The Old Stone Bridge

The greenish-blue river in the center of town was where I hid out when I was in trouble or wanted to be alone. I hid under the old stone bridge, its bright gray color, the green moss hanging off of it, and all the cracks from its age. However, that was when I was little, but I still got found. I still love that bridge to this day, but now, they’re tearing it down. One time, I met a girl who was a year, month, and day younger than me. If I remember correctly, her name was Anne Mary. I can still see her golden hair flowing gently and softly through the cold and crisp air. Her blue eyes as bright as the full midnight moon. Finally, the velvet red dress that she had gotten muddy from running down the hill to the river. I thought she was a high-class civilian when I met her, in a rich and wealthy family with a large house on the other side of town. In my mind, she was just the perfect princess to a lowly peasant. Of course, it’s not like we were in the medieval ages, but my family is poor, and lives on the west side of town. The river splits us into two separate sides. The west being the poor, the east being the wealthy. The further east you were, the more wealth you had. I lived in the middle part of the west, a poor, but somewhat upper-poor kind of person. Even if we were separated like so, we ventured out anywhere we wanted. If a wealthy man invited a poor man, they’d normally have dinner, but very rarely that happens. The most crime you ever see here is when a poor man murders a rich man out of jealousy, but that still isn’t often, since there are guards and police all over the town, especially the east. Now that I’ve grown, I’ve become even more poor, moving west. I’m the lower-middle kind of poor person. I wonder where she is now. I wonder if she even lives here anymore, or if she moved to a whole new country. I guess things like that will be learned sooner or later in my life, perhaps even never. Ever since the day I saw her, I’ve been looking for her, asking around town, in shops, asking merchants, and plainly just richer men and women. However, they all give the same three word response, “I don’t know.” Truly, it gets very annoying, but I’ll have to live with it. Whether I find her or not is not for me to decide, but my fate.

The next day arrived so slowly, another painful day of living alone in the poor district. I limited how much food I ate each day, practically starving, I ate only a sandwich and drank water once per day. I wasn’t skinny, like it would be to the point of seeing the white of my ribs, like the absolute poor, but nor was I portly. I was somewhat more on the skinny side, but I had a fair build. Sometimes, I see more portly poor men who used to be rich when I was young. There is Lord Francais Juandor, who owned the Bickwell mansion. Now, he’s in his late seventies and lies on the streets almost all day, his belly about a foot out from his nose. There is Duke Icabor Kaldwell, who owned the Harrison castle. Now he sits in front of his home, in a rotting rocking chair. His belly isn’t as large as Juandor’s, but just a few inches smaller. I, on the other hand, have always been the small man I’ve been. All those fancy names and rich people just don’t fit me, I guess. In fact, I’d say my name is a female name, but what would I know? I was never able to research it. Then again, what would I do if it was a female name? I’ve always ran from my troubles, physically and mentally. I just don’t fight back, it’s very unfitting. Before I knew it, I found myself sitting on the hill, near the stone bridge. I looked over and saw a sign. Looks like this is the last day until it’s torn down. My old friend, gone in just a day. It’s so easy for things to happen, yet so hard to do things. For a brief moment, I was staring at the bridge, then in front of me. I guess I was sitting on the east side of town, because I could see old torn down buildings across me. Then, I laid back and looked at the sky. Its blue tint and white puffs. I wonder what it’s like for a bird to fly for the first time. Are they scared when they fly, or do they not have a worry? Just then, I saw golden hair just at the corner of my right eye, so I turned my head. Golden hair, blue eyes, but a different dress. A seafoam green dress with white trim. Is it really her, or do my eyes deceive me?

