Woman on the Bridge
This was the spot. He knew it. Miles took a deep breath. To any observer this would have looked like a sigh of relief which one heaves at the end of one’s agony, but to Miles it was different. This breath meant that his purpose had been found. But the vast wilderness that was in front of him made him breathless. Gasping for breath, he smiled at the irony. Slowly he recovered from the momentary loss of breath, and sat down for a while, for the surroundings left him in deep thoughts.
“Ah what a beauty! The rhythm between the leaves and the breeze. It is as if, the leaves are dancing to the tunes of the wind. What a peaceful sight indeed! Nature always has its way of captivating us puny humans. And more so with grandeur, if left untouched by us, for I have never seen any place as magnificent as this before. It is almost like we humans always make things worse!”
The breeze became a bit stronger, and cleared away the mist, waking up Miles and the entire vicinity by giving way to the gentle children of the Sun, the sun rays. He saw a small wooden bridge that went across the lake. He almost felt like the mist cleared away only to invite him to walk across the bridge. He tacitly accepted the invitation and stood at the centre of the bridge. Nature, treating him as a guest, offered Miles a panoramic view of the entire woodlands. Again irony was at play, as Miles froze in the absence of any mist and chill, enchanted by Nature’s sheer magnificence.
Captivated as he was, his mind was also perplexed when he remembered the “Do not enter” sign at the entrance of the forest. For why would anyone deprive someone of this blissful scenery?
“He must be a cruel one”, Miles judged.
His heart began racing, and with childlike excitement and single-minded determination, he decided to capture the essence of this place and show it to the entire humanity. He took his canvas and his oil painting kit, to paint this landscape. Fixing himself at a position which provided him the widest view, he studied the environment. Once he was done, he held the paint brush with an authority and carefully mixed the colours, starting to paint.
A few hours passed, and he put his brush and the palette down and reviewed his work. After a few moments, his heart was filled with pride and content. This would be called his masterpiece. But he couldn’t decide what made it perfect, was it his skill or the landscape itself that generously graced its beauty on the canvas. Miles was too hungry to find his way out of this dilemma. He walked back into the woods, in search of food, and luckily he remembered the location of some plants filled with wild berries, on his way to the wooden bridge. He found those plants, hastily plucking the berries and devoured them.
“Aaaah, amazing. If heaven were to have a taste, this would be it. The place seems to be touched by God himself. Aha! I will therefore name my painting as “Abode of the Gods”.
Satiating away his hunger, he went back to the bridge to finish the finer detailing of his painting. As soon as he looked at it, he froze. This time irony was not at play but fear. He carefully took his canvas from the stand and examined it meticulously, wondering there must be something wrong with the paint. For how will a woman appear on the painting? He was sure that he had been alone and if someone were to be there, they should have passed by him. Then, a chill went down his spine when he realised that he hadn’t heard anything, ever since he started painting.
“How could a forest be this silent? There must be birds, squirrels, or at least raccoons here. Why can’t I hear them, why can’t I hear the dance of the leaves, or the gentle breeze that goes through my ears?” Fearing whether he might have become deaf, he shouted,
“Who is there?”
Though he could hear his own voice, the forest, undisturbed, replied with an eerie silence. Almost as a response to Miles’ question, the mist which was once driven away by breeze, composed itself again, obscuring everything, except the path that led to the other side of the bridge. Miles went pale and started trembling. With his instincts pounding his head, asking him to run away, Miles refuse to obey them, for the adventurous spirit of an explorer within, trumped his instincts. He intently looked at the other side with a perplexed look.
Suddenly, a voice whispered in his ears, “Can you hold my hand and walk me to the other side of the bridge? I am scared.”
He saw a faint female apparition, emerging from behind. For the first time in his life, he wanted to flee as his instincts told him. He tried to run, but his legs refused to move. Cursing his legs, he tried to scream for help but his voice too failed him.
The apparition stopped at an arm’s length distance from him and asked him again. “Will you hold my hand and walk me to the other side of the bridge? I am scared. There we can find everything we want. Take me there.”
He knew for certain that he wouldn’t want to. To his astonishment, his hand which continued to disobey its master, gently held the apparition’s hands. His legs taking the cue, immediately started escorting Miles and the apparition to their destination. He wanted to run, escape this forest, and he tried his best to take control of his limbs for they have long surrendered to the phantom.
“My name is Carla, I have been trying to reach the other side for many years now. But I am scared to go there alone. You seem like a gentleman, unlike the others before you. They all took my hand just like you did, and abandoned me in the middle of the bridge and jumped in to the lake. Every time they left me here, stranded and disheartened. Please don’t you disappoint me, Sir!” She cheerfully giggled, as if the fear she was talking about a moment ago just vanished.
“The other side awaits us and would greet us by fulfilling the deepest of our desires. I want to go there and make my wish. If we want something, we have to reach the foot of the oldest banyan tree, and just think about it. My wish is to get my husband back. He fell into the lake when we came here to explore. He…”
Miles did not want to hear anymore. Each word scared him more and more, than the previous. He desperately tried to free his arm, but irony still at play, only made his hand grip the phantoms hand even harder.
“Why are you holding my hand so hard? Are you trying to do something to me? Are you trying to kill me? LET GO OF ME.”
And the apparition pushed him into the lake. Miles couldn’t move his limbs out on his free will to swim. He drowned helplessly and when he hit the floor, he saw himself greeted by hundreds of skulls. And moments before his eyes closed for good, he thought of the landscape again, for he decided to die with a happy memory rather than regretting for not keeping away from the forest.