Writer

Jude Bridge

Western Australia

THE BRIDGE

 

18


The angel called Zephyr was incredibly tired. He’d been helping people for seven hundred years and needed a good, long rest. He flew around until he found the perfect place, green, leafy and peaceful, then swooped to earth and lay down. A stream bubbled under him, so he arched his back to let the flow continue. His head sunk into the soil, he yawned, and slept. Leaves and earth covered his head and his legs. Over time, his back petrified and turned to stone. His feathers dissolved and fluttered into the wind. The framework of his wings remained and also became hard as rock.


Many years passed and a section of the forest was designated a nature reserve. The council discovered a bridge, and were puzzled as to who would have built such a structure in a virgin forest. However, they found the bridge to be quite sturdy, so they added a few struts to the railings and powdercoated them white for protection and aesthetic value. Zephyr felt a light spray on his wingbones and assumed it was rain.


He was aware of people treading on his back and holding his wings, but he wasn’t ready to wake up, and human talk made for interesting listening. Lovers had tiffs. Elderly people shuffled crossed him, murmuring of times past and shepherd’s pie for dinner. Children jumped up and down on his back, and threw sticks into the creek from one side of the bridge to watch them emerge from other side. Zephyr half-opened one eye, deep, deep under the earth and thought I’ll just nap for one more decade, then I’ll get back to work.


Then one day there came a young woman who was sick and never going to get well. She approached the bridge one summery, shimmery day. Zephyr felt her steps and her decay. She sensed his thrumming under the earth and took off her shoes. Her feet trod ancient rocks ground to dust and warm leaves. She spread her toes and stood, humming a lullaby remembered from long ago. Vibrations rippled through her wasted body. Then, step by tiny step, she climbed the arch and held the rail, which became smooth and alive under her hand. She stroked the soft feathers. His back become supple.


Zephyr raised his head, breaking apart years of earth. He turned his head to look at the young woman, and settled peace apon her. She nodded. Zephyr rose up, up, and the wind passed over them like silk. The woman lay in Zephyr’s feathers, free of fear and worry, as she made her final journey.