*This story was written starting with a prompt from Reedsy.com*
The sky was angry.
Black clouds roiled above, flashing with lightning as sheets of rain came pouring down. Instantly, I was soaked through. The weather forecast had not called for this. It was supposed to be a sunny, only slightly cloudy, day. Where had this storm come from?
Squinting through the torrent of water, I see a structure up ahead that could provide some shelter. Hugging myself, I sprint out into the storm and duck under the structure – the bridge as it turns out.
Of course it’s the bridge, I chastise myself. What else would in be in this particular part of the town? Afterall, I’d known perfectly well where I was before the rain started. With a sigh, I pried my long hair from my face, trying to smooth it back into some semblance of order. Not that it matters. No one is around to see me.
I sigh again, grumbling to myself about how the world hates me, when something catches my eye. Something small and ….white? I startle and nearly jump to my feet and the creature freezes, front paws splayed, head slightly down, tails up and alert.
Staying as still as I can, I examine the creature. It’s about the size of a small dog, a Pomeranian maybe, with big pointed ears, a narrow but short snout, a long sleek body of glistening white fur and at least three tails swishing around it’s hind quarters. A fox? With multiple tails?
“Wow,” I whisper on an exhale. At the sound of my voice the little creature takes off at a run towards the other end of the bridge.
Without any conscious thought, I scramble to my feet and take off after the little animal. “Wait!” I shout, but of course the creature doesn’t listen.
What the hell am I doing? I wonder. Why do I do things like this?
Before I can come up with any sort of answer to these questions, the creature reaches the other side of the bridge, with me hot on his tails. We shoot over to the other side and I feel –
The sun hot on my wet skin?
The light is blinding. I crush my eyes shut and bring both hands up to shield my face. It was definitely still raining while I was under the bridge, so what happened?
Squinting, I slowly open my eyes and lower my hands a fraction. The little white creature is only a few feet away from me, looking up at me with curious eyes and wagging tails. All around us is green. Towering trees with large emerald green leaves surround me in a circle. I tilt my head back and can hardly see the top of them. The sun shines down through a perfect circle in the canopy.
I’ve been here before…
A memory begins to bubble up in the back of my mind, a memory from ten years ago when I was only eight.
The townsfolk always muttered about the bridge. Don’t go under the bridge unless you have to, they’d say. Stay away from the bridge at night.
A rustling sound catches my attention and my eyes are drawn to the forest in front of me. A creature like the small one I followed here emerges from the shadows of the forest, except this one is huge! My eyes travel from paws larger than my hands, up the sleek white fur of its strong front legs, up to a thicker ring of fur like a mane to its narrow snout and finally its eyes. Behind it, several bushy tails fanned out, like a peacock with its feathers on full display.
Deep liquid brown eyes stare at me, on level with my own. This creature is massive.
In my head I hear my mother’s voice: Stay away from the bridge or you’ll disappear just like little Jane Hodgson.
The old memory is in the front of my mind now. As a child, I never liked to listen to anyone, especially my mother. When people tell me not to do things, I always want to do them just because. Eight year old me went to the bridge. Like everyone in town, I’d always been wary of the bridge, and though I had been scared, that rebellious part of me just had to know what was there. It had been a rainy day and the sky was overcast. Slowly, cautiously, I crept under the bridge.
Stay away from the bridge or the creatures will snatch you away!
Eight year old me got to the far side of the bridge and tripped on a rock. I landed face first, my head, arms and shoulders on the other side of the bridge. I looked up and saw the forest, saw white fur, fear sending tingles down my spine. My legs and hips had still been under the bridge and I’d managed to scramble back under, the sound of snapping jaws ringing in my ears, missing me by a little more than an inch.
This time, my whole body had crossed out from under the bridge, my feet planted firmly in the grass as my wet clothes steamed in the heat. I turned around, panicked. All I saw was more trees and shadows. The bridge was gone. A growl sounded behind me, deep and guttural, and I felt the hot breath of the predator behind me.
Little Jane Hodgson went under the bridge and was never seen again.
The small creature I had followed yipped around my ankles, prancing in an excited dance.
Against my better judgement, I slowly turned back around. I was always doing things against my better judgement, doing things I wasn’t supposed to, going places I’d been warned not to go. Why did I never listen? Why did I follow the little creature?
I came nose to nose with the larger creature, its lips peeled back from long, sharp teeth and growled again. Hot, fetid breath washed over me and a small whimper escaped my lips. I squeezed my eyes shut and sobbed as the jaws of the creature closed around my throat.