Kris recognized the fact none of this made any damn sense. She’d lived in this area her whole life, and not once in her previous walks or drives had she come across a humongous gorge at the center of two different areas, one of which had a convenient bridge - despite being a very old-looking bridge - and a large river as the only ways she could see to get across.
She shook this off, though, and glanced at Shayla. “What way did you come?”
Shayla ‘hmm-ed’ before responding. “I’ve usually used that old bridge you see there. But that piece of crap is one wrong step away from falling apart. Those stinkin’ serpents back at the shop could fix it, but, I’d have to swallow my pride even more to bother asking them for help. Besides.” She gave Kris a rather amused look. “I don’t have any money on hand. Not anymore, at least.”
Kris blinked. “Oh.”
“As far as the river goes?” Shayla said, gesturing to it. “I’ve waded through it fine in the past. But the thing is unpredictable. You might think a river would maintain the same speed most of the time - yeah, no. That bitch can get nasty at the drop of a dime. Plus, I’m not exactly in the best shape to be wading through it if it decides it wants to be rapid today.”
Kris sucked her teeth.
She was no survivalist. She’d gone camping some times in the past, sure, but she wasn’t exactly the best nature lover in the world - and she certainly didn’t have the best experience knowing how to brave through an unpredictable river, nor did she have the guts for dangling over a massive gorge on a rickety old bridge.
Yet she had come this far, so, she saw no reason to turn back… yet.
“I guess we could try the bridge,” Kris said. “It looks older than dirt, but, I mean if you’ve been able to cross it safely in the past…”
Shayla considered this. “Guess so. Little extra weight shouldn’t be too problematic. Just in case, though, you should go in front of me.”
Kris sputtered. “Um. Wh-why do you say that?”
“Because if that bitch breaks, you have the best chance of getting across,” Shayla replied. “It’s the middle portion we gotta worry about. I’d rather you get across and backtrack around to the river to get back. I’d be deader than dead at that rate. Wouldn’t matter much to me.” She shrugged. “That’s all.”
Kris stared at her for a very, very long moment. “That’s awfully… nonchalant considering.”
“Either way,” Shayla said. “Come on, then, if you’re still sure you want to tag along. I ain’t forcing you, Kris. You can leave anytime you want, and I wouldn’t hold it against you in the least bit.”
She started toward the bridge before Kris could respond. Kris frowned - she couldn’t get a read on this woman, and that wasn’t something she was used to.
Even so, she pushed on, and followed Shayla up to the old bridge. Once they got to it, it was clear the thing had seen better days - it looked battered and wobbly, and Kris was beginning to wonder if she was really brave enough to cross it without the fear she’d fall to her death overtaking her. She was a normal college student, not an explorer or an action RPG character!
Shayla paused to look at Kris. “You absolutely sure about this?”
Kris swallowed the lump that formed in her throat. Her stomach was in knots, and of course like any idiot, her eyes flicked down - down into the rather dark gorge before them, which had a rapid river bustling through it and plenty of sharp, jagged rocks. Kris knew she would die if she fell down there - there was no way in hell she’d be able to survive. She wasn’t that lucky.
“U-um, w-well.” Kris tried to steel herself from trembling.
Shayla’s features softened. “Hey, hey. It’s alright. You don’t have to come with me, honest. I’m not going to drag some normal person into the madness any deeper than they want to. You saved my ass, and I’m forever grateful for that fact. But, if this is it, then, this is it. No hard feelings, trust me.”
Kris ran a hand through her hair. She could tell deep down that this would be a point of no turning back for a good while. Something about the thickness in her air and the sensation in her stomach made that clear to her. She couldn’t go back on her choice, so, she had to be completely certain she wanted to try and walk across this bridge with a stranger that looked like a cat woman.
Time was ticking.
Written by Hollowpages on 13 February 2020