The Bridge

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: The Horror House
The Bridge, R J Dent's short urban horror story of child abuse, manifesting itself as a phobia of crossing bridges

Submitted: April 02, 2016

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Submitted: April 02, 2016

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The Bridge

by R J Dent

 

When the fear struck, Claire abruptly stopped, frozen to the spot, midway across the bridge.

Oh no, not again, she thought, as she gasped and panted and closed her eyes involuntarily against the huge waves of panic that washed and broke over her, making her head spin, her body tremble and her skin break out in a simultaneously hot and cold sweat. Her heart was pounding like an industrial hammer, her hands were tingling with pins-and-needles and her throat was tightly constricted, making it difficult for her to breathe.

With a supreme effort of will, she suppressed her fear and clung to her rationality, keeping a grip on her wits, forcing her eyes back open and carefully stepping back a few paces, away from the centre point of the bridge.

And all the time she struggled to hold back an insistent urge to throw herself off the bridge and its whirling skyline and let herself plummet to the needle-sharp rocks below.

Claire stepped backwards and almost immediately the panic attack started to abate. She realized how shallow her breaths had been and hurriedly took a few deep breaths and felt her hammering heartbeat start to slow to a normal pace. She tried to work some saliva into her dry mouth, but there was none available yet. There would be in a while, she knew.

What was it? she wondered, her mind flitting over her last few actions in an attempt to work out what had caused the trauma – what sight, sound, smell, or combination of those sensory triggers had started the panic attack this time.

The same as last time, Claire told herself matter-of-factly. And the time before. And the time before that. And the time before that. It was always the same cause. She knew that because the attack always happened in exactly the same place – always in the near-centre of the bridge. She just didn’t know why it happened there. Or why it happened at all, for that matter.

She took a few more steps back and the surrounding landscape gently steadied itself. Her heartbeat finally found its normal rhythm. Slowly, Claire raised her head and looked around.

To her right was the railing she was clutching onto tightly. Below was the long drop to the sea and the rocks. She could hear the sound of the surf falling on the shingle. In front of her was the rest of the twenty metre long metal bridge that stretched across the causeway between the mainland and the small atoll she lived on. Looking back, she glimpsed her small one-storey cabin, tucked away between the shrubs and palms that she’d planted when she’d first arrived there several years before.

So what was it?

Claire looked around carefully for something. Anything. She meticulously catalogued what she could see.

Sky, clouds, gulls, horizon, sea, waves, weed, shingle, sand, shells, rocks, cliffs, bracken, gorse, more gulls, bridge, sign, path.

What! She demanded angrily. Which one of you is responsible? She scanned the landscape again, then decided to really try and cross the bridge.

Just the thought of making another attempt caused her to start shivering again.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake!” Claire shouted angrily, turning back to face the way she’d come. “Give me a fucking sign, will you!” she vehemently demanded of nobody.

As she spoke, her eyes flicked back over the landscape – and settled on the sign fixed to the metal pole on the side of the bridge. On it was a red triangle. Inside the triangle was a depiction of a steep incline and a few round-shaped objects. The image warned of the danger of falling rocks, although Claire had never known any rocks to fall. Her stomach suddenly flipped over and she knew she was going to vomit. She did, bending over and spewing copiously onto the warm metal of the bridge.

When she’d finished, Claire walked away from the puddle of vomit and leaned against the railing. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

The sign. It was something about the sign.

Claire suddenly felt mentally and physically drained. All she wanted to do was turn around and scurry back inside her home, lock the doors and climb into her bed until she felt better.

It was what she always did.

Up to now.

