by Claire Beck
He forgot about the possibility of ice on the bridges, and only remembered as he lost control of the bike and went into a long skid. Mark quickly found himself almost perpendicular to the wood planks as his bike skated out from under him. He hit the wooden planking and slid several feet. One cleat came free from the pedal, but the other held fast. The bike rose up above him and then fell. The free pedal nailed him hard mid-calf and the pain was excruciating. Mark’s slide ended. The bike rested half on top of him, the front wheel actually dangling over the edge of the bridge, still spinning. His left cleat finally popped out of the clamp on the pedal.
It took a moment for Mark to assess the damage. His right leg was in agony. He craned his neck to look and saw a rapidly growing pool of blood coming from his torn racing tights. White bone protruded wetly through the spandex. There wouldn’t be any walking out of this accident; he’d have to call for help.
Then he remembered that he didn’t have his cell phone with him. He’d decided not to take his Camelback, since he was only planning a short ride, opting instead for a small bottle of water. That meant everything he normally carried in his Camelback was also at home, including the phone.
Mark shivered with the cold of shock and realized he was in a lot of trouble. Hopefully someone would ride by soon, but he wasn’t too hopeful; it was nearly dusk and the cold would deter most casual cyclists. There was snow earlier in the week. The snow was largely gone, but as most people would know (and Mark had forgotten), the many bridges of the Prairie Path had a fair coating of ice this late in the season.
He was on the bridge just north of the Prairie Path Bike Shop and just South of IL-31 – far enough from both that shouting wouldn’t do much good. Autumn woods spanned the left side of the path, and an abandoned warehouse loomed hauntingly on the right. Mark recalled that this bridge was about twenty feet above a large brook. No help from below, then.
“Who’s that trip-trapping on my bridge!” A voice boomed out from below, accompanied by several giggles.
Mark was startled by the voice, but his fear quickly changed to relief. He called back, “Thank God! Hey, I had a really bad accident – wiped out on my bike. My leg is broken. Can you run for help?”
The sound of hurried movement below. Some whispering. Then, even louder than before, “Who’s that trip-trapping on my BRIDGE!”
That didn’t sound like a child’s voice. Okay, teen-agers, maybe. Perhaps this is a hangout where the local kids go to drink beer and smoke pot. Mark shivered again. He felt very cold and his teeth chattered.
“Listen, this is serious. I’m bleeding all over the place up here, and I can’t move. Can you help me?”
More laughter from below. More movement. It sounded like someone was climbing the trestle. Okay, maybe his saviors were a little stoned, maybe a little mean, but they were coming to help him. Thank God, Mark thought again. This could have been so much worse.
Then a large hand reached out from under the bridge and grasped the front wheel of the bike. The hand looked pale and bloated, as if it had been in water for a long time. There were bruises and puncture marks. One fingernail was missing, and the others were crusted with dirt. The hand yanked the bike with such force that Mark was pulled toward the edge of the bridge along with it. The dragging pulled the wound open further. Mark screamed in agony and fear.
More titters from below. The sound of heavy breathing. A high buzzing in Mark’s ears made it difficult to tell what else was going on. His vision tunneled and faded as the blood loss stole his consciousness. Amidst the buzzing he heard a babble of conversation – yelling, more laughter, more whispering. He felt himself tugged closer to the edge. His leg screamed again, jolting him back to consciousness briefly. The hand of his captor grasped the knee of his broken leg fondly, possessively.
A WINTER TAIL
by Lydia Lacina Hartsig
One dawnlit morning, about three weeks into the frostbite cold of December, I opened the drapes on the back window to enjoy the brightening woods beyond my yard. Under a cedar tree near the woods, I noticed two rather large brown rocks which I had not placed there. I stared intently through the swelling light. One of the rocks moved. It rose with royal grace, becoming the antlered head of a young buck. Young, I guessed, since he was blessed with just one rack. I saw then, that from my perspective at the window, the ‘rocks’ were his bent down head and his rump. He was lying on the scant, needle strewn snow under the cedar, huddled as though to drain what little heat his shivering body could siphon from the patch.
At first, I joyed in the sight of this majestic animal, even though in any other season I would have chased after it with at least a hefty five-foot long dead branch screaming, “venison!” Soon I realized he might be dying. What then? I thought of the sparrows that do not fall without God’s knowledge and prayed earnestly for God’s attention to the buck. Yes, well. There would still be a carcass. Under MY cedar tree.
While I considered this, he gently stirred his furry body upright. Surveying the sparse breakfast possibilities, he seemed to focus upon some dead-dry weeds protruding from the foot deep snow a few feet away. He limped towards the weeds. Limped! One limb was lame. What misfortune had he survived? Compassion pricked my conscience, but of course there was nothing I could do.
My attention turned to some disturbance a little way off in the woods. It was a lovely doe trailed by a small deer, no longer a fawn, yet still quite small. They ambled towards the buck and seemed to communicate. Then the little one, white tail raised starch high, spurted down the prairie path a few feet beyond the strip of woods followed leisurely by the doe and the buck. I wondered what their story was – I will never know. But I took comfort knowing that at least the injured buck was not alone with his lameness.