Chapter 1:

The One Night Bridge

A night under a shimmering moon

It was a night under a shimmering moon.

When people recall important events in their life to you, often they start by saying the day was ‘ordinary’, a ‘day like any other’ they might say, either that or claim that it was a day so unlike any other it couldn’t possibly be confused as ordinary. So, what is the midpoint? If I wished to remove all clichés, would I say the day I stood under that shimmering moon was so boringly ordinary or so incredibly unordinary?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter, in fact it most certainly doesn’t, when you finish a gripping story it is unlikely you think of that story’s beginning too much if at all, the part of a story that really impacts you is how that story ends.

The problem I faced was I wasn’t sure how this story would end, I was situated perfectly still across from someone, a person I had never met. A stranger. That stranger under that shimmering moonlight on a neither ordinary nor unordinary day had in his hand a tool- a weapon to be more exact. Even if I did not know the person who was stood silently in front of me, they gave off an aura of unadulterated malice, so unfiltered it seemed to brim out of their very mortal body. I say ‘mortal body’ because it bore a wound, the stranger had but one arm, the arm in which they were carrying the tool I assumed was to be pointed at me.

There wasn’t time to question why that was the case, it simply was. My story was not one of grand proportions nor was it an ordinary life I could abridge in a few simple sentences, so the alternative was to leave it blank, up to interpretation, filled in by the mind of whoever the story becomes recounted to. How was I so sure the story currently unravelling was to be recounted? Well perhaps it was the absurdity of it, 2 figures, opposed directly, standing in parallel on a bridge, a very short stone bridge, one of them certain to die. Perhaps that bridge overlooked a chasm that continued hundreds of feet below, perhaps it was a river only a few inches beneath the bridge. Perhaps I didn’t mean a bridge as in the infrastructure that connects two lands equally in parallel but the bridge of a ship. Did it matter? No, I shall leave it blank.

What was important was the stranger held a sword of magnificent beauty in the arm they still had left- the craftsmanship was unparalleled, someone who had no interest in swords might have their jaw unwillingly dropped at such a stunning sight for it transcended the admiration of someone interested in weapons, it exuded elegance through its design. It was a weapon in which one could only wish to be killed by. Its wielder so strikingly unordinary, they were certain to never have had an ordinary day in their entire life. How was the sword designed to be so beautiful and what kind of sword did that unordinary stranger wield? Did it matter? No, I shall leave it blank.

I turned my gaze away from that striking sword on to the stranger I saw in front of me. I saw their eyes- eyes that bored into me, drilling holes in my constitution and threatening to destroy any composure I had left. They were eyes that said 5 simple words- ‘You’re going to die here’. Those eyes made me forget that the hostile presence in front of me was wounded at all, as if their incapacitation would not hinder or handicap them in the slightest. They donned a hood, one that had seen its fair share of wear and tear and one that so matched its wearer’s glare. Their facial features were somewhat indistinct, I could not recall such a face; hence a ‘stranger’. What colour were those eyes? What was the gender of the stranger? What was their hair like? Did it matter? No, I shall leave it blank.

I withdrew my own sword, perhaps I had neglected to mention carrying one and met the stranger’s glance albeit with little trace of hostility in my eyes. Perhaps it looked like I was bored or too composed because the stranger’s eyes grew even more hateful. Many consider apathy to be something positive, to be stoic is something people strive for in situations where their existence might be at risk. After all, does one not want to be calm enough to avoid their end? Or perhaps to die in peace? The truth of the matter to me however was not of wanting to end this with my life still belonging to me and not the afterlife, no, I had simply resigned myself to the fact I was going to die here. It was the truth, the objective and unchangeable truth; many will lecture you about having the power to create your own fate, but under that shimmering moon and the gaze of those malicious eyes I abandoned these teachings and gave up.

It was but a second it took me to reach this conclusion before the embodiment of rage I saw in front of me came at me, not quickly or brashly as one might expect from someone carrying so much anger but methodically and calculatedly- the swiftest path to my death.

Sword struck sword. Ideology struck ideology. Apathy struck feeling. Yet light did not strike darkness nor did red strike blue. Such binary opposition was not present, I was not the hero, the stranger not the villain. There was no need for this conflict, at least not one I was conscious of. Regardless, sword struck sword.

A gasp of pain, the sound of sword tearing flesh asunder, a wound. A mortal wound. One of the two combatants fell from the bridge, into a river perhaps, or into a chasm or into something else entirely. The fallen did not mouth a single utterance did not scream or cry out, did not curse their fate, had no parting words for the other party, their life ended, as if it was as inevitable as the very conflict in which they had died in. Who had received that wound? Who had died? Were they the same person? Did both die? Did it matter? No, I shall leave it blank.

And that was how the story ended.

Perhaps it was a shoddy story, filled with inconsistencies, sudden unfolding of events, unspecific character motivations, riddled with blanks, incomplete, inconclusive and relied upon its audience filling in the blank pages it had left them with. Everyone’s version of this story is different, perhaps it was the stranger who met his death by falling into a chasm, a gaping wound pierced through his chest, a man unable to get revenge on the stoic warrior who had wronged him in the past. Perhaps she had sliced through my stomach before falling into a river, cracking her head on the rocks below, finally killing the warrior whom she had been ordered to by her family.

Perhaps it was a story that never happened at all, a recounting of events so distorted from being passed on for so long, the truth had been obscured by legend as stories often are. It did not help that story was neither ordinary nor unordinary, that had only led to its degradation even faster. Maybe it began as a fable, maybe as a legend, maybe even as a fairy tale. Every recount is its own truth, its own story, the work of someone else filling in the blanks they had been left with. Regardless, the actual events would never be recounted accurately.

For, the only detail that was concrete was, it was a night under a shimmering moon.