Part1-From Somewhere to Nowhere
Chapter 1-From Somewhere
The car wound its way south from Heidelberg, Germany, under a lacy black wrought iron bridge. “Fittingly appropriate for the Black Forest,” Nora thought as she craned her neck to get a better look. The brilliant blue sky behind the bridge set it off in bold contrast. She searched for the exit and entrance ramps, but there didn’t seem to be any. “Maybe there is a footpath leading to and from it, but from where and to where?” She mused.
The bridge was distracting Nora’s attention away from the conversation she was having with Paula, her best friend. Actually, they were arguing and from the heat of it, you would not have thought they had been friends for 25 years.
“You have to make some decisions, Paula. You can’t keep having affairs. He’s going to find out again.” Nora pleaded with her friend.
“This time it’s different.” Paula insisted.
“You said that last time. If you’re that miserable with David, get out!” Nora paused for a moment. “Besides, it’s wrong, Paula, and I can’t keep covering for you.”
“And who are you to act so self-righteous. Every man you’ve dated lately has been married.” Paula shot back.
“Hey, I’m not the one who’s cheating on a spouse. If I start dating someone and then I find out they’re married. Well I’m not cheating, they are.”
Paula pulled the car swiftly to the side of the road and sat for a minute before she turned and looked at Nora. “It’s easy isn’t it….to justify your own actions, but you condemn mine?” She grabbed her purse and slammed the door behind her as she walked down a small path into the woods.
Nora sat in the car listening to the silence. “So, there is a path to the bridge, but I can’t imagine that’s the only one that leads up there.” She watched Paula’s retreating form and then peered up at the bridge, now almost above them. She sighed deeply. “This is not how I imagined this trip to be.”
Paula was right; she had been justifying her own behavior. Even though the man she had been dating lied about his wife, she should have ended the relationship as soon as she found out. Instead she stayed in the relationship far too long, only to realize he would never have left his wife. The truth was she wouldn’t have wanted to take him from her anyway.
“But I am tired of covering for you, Paula.” She whispered, taking her mind off her own problems. “You have to make some serious choices, and you can’t keep going from one man to the next.” The afternoon sun was heating up the inside of the car. Who was she lecturing? Paula or herself? She got out of the car and leaned on the passenger side, waiting for Paula’s return.
She looked at her watch, a half hour had passed. Annoyed she called after Paula, but heard nothing except the soft rustling of the long grass in the meadow. Another fifteen minutes went by and Nora called her friend again. This time she began to worry that something wasn’t quite right. Instead of lacy wrought iron quaintness, the bridge began to look foreboding, the scrollwork looking more like binding ivy. Paula wouldn’t have just walked away and not come back. Maybe something was wrong.
Nora waited another fifteen minutes, yelled a couple more times and made a decision to follow Paula’s path. She rolled up the car windows, locked the doors and was about to head out when at the last minute she decided to grab her small backpack and Paula’s too. These two little packs carried all their vital necessities in it, including their visa’s, their plane tickets, medications and a couple of cans of mace. She took her own can of mace and stuck it in her jeans pocket.
The path Nora followed ended in a small sandy area with tufts of grass populating the perimeter of a small field. She thought it might have been a watershed from the hill where the bridge rested. Paula’s foot prints led into the middle of the clearing, wandered around the perimeter and turned as though she had rested on a boulder. Puzzled by her disappearance, Nora once again called for her. She sat on the same boulder for a while and then the thought struck her that maybe this is exactly what Paula had done and maybe someone had grabbed her from behind.
She got up immediately and looked around, frightened. This time, she was hesitant to call out for fear of bringing trouble down onto herself. It was then that she saw Paula’s footprints go off down another small trail on the other side of the clearing. Sighing with relief that her first fears hadn’t been realized; she hesitantly followed Paula’s footsteps.
