Eleven Miles of Night: Preface: The Bridge

He stepped into the darkness of the covered bridge and told himself: Only a few more miles to go, if only your nerves and your sanity hold out, that is.

The inside of the bridge’s enclosure smelled of mold, mildew, and the unseen waters that ran beneath it. It had the dank, black feeling of the bottom of a well. 

As he placed one foot down on the first creaking plank of the bridge, he half-remembered a nightmare: a dream of an evil presence that was vaguely female—or no, that pretended to be female. She (it?) might be a ghost or possibly something much worse. And she was lying in wait for him, like the evil witch in the children’s story, Hansel and Gretel

He took another step into the all-consuming darkness. The wood creaked again, practically groaned this time. She’s waiting for you, he thought. Whatever she (or it) is, you’ll find out before you reach the other side of this bridge.

Now why would the sound of that creaking wood trigger such thoughts?

Then he remembered: Because she had told him that she would be waiting for him here. At the bridge.

He looked ahead and saw the moonlit pavement of the open road not a stone’s throw away. He could not go back now. Even worse things were waiting on the road behind him. He had to move forward.

Just walk, he thought. Take some long strides and you’ll be out of here in no time. 

And so he walked, observing how narrow the bridge was, and reflecting that surely two cars coming from opposite directions could not pass through here at the same time. 

The wood beneath his feet continued to creak, but that was nothing to worry about. The bridge supported the weight of cars, after all.

He heard a sound above him, from the rafters of the enclosure. It was like a hiss, like air escaping from a poorly tied balloon. Then he heard another sound: the sound of weight shifting, of something moving around up there.

Don’t look. Just keeping walking. If you look up there, what you see will drive you mad, even more so than the other things you’ve seen this night. 

He was now in the middle of the bridge; the open, starry sky and the solid pavement were only a few paces away. He could make it in a short dash.

The thing above him seemed to sense his impending flight. He heard it scratch against the wood overhead.

And now he had the feeling that he must look upward and confront it—that this was the central task that he had set out tonight to face. It would also be true to say that the malevolent presence aroused his darkest curiosity. Like Lot’s wife fleeing from the burning wreckage of Sodom, he felt compelled to see the worst, and suffer the consequences.

Slowly and deliberately, he stopped his forward trek, steeled himself, and looked up into the rafters of the covered bridge.

Chapter 1

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