It was once a legend. No one believed me when I told the stories. No one would listen when I tried to tell them the truth. I knew though. I knew this place was real; all I had to do was find it. I knew what I was looking for, I just had to get there. There was a bridge that would take me there. When I found it, I would step across those creaking, chipped, and rotted boards into the fog and out the other side.
No one supported me to get this far. None would follow me into this jungle. I can see it now, the fame and fortune that this discovery could bring. Why would I share it with them? They who mocked me, they who doubted. If I had listened to them I never would have made it this far.
I cut through the vines with my rust covered machete. My boots sink into the leaf litter, my feet ache from the miles I have walked each day to get this far.
In my other hand I hold my hope, the brown and tattered piece of worn paper. It would have once been a beautifully painted map but not now, that had been years ago. I glance at the faded image, graceful lines, and sweeping letters, this was the map that led me here. It had never been a map, it had never been intended to lead me this far. Its creator had wanted to share the legend, intended to show the elegance of what he had found. I would not be so foolish; I would never leave the paradise once I arrived. Why would I ever leave a place where I was happy, safe and warm? I put the picture back in my pocket and trudged on.
The burning light dances dappling beams across the leaf rot and across my sweating exposed skin. I sip the precious water from my canteen, hoping that I could make what I had brought with me last long enough. Just need to make it to the bridge.
I slap at the buzzing mosquitoes as they circle around me, waiting for me to drop my guard long enough for them to zoom in for a quick meal. I growl furiously at them as I smash another between my hands. The birds in the trees overhead sing to each other, they mock me, laugh at my struggle. Snakes, lizards and insects scurried through the leaves at my feet. Even they mock my journey, as they speed away through the shadows as I suffer in the heat to cut my way through this forest.
As I set up my tiny tent beneath a fallen tree, the shadows grow thicker, the sounds grow louder. How would I sleep with the symphony around me? I lie on my cot and pull the picture back from my pocket, the paper warm and flexible from being heated by my body all day. I run my finger gingerly across the swooping letters at the base. The bridge was near I could feel it, I knew that this legend was real, I would find it and I would never let it go.
The sun rises over a humid jungle, a thick fog hangs around the moss covered trunks, casting dancing rainbows across the ground. I shiver despite the heat of the morning as I climb from my tent. I pack my things back up and continue onward. Hope fading from my heart, I cut my way through the vines. I had to find it today. I could not make it back if I went much further, I would not have the supplies to make it back. I gnaw at the jerky I had brought with me, my stomach aches for a real meal; I had to believe that the other side of the bridge would hold what was promised.
I wonder if there would be others waiting for me on the other side. My thoughts wander as I drift among the trees. The insects do not trouble me this morning; even they do not want to come out into the humid heat of the morning. My clothing sticks to my skin as I move, I pull at the collar of my shirt, hoping to let some cooler air between my skin and the damp cloth. I cut through one more patch of vines, there it is.
Everything I had ever imagined. The arch of ivy, with every color of jungle flower braided into it. The twin posts of twisting carved pale wood, with the ropes looped around the base and head. The bridge beyond swaying over a mist filled canyon, its smooth wood boards dripping with dew, and glowing with extraordinary warmth in the midmorning light. I stepped eagerly to the edge or the canyon, my shaking hand reaching out and gingerly touching the smooth wood of the post.
The bridge seems to sigh beneath my touch; a gentle breeze ruffles the flowers of the archway. I took a deep breath and step out onto the first dew slick board. One step after another, I draw closer to the fog.
The damp air, envelopes me, I keep one hand on the ivy infused rope to my right as I venture into the unseen. Within the mist the sounds of the jungle fade, the calls of birds and insects are silenced, the roar of a jungle cat muffled against the dampness. My chest tightens in the silence; even my breath dare not make a sound here as I silently step across the swaying bridge.
I stifle a gasp as I emerge on the other side of the mist. They had all doubted me yet here I was. I step from the bridge onto the beach on the other side my feet sinking into the sand.
The valley opens up around me, the shimmering perfectly clear blue lake that dominates the center, causes the light to reflect and dance in the trees around me. Waterfalls tumble from the cliff on the other side of the lake, rainbow filled clouds of mist drift slowly over the lagoon. Trees grew from the cliff side, their branches and leaves kissing the lake’s gleaming surface. The waves that lap at the sand under my feet uncover gorgeous pearls that tumble through the waves and lick at my boots. The breeze sweeps sweetly through the reeds at the water’s edge, a dance my heartbeat knows the steps too.
As I move around the edge of the lake, I let my hand drag through the reeds. I hear music, hum across the water, there are others here. I find them; they smile at me and invite me to join them. They offer me food and shelter, I stay for a while.
I know I need to bring others here; this cannot remain a secret. I had been selfish to think it should. I find my way back to the ivy covered bridge and glance back at my new home longingly. I do not want to leave but others had to know the truth. I step into the fog, and out the other side. The bridge vanishes.