I stood up and started to approach her, but she turned to a merchant. Even if I do make contact, will she remember me? It was nineteen years ago when we last saw each other, so I ran. And, if anyone could guess where I hid, it was my mother. Under the bridge. I sat, my back leaning against the mossy stone wall. My khaki colored cargo shorts became a moss green color over the years, and my plain white shirt started turning green, as well. What would someone think, seeing a beautiful girl such as herself talking to a dirty poor man like myself? I wouldn’t want to ruin her reputation, it’s one of the few ways the rich went poor. Of course, I don’t want her to become poor just from the loss of reputation. I just stared at the under part of the old bridge, it still holds the same features I remember it having. The bright stone grey color, the green hanging moss, and the cracks in the bridge. Before I realized it, it was becoming dark. I think I fell asleep under here. I looked to the roads and saw people still walking. Not as many as during the day, but there are still quite a few people at this time. I stood up and started walking home, feeling that my feet are heavier than normal. When I looked down, I noticed my shoes were soaked in river water, but I continued walking. By the time I got home, it was already dark and I saw very few lights. I opened the door to my one room home which had a bed, a closet, some counters, a microwave, a sink, and a refrigerator. I went outside to use the bathroom and bathed in a small place in another small room outside, where I could get one minute of warm water, then it started getting ice cold. I took a quick shower, like always. Then I went to the fridge to find something small to eat. Like always, half a loaf of bread, a few turkey slices, and a few slices of cheese. I made a quick sandwich to eat and got a glass of water. After that, due to the darkness, I slowly stepped my way through my small home, trying to find my bed, which was just a sheet on the floor, a blanket over it, and a pillow where I rest my head. And for that day, rest came assured.

The next morning that I’d woken up, I smelled smoke. I looked around my house, but there was no fire. When I looked through the holes and cracks of my home, I saw a home nearby on fire. I jolted up, knowing exactly who’s home it was. It was Mr. Jenkley’s home. Mr. Jenkley had been about forty by the time I was eight. Now, he’s got to be in his seventies, maybe eighties. I’ve known him for a long time. I used to run by his house and talk to him every day. He’d tell me stories about an old fairy tale of some river monster that would swallow little kids who swam in the river. He told me many things, taught me as I was growing up. Since I was too poor to afford school, Jenkley taught me most everything I needed to know and the basics of how to survive the poor life. By the time I was fifteen, he’d already gone nearly broke. He couldn’t even afford his own food anymore, so I brought food from our home. I would split my food in half. At first, he rejected it, saying I should be wary of myself before anyone else. Here in the west, it was practically every man for himself. Some parents abandoned their babies so they could feed themselves, others gave them away, and some even murdered them. Like hell the local police gave a damn. Whatever happens in the west happens, there is no law. But if a rich man or woman come here, we better not even think about touching them, because we’d be sentenced to at least two years of jail time. We have to ask before touching the rich. Sometimes, the rich allows the poor to touch them, then tells an officer that the poor had touched them unauthorized. Many of the people who have died or been thrown in jail in the past were innocent, but at least the imprisoned get food. When I got a closer look at Jenkley’s home, it was charred black. I couldn’t see anything that wasn’t black. In fact, the only thing I saw was Jenkley’s old amulet, the one he always had around his neck. What any man would assume is that Jenkley was dead, burned inside his own home. Of course, that’s what I thought, as well. I fell to my knees, staring at the blazed, charred house. Looks like the dear neighborhood tale-teller was gone. After the fire had gone out and the black bits of the house were remaining, I walked in. I felt the burning heat of the still hot wood. I looked around, everything black except a few jewels and a satchel. I grabbed the satchel and opened it. I found three books, all labeled “Jenkley.” Was he planning to become rich through writing? When I opened one of the books, a brown one, some of the pages were burned. Only some words had been burned out, but it was still readable other from that. From what I saw out of that, it looked like it was just a story. I grabbed the second book, a blue one, and opened it. I saw the many fairy tales he used to tell. He made up his own fairy tales about this town. And finally, a red book that used to have a lock on it. I could tell from where there were marks around the area. I opened it and read through. It looks like Jenkley kept his own little diary. When I’d gotten to the last page, I read something that rather upset me. Not in an angry way, but differently. It was a suicide note. He stated his writing had been a failure, rejected by the few publishers in the town. He tried his fairy tales and story, but they gave him not even the smallest amount of light. I suppose the burning of his home was his own doing. Of course, that was all I did for that day. I scavenged his home, looking for objects that may seem out of place or interesting, but only the jewels and books were what caught me. When I got out of the house, it was broad daylight, but I wanted to sleep, so I did.