Claire wanted, no, needed, to cross the bridge. Her old internal pains were leaving the unbearable zone and moving inexorably into excruciating - and she’d very – and uncharacteristically – stupidly run out of painkillers. Not a single one to be found anywhere. She’d even depleted the out-of-date emergency stash in her desk drawer, although she had no recollection of having taken any of them. She’d jumped into her car and it had refused to start. So she’d had to prepare herself, both physically and mentally, to walk across the bridge. It was only a short walk: along the road and over the bridge, then on a bit further to the village shop, but a few metres along the road, the internal pains she’d suffered with for years had hit her with a vengeance, slowing her down, but making it an absolute necessity to go on. She had to stop the pain. She was in danger of it overwhelming her.

Temporarily breathing easier, Claire sat down on the bridge. A few minutes to recover, then she’d force herself to go on. Had to.

The sign. Think about the sign. That’s the bit to focus on, not the bridge. Falling rocks. What is it about falling rocks? An image formed in Claire’s mind, then flashed away. But she doggedly pulled it back into the front of her mind She had to know. A cliff and a sign. A falling rock sign. A holiday by the sea years ago. Oh, and falling rocks… falling rocks… falling rocks…

*

Shading her eyes, Claire stood at the top of the cliff and looked down at the sign set into the flat ledge that jutted out about halfway down the sheer slope. Her mum had said it was a falling rocks sign and that it was dangerous to be anywhere near it, but Claire had looked at the sloping ground above the sign and had seen no rocks there to fall. After all, rocks fell from somewhere and if there were no rocks, then it followed that none could fall. Ergo, it was safe. Safe to climb down the cliff and sit under the sign. That was what Claire wanted to do – to climb down to the sign and sit beneath it and look at the sea and the sky and the horizon and the sun and the day.

She also had a suspicion that there was a small cave tucked away right at the back of the ledge – from the beach that morning she’d been sure she’d seen a very faint patch of shadowy blackness, although the ledge jutted out too far and blocked her view too much for her to be really sure. But she was curious. She wanted to check it out. If there were a cave, she’d have a secluded place to go – a place to claim as her own. A place where she’d be left alone with her thoughts.

Claire had a great many thoughts – more than most kids her age had to contend with, she thought, probably because she had so many things to think about. Her parents’ divorce was the main problem, as was the choosing of which one of them to live with, and the worry that Daniel wouldn’t choose the same parent to live with as her? Would that mean she wouldn’t see her little brother very often? Her mum had told her that she and Daniel would stay together, no matter which parent they stayed with.

“One thing we’re not doing is splitting you two up,” Claire’s mother had insisted, but Claire had heard the vagueness in her mum’s voice and knew she had taken one of her pills and was on her way to some artificial paradise. All she was offering was an empty and meaningless reassurance.

Suddenly resolved to climb down to the sign and see if there was a cave, Claire started to look for foot and handholds. She saw some immediately and carefully plotted the course she would have to take to reach the sign. Relieved that it was a fairly easy route, she lowered herself over the cliff edge and began to clamber down the steep slope. As she descended, the sun warming her back, she kept a careful eye on her feet as they came into contact with the sandy soil. Every so often it crumbled under her slight weight, not dangerously so, but enough to keep her wary and alert. When that happened she used her hands to steady herself. Slowly and carefully, she made her downward progress. As she side-stepped a small gorse, she momentarily wished she’d got more on than just her tee shirt, shorts and trainers. Still, it was hot, she mused, and there weren’t that many more gorses that she could see.

A few more steps down and she’d be there, she knew, but she held back from rushing to her goal. The last bit would be the most difficult, she knew. She kept her eyes on her feet as they touched down onto the ledge.

“Yeah!” Claire said elatedly, pleased with her efforts, happy that she’d been able to achieve her goal so easily.

Eagerly, she turned to face the cave.

The man and woman were sitting on their towels in the sunshine, watching her. They were both youngish and blonde and had on swimming clothes. The man was wearing orange trunks and the woman an electric blue bikini. Claire thought that the costumes were made of a lot less material than the ones her mum and dad wore – but then these two were sleek and athletic and bronzed and would probably enjoy wearing very little.

“Hello, honey,” the woman said. “I hope we didn’t scare you.”

