The Other Side by Brian Yancelson

1st place, Alamo Heights High School
2017 Fiction Contest Winner (9th/10th Grade Division)

 

“Why can’t I cross over to the other side?” I curiously ask my mom. “It looks just
like where we live.”
 
“Honey, you will never, under any circumstances, cross that bridge,” my mother orders. “You may not understand why, but just know it’s dangerous on the other side and you must not cross.”
 
Every day on the walk home from school, I stand on my side of the bridge, look
across, and wonder. What could be so bad? The only thing that stands between Laketown, where I live, and River City, the small town on the other side of the river is a bridge. An old, rusted, worn down bridge that one day might have shined bright but today fits in with the dark, depressing day accompanied by a bitterly cold rain. 
 
Every day I stop, yet every day remains the same here in Laketown. The only way to tell a winter day apart from a summer day is to take a look at the sky. Machine-like routines press on, kids walk to school and walk home without disturbance, and the city’s elite sit atop their hill looking down on the rest of us.
 
If you blinked, you wouldn’t miss a beat. All that would happen is dreams of a
better place being crushed when your eyes open to the sad realization that you’re still in
Laketown, stuck in time with nowhere to go.
 
“Have fun at school, dear,” my mother yells as I walk out the door. 
 
“Of course, mother,” I sarcastically reply.
 
It was Tuesday. As I shut the door behind me, I knew I might never open it again. I took my typical route towards school, past the town square and across the park. I made my way to the bridge and stopped to look as I always do. This time I stayed a bit longer, just staring, my mind spinning so fast I could hear the wheels turning. 
 
Then I took a step. And another. My feet kept pacing together until suddenly I stood on the other side. I turned around to see my home. The view of Laketown was identical to the view of River City I would see every day. The air remained crisp and not a sound could be heard.
 
“I knew nothing was different!” I exclaimed to myself.
 
Alarms sounded. Sirens blasted. Chaos ensued.
 
Not knowing what happened, I ran to an alley behind a tall building I thought for
sure would hide me.
 
I’ll be safe here and just wait until everything calms down, I thought to myself. 
 
I heard a voice. I panicked. 
 
A whisper tickled off a tongue, but where did it come from?
 
I turned my head and saw a face. An unknown boy grabbed my hand and said
something I couldn’t hear. My heart trembled, but for some reason, a sense of calm
instantly entered my body and I followed without hesitation. 
 
After winding through several dark alleys, we came into some sort of public square. Kids ran happily across the lush green grass, singing accompanied beautiful music, and the aroma of freshly cooked pastries filled the air. All this during a school day?
 
“What is this?” I asked the mysterious boy. “Shouldn’t everybody be at work and school?”
 
“Please, I don’t want any trouble just leave me here, you go home, and things will continue the way they are,” the boy pleads.
 
I could see the bridge. In Laketown, I saw an angry mob running our way. I quickly glanced behind us, and another angry mob continued chasing from River City. 
 
I had no other choice. As the boy kept floundering and got heavier and harder to drag, I picked him up and carried him. We reached the bridge, and just as I felt both crowds ready to pounce, I did the only thing I could to stop them both. 
 
I stopped right in the middle of the bridge. 
 
Both mobs came to a screeching halt. I saw angered looks on both sides. 
 
I didn’t feel ready for what I was about to say, but I said it anyway. I grabbed the boy’s arm and held it next to mine as I began to speak.
 
“For far too long, our cities have been divided over petty differences,” I projected shakily. “So what if we believe in different things? In Laketown, we are always miserable and angry. In one hour that I spent in River City, I saw more joy than I’ve seen in my 16 years in Laketown. How could that be, when it is Laketown that harassed and attempted to wipe out River City? Shouldn’t they be the angry ones?
 
“You seriously should stop,” the boy insists among a now dead silent crowd.
 
“As the only one of us to have seen both sides, I know we have more in common than we would like to believe. All we have to do is open our eyes and our minds.”
 
“Get down here now!” my mom abruptly shouts among the crowd. “Uniting these cities has never worked and it never will, so get down or you’ll never be allowed back in my home.”
 
I ignored her.
 
“One week from today, we shall have a festival, together, located right here on this bridge.”
 
Suddenly, the boy interrupted me. 
 
“If not, neither of us are coming back home. We’ll just stay here until that festival
happens.” He turned around to look at his city. “It’s time,” he said.
 
One week later
 
We remained on the bridge, alone and cold. No one had cared about what we
said. 
 
“What’s your name,” I embarrassingly ask the boy after all this time. 
 
“James,” he responds. “What’s yours?”
 
“I’m Adam, and I’m truly ashamed for all of this. I really wanted to heal this wound between our cities, but I guess no one else does.”
 
Then we heard the beat of the drums. Out of nowhere, dancers dressed in all colors paraded from both sides, men set up tents to cook food, and kids from both RiverCity and Laketown smiled and cheered, together. 
 
I turn to James, still in the middle of the bridge which now was jam-packed with people.
 
“We did it,” I proclaim with tears in my eyes. 
 
“No, you did it,” James says. 
 
Only one thing remained throughout 50 years of division. 
 
An old, rusted, worn down bridge was all that separated two seemingly different cities. Now, it’s what unites them once again. 
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