When I woke up, I found myself laying in the ashes of Jenkley’s house. I rubbed my eyes and stretched. When I think about it, the old bridge shouldn’t even be where it used to be anymore, but when I got to the area, it was still standing. I walked over to a new sign, one that wasn’t there before. It stated that the destruction of the bridge was postponed until tomorrow, due to the business of a murder in House Kimball. I was relieved to see this, but at the same time, pained. I didn’t want one of my last, greatest memories of this town to be ruined, so I decided to do something about it. It was about time that we, the poor, take action for something we love. We’ve been treated like shit for the past fifty years, from my knowledge of my parents. It’s like we’re the rich’s toys. They watch us burning, fighting, and murdering each other. What kind of sick enjoyment is that? They know that this bridge was here much before this town was. The route that leads through the center of town and across the bridge was a trading route for North England to get to South England. There was a lack of trade routes, so they built one here, before this town was made. Now that England doesn’t use this anymore, the government here decides what to do with it. If I were able to rally enough of us, we’d surely be able to stop their plans. They’re just trying to use us, as their toys. They want to make us mad, to murder even more. My family’s bond with this bridge has lasted for about a century by now, when my great great great grandfather had been a merchant who used this route. He travelled from the big cities to the smallest towns, supplying them with all their needs. Food, water, anything. You’d think that nowadays, England would supply us, but they disowned us. It’s like we’re a different country. I didn’t do much this day, just sit under the bridge and ponder what exactly I should do, but I thought of nothing. I guess this old, glorious bridge will be stolen from us after all.

When I woke up, I found myself in my own home. I thought I was under the bridge when I fell asleep, but I guess not. However, I felt a jolting pain near my left shoulder. When I looked, my arm had been missing. What exactly happened last night? When I got up and looked out the cracks and holes of my home, I saw two men standing at my door, so I opened it. They’d explained what happened and why my arm was missing. It seems they tended to me while I was unconscious. I thanked them and they left. Apparently, part of the bridge had collapsed on me while I was asleep under the bridge. Now it seems like even my own memories are attacking me. When I walked outside, I saw people staring, whispering, and some even snickering. I just continued with my normal day, as best I could. When I finally got to the river, I saw a people crowding the bridge. They were commencing the destruction of the bridge. At first, I wondered why there was a crowd, then I remembered the sign. At that moment, I ran over and barged through the thick crowds and walls of people. It felt like I was trying to swim through rocks. When I finally got the the front, I saw a wrecking ball and a dozer. The dozer was slowly going towards the bottom, but I ran towards it. I wasn’t thinking at the time. I didn’t think about the consequences of my actions, what could happen to me. I just ran. However, before I got there, I felt a sharp sting in my leg, and I went tumbling. Finally, I’d came to a splash at the bottom when I hit the river. A bullet in my leg, from an officer. Of course, my mind wasn’t on the right track anymore. My heart was set on saving this bridge, something many people call useless, but I still saw as a monument. I stood up, or tried, and continued towards the bridge. Another sting, near the same spot as before. My leg was becoming numb, but I could still feel that one area of burning, dissatisfying pain. By now, I was trying to hop on my left leg to the bridge. Why was I so loving to an inanimate object? Then, that’s when I saw something else. Golden hair and a velvet red dress. It had to be. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my left leg, then I crashed into the river water, covered in mud and some moss. I tried to erase my memories of her, but it was nearly futile. I crawled towards the bridge. Then, a pain, through my chest. I couldn’t move, but I was still just barely breathing. I didn’t want to lose my life, but nor did I want to lose the bridge. I didn’t want to run anymore. I wanted to protect something dear to me. But it looks like what seems right to you may be the wrong decision. It was painful to even breath now. My chest was tightening and it was becoming harder to breath. I could feel the river water flowing on my cheek. It was as cold as a boy’s freezing hands after a snowball fight. My vision was darkening, becoming blurry. The last thing I saw was the color gold.


Texte: Shikanosuke Maejima
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 16.08.2015

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