The Golden-Gate

The Golden-Gate

A girl on the bridge wavers between life and death.


Literary fiction


allie k (United States)

The wind was howling and whipping through her loose hair, gliding over her pale and shivering skin like fingers grasping at her. Below her, the waters were crashing and chopping in a vicious way. Cars swiftly shot behind her like bullets, never pausing or wavering for the shadowy figure wavering over the railing. Her eyes rested upon the depths below her. They were as black as the sky, undulating and colliding ceaselessly.

Adrenaline was pulsing through her body like lightning. Her fingers and toes were tingling and her cheeks were flushed like roses. Her breaths came in and out shakily. She turned her head and watched as another series of headlights smoothly blurred past her. The blinding lights were mesmerizing as they swept past like swirling stars.

She looked back away, and found that her fingers were uncurling themselves from the hard, cold railing. It was like she was in a daze, a disconnected trance, as she watched her fingers pluck themselves from the only rod keeping her steady. There was a tremendous jolt as the final fingers let go. The wind was screaming. Her hair slapped into her face.

There was one moment. There was one eternal moment, caught between standing and falling, caught between living and dying. Her hands wavered over the railing as if unsure what to do. Time seemed to stop. The cars and the wind and the city lights and the water all seemed to fade away until all she could hear were her breaths, short and desperate and loud. Her heart had seemed to stop. Though her hands were only inches from the rail, she somehow knew that they would never graze its surface again. They would never reach. Her body’s momentum was final. The fall was imminent.

In this moment was life. Her heart was pounding, her lungs were grasping, and her hands were reaching. The cars, only blurs of light, each consisted of a human being with the same organs as her, listening to the radio or talking on the telephone. They were all in the process of racing by, crossing the bridge to meet their families or to retire to their homes after a long day. They had all lived lives filled with worry, pain, and loss, but also with excitement, joy, and love. Every eternal moment they had lived had culminated in their presence on the bridge, whirling past a dark figure on the other side of the railing, the only one who would never cross the bridge with them.

A single person’s eyes were trained, forever paused, upon the railing. Silhouetted by the blinking and glowing of the city beyond was her body, poised for the plummet, only seen by one person. A man, in the process of lowering his speed to avoid an arrest by any of the police officers that sometimes patrolled the bridge, had flickered his eyes up searchingly, and they had landed on the obscure figure just as its fingers undid themselves from the railing. He would forever watch her fall, but he would blink and she would be gone, and he would think no more of it. She was nothing more than a specter on the bridge, a fleeting glimpse of humanity that would vanish as quickly as it had appeared.

The wind still shrieked. The water still roared and rumbled. The cars still squealed past. Her lungs still exhaled, their breaths condensing into briefly visible clouds of air before swirling into the atmosphere, escaped from her forever. Her hands still grappled hopelessly, grasping for the railing they could never reach again. Her feet still wavered. The only difference now was that any pretense of return was abandoned.

Then time began again.

It took its time. Having been paused for such an eternity, it eased itself back into motion. The cars slowly crept forward, gathering speed steadily and cautiously. Her body arced backward gracefully, slowly at first, but as the knowledge that her hands were too far from the railing became clearer, her fall became faster. The wind was unbearably loud, and the water was thunderously threatening, and she had exhaled her final breath, her lungs flattening out in defeat. The stars above had been unaffected by the stopping of time. They had seen it so often that they knew never to change.

Her body was thrashed about in the wind. Her hair whipped in every direction. But her eyes were filled with resignation. The fear had abated. The adrenaline was retracting. She could never return.

There was a sickening crash as she collided with the ferociously twirling water, engulfed by its deadly depths, willing to claim another victim for its own. She was dead upon impact. Her hands were jerked about in the water. Her hair was plastered to her neck and face. Her body was being crushed inward, the life pulverized out of her.

But the wind was still howling, and the water continued to crash and chop beneath the bridge, concealing its latest victim beneath the night sky. The cars above continued to whip past, whirls of light and apathy.

Competition: June 2015 Pen Factor, Round 1



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