“So, do you have any idea where we’re going?” Phil asked Mitch. His doubts of the journey’s validity were already creeping up as they made it a mere ten feet past the entrance to the forest.
“I’m a boy scout, Phil,” Mitch began, “I know exactly where I’m going.” Mitch spoke with complete certainty in what he said. But the truth was he had no more idea where he was going than any ordinary person could tell you they intended to go up in order to climb Mount Everest. While the statement was certainly true, it held no regard for the specifics necessary for a successful expedition, or the dangers that lie throughout.
“If even half the stories about this path are true, then I don’t think you’re extensive knowledge of knots is going to be too relevant,” Phil said with no concern for team morale. Despite the tendency for Phil’s scornful words to cut deep, Mitch wasn’t fazed. He was gleefully thinking of all the kinds of knots he knew how to tie.
Another 100 yards into the dense forest and the formerly subtle path was becoming a non-existent one. A quarter of mile after that and Phil’s belief in Mitch’s understanding of where they were was all but gone. However, this time he kept it to himself. Because by now he was too far within the forest to attempt to find his way back on his own. If Mitch really was lost, he didn’t want to know it. Just then there was a rustle higher up in some trees just ahead of them. Birds flew off as something fell from one of the trees striking seemingly every branch on its way down. “Is that a rock?” Phil asked as Mitch picked it up.
“Sure is, and that’s a good sign,” Mitch spoke while twirling the rock between his fingers. “Rocks grow on the proper side of good luck.”
“Um,” Phil gathered his kill-joy thoughts before raining on Mitch’s parade, “I think you mean moss. Moss grows on the north side of trees.”
“I’ve heard it both ways,” Mitch said in an ill-fated attempt to remove the foot he had just lodged in his mouth. But before Phil could set him straight, there was another swaying of trees above and ahead of them with more rocks falling from the apparent epicenter of the noise. Mitch saw a shadowy figure leaping across trees headed towards what looked to be a bridge amidst a great deal of fog. “See, Phil! That monkey is showing us the way to the castle,” Mitch told Phil pointing to the bridge ahead of them. They quickened their pace relieved to find some sort of a landmark even if they were uncertain as to what lie across it. As they got closer to the bridge the fog had an overwhelming quality to it. The bridge’s shape began to gain clarity as well: just wide enough for the two of them to walk across it side-by-side and with a single horizontal railing on either side of the flooring. Vertical struts connected the railing to the bridge’s floor, and peculiarly the whole thing looked to be made of rock. Even without the other end in eyesight, the bridge had a slight dip due to the fact that it apparently was held in place only at either end when it came in contact with the land.
“How quickly we have come across the world’s flimsiest and most nonsensical bridge to nowhere,” Phil pointed out as they began to notice that the bridge’s end disappeared into the foggy horizon. Inching forward with more care in each step, they began to notice the shadowy figure from before standing on the bridge – a very hairy man wearing a headband that merely pretended to keep hair out of his face.
“Greetings, boys!” belted out the hairy man, “Might I quarry what brings you to my bridge?” He spoke with an inviting grin but eyes that screamed that at any moment he might just shake the bridge furiously throwing them all to the bottom.
“Queen Brit stole my LSU ID, and I need to get to her castle to get it back,” Mitch informed the pileous protector of the bridge.
“Ahh, I see,” the hairy bridge guardian spoke in a comforting tone, “Then head right this way. Good luck on your journey.” He motioned them forward leaning back on the railing until falling over. The immediate loss of his weight made the bridge act like a giant swing that sent Mitch and Phil to all fours lowering their centers of gravity to prevent being thrown off the side. In the next instant the hairy being hopped over the railing on the other side having come from underneath the bridge. Laughing, his grin now matched the terror provided by his eyes as he spoke, “You boys crag me up! This is my bridge, and I cannot simply allow you to cross it without having you prove your worth.”
“Prove our worth how?” Phil asked as they both remain uneasy after the last stunt the flocculent fiend had pulled. “And who are you?”