The path began an upward winding direction. “So it was leading to the bridge.” She mused as she climbed up the path. She reached the bridge with still no sight of her friend. Stopping to catch her breath, she looked out at the view that the bridge commanded. If she hadn’t already been out of breath, she would have said the view was breath taking. A sea of green, this view brooded darkly, with a slight breeze that felt exquisite after her exertions.
“I’m so out of shape.” She thought, aware of the silence around her. There was no sign of human existence. The highway and her car were still there, but she could not see any other vehicles, towns, signs or planes in the sky. Even the birds were silent up here, where below she had heard a number of different ones along with insects and bees. There was something eerily wrong and this time and Nora began yelling in earnest. Her arms prickled; Paula was in trouble and she knew it.
There was still no answer, so Nora went across to the other side of the bridge. She began calling again, her panic making her want to cry. This time she heard a response. It was faint, but it was Paula’s voice.
“Where are you?” she said, slightly irked, but mostly relieved. She quickly closed the distance to the other side of the bridge.
“I don’t know where I am. I can’t find my way back.” Nora could hear panic now from Paula.
“Are you alright?” Nora asked, breathing harder.
“I’m fine. This is just too weird. Once I started across the bridge, I couldn’t get back….it just disappeared.”
Nora looked back and saw nothing but gray fog where the bridge had been a moment ago. There had been no clouds or fog a moment ago, where had it come from? She began to tremble as a chill crept across her shoulders. “Stay where you are Paula, I’m just going to backtrack a little.”
“Nora, Don’t leave! Please”
“I won’t leave, let me just check something.” Nora began backtracking, but found herself in the midst of the fog. The guardrails across the bridge had disappeared into the mist. She couldn’t even feel the bridge. The mist was neither damp nor dry like smoke, but it was so thick she could not see anything. Nora kneeled down to feel the ground under her feet. There was no ground or bridge; she could actually feel the bottoms of her feet and knees. There was absolutely nothing, no bridge and no noise at all.
She turned back toward the place where she had heard Paula’s voice and with relief saw that it had not been covered by the fog. She crawled until she was on solid ground. Back on the bridge, Nora shook so badly, that it took a while before she could stand again. Nora walked a few more steps and there was Paula.
“Oh my God!” She choked as she gave Paula a hug. “What the hell is that!”
“I don’t know!” Paula said. “Thank you for coming to look for me. What I said to you was really mean.”
“It’s okay, I deserved it. This place is really creepy, Paula. Let’s get out of here.”
“I don’t think we can, but let’s not let go of each other, okay?” Together, arms linked, they turned to go down the east side of the bridge, with the intention of walking across the freeway to their car. They stopped in shock as the gray fog consumed this escape too.
“This is like some science fiction movie,” Paula whispered.
Nora nodded, “So what do we do?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we should just stay for a while, instead of rushing head on.”
After observing their surroundings in silence for a while, Nora said, “Well, it doesn’t look like our situation is changing.”
“So what do you think is happening?” Paula said quietly?
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Nora shrugged. “Maybe it’s the end of the world, or maybe the world’s governments really messed up and there’s been a nuclear holocaust.
“Yea, I’m just glad you’re here.” Paula shivered. “If I were alone, I would have thought I was stark raving mad.”
Nora hugged her a little closer. “You are stark raving mad, Paula, but so am I. So let’s just use whatever sanity we have left between us and figure this out.”
Paula squeezed her arm and gave her a little smile. “Well, it looks like there’s only one way to go.” The path off the bridge continued to follow an easterly direction.
“Yea, follow the yellow brick road?” Nora smirked back.
“Do you think we’ll find a wizard?” Paula gave a very slight smile. As one, they both looked back over their shoulder to check one more time to see if what wasn’t there really wasn’t there. It still wasn’t there.
“Shit, Paula, I’m really scared.” Nora said as they began to slowly move forward.
“Me too,” Paula replied through chattering teeth.
“Oh, I brought you your travel bag.”
“Now what made you do that?” Paula looked at her in surprise. They began moving forward, watching every movement and listening to every sound.
“I don’t know, just a feeling.”