“[Wh]at [w]ould [y]ou [l]ike to do to-day, Ik-Ard?”
Its halting, awkward voice startled me from my melancholic introspection, and I had little to respond with. The past few days had been bearable due to the carnival atmosphere, but now the holiday was over I had only my thoughts to keep me company.
“I’ll continue tending to my garden Etakekokor.”
“[As y]ou [w]ish, Ik-Ard.”
They had allotted me a good hectare of land to maintain for myself. Whilst I could technically subsist on the foods they provided, it was bitter and left me feeling worse than usual. With my own space I was kept busy, out of the way, and able to produce a slightly more palatable diet.
“The plums are ripe now, if you want one.”
“[Th]ey [m]ake [m]e [s]ick, Ik-Ard. Too [m]uch sugar, Ik-Ard.”
It left. Of course, its lack of a hinged jaw would have made the whole process of consuming a plum ridiculous.
I turned back to my cabbage patch and started to dig.
I didn’t really notice it at first, but by the third day of the trip I realised that I was seeing bridges completely differently to how one normally perceives them. When you typically come to think of a bridge, it is as part of a walkway or a road, and a means to pass over a body of water or some other man-made transport route. You see the grey stretch ahead then proceed across. That is a bridge.
They have a habit of looming into view. It may be the top of a tower peering above the trees, or one end sidling out round a corner. At the speed of a canoe this gives the journey under a bridge more than just a brief moment’s consideration. They are each a drawn out event, from first sighting to passing under to disappearing again. During this time they never fully leave the mind. Consider this in comparison to being on foot or wheel where it will rarely take more than a minute or two to traverse before becoming a bare figment of memory.
In a canoe they are not a means of crossing something, but rather they are an obstacle that must be navigated around. They do not serve to ease passage, but to obstruct. Often they are of little consequence, merely narrowing the options through a short section of river, but other times they can become dangerous hindrances, barriers and traps. Consider a sturdy stone construction with multiple pillars. A river with significant flow is forced through the gap, creating a turbulent, high speed current with lethal walls to either side.
Bridges also simply become visible from different angles, and from these angles one can appreciate the engineer’s craft. Whilst they could be constructed with an entirely functional purpose this is rarely the case. There is some degree of aesthetic design and appeal to each.
This is the easy part. Physically, all it requires is the movement of a pencil over paper. What may come afterwards is that which will require effort and perseverance. If we think life is hard now, it’s leisurely compared to what is to come. We may suffer economic collapse, schisms within families and between friends, and ostracism from those with whom we will now share a meaningful border. We will have to work harder for less. We will not be able to rely on an ocean of wealth.
We will be doing so because we will finally all be in it together. Our choices will hold weight. We will have the opportunity and power to shrug off the leeches holding us down. Should we hold our conviction to heart, and drive through with the momentum of our cross, we can stand taller and be a light in the dark sea of cynicism of the world.
Thus as I die I am born. As I saw with eyes now I see with spirit. As I once felt with heart and head I now feel with soul. There are many with me; we are discrete yet work as if one, we are swift yet glacial.
I know each thought is being put together piece by piece, yet my mind still feels fluid.
This is all I know, and I am gone.
With unfamiliar ease I held her under her arms and straightened my legs, lifting her gently out of her chair. Taking a few short, steady paces back we manoeuvred ourselves such that my colleague could wheel a chair in behind her and I let her down again softly. She was then escorted through to dinner whilst I walked over to the next resident.
Little had changed in the techniques and positions we used these days, but because there was a hissing metal skeleton strapped to my back they were now termed “safe”. Of course, they were always “safe” but gadgetry is more reliable than stressed workers’ appraisals of their own bodies.
We used to need twice as many people to help all our residents through to dinner, but now we are more efficient and only need the three.
I come to the last person, and as I stoop down again I hear my back squeak. Of course, it’s not my back but the pneumatic one strapped to it. Because we are held to the same deadlines there has been no time to charge it; the squeak is the alarm for a low battery. As always I ignore it. As I stand back up again, the skeleton stops. I lose my balance and both of us fall – myself on top of him.
He breaks his hip and suffers lacerated skin and deep bruises. I take the blame, lose my job, and have to pay to repair the skeleton.
“What you watching the now?”
“Nowt much pal. Just these lazy feckers in sector 7294.”
“Not up to much then, aye? Dunno why you keep doing this shite like. Feck all happens these days. ”
“Nah man, see that biggish bugger there? I mean, he disnae do much other than spin real fecking fast, but he’s well beasting it like.”
“That one there? Looks like it ain’t doing nae good for his skin. That spot’s fecking massive!”
“Aye, well you cannae have it all like. And you see that wee wet looking one, right next to the real hot looking bird? Aye, that one. Well mind Alfie like? He went and started on it a while back. He got well smashed up like, but gave the fecker a right sore heid.”
“You sure ’bout that bud? He looks well sick like, but no like he’s been busted up or nothing.”
“It were a fair while back mind. Feck’ s sake man, though you’ve got tae give him credit fae not marking up too bad.”
“Fair enough, like. Oi, you see that? He just flashed us like!”
“Oh aye? Aye, I see it. Here, he did it again the dirty bastard!”
“I reckon you ought tae give him another lesson. See that, he’s still doing it like.”
“Too right pal. You dinnae need to push me out of me orbit like! Feck’s sake, I’m going you wanker.”
“Right behind you bud, don’t you worry yourself.”