The Edge of the World. Short Story.

On Monday I went into the doctor for some blood tests, super early in the morning before college started, that was fun. I also went into town yesterday to meet up with a friend, tried some bubble tea as it was free. It was gross. Tasted like chalky banana medicine, with weird balls at the bottom of the cup. They were liquid filled and mine wouldn’t burst when I bit them the first time. Then they popped. It was an unpleasant sensation and they tasted sour. Then we got frozen yoghurt. Which was nice, it was actually really awesome, if you guess the weight correctly, you get it for free. I was about 14 grams off. So close!

Other than that not much is happening. College is pretty fun though I’m getting a break from it next week, really, really looking forward to it. I’ll get some work done (well, I say that now, in actuality I’ll probably end up doing nothing that isn’t necessary, but the good intentions are there!)

On with the show!

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The world was disappearing. No, that wasn’t the right word, disappearing was sudden, disappearing was quick. This was neither. The world was fading. Just fading away. It started almost three months ago, that was when it was first noticed. No one knew why it was happening, those who approached the anomaly didn’t return. People had fled, in both directions, some towards it, others desperate to get away. The city had been mostly vacant for the last week. He occasionally saw someone, but they always ran when they saw him. He stayed in his apartment, there was nowhere else to go. