The Guardian of Bridges

Once upon a time, there were two neighborhood friends, a boy and girl, who loved to play and wander through the snow-covered woods behind their homes. In fact, the pair spent so much of their free time in these woods that they knew them better than they knew their own homes. Their parents only had one rule regarding this favored playground, they had to stay close to those homes. Unfortunately, this day both children were too eager to explore the full extent of their domain. While they were investigating, they eventually came across a stream flowing through their snow-topped forest playground. The girl looked at the boy and asked, “Where did this stream come from?”

“I have no idea,” the boy replied as he stared at the calm surface of the stream, absorbed by its simplistic beauty. After a few moments of silence, he looked towards his friend saying, “But we should cross it and see where it goes.

The little girl looked at the stream and replied, “I don’t think we can jump across it and I don’t want to get wet.”

The boy nodded his assent, but he quickly looked around and found a large branch on the ground nearby. He grabbed it saying, “I think this will reach the other side.”

“Thant’s not going to hold our weight,” the girl answered quickly dismissing his idea.

“No it won’t,” the boy agreed quickly, but he pointed at another branch a few feet away. “But we could lash a bunch of them together to make a bridge so we can cross.”

The girl folded her arms across her chest asking, “And you just happen to have some rope?”

The boy smiled as he pulled down the sleeve of his coat exposing a colorful bracelet. “I have my paracord bracelets, so yeah I should have enough rope, and I’ll test the bridge first.”

The girl smiled and began searching for appropriately long branches under the snow as she cried out to her friend, “Let’s do it.”

So the children began scouring their side of the bank for branches that would bridge the stream. Each time they found a branch that they thought might work they tried to touch one end to the far side of the stream. Some fell short of that bank and were plucked from their hands while others reached the opposite bank. And each time one of their branches touched that distant ground they heard a thud that was far too loud for their gentle touch, yet they ignored it as a trick of the minds.

Once they found ten branches of sufficient length, they pulled them back to their side of the stream. And the boy removed his paracord bracelets and started to lash them together. Once he was done with one side, he scurried to the other and repeated the process completing their make-shift bridge. Once done they lifted their bridge carrying it to the stream and carefully laid one edge along the far bank. Then with a smile, they dropped their load letting the bridge fall to the ground, but instead of a gentle thud, a thunderclap echoed from the forest.

They spun around in circles trying to locate what had caused the noise but couldn’t find anything. Finally, the boy offered his friend a half smile, and when he placed his foot on the bridge, a strange and unearthly menacing voice cried out, “Who dares cross my bridge?”

Again the children shared a look together wondering if they should leave, but the boy gave a sheepish smile as he moved his foot farther along the bridge. When his foot stopped inching forward an arm shot from the still surface of the water enveloping the far side of the bridge. And that strange voice asked, “Who dares cross my bridge?”

The girl reached for the boy’s arm tugging it away from the arm, but before the boy moved, the water erupted sending water everywhere. When the forest was still once more they looked up and saw a large and ungainly creature standing on the far side of the bridge, water dripping from its mishappen body and patchwork hair. The massive thing snarled at the children, and both children gasped in fear.

The creature took a ponderous step towards the children as it snarled, “Who dares to cross my bridge?!”

Instinctively the boy took a step back and heard his friend scream, “We have to run.” Yet one of the boy’s hands brushed his pocket knife, and he knew what he needed to do. He pulled the pocket knife from its pouch and swiftly began cutting at the lashings. Yet the creature kept moving closer to them one ponderous step after another. Finally, the boy was able to slice the rope, and he began spreading the branches, just as the thing’s leg came down upon a single branch.

With the monster’s weight landing upon a single branch, it snapped. And the monster’s foot went through it and back into the stream. A moment later the rest of the creature’s body fell upon the spreading branches snapping each in turn, and the thing fell into the water. The boy stood up edging closer to the water peering into it, and he saw the thing sinking away from the surface, but it made one last lunge for him. The boy fell backward trying to escape its lunge, and the girl rushed to his side. She helped the boy up before looking back towards the stream only to find it gone as if it had never been there.