Claire laughed nervously.

“No,” she said, shaking her head, but starting to back away. “Sorry, I didn’t know you were… I’ll go now.”

“It’s all right,” the woman said gently. “You don’t have to leave because we’re here. You’re not intruding. We were just sunbathing and enjoying the view.”

Claire turned and examined the sea view. It was very beautiful.

“If you want,” the woman said, "you can join us. Would you like a drink? We have water and wine.”

“And bread and fish,” the man said, and they both laughed musically, happily.

Claire wanted to stay and sit with them for a while – and she was thirsty. The woman’s mention of a drink had made her realize just how hot and thirsty she actually was. Also, they were both very lovely to look at. Claire hadn’t really seen anyone as beautiful as these two people – they looked like they might be famous people, actors or dancers or something like that.

Claire nodded and stepped forward.

“Good girl,” the woman said and Claire felt a twinge of pride at having chosen well. There was something warm about the woman’s voice, something thick, soft and gentle. It was a voice that stroked you all over. Claire’s heart thumped at the sound of it.

“What’s your name, honey?” the man asked gently.

“Claire,” Claire said and the woman squealed in delight.

“Oh, so’s mine. So’s mine,” she supplied eagerly.

Claire was flattered at sharing the same name as this elegant woman. She was mesmerised by her.

“Claire, meet Claire,” the man said solemnly, but his eyes were twinkling, so Claire knew he was making a sort-of-joke. They all laughed and Claire moved towards them. The woman moved back a little to provide some room on the beach towel for Claire.

Claire awkwardly sat down on the edge of it and looked warily at the man and the woman. They were both smiling warmly at her and she relaxed a little, moving a bit further onto the towel. She liked the woman's blue bikini – it showed off her lean golden body, making her look exotic.

“What to drink, Claire?” the woman asked. “I'm having some wine and you can have some too if you think it's okay – or else we've got water.”

Claire had drunk wine before – usually at Christmas or on a birthday. Once she'd drunk a whole glass to herself and had nearly been sick a few hours later. Still, she liked the taste of it, but more than that, for some reason she was in awe of this sleek couple and she wanted them to see she was a very sophisticated young woman, not just some dumb kid, out of her depth.

“Wine please,” she said, as the woman leaned forward and opened the hamper she'd been leaning against. She pulled out an opened bottle of wine and held it up in the air to inspect it.

“A very good year,” the man said, hooking his fingers around the stems of two empty wineglasses that stood to the side of the towels. “And full of vitamins too.”

The woman snorted with laughter as the man swung the glasses towards her. Deftly, she poured the wine.

Claire watched the cascading red ropes fill the glasses. Then the woman took one of them from the man and handed it to Claire.

“Thank you,” Claire said uncertainly, wondering if there was a proper way to hold a wineglass. She decided to watch what the man did and imitate him.

He held his glass with his fingers under the bowl. As Claire copied him, he held it up to Claire.

“Here's to Claire,” he said, saluting them both.

“To Claire,” said the woman, saluting Claire with the wine bottle.

“To Claire,” Claire said shyly, raising her own glass to the woman.

They drank and the woman smiled broadly at Claire, and then leaned back against the hamper. As she made herself comfortable in the warm sunlight, she drew up her legs and parted her knees. Claire quickly swigged her wine to cover up her confusion at being able to see between the woman's legs. The blue bikini was no more than a piece of string and Claire could see most of the woman's bottom and private parts.

“How's the wine?” the woman asked, as Claire drained her glass.

“Lovely,” Claire answered, tearing her eyes away from the woman’s groin and looking into her eyes.

“Well, I'm afraid it's not very strong, so you can just glug away at it. It won't have an adverse effect on you. You look like a pro.” She refilled Claire's glass, winked at her, and then took a drink from the bottle.