“Who am I‽” the bridge keeper began incredulously, “That’s a real gem! I’m Greg – guardian of this bridge. And to cross my bridge you simply must answer correctly three riddles consecutively. Don’t take this opportunity for granite.”
“Well, what happens if we miss any one of the riddles?” Mitch inquired.
“If you miss the first one, then nothing will happen. You turn around and head back to where you came from. Miss either of the next two, and you’ll really begin to feel the gravity of the situation,” Greg’s response was anything but smoothing.
“Deal,” Mitch spoke without hesitation.
“Then let’s begin,” Greg said as he snapped his fingers only enhancing the fog further and giving way to a steady breeze that blew his mane all about. “I’m usually gray all over,
And anywhere I might be found,
Although I’m a popular type of music,
I’ll never make a sound; what am I?” Greg lobbed them a soft one attempting to draw them in to play his game in full.
“You sure you want to do this, Mitchel? I’m pretty sure we’re dealing with a real life troll,” Phil remarked as Greg began to juggle rocks in front of them.
“Rock. The answer is rock,” Mitch talked while looking crazy right in the eyes thanks to crazy’s headband.
“Nicely done. You’re slated to go far. Perhaps I’m talking to a real diamond in the rough here,” Greg’s puns may have been jovial but the way he said them on a bridge in the middle of a dense fog was anything but jovial. “Next riddle – When it’s all on the line,
You’ll bet me all away,
But careful that you don’t lose me,
Or you’ll be locked up to stay. What am I?”
“What do you bet when it’s all on the line?” Mitch quizzed Phil. “I suppose it could be rupee because it sounds like ruby, but losing them has nothing to do with getting locked up.”
“What’s a kind of rock that you can lose?” Phil asked while watching Greg continue to juggle his rocks with a giant grin on his face. “Sand can get anywhere…pebbles can too, so you could lose either I sup…”
“MARBLES!” Mitch interrupted Phil’s verbal brainstorming with his answer to the riddle. “Big events are for all the marbles, but lose your marbles and you’re locked up in an institution.” Mitch explained to a rather upset Greg. His surprise left his rocks on the ground as he began to sway the bridge back and forth in a rhythmic manner. He was giving the next riddle a time limit, if they took too long coming up with the next solution his rocking of the bridge would send them over either side.
“Careful kids it’s getting tense,
We’re past the point of repentance,
Miss this one and you’re off my bridge,
The exits being down either ridge,
But don’t you worry about that fall,
For this next riddle I have it all,
My definition says that I’m the sum,
To me a small business might succumb,
You use these kinds of thoughts to form your view,
In the world of rocks I unite like I’m glue. What am I?” Greg took his time asking the question, decreasing the sands left in the hourglass on the brainteaser.
“What kind of rock could be a sum?” Mitch again began the aloud thinking. “And what does it have to do with business?”
“That’s your major,” Phil informed Mitch as he grabbed onto the vertical railings alongside the bridge. “A smaller business might be more likely to get bought out, but what kind of rock is that?”
“Whatever it is, it has something to do with your viewww,” Mitch’s voice trailed off as he slipped grabbing one of the vertical railings. Greg unwavering continued to increase the speed of the bridge on each pass; hitting the apex to the left and sending it back down and through to the apex at the right. Back and forth he went. “How did he congregate all of these thoughts together in a single riddle?”
“Congregate? Wait, that sounds close,” Phil felt it on the tip of his tongue, “uhh, cong..congruhhh…conglomerate! A conglomerate answers every line on that riddle!” More so than any before instance of properly identifying the word that seemed to be evading his grasp, Phil was overwhelmed with joy as he and Mitch pulled themselves back up onto the bridge. And just as mysteriously as he appeared, the fog slowly dissipated – though did not leave entirely – and Greg was nowhere to be found. Too exhausted to care for the magical disappearance of their new troll friend, our heroes continued along the bridge as they could now see the other side. As they took their first steps off the bridge and into the next section of forest they knew that there was now no turning back. What they didn’t know was what would be next. And they remained unaware of their every move being under careful watch by figures yet unknown.