River Oddities

Serena leaned against Jake, staring at the improbable bend in the river. It was really more of a hairpin turn, letting the river turn back on itself. This planet, Taland, never failed to evoke a sense of wonder and bemusement in her. This time, it was this river. They had followed it upstream for a couple of miles using the local version of a ranching vehicle – four-wheel drive with independent suspension designed to travel over rough, untamed terrain. Appropriately enough it was called a ranch-runner. The Talus used them to get to and from more remote locations and she’d seen them occasionally in smaller towns. Their new friend, Loren, the toymaker in the market, had loaned them one of his ranch-runners. Serena didn’t question why he owned one but lived in the city. Loren had even offered to babysit Melia while Serena and Jake explored up the river from their current dig at an ancient city. Melia was more than happy to spend a day acting as the toy tester for Loren.

“Look – with that little bridge where it comes back on itself, the river looks like it’s been roped and hogtied.” Jake chuckled, pointing to what amounted to the loop where the river doubled back on itself in a hairpin turn. A series of three small bridges arched over the river and the land. One arch traversed the upstream side of the river, a second over the small piece of land in between, and a third over the now downstream side. From where they stood at the bottom of the loops, it looked like a balloon in the forest floor.

Serena smiled. “It does. How old do you think those bridges are, and why are they there?”

Jake climbed down from the ranch-runner and ambled over to the end of the bridge closest to them. Serena watched as he stretched out a finger to touch the wood. He glanced back at her and waved her forward.

“Check this out. It’s carved and I swear those symbols match the ones we found back at the temple,” he said, pointing to the rail.

Serena joined her husband at the end of the bridge and examined the carvings. “You’re right. I think they’re the same. And look, there’s more of that Greek not-Greek writing along the inside of the rail.” She gazed across the length of the small bridge. “I think it goes all the way across, along both sides.”

Jake put a tentative foot on the bridge and pushed. There was a slight creaking sound, but the planks seemed solid. He glanced down at the water flowing underneath.

“Seems solid enough. Join me?” he said, holding out a hand.

After a moment’s hesitation, Serena nodded and took Jake’s hand. The bridge was wide enough for them to walk side-by-side and so they crossed over to the small spit of land between the two sections of river.

“There’s only writing, and no figures, on the bridge,” Serena noted.

“Yeah, so maybe not as important or serves a different purpose than the temple we found,” Jake replied.

Standing between the bridges on the narrow strip of land, Jake gazed around, taking in the whole area. Serena felt his muscles tense as he looked toward the hairpin curve of the river.

“What is that?” he asked quietly, pointing to the remains of what looked to be a structure at the top part of the “balloon.”

Serena peered around him. “Another temple? No, too small. Perhaps a small shrine? Wonder who or what it was dedicated to?”

Jake shook his head and pulled her back as she started toward the ruins. “No. Let’s not right now. With what we found back at the main dig I don’t want to go poking around any unmapped sites right now. Especially if they seem to be religious in nature. And more especially if they seem to be somehow related to the Greek myths of Old Earth. No, I don’t have anything concrete to go on, just a really, really large hunch – strong gut feeling,” he said.

Serena looked up at him. He often got hunches or gut feelings and they were usually right. Jake had never sounded so certain about any of them as much as he did this time, though. She nodded. “Okay. I trust your instincts. Should we go back to the dig? Or back home?”

Jake tugged on her hand and started back across the small bridge. When they reached the ranch-runner he turned to look back at the middle of the hairpin turn of the river. “I think we should go pick up Melia and talk to Loren about the history of this place. And I don’t mean the official history. There’s something here, or that happened here, that isn’t in the official history of this planet.”

“Um, okay.” Serena stared up at Jake. “Do you mean like local legends, that sort of thing?”

“Yeah, like that. I just think there’s way more than meets the eye,” Jake told her staring back at the series of bridges.

“‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio…’” Serena quoted and then trailed off.

“Exactly,” Jake said, climbing into the driver’s side and starting up the ranch-runner.


This week’s challenge came from ‘nother Mike: Someone roped the river and hogtied it… My challenge went to Leigh Kimmel: The dragons stopped for lunch in the bright meadow. Go on over to More Odds Than Ends to see what transpired with everybody’s prompt responses. If you want to join in, just grab a spare or send in one via email and receive one in return.

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