After a couple more hours of walking, we came to a sheer drop, at the bottom of which were jagged looking rocks and a meandering stream. I don’t know how far down it was, but let’s just say, I didn’t want to be the one to find out as I knew no one could possibly survive the fall.
“Shit!” I exclaimed and stepped back from the edge.
“What the fuck are we supposed to do now? I aint walking all the way back” AJ shook his head in annoyance.
“If we follow the edge, we’re bound to come to a crossing somewhere” Brian suggested with a shrug.
“We only have a couple more hours of daylight though” Jordan informed us. I don’t think he wanted to walk any further.
“Let’s walk a bit longer and see what we find” Howie decided.
We walked for maybe another half hour before Brian spotted something. Just up ahead was what looked like a bridge. As we got closer we confirmed that it was indeed a bridge – a rope bridge. I looked as far as I could see in both directions and this seemed like the only way across. If we wanted to get across, that was how we were going to have to do it.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding” AJ said “there’s no way we’re crossing that, it’s made of frigging rope! I aint dying on no fucking rope bridge”
“Why don’t we see if it’s on the map?” Howie suggested and I pulled the map out and spread it before us. There was nothing to indicate a bridge - rope or otherwise. The map was worse than useless and I wondered why we were still carrying it around. I contemplated balling it up and tossing it over the edge.
“Nick, let me see the map a second” Brian moved closer and studied the map.
“See anything?” I asked
“This could be the bridge we’re at” Brian pointed to a faint line on the map.
“Y’think?” I asked.
“It has to be” Brian looked at the map again before folding it up neatly.
“We’ll have to cross here if we want to go any further then” I shook my head in dismay. I didn’t want to cross the rickety looking bridge, but I also didn’t want to carry on walking along the edge of the cliff.
“I say we vote on it” AJ “hands up who wants to carry on walking?”
AJ and Brian were the only ones with their hand up, but Brian then lowered his in defeat.
“Aw come on! You can’t seriously expect to cross that bridge” AJ objected.
“AJ, we have to…there’s no other way” Brian advised him and I knew he also didn‘t relish the idea of the bridge.
“Fine…whatever dude…you go first then” he threw his hands in the air in exasperation.
“Did I ever tell you you’re a fucking girl AJ?” I smirked at my friend.
“I’m just a realist” he replied.
We studied the bridge for a few minutes, it looked to be constructed of wood and rope and like something out of a movie…you know the type, where one of the insignificant characters plummets to their death when the bridge suddenly decides to give way. Well, we weren’t in a movie and the bridge looked steady enough to me.
“I’ll go first then, just to show you that it’s safe” I announced and began walking across without a problem. At least if the bridge did give way, I’d suffer an instant death once I reached the bottom. I’m not going to lie, I was shitting my pants as I crossed, and I didn’t dare look down in case I freaked out and toppled over the side. But with slow and careful steps, I made my way across.
Luckily the bridge was as sturdy as it looked and I made it across without any trouble.
“Who’s next?” I shouted across, I was high on adrenaline “it’s a piece of cake!”
Jordan was next across, with slow and measured moves; he also got to the other side without a hitch.
“I think Howie should come next” I called across. That way, if he got into trouble he’d have people at both ends to help out. It was going to be tougher for Howie to get across because of his leg.
“Fuck” he was saying as he slowly inched over the bridge, trying to keep it steady but not quite managing it. Because he was limping badly, the bridge was swaying and he had to keep on stopping to allow the rocking to stop. It was a tense wait and at times I was tempted to walk across and meet him halfway, but every time I called out and offered my help, Howie put me off and said he could manage. And so I trusted his judgement. Eventually he got across the rope contraption and I gave him a huge hug before he collapsed on the grass, head in his hands, probably completely knackered and relieved that he’d made it.
“OK AJ, you’re next” I called across “and don’t worry, you’re going to be just fine, you saw how easy it was”
“I’m scared” he admitted “what if it doesn’t hold my weight?”
“Dude, it held my weight! I’m a lot heavier than you” I shouted across “come on, it’s fine. I‘ll come across and help if you want”
“Hell no, you stay the fuck there!” he ordered.
He walked to the edge of the bridge and put one foot on there, I could see the fear on his face even from across the other side and refrained from shouting out my usual taunts. This was no time for messing around.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuckety fucking fuck” he muttered as he shuffled across the bridge.
“Almost there AJ, you can do it!” I cheered him on.
“Shut the fuck up Carter, I’m losing my concentration here” AJ stopped for a moment before carrying on with the shuffling and swearing. He made it across though and gave me a fierce hug, I could feel him trembling. “Thank fuck for that” he muttered and sat down with Howie to recover.
Last to cross was Brian. Now Brian is a pretty daring guy, but when it comes to heights, he’s a bigger girl than AJ.
“You OK Bri?” I called across to him, seeing him at the other side hesitating.
“Sure” he replied shakily.
“I can come across and help if you want” I suggested. The bridge was still standing and I didn’t see any reason why it couldn’t hold two of us together. I knew how big a deal heights were to him.
“It’s OK” he called, but it was clear that he was having difficulty in crossing.
Without another word, I crossed the bridge to where Brian was standing with his eyes closed.
“Here, give me your backpack” I reached out and he handed it to me. I slung it onto my back, thinking it would be easier for Brian if he didn’t have to carry anything but himself across. “Now give me your hand”
In any other circumstances I would consider taking another man’s hand to cross a bridge a completely gay thing to do, but this was Brian and he was terrified. There was nothing gay about helping a friend in need. His hand was sweating as he put his trust in me and took my hand.
“We’ll walk together, nice and slow. Everything is going to be OK” I soothed.
It was very shaky with both of us on there, and was rocking just like a rope bridge you’d find in a kids adventure playground when the kids are bouncing up and down on it excitedly. But this was no kiddie’s playground and if we fell off this, there would be no soft cushioned landing.
“Come on guys, nearly there” called Howie encouragingly
It seemed to take forever, and at one point I really did think I was going to lose it and topple us over into the unknown. One of the wooden planks cracked and my foot went through, I swore a string of curse words and told Brian to hold on tight while I pulled my foot out of the splintered wood remains and placed it on a sturdy plank. Brian began to hyperventilate and say he couldn‘t go any further, but eventually I stepped foot on solid ground and Brian was right behind me.
“Thank fuck for that” I said and sighed with relief when we were both safely away from the bridge.
“Thanks Nick” Brian threw his arms around me in a big hug.
“All in a day’s work for Indiana Carter” I joked and smiled that lopsided smile the ladies seem to love for some reason. But this was really no joking matter, that had been scary stuff up there and I just hoped we wouldn’t have anything else like that thrown into our path.