The Bridge

- Joyce Chng -

450 Words

 

Xe often hears about the bridge that

-links-

one world to another,
a bridge

of hope that

gives xer People visions of the future.


Xe is young and xer teeth are
not as sharp as xer siblings,
nor as old and ancient as xer parents
who hunt in the darkest layers of the currents,
catching fish and other things

that skitter in the night,
flashes of starlight silver
easily frightened and herded by song.


Xer People are singers,
their songs of water, of diving and of fierce joy
in hunting, in children, in sleeping curled
while the water turns

cold, cold, cold.


The stories are about the bridge,
that in times of pain,
the blood kin moves from one world to another,
bringing all their hopes to

a new world

with welcome water, food, and joy.


“What are they like?” xe often asks,
and xer mother laughs deep, like the moving of the land
beneath the water.


“Our kin looks like us, breathes like us, hunts like us,
only their words are different,
but we only have trust and kindness to share.”


Then the deaths happen,
People floating up, cut, slashed, dead.


The water tastes of death

of unspoken pain and of deep sorrow so strong,
it is hard to swim in it, breathe in it, hunt in it.


“We have to go,” father says
and xis eyes are sad like deep, deep night
when the warm-blooded ones howl in the distance,
and their songs are of their people’s joy and pain.


Xe often hears about the bridge that

-links-

one world to another.

 

And the bridge is dark and cold and forbidding,
with the coldness of not-love
and not-kindness.


Xe pauses, stares up at xer kin,
xer sisters and brothers,
xer parents, so strong and so tired.


“Is this the bridge where we swim to meet our cousins?
Where we are welcomed, and we can stay?”

 

So they take the journey,
through the bridge,
where the monsters have sharp teeth,

and hungrier stomachs,
and eyes that shine like greed.


Father dies, defending them from a demon maw,

Mother protects, but even then, xer body
floats up, up, up and xer siblings
cry, cry, cry.


At last, they reach the end of the bridge,
orphans,

homeless, family-less.

Alone.


Xe swims forward, xer fins sore,
and xer body faint from lack of food,
and everything seems against xer.


In the distance, xe sees the shapes,
like xers, like xer siblings,
and perhaps there is hope.

Xe sings, and listens for the reply.


Silence.


Then, the song comes back,
a little different,
but the feelings are the same.


Xe knows xe is home.

 

© 2018 by Joyce Chng


Joyce Chng lives in Singapore. Their fiction has appeared in The Apex Book of World SF II, We See A Different Frontier, Cranky Ladies of History, and Accessing The Future. Joyce also co-edited THE SEA IS OURS: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia with Jaymee Goh. Their recent space opera novels deal with wolf clans and vineyards respectively. They also write speculative poetry with recent ones in Rambutan Literary and Uncanny Magazine. Occasionally, they wrangle article editing at Strange Horizons and Umbel & Panicle, a poetry journal about and for plants and botany. Alter-ego J. Damask writes about werewolves in Singapore. You can find them at http://awolfstale.wordpress.com and @jolantru on Twitter.