Claire beamed. She didn't know what a pro was, but she liked being praised by the woman – by Claire. She also thought that Claire was wrong about the wine – it was definitely doing something to her – making her feel relaxed and warm and quite strange in a tingling, floaty kind of way. It was like being asleep and awake at the same time. Her nipples and her special place started throbbing hotly. Claire looked at the woman again and saw she had closed her eyes. She looked again between the woman’s legs, liking the look of her firm thighs, her smooth bottom and the contours of her vagina. She felt an overwhelming urge to touch the woman, so she sipped more of her wine. Her head felt light. She smiled warmly to herself, unable to remember wine having this effect on her before.

Feeling as though she was moving in slow motion, Claire shifted a little further onto the towel. She desperately wanted to touch the woman's beautiful body, but thought if she did she might be asked to leave. She didn't want to leave. She felt a little light-headed, but also something more – a sense of floating outside of her own body, a feeling of well-being, a huge desire to touch and stroke the woman, and a marked increase in the tingling in her breasts and groin.

“Are you okay, Claire?” the woman asked, a hint of concern in her voice.

“I’m fine,” said Claire. “I feel really good.”

“You look very relaxed,” the man said.

“I am.”

“If you want, Claire, you can rest your head on my legs,” the woman said, stretching out on the towel.

Claire nodded and moved around and rested her head on the woman's warm thighs. Her heart was pounding. She felt a strong desire to kiss the woman's skin. So she did. She felt the woman gently stroking her head and she nuzzled her nose and mouth near to the woman's groin. She put her hand on the woman’s thigh.

After a long time of just lying there, things got a bit jumbled in Claire's mind. She knew someone was stroking her body, but she wasn't sure who it was. Also, she found herself naked, but couldn't remember undressing or being undressed. Then she saw the man and woman were undressed too, and because being naked was obviously okay, she relaxed. The man had a big thing and the woman had some of it in her mouth. The man was grunting.

By now, Claire’s head was spinning wildly, but she kept having moments of clear lucidity. At one point Claire felt a huge pleasure building up inside her body and she looked along her supine body to see the woman kneeling on the ground with her head between her thighs. She could feel the woman’s soft warm tongue licking her inside. It felt lovely. The man was kneeling behind the woman, doing something that involved a lot of body movement.

Then Claire blacked out for a while, coming to to find she’d been turned over onto her stomach and the man had got his thing inside her. She could feel that what he was doing had done – and was still doing – something very wrong inside her. It felt too big and packed and torn and stinging to be right.

The woman was holding Claire’s head in between her splayed legs. The man’s thing was hurting her tummy and the insides of her privates very badly, so she moaned. The woman rammed Claire’s face into her mushy vagina. It was hot and smelled tangily salty. The man suddenly pulled himself out of her, and then she felt him stab his thing hard into her bottom. Compared to the other pain, this was real hurt. He pushed in fast and deep and Claire felt something inside her rip. The pain was white-hot and burning and she tried to scream, but found it impossible. Her mouth was covered with moist, warm vaginal flesh and the woman was holding her head firmly in place with her hands and thighs. Claire thought she might suffocate. She struggled. The woman held her even tighter and rubbed herself over Claire’s face, leaving a sticky mess behind.

“Lick her, you bitch!” the man bellowed. “I’ll split you open if you don’t fucking lick her.”

Feeling repulsed, Claire tentatively stuck her tongue out and moved her head a little. The woman gasped and dug her nails into Claire’s upper arms.

“Yeah, that’s good,” she gasped. “Keep going, keep going…” The woman abruptly arched her back and howled and thrashed. Claire felt a gush of wetness hit her face and she shut her eyes. The wetness smelled nice and Claire wanted to taste it, but the man’s thing was hurting her too much and all Claire wanted was for everything to stop.

“In her face,” the woman said huskily. The man grunted and pulled his thing out of Claire’s bottom, although even a long time later it felt as though it was still in there. Then the man was kneeling in front of Claire’s face, moving his hand back and forth fast along his thing, until a wad of white hot stuff shot from it and hit Claire in the eyes and hair.

