The city was quiet.
Alistair knew that not everyone had gone to bed, but he also knew that it was now or never. Ever since he was a little kid, he had wanted to do this. Thirty years later, he had finally worked up the courage to follow through with his childhood fantasies. He needed to be inconspicuous, though. The city watchtowers had strobe lights that could catch any naysayer wandering the streets this late at night. After a few wary steps across the dark sidewalks (and a brief encounter with a tense cat) he finally made it. There it was. Towering. Rotted Rock. The bridge. The forbidding monolith stretched out into a barren wilderness beyond the city, which everyone knew better than to ever venture into. Underneath was nothing but shadow, darker than the surrounding environment.
Well, he thought, Here goes everything. Slowly he made his way down the steep hill next to the bridge. It was muddy and rocky, so he had to be extra careful. As he neared the shadowy underbelly, he was unprepared for the sudden urge to retreat back home and forget this whole thing. Maybe there was a good reason he was warned in school to steer clear of the bridge at all costs. Maybe there was a good reason his parents always discouraged his curiosity of this bridge. But none of that matter now. He was going to see what was so bad ab out the underside of this bridge. Finally, finally, he stood face-to-face with the seemingly never-ending darkness. He pulled a small flashlight out of this pocket, turned it on, and shined it…
…right into the face of a little girl.
Alistair was so startled that he dropped the flashlight, which turned off on impact with the ground. Hr quickly picked it back up and clicked the button to turn it on again, but it wouldn’t.
“Who are you?” a soft voice asked from the darkness.
“Who said that?” he said, peering into the darkness, but there was nothing he could see.
Another voice spoke, this time a woman’s: “Go away and leave us alone.”
“How can I leave you alone if I don’t even know who you are?” asked Alistair. “Come out so I can see you.”
Then came a third voice.
“You city folk need to learn to mind your own business!” It was the voice of an old man. “We leave you alone, so why can’t you leave us alone?”
Alistair began to grow angry. “Look, I’m sorry if I disrupted some kind of secret organization. All I wanted was to see what was underneath this bridge! But if you hate visitors so very much…”
“Mommy, he’s leaving! Stop him!” The soft voice spoke again, and Alistair realized it was coming from the little girl he had first shined his flashlight on.
Slowly, a pair of bare, dirty feet emerged from the shadows, followed by the body of a thin, scraggly young woman. Alistair was startled by her appearance. Her hair hing long and greasy down the front of her chest. Her eyes were a piercing green. She wore an old-fashioned white nightgown with threadbare lace. But the most eye-catching thing of all was her skin. It was blue! The color of the sky. In the darkness, she looked almost silver.
“We didn’t mean to offend you,” she said. “It’s just that no ones visits us that often. And when they do, it’s usually not for a good purpose.”
The little girl stepped out next to her. This child’s appearance looked very similar to the woman’s.
“Who is that man, Mommy?” The little girl looked up at the woman.
Alistair force himself not to stare at them.
“Oh, where are my manners?” he said, then cleared his throat. “My name is Marcus Alistair, but my friends just call me Alistair.”
The woman shook his hand vigorously.
“I’m Catherine,” she said. “And this is my daughter Katrina.”
She turned back into the shadows and called out into the darkness. “Dad, come out here and say hello!”
Muffled grumbling sounds echoed from the darkness as a hunchbacked old man appeared. He leaned on a wooden cane and glared at Alistair with dim eyes.
“Who have we here? Come to cause us more trouble than we already have?”
He jumped a little as Alistair thrust out his hand to shake.
“Pleasure to meet you, sir!” Alistair beamed.
The elder eyed his suspiciously before slowly reciprocating.
“What’d you say your name was?” the old man asked. “Martin something?”
“Mac to you,” said the old man.
Alistair let go of Mac’s hand and backed away from the trio, as if to study them.
“I hope you don’t mind my asking, but what you three doing under this old bridge?”
The trio’s eyes all widened. None of them answered.
“We aren’t welcome in your city,” Mac said finally.
At that moment, the alarms in the city went off.