GUEST STORY SHARE — Bridger: A Dystopian Serial — Episode 4

Bridger is a dystopian serial story about Charlane, a disgraced career soldier leading a security team at a remote research facility. When Char encounters a humanoid creature who claims to come from another world, she sees a chance to save her career—and the dying earth.

Char, a strong, career-driven woman, is fighting to overcome crippling self-doubt after she lost everything in a military scandal. She’d given so much to that career, including her marriage. Now she is starting over. Char doesn’t know that her value as a person doesn’t change based on what she accomplishes. Can she accept the unconditional love of those who care for her?

Our social media and celebrity culture has placed enormous value on beauty, fitness, and lifestyle. Our work culture pressures women to continually rise up the ranks and press for better jobs. All of these are worthwhile things, but they are not markers of personal value. A person is valuable because of who they are, not what they produce.

Episode 4: Survive Long Enough

episode4A choking scream echoed through the cavern. Venn jerked at the viscous webbing with all his strength.

It had released—just a little it had released. Venn strained with all his might. The web began to stretch. His arm extended further and further from his body.

“I’m coming,” he grunted.

A long way off, his fellow explorer cried out again.

Venn’s face contorted with effort. The membranous binding stretched thin. Soon it would break.

His arm reached its full length. The thread was only a hair now. Ven jerked his hand down. Suddenly the webbing snapped back, and his own hand slapped him in the face. He tasted blood.

The scream rattled him, thinner, weaker. Suddenly it cut off.

Venn lay pinned beneath the web, willing the man to scream again. A minute passed in silence.

“No!” Venn cried. “No!”

“Hey. Hey!”

Something touched his arm.

Venn’s eyes snapped open.

The healer creature stood over him, gazing down with pity.

Venn suppressed a scream of rage. Here he was in this unknown place, safe indefinitely and completely alone in that safety.

By Eskalon, he’d rather be dead, but he was not dead and therefore he had no choice but to go on and take this creature’s pity.

“I’m sorry,” Venn said. “It was a dream.”

“I guessed as much. I could give you something to help you sleep.” The healer gazed down with eyes as dark as Kemzog stones. For a moment, Venn was distracted by the shiny, black tail attached the back of the creature’s head. It was hair, wasn’t it?

“But on second thought, there’s no guarantee it works with your body chemistry,” the healer continued.

“You are likely to be right,” Venn said. “Thank you.”

Venn rolled carefully onto his side and pulled the spare pillow toward him, wrapping his arms around it. His eyes shut and he willed himself to filter out every ambient sound—a gusty roar of some sort of ventilation system, every swish of clothing from the healer, every breath, voices far away, the gusting wind outside. Gradually all of them fell away and he heard it: the three melodic tones of the portal. It wasn’t that hard to home in on them. He’d lain in the Kaa lair listening to them for three nights.

Once his leg was healed, perhaps he could get free of the healer and whoever else was in this building. He could leap through the portal, and maybe without the others he had a chance to make it back to base.

He’d face his leader, but he would also have the chance to make his peace with Jezeen.

Gradually all of them fell away and he heard it: the three melodic tones of the portal.

Jezeen! Venn’s throat thickened as he remembered their last night together, back to back instead of in each other’s arms. How unfortunate that he was right—Leader Ryn should not have sent him into uncharted territory with such inexperienced bridgers. Jezeen would regret her words to him now, but he was certain he regretted his just as much.

Venn stuffed his face into the odd-smelling pillow and tried to imagine it smelled like her. When that failed he just tried to remember what she smelled like—her sweat, and the flower oil she dabbed behind her ears. He shut his eyes and imagined his arms were around her long, muscular body.

He had begun to worry she was tired of him. She was the natural explorer, a strong woman who’d actually wanted to be a bridger. He was forced into the position by his father, and while he was known for his skill in locating portals and in translating indigenous speech, he was also known for his incredible caution. She was known for her courage and instinct.

We just have to finish this mission. Don’t be a coward, she’d said. Just do as Leader Ryn says.

Finally, she spoke her true mind, Venn had accused her.

In hindsight, he knew differently. Leader Ryn was wearing her down. He was a harsh taskmaster and their lack of progress with the Kaa was only causing him to push harder. Jezeen just wanted it to be over.

After all, it was their seventh and final bridge. When this mission was complete, they were supposed to return to their homeworld of Nao and retire. They’d lain together at night dreaming about it for the last two missions.

Emotion burned in the back of Venn’s throat. He had to survive long enough to get back to the portal.


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