Then things were quiet for a while. Claire stayed perfectly still, hugging the ground, her face resting on sandy rock, trying to get her thoughts in order, just wanting the pain inside her stomach and bottom to go away. She didn’t need to look to know that below her waist she was coated with blood.

The man and the woman were moving about, so Claire turned her head to look at them. They were standing by the falling rocks sign and were dressed in trousers and shirts and had shoes on. The man was holding the hamper and the towels were draped over the woman’s arm.

“We’re going now, Claire,” she said, her tone light and pleasant. “Thanks, honey, it’s been great. We might come back and see you again some time.”

“Yeah, thanks Claire,” the man said. “You were really good.”

“I thought you liked me,” Claire said, her voice tiny.

“We do,” the woman answered.

“But you hurt me,” Claire whispered tearfully.

“Oh, come on,” the woman said harshly. “It was just a fuck.”

“If you didn’t like it, why didn’t you tell us to stop?” the man demanded. “I’ll tell you why – because you liked it, you fucking little whore!”

Claire thought about all that had happened. It was true she had liked some of it, but there was a lot she hadn’t liked. Besides, surely she could have got up and run away at any time, couldn’t she? She wondered why the man had called her the horrible name. Her mum had once told her that men who said that word had problems – but she hadn’t said what sort of problems, so that wasn’t much help right now.

“I’m telling the police,” Claire stated.

“Then you’d better tell them you started it,” the woman said.

“And don’t forget you wanted it to happen,” the man said, “We only did what we all wanted to do. We didn’t force you to do anything.”

This was untrue, but Claire knew some of it was the truth. She had started things by nuzzling the woman’s groin.

Without further words, the man and woman made their way down the steep incline to the beach. Claire didn’t bother to watch them go. She hated them for what they’d done to her – not just because of the sex, but for what they’d said – and how they’d said it.

“I’m just a bloody kid!” Claire shouted, but the only response to her shout was a distant screech of a seagull. She wanted to cry, but she wasn’t going to let what they’d done to her make her cry. She also wanted to get up and wash the taint of them out of her body and off her skin, but her torso and limbs felt as though they were made of water. So she stayed where she was for a long time. Soon she would try and walk down to the sea and scrub herself clean, and then she’d go home. She thought about what she could say to her parents, but she wouldn’t know that until she walked into the house and gauged the atmosphere. That would decide things for her.

*

 

Claire stood by the rail of the bridge and for the first time ever knew exactly why she was reclusive, why she hated sex, why she frequently suffered from agonising internal pains, why she couldn’t drink red wine and why she sometimes felt attracted to bronze-skinned women. She also knew that crossing that bridge – or any other bridge – would never cause her to experience a panic-attack again. She grimaced at the thought of the wasted years of her life, and then thought about the opportunist-rapists who had drugged, abused, raped and sodomized her when she was still a young girl.

“Bastards!” she screamed, her fists clenched. “Evil nasty slimy fucking perverted bastards! I fucking hate you! Hate you! Hate you!”

Then she cried. She cried at the injustice of having kept her ordeal to herself for all these years; cried at the horror and pain of it; cried for not having been able to blame the ones who were really responsible; and cried at her own lack of courage to face up to the truth for so long. Claire stood near the centre of the bridge and cried for a very long time.

When her sobs eventually subsided, she straightened herself up, wiped her eyes and blew her nose, and turned back to face the centre of the bridge. She looked at the sign and felt goose-bumps form on her arms and legs. Other than slight nausea, there were no other discomforts. As she thought this, Claire nearly laughed out loud.

Tonight I’m going to drink myself into a stupor, she promised herself. I’m going to the village shop to get painkillers and booze and nothing is going to stop me. This has gone on for long enough. Today it stops.

With this though resolutely in place, Claire took the first step towards the far side of the bridge.

*

The Bridge

Copyright © R J Dent (2016)

 

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