Friday, 19 October 2012

Friday Flash Fiction - Bridgeman Downs

There are several places in Brisbane where the rivers or creeks afford no crossings, either because the banks are too steep or there are simply no bridges to cross in your car. If you find yourself near one of those places, you might employ the services of a Bridgeman.

The Bridgemen are superheroes, not all of them the same, but all specialised in this one small task. They may be super-strong, able to leap with your car across the river, or they may be telekinetic and lift it with their mind. They may be teleporters or space-benders, or they may magnetically stretch your car across the river and compress it back again on the other side. It's hard to know in advance what you're going to get from a Bridgeman. Some are even unscrupulous telepaths who will convince you that you have crossed the river when you have not, or that you never really wanted to go across in the first place. Most of them are all too happy to show off their powers, though.

Fred approached the river at a Bridgeman's point one day, lost and in a hurry, so he was willing to risk his money and his car if it would get him to his destination. As he rolled up to the window of the distinctly coloured booth, a small head peered out over the ledge.

"Hey," said Fred, "Where's the Bridgeman?"

The small face sprouted a scowl. "I'm the Bridgeman! I am! And you can just go home if you don't like it!"

Fred eyed the boy suspiciously. "So what's your power? How are you going to get me across and how much will it cost me?"

"Twenty for the crossing by super-jump."

Fred didn't have time to haggle with the high price, nor to question the boy's ability. It was this or go home. He pulled out his wallet and handed the money over.
The boy stepped around to the front of the car wearing some cheap-looking gardening cloves. He put his weight under the front bumper and heaved the car up on its back wheels. Fred was glad he wasn't carrying anything big, like a suitcase, but tried belatedly to secure the few small objects strewn about the car's interior. Most of them rolled under the seats, out of reach, to be rediscovered next time he vacuumed the interior.

The boy must have worked his way further under the car, because it lurched up into the air and swayed unsteadily for several seconds. Just as Fred was about to call out and ask if the boy was okay, the car shot into the air like it had been on a giant spring. Fred could hear the wind whistling past the open windows, and wondered whether he should have closed them. The change in the ash tray started to float gently upwards as the other river bank approached, and Fred thought they might not make it. Then they crunched down, a little heavily, and it was clear there had been nothing to worry about.

It was a couple of seconds before Fred realised that the car was already on the ground, rather than being lowered as the boy got out from underneath. He called out and got no response, then opened the door to check under the car.

The boy was lying there, face down, apparently hurt.

"Hey, are you okay?" asked Fred, feeling silly as soon as he said it.

"Ring ... bell," managed the boy.


"Ring the bell!" the boy repeated, with more energy this time. It was then that Fred noticed the bell on the side of the booth on this river bank, with instructions that simply read: "In case of emergency, ring bell." Fred waggled the bell's tongue back and forth as hard and fast as he could, producing a sustained low-frequency tolling from the bell. He went back to check on the boy who sent him back with just one word, "bell". Fred kept ringing it as loud as he could.

It wasn't long before help arrived in the form of a flying, muscle-bound paramedic wearing a radio and a cape. He took one look under Fred's car, shoved the whole thing to the side with one push, then yelled quickly into his radio: "Bridgeman down, Bridgeman down, we have a rookie Strong collapsed under a car. I'm bringing him in."

And without even a glance at Fred, the caped paramedic scooped up the boy and flew off into the sky, leaving Fred alone on the river bank, a little unsure what had happened. But with nothing else to do, he got back in his car and headed on his way, but first he left a little extra cash in the booth for the boy.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This makes story number 15 in my Brisbane suburbs series.
PPS - There's a long way to go yet.

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