The bridge stretches out, wooden planks reaching into the infinity beyond. The rope that suspends it feels old; frayed threads coming away in your hand.
Where is this place? How did you get here?
There is no source to this bridge. No memories have you of stepping onto the planks at the origin. No knowledge of where you’ve been.
So this is it. You know the stories too well; you know precisely where you are. Don’t be sad, you’ll be alright.
This is one of the Places. Not one of the better ones; but definitely not the worst, all things considered. The words of the old mother ring loud in your mind; the stories of where you’ll end up, the awful things that might happen to you if you don’t follow her teachings precisely.
Down below, the soup of stars is an ocean. Twinkling lights rippling across the yawning emptiness. Somewhere, far below you, is your home. But which one? Were you to fall, could you guide yourself on the long way back? Would they welcome you, if you could?
Well then. There is only one way to go, surely? No, of course you cannot go back. Remember, there is no origin to this bridge. No source. There is nowhere for you to step off and back into your history.
Not that there is anything to be found that way, is there?
Oh yes, you remember what the old mother said. Those left adrift on the bridge must walk forward towards betterment forever; and when they have taken an infinite number of steps, they will be uplifted to one of the better Places.
But how long will an infinite number of steps take you? Do you have the fortitude? Time’s no factor; not here. Take as long as you need; an infinity can stretch into the twinkling of a single sorry star in the soup below you. Or it can rush through eons.
Or. Or you could take the other option. That’s what the old mother said, isn’t it? A test of will, stretched across eternity. Can you stand to walk endlessly towards betterment? Or will you simply give in, and leap into the sky below you?
You’ll not find your way home. The only thing that waits beneath you is a far worse Place to rest.
But at least it would be different. It would be a change from the step, step, step.
Well, get to walking then! You’ve a ways to go.
Illustration by Merle Made Tales
Did you like this short story? Interested in helping keep this site running? I’m now on Patreon, where fans can directly support creators and the work they produce! You can see my Patreon page here.