Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge

alternate conclusion 1

by Katherine Allen

“When you sing, your heart speaks to them. When you cry, they cry with you. There is a chance that we will succeed. You, Katia, are that chance.”

Katia looked back in her mind, remembering that night, the night when, even after losing Alexis, she decided to go on. And, with Cyr’s help, she had. She had made it the last twenty-five years. Years that seemed at times to drag so slowly but at other times seemed to race in an effort to elude her. She was old now; when she looked in the mirror she saw wrinkles and lines in her once smooth face. But she was not ashamed of the lines: each one told a story, each one held the memory of one who had died or been killed.

Many had been killed these last years. As the time got short, the different governments had become like rabid dogs. Many had overstepped their own laws and regulations. President Lockly had introduced an amendment to the Constitution providing that in a time of crisis one president could remain in office indefinitely. Congress had passed it, and States ratified it. Immediately afterward he had declared a state of emergency, and he was still president. An old, lame man with an ulcer, still fighting and killing all the “Bridge lovers” he could find.

In other countries, as the time drew closer they began to get more and more paranoid. They would massacre whole villages, simply because they thought one person might disagree with them. After killing all the adults, they would take the children to special “schools” and “teach” them about the Bridge.

But no matter what they did, there still were people coming to the Bridge. At first there would only be a few hundred a month, but after the massacres started it was like a dam had broken. Hundreds would come in one hour. The agents in the field would put doubts and thoughts into people’s heads: “Even if what they say about the Bridge is true, wouldn’t it be better to be well fed while we are being oppressed?” or, “How can anything the Bridge does to us be worse than having villages massacred, and our children kidnapped?”

But even with all the people, it was not enough. Out of the almost two billion needed, a scant one was inside the protection of the Bridge. Only six months left.

* * *

Katia sighed, and rubbed her eyes. It was now only a week before the “Day,” as it was called; they now had one and a half billion people, but they were three hundred thousand short. And with only a few thousand coming in a day. they would never make it. “Cyr,” she said, “What will we do? We are so close. To lose because of a few thousand would be so horrible. It would make the deaths of so many people meaningless. And it would mean the death of so many more. Without the Bridge to protect us, we will be slaughtered. The governments will not be merciful.”

When Cyr finally replied he sounded worried, and confused. “Katia, I... I don’t know. I don’t know what to do. We have done all that we can. All that we can do now, is wait. And hope.”

Finally the Day came. Katia was sick, sick with hope, and excitement. But at the same time sick with a horrible dread. If they don’t get one thousand people in this morning, it will be over. Today she would either live or die. She had no doubts that as soon as she was in the hands of the government she would die. She and everyone she loved. And now, for the first time since Alexis had died, she wept. Many times she had wanted to; many times she almost had. But there had always been a hope. Now it was gone. Today, she knew, she would most likely die.

At noon that a message was broadcast by the Bridge, the same way the one had been broadcast twenty-five years before. It said that today was the last day. Tonight, if there were not a quarter of the earth’s population in the Bridge’s protection, the bridge would be destroyed during the night. It gave a last chance to any that wanted to come. If they chose to enter the Bridge’s protection, they only had to speak, and a portal would open near them.

All the people in the control center of the Bridge waited, Blanca and Piotr, with their grown children. Elvira Hammet and her husband were long dead, but there grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren waited. Katia, her children, long grown, and their children all stood, and waited, and hoped. Suddenly, lights began flashing all over the boards. Everywhere, all over the planet, portals were opening, millions of them. It seemed like everyone in the earth had suddenly made up his or her mind to come. Soon, it was a landslide.

In the control center there was no yelling, or laughing, there was only the sound of many people crying, crying the silent tears of joy.

More and more people came under the Bridge’s protection; people, tired of the government’s tyranny, came and were welcomed. In months to come the governments become disgruntled little pockets of former officials and diehard patriots who would never change.

Copyright © 2004 by Katherine Allen

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