Savell, the Eastian youth of eighteen summers, could see nothing beyond the Snake Bridge midpoint. Nothing at all. Not even a path, an outline to the western side of the bridge. And there was no stench. It smelt of nothingness.
Fear gripped him, and he looked back but the midpoint tollgate was closed. For the first time he wanted to go home. He imagined his poverty stricken family around the coal fire. Grandfather in his rocking chair with a tatty threadbare blanket over his lap, his older sister. Smiles. admiring herself in a broken looking glass and his younger brother Tomas running from one end of the room to the other.
In the kitchen, his mother would be cooking up the leftover bones she picked up from the butcher who took pity on them. His father of course would be outside the village tavern, drunk, drinking the dregs from the customers’ leftover beer pints.
But there was no going back. He’d told them he was off to seek his fortune. Bring riches from the West of the Great Land. His mother had begged, pleaded but being a young lad of only sixteen summers, Savell has been confident. Now he was in tears.
Suddenly a foot materialised from nowhere, making Savell jump. It was a foot. Just a foot, severed like. It looked disgusting. Savell, didn’t know what to do. Moments later a severed head appeared with half a neck. It wasn’t quite a skeleton but nearly there. The skin on the face was a ghoslish pale, eyes nonexistence, just empty socket. Hair dirty and matted in blood, and lips resided to show blackened teeth.
Savell screamed and ran.
‘Steady on, laddie,’ grunted the head, somewhat amused and keeping up with Savell. ‘You haven’t seen my aviator sunglasses have you? Or Fangs, that bloody git who nicked them. Anyway, calm down. No point making yourself ill on my account. You’re yet to see worth, if you make it West.’
Savell, tripped and landed head first. ‘Please don’t hurt me, please.’ He didn’t even know what aviator sunglasses were.
The head sighed, raising both its brows and groaning in discontent. ‘Why would I do that? I’m looking for all my body parts and aviators. I’ve got no time to hurt folk. Did that in the other realm and it landed me there. I got hanged, drawn and quartered, then some, ain’t that right, foot?’
As if in response, the foot wiggled its toes.
‘Then someone thought it was fun to further cut me up. Fools.’
Sobbing hard, Savell sat up, crying he wanted to go home. He couldn’t believe he was all alone with a severed head and foot. ‘I want to go home…I don’t even know what aviator sunglasses are.’
‘Aye, son, don’t we all want to go home. As for aviator sunglasses, well they make me feel good. Hard to explain but I’ll do my best.’
While the head explained the concept of sunglasses and how good they made him look, Savell, studied the head and food. It was rather strange for the head was suspended in air, and the foot positioned where the right foot would be. Savell, realised it was the right foot.
‘I got into another realm by mistake, once in a while the portals do a mistake but the bounty hunters caught up with me. And Fangs took advantage and nicked them. Thieving bastard.’ He made a motion as if he was spitting in digust but of course he had no saliva or phlegm to do so. ‘So what is your story then? Let me guess. Poor, left home to seek your fortune across the Snake Bridge and ended up in this dump. Yet you paid the first and midpoint toll. Well few make it past here, laddie.’
‘What do you mean?’ stammered Savell though he was beginning to lose hope. There was nothing. He couldn’t see anything ahead, above, behind or below him. Nothing but the head and right foot.
‘It’s the end of the road, point of no return,’ said the head. The foot wiggled its toes in agreement. ‘It is rare, travellers make it past this point. I nearly did, but then my aviators got nicked. Who would steal a bodiless head’s aviators?’ the head shook his head. ‘Tell me your story.’
With nothing around him, and hoping he wasn’t going mad, Savell told the head his story. About leaving his impoverished village behind, walking for a month through the forest, the five day wait to the tollgate.
‘Hold on, you gave the voice a boar’s tooth? Clever, probably why you haven’t bled to death, but you made it through to the midpoint. So have got a plan other than to get rich, fame and glory? Like a map or something?’
The youth shook his head.
‘So how did you expect to navigate?’ Something moved in the head’s eye socket making Sevill jump. It seemed to be a maggot.
Sevill turned to the side and vomited, he couldn’t even smell his own sick.
‘That’s why I need my aviators, I don’s seem half as scary. I guess since you haven’t seen them, I’d be off.’
‘You are leaving?’ asked Sevill, all of a sudden fearful of being left alone. Even if the head and right foot were a figure of his warped imagination, at least it was company. ‘Can’t you stay.’
The head inclined itself to one side, as if considering the request. ‘It’s complicated. Normally travellers tend to end here, if you know what I mean? They go crazy, keep running, and sometimes fall off the bridge into the abyss of nothingness.’
‘But I can’t see the bridge, I can’t see anything.’
‘True but in time that will change, it always does. Few make it West. But if you really like my company, well, what do you think, foot?’
The foot stood on its toes, then heel and then went flat.
‘Foot likes you, and you seem agreeable but I need to find my aviators first. Get it back from that thieving Fangs.’
Wiping his tears on his sleeves, Savell, brightened up at the thought of an adventure. ‘Where will you find this Fangs fellow?’
‘If I knew that, I wouldn’t be looking. But since you and I are now friends, perhaps we better be on our way. Foot would lead the way, won’t you?’
Foot wiggled its toes.
And the three set off.