I sat on my bike, staring at the infamous bridge where it was rumored that anyone who dared to cross would simply vanish into thin air; except for me, it wasn’t just a rumor. I had seen it happen with my own eyes, as my best friend, Maureen, had disappeared when she had attempted to cross the bridge. Maureen hadn’t wanted to go across--everyone in town was afraid to--but I had dared her, as children often do.
So, I was holding a lot of guilt over my best friend’s disappearance. I knew it was my fault that my friend was gone and that Maureen’s parents and older brother were grief-stricken with her loss. Her family was none too happy to have discovered that I had dared their daughter to cross the bridge. My own parents weren’t very happy with me either, nor were the rest of the members of the small town of Pumpkin Patch.
There was only one way that I knew of to fix my mistake, and that was to attempt to cross the bridge myself in order to find my friend and somehow bring her back from wherever she had been whisked away to. Of course, that also meant bringing myself back, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do even that, let alone find Maureen. So, to say that I was scared witless was a vast understatement. I had never been so scared in my entire life, except for right after I had seen Maureen disappear and then had to go back to the town members to let them know.
I could have lied about the dare, but I had been raised not to lie, even if it meant facing consequences I didn’t want to face. And having everyone in town angry and disappointed with me was a consequence that I definitely had not wanted to face, but I had because it had been the right thing to do; to tell the truth in my part in Maureen’s disappearance.
* * * * *
I sat for a long time on my bike, staring at the bridge. I had left the house early before anyone had woken because all the children were now forbidden to go near the bridge, and the adults were keeping a close eye to ensure that they didn’t. But there was no way for me to fix my mistake unless I crossed the bridge, myself. It was clear to me that Maureen wasn’t going to come back on her own, as it had been a full month since her disappearance.
* * * * *
With a final breath of resignation, I got off my bike and left it lying at the entrance to the bridge so that my parents and brothers and sisters would at least know what had happened to me--that I hadn’t run away from home. I had also left a note saying that I was going to find Maureen and bring her back, but the abandoned bike would confirm where I had gone if I didn’t return. Of course, I had convinced myself that Maureen and I would be back before the sun came up. It was the only way I could hold onto my courage of walking onto a bridge that was not only rumored to swallow up anyone who did but, in fact, did swallow them up, as I had borne witness to with my own eyes.
I took one tentative step onto the bridge, holding my breath, not sure what to expect, but when nothing happened, I took another, then another. But it wasn’t until I was in the middle of the bridge--half-way across--exactly where Maureen had disappeared, that it happened…
I flung an arm across my eyes as a sudden bright light flashed all around me. It had literally been like going from night into day, as it had been dark when I had started across the bridge and now it was broad daylight.
I gasped in surprise at the splendor that lay before me. The old, rickety, wooden bridge was now a different bridge entirely. Now it appeared to glow with golden light about it and was much larger than the small Pumpkin Patch bridge had been.
* * * * *
Once I got my wits about me, I saw my best friend and with a smile, I rushed forward and flung my arms around her.
"I’m so sorry Maureen! I never should have dared you to cross the bridge. Your parents and brother are so sad and everyone is furious with me, especially myself. But now I found you and we can find our way back together."
Maureen held me as I apologized but then gently pulled away when I mentioned going back, and she spoke with a smile on her face. “There is no need to apologize, Annemarie. I chose to take your dare. You didn’t force me across the bridge. But I’m glad that you dared me to because alone I would have been too afraid. And if I had not gone, you would have still been afraid to cross yourself. It was your love for me that drew you forward through your fear, and it was my love and friendship for you that I took the dare.
"As for going back, there are some bridges when crossed that there is no going back from. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. All bridges lead to new adventures and there are some bridges that are very scary to cross, such as Pumpkin Patch Bridge back home; except Pumpkin Patch wasn’t really our home. This is our real Home, and now that you have finally faced your fear and have crossed the bridge yourself, everything has been set right again.
"Don’t you remember what happened now that you are Home?"
A look of confusion crossed my face and I shook my head.
"No. I remember starting across the bridge and nothing happening until I got to the middle, then there was a bright flash of light and I was here. What do you mean home? This isn’t our home. Though this place is beautiful. Everything appears to be glowing with light.
Maureen smiled again. “Of course, everything is bright now, silly because you are awake now. You have awoken out of your ‘dream’.”
