Cerby doesn’t appear at all shaken from the attack and church’s collapse. He’s weaving back and forth in front of me as we continue along the tracks.
I’ve seen rusted signs, evidence that this was once a vibrant place. But now it seems to be home to the wretched.
I wonder if Industrial Way is the name of the road running alongside the tracks or, in fact, the industrial part of this city.
“What happened back there?”
What occurred was a testament to your spirit and a revelation of latent abilities, although not fully realized. This realm sensed your dire need and responded. Though the cathedral lies in ruin, it did so defending you, aiding you. The interaction between you and this world, it is evolving. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
“Wow. Great advice. I know I’ve heard that somewhere before.”
I speak to this voice with mine, responding with sarcasm. It makes me feel as though I’m not crazy if I’m talking out loud.
Cerby sniffs at something near the tracks, appears to sneeze, and keeps trotting along. He’s got dried blood on his coat of scales and a bite taken out of one ear, but is otherwise unharmed.
It seems Cerby is hardier than expected, a trait that may serve you both well in the trials to come. His ability to recover and forge ahead, even in the face of adversity, is admirable. You may find wisdom in observing his ways.
I nod. As if the voice in my head needs visual confirmation.
The track bends to the right. As we follow the rails, the darkened sky opens up before us. The tracks disappear, the ruins of a bridge 100 feet below in the ravine. Next to the tracks stands a suspension bridge. It looks oddly out of place here, as though someone dropped a bamboo bridge from Southeast Asia into the ruins of a rust belt city.
Ah, another obstacle on your path. The chasm yawns before you, it’s gaping maw a testament to time and decay. The bridge, though it may appear frail, is an opportunity, a potential passage. Its contrast to the surroundings, this juxtaposition of the old world and the new, echoes the dichotomy within you, between your lost past and uncertain future.
Sitting on the knife’s edge between the lost past and an uncertain future is such a dire way to describe the present. “Do we have to cross it?” I ask, knowing the answer.
As always, the choice is yours. The bridge stands as an option, not a command. But remember, time is a relentless pursuer, and the sun continues its descent. Is there enough of it for you to seek another way? Or is the risk of the crossing a price to pay for certainty of direction?
“What if we backtracked? Looped around to find another pass? Do we have time for that?”
Time is a peculiar construct here, ever-present but seemingly in stasis. As I’ve mentioned before, the sun, your steadfast clock, inches ever closer to the horizon. Could you find another way? Possibly. Would it be quicker, safer? That, I cannot ascertain. The decision, as always, remains with you. Bear in mind, each decision brings you one step closer to the truths you seek… or further into the labyrinth of uncertainty.
“So you’re saying we should cross this bridge? But without saying that.”
I merely present the realities of your situation. The “should” and “should not” are conceptions of your own design. If you ask me whether crossing this bridge will move you closer to your destination, then yes. But the decision to face the risk is yours to make.
I look to Cerby, who is sniffing the frayed ropes keeping the bridge up. He doesn’t seem to be all that concerned about it crashing down. With us on it.
“Whaddya think, boy?”
Cerby doesn’t answer, but I somehow know he’s fine with crossing.
Cerby seems willing, indeed. Do keep in mind his innate sense of danger. Trust him as much as you trust me. We are both here to guide you, albeit in different ways.
“Yeah, you keep saying that. But I don’t even know my own name.”
I walk to the bridge, not waiting for the voice to respond.
Patting Cerby on the head, I say, “It can’t be any worse than getting attacked by a pack of demon dogs while a church collapses around you. Right?”
Cerby just looks at me.
Okay. I guess we’re crossing.
I step cautiously onto the first wooden slat of the old suspension bridge, hearing the wood creak under my weight. My hands grip the weathered rope railing, each strand feeling coarse on my skin. Beneath me is emptiness, a void that extends to a fathomless depth, with the mist masking the pit below.
I take a deep breath and move forward again—the wood moaning. I steal a glance downward, and my heart drops into my stomach at the sight of the seemingly endless drop. The ravine swallows everything in its shadowy depths.
Behind me, Cerby is mimicking my cautiousness, placing one paw after the other on the planks, a low whine escaping him.
Suddenly, a worn-out slat gives way under Cerby’s weight, and he yelps as he stumbles. I spin around and lunge towards Cerby, grabbing him by the collar just in time to yank him back onto the stable planks. The entire bridge shudders. We freeze, staring at each other.
After a moment that feels like an eternity, I pat Cerby’s head, mustering a weak smile. “Just a little bit more, boy,” I say, my voice trembling.
I draw a steadying breath, bracing myself for the daunting path that remains. And we press on, the end of the bridge just a few feet away. The planks creak beneath us, each step a reminder of the danger we face together.
I put both hands out as we step off the bridge and back on to Industrial Way. “We made it!”
Indeed, you did. You’ve proven yourself more than capable of braving the adversities of this place. Continue on your path with the same tenacity, my friend. More challenges await you, but I trust that you will overcome them.
Before I can reply to the voice, I hear a grinding noise coming from behind us. I look over my shoulder and see the suspension bridge swaying. There’s no wind, no external force on it, and yet this thing is rocking left to right. Cerby whines and takes a few steps back. The ropes snap and the entire bridge plummets into the ravine below.
An apt expression of the situation. The path behind you is gone. There is no turning back now. You’re committed to the path ahead. Progress can often mean closing doors to previous possibilities. Now, you’re bound to face whatever lies ahead, no matter what it is