Zelda closed her eyes shut, but it didn’t help. Ahead, she heard the rapid waters swirling perilously around rocks and jagged stones. If that wasn’t bad enough, she also caught the faint breathing of a gator or three lurking somewhere nearby. Then, to add to her already well-nurtured anxieties, she heard the groaning of the rope struggling to hold the old foot bridge together.
She opened her eyes. That cluster of rotted rope and narrow planks generously called a bridge by the local inhabitants was her only path forwards out of these woods. Whoever built it must have done a fine job – back when Lincoln was president. Her local source informed her this was the only way to cross the dangerous body of water safely. He must have thought it hilarious when he told her the bridge was completely safe.
The seasoned hiker took a moment to consider turning back. She made it all this way through the forest, through hours of walking in the middle of nowhere, all in an effort to cut days off her path. Turning back meant having to go an extra distance and lose any advantage she had. No, she could not let cowardice cost her the race. Standing or falling, she must do as she set out to do.
Zelda put one foot on the first plank and felt it give slightly under her weight. Judging that she should lighten her load, she took off her knapsck and set it on the ground. Putting her foot out again, the board gave a lot less, muttering only the faintest creak in protest. Good, she thought, this is going to work. Nothing can stop me from winning this scavenger hunt.
With her full weight on the bridge, Zelda cautiously slid her other foot forward. She gripped the rope supports with white knuckles, keeping her eye on the old structure. As her weight moved, the boards shifted to the left. The wind picked up, bringing the bridge back to the right. On more than one occasion, Zelda had to wait for a bunch of things to stop quivering before putting a foot down and continuing her journey. A few feet in the river below, she tried not to notice the pointed stones eagerly aimed at her like some sort of Medieval castle architect’s sadistic dream.
Every so slowly, Zelda crept along until she got to the middle of the bridge. Here, the boards sagged the most, probably from years of rain and river water splashing on them. She took a quick look back and saw she arrived at the point of no return. To go back would mean going further than just finishing her trip. Gingerly, she picked up the pace, wanting the ordeal done before she lost her resolve. In her haste, her foot slipped on a watery board, and she screamed for dear life when her weight shifted. The bridge protested violently, but it held.
Zelda halted just long enough to collect what little wits she possessed. Another few steps followed soon, and then she found herself climbing upwards to the far bank. When she reached the opposite side, she leaped from the infernal bridge and hugged the nearest tree. The bark scratched her cheek, but she couldn’t have been happier to be on solid ground. However, when her arms went around the trunk, she felt the unmistakable presence of a woodland sign nailed to the opposite side. Moving around, she read it quickly:
Use Paved Pedestrian Bridge
Balling her fists in rage, Zelda cursed loud enough to silence the birds for a mile around. Her crossing had been in vain.
And then she remembered the items she needed for the scavenger hunt were in her knapsack.