I continued to look confused.
"My dream? Pumpkin Patch was only a dream? But it seemed so real."
* * * * *
Maureen smiled, gesturing with her arm, beckoning me to follow as she continued walking. “Come on. There is something you need to see.”
I paused to look behind me, but where I had come from had disappeared. In fact, what lay behind me was now only a dark foggy mist, which was even scarier than the Pumpkin Patch Bridge had been.
"What is that darkness behind us, Maureen?"
Maureen’s paused and turned to answer, “It is the Nothingness, Annemarie--the Void. As I said, there are some bridges once crossed that can’t be crossed back again. It is those bridges that are the scariest to cross because as humans we don’t want to let go of our past, even if that past is hindering us from moving forward. All you have now is forward. I know you are feeling confused and scared right now, but you will understand if you come with me.”
I finally nodded and followed my best friend, going the rest of the way across the bridge I had started to cross back in Pumpkin patch, though this apparently was a different bridge entirely. I supposed as I walked along, that making it halfway was all that had been needed for me to get to the other side, or rather to wherever I was now. I still had to walk the rest of the way to get off this new bridge, and that walk appeared to be much longer than it would have been, had I crossed the small Pumpkin Patch Bridge back home.
Maureen led me across the bridge and down a hill following a cobblestone path that was lined with beautiful flowering trees and bushes, and as I had observed on the bridge, everything had a soft golden glow about it. I even noticed when I looked down at my own arm when I felt a butterfly land there, that I also had a golden glow about me, and of course, the butterfly did as well. Maureen did too, but on the bridge, I hadn't noticed because it had been so bright there.
It was a long walk, but at the bottom of the hill was an enormous golden city. I had seen the city in the distance from the bridge because I had been higher up, but now that I was at eye-level all I could see was the massive gate. It wasn’t closed, however, but open and glowing like everything else, and just within I saw all my friends and family that I thought I had left back home in Pumpkin Patch, and that caused me to stop dead in my tracks in surprise--even more confused--which made everyone laugh in amusement. Not in a cruel way I realized, but apparently to help reassure the 'prodigal daughter' that everything was okay.
My mother finally came forward and took me into her embrace. “Welcome Home, Annemarie. Do, you remember now?”
* * * * *
I hadn’t understood until my mother hugged me, but then in a flash, my memory returned.
I was a Time-Keeper--a special type of angel who was able to move forward and back in time; able to manipulate the very fabric of time. It was only through the illusion of time that humans were able to experience life on Earth. So, I had volunteered to go into time itself to bring all the people of Pumpkin Patch back home. But it had been, in part, my own fear of the bridge which had prevented me from simply showing them the way home the moment I arrived. Also, the fact that the only way to go back in that wrinkle in time where the people of Pumpkin Patch were trapped was to be born into a human body in the small town of Pumpkin Patch myself. I had to forget where “Home” really was--to forget my very reason for having been born. I had needed to grow up with those I had been sent to rescue, to know their fear as my own but to cross the bridge despite my fear.
The very act of facing my own fear of crossing the bridge had been the trigger needed which freed the rest of the town members of their fear of death. There had been others who had been born into Pumpkin Patch and who had crossed the bridge in the hopes of leading the others Home, such as Maureen. But it had taken a Time-Keeper to break the spell--the illusion of time; one who could manipulate the fabric of time in order to smooth out that “wrinkle” that had held Pumpkin Patch bound.
The bridge had been a manifestation of their fear of death; the fear of change of moving into the unknown. There had been brave souls from time to time who had dared cross the bridge on their own or innocent souls who simply hadn’t known any better, but the majority of the town folk had been too fearful. The fear of not knowing what had happened to those who had gone before them prevented them from venturing into the unknown themselves. Not knowing that they were trapped in their fear, created a wrinkle in time that was holding them bound to the earth, being reborn over and over into their Pumpkin Patch reality.
* * * * *
I suddenly smiled, now understanding everything as my human soul was suddenly reunited with my Higher Spirit; understanding that I was not only Home, but that I had never really left Home, but rather had merely sent a portion of my consciousness into a human body as a human soul, and that everything was as it should be now.
I had succeeded in my task.
And once everyone saw that I now remembered, they all cheered and rushed forward to hug me and thank me for bringing them Home.