Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

The Bridge

by Rudi Dornemann

To go under the arch of that particular stone bridge is to pass through a gate. To go over the same bridge is to pass along a road, a simple straight-line journey without riddles or challenges.

The road over the bridge will take you from one city you can find on a map to another. You can also find both in post cards, tourist pamphlets, and history textbooks.

The bridge, you can find on some of the better-researched, higher resolution maps, a pair of facing crescents intersecting the road’s line. The very best might have a couple dashes implying a trail down from the road to the streambed on one side.

If you stand there, looking through the dark below the bridge, hearing the thrum of tires and rush of engines overhead, the gurgle of the river down the waterfall steps ahead of you in the bridge-shadow, you can just make out the form of the sphinx jutting out in the middle of the rapids.

Climb the slick stone of those steps, stand face-to-face with it, and you’ll hear questions in your mind.

Chances are, if you’ve found your way this far, you learned about the sphinx from a note on the back of a postcard, or from one of the more transgressive tourist guides, or from the story told by the friend of a friend, who gave you a map with the bridge location circled. Any of these will also have given you a list of the seventeen questions the sphinx might ask, with answers.

If you’re correct, you’ll pass beyond, and the stone arch becomes your gateway to a world transformed. If you’re wrong, it’s you that’ll be transformed, to become the sphinx while the former sphinx walks free.

So reach carefully into the plastic pocket of your rain slicker and shield the paper from the dampness dripping from everyone. Maybe a pocket flashlight would help? It is darker than you might expect. Not that it matters, since all the answers you know are wrong.

We made sure of this–out of kindness, not cruelty. We former sphinxes have made sure to spread information about the bridge and a host of wrong answers. That way, someone will come along very soon with equally incorrect responses, and you’ll be free.

What would have happened if you’d answered correctly?

If we had any actual answers, we could tell you.

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