The fog was thick where he sat, like it was every morning as of late. Every winter brought this kind of cover along the Yarzarine river, the great waterflow that once served as the border of his homeland. Now it marked the entry to escape for so many who ran for their lives. Even among the old rivets and cables, the bridge did not creak or buckle as hundreds of worn shoes and weary eyes shuffled past them.
“Gonna be a cold one, Hax,” one man said, smoke venting from his teeth, “just like yesterday.”
Nodding, Sgt. Haxeburn tore another bit from his breakfast ration “Sure hope so, Zinger. It’s still gonna be a day or two before the 77th gets here. “
“You think they’ll be enough?”
“Maybe. I sure hope s…”
The alarm silenced Hax’s optimism. “ALERT! ALERT! Enemy air activity approaching! Two contacts, bearing zero-zero-five at twenty miles! Defense units to stations!”
“Damn! Zinger, lock in here! I’ll head up top!”
“Got it!” With trained precision, his partner slammed his locking clamps into the ground before hunkering down like an arachnid to let the once-concealed launchers on his back spin skyward and glow with readied opposition. All the while, Hax leapt from rafter to beam and higher until he reached the top of the main bridge frame. Once there, he raised his arms high, cannon barrels locking forward and into place. Below, the sounds of the morning had come alive in palpable fear, rushed cries and scurrying whimpers trying to outrun whatever storm approached.
Yet the morning air was still, freezing the sweat to his brow. No howl of incoming thunder, no screams of a predator. Only stillness, save for his pounding heart.
Maybe they were wrong. Maybe it’s a false alarm. Please, dear God…. let it be a false alarm. All those people down there won’t stand a chance…!
“Got ‘em Hax! Two coming in, high and fast! Eat this!” Zinger roared out over the wash of his weaponry as missile after missile flew towards the heavens. The warheads locked onto something and disappeared into the distance.
Suddenly, the bridge under him shuddered and groaned, cables snapping and fearful citizens wailing. Even the fog began to slink away in fear, to let him see handfuls of flailing bodies fall into the icy waters below.
Something graced his cheek with a fleeting touch, to which Hax turned to fire. A curtain of steel and fire reached out into the morning dew to strike something that wasn’t there anymore as he searched for what had caught them.
“Zinger, ol buddy, don’t let up now! Come on! COME ON!” he called out in escalating pitch, belting death from his barrels at even the slightest notion of disturbance.
It was then that something tapped him on the shoulder, causing Hax to spin. In one fluid motion, the cannon barrels were cleaved neatly in half and something crushed his sternum into his spine, ripping him from his post and backwards. The cries of the panicked were muted by the tumbling in his brain, but he saw very clearly the blade that had scored him. Clutched by a slender hand that slinked towards him on graceful hips, it approached him, stopping only to pluck the broken remains of one of his guns and slice the muzzle free. Long, feminine claws flicked the prize like a toy before slipping it into a pocket.
“You… you’re…” Hax tried to conjugate, to move, to anything. Which made his opponent chuckle to herself at the sight of her work. Leaning in close, she whispered to his ear “You die with honor. They,” she gestured with her blade, still slick in shining crimson, “they die like vermin.”
There was no grand explosion, no heralding shockwave of destruction from below, the bridge beneath him was simply shredded. Inch by inch of weathered rivet and rod was shaved into confetti around him, and the weightless fall took hold. His killer still stood upon the air as Hax fell, greeted by a twin harpy of equal measure which carried proudly the half-emptied launcher of a brother-in-arms.
And just as quickly as they arrived, the two screamed back into the morning sun, wings trailing dew to frame the embers of their afterburners. Only frigid waters and darkness met him at the bottom.
My entry for this week’s Free Write Friday from Kellie Elmore. Based on an old bridge I used to cross everyday back as a wee lad.
I hope you all enjoy!