. Thud. Snuffle, snuffle. Jangle. Closer now. Over and over. The shape waivers as the mist plays hide-and-seek with whoever, whatever is there. It blanks out the feeble light shed by the overhead lanterns. Thud. Click, click, snuffle. Slide-shuffle. Something dragging, or merely Quasimodo coming to visit? Or perhaps, I fell into an alternate universe designed by Stephen King?
The brume wafts away showcasing the visitor. Actually, visitors. I inhale deeply then nod my head at the man walking his Labrador retriever. He nods back. The Lab smiles a goofy grin before shaking his head, jangling his leash and snuffling out a sneeze. The man’s cane thuds on the floor boards supporting his limping progress down the bridge. The mist closes like a curtain falling, and I snort out a laugh at myself. Just a case of atmospheric conditions and an overactive imagination turning a wizened man and an aged dog with a cold into a scene worthy of Hitchcock.
© 2008 Lisa G. Beaudoin