• K. Lucas


One thought played in my mind, as I wiped the sweat from my brow. The things I do for the man I love. I was panting and holding a hand at the stitch in my side. I knew if I stopped, he would look at me with those disappointed eyes. He had a way of doing that, and I couldn’t stand it.

Nick looked back, seeing me try to hide my struggle. “You okay back there?”

“Yeah,” I huffed “Can go all day!”

He laughed, the concern gone. “Just another mile, we’re almost there!”

We’d traveled thousands of miles by plane, boat, car, and now foot, to find the ancient Chinese ruins that he’d been waiting to see his entire life. For Nick’s 40th, I gave him the trip he’d been dreaming of for so long. I was trying. What was another mile hiking up a steep windy mountain through a jungle?

As soon as we stopped, I took the water bottle from my pack and chugged. “Not too much at once, babe,” Nick chided. Was he even sweating? He was really starting to grate on my nerves with his perfection. I took some grapes out for a quick snack, saying nothing.

We were at a gap. The only way ahead was to cross the ancient swinging rope bridge, over the chasm. “Just think! We cross the bridge and it’s right there,” Nick said, full of excitement. He could see my dread. I tried not to complain; I knew how much this meant to him. We both tried looking across but were unable to see the ruins from where we were.

Just before the overpass, my foot kicked something hard. I bent down to brush away the dirt and found an archaic plaque buried under layers of debris. “Nick,” I called, “I think I found something.”

“Where’s the translation book,” he asked. I dug it out of my pack, while he finished cleaning it off for us to read. There was a picture of a pair of chopsticks next to a bowl of noodles, with an inscription. We translated it to:

Beware those out of breath

You will find death when you cross

You won’t eat again in this life

So you better grab a treat before you die

We looked at each other. Nick burst out laughing, but I couldn’t smile. He wasn’t the one out of breath. I was. “Come on,” he said, pulling me forward. “It’ll be fine! All ancient ruins have warnings like that.”

“Nick.” I didn’t try to hide my fear.

“Don’t worry!”

That was all it took for me to follow blindly, for better or worse. I put one foot onto the first creaky plank, and then the other. I was too slow for Nick. He nudged past me, hurrying across the wobbly link to the other side. As he walked, the bridge swayed, causing me to hold on for dear life. There was a loud crack, then he fell into the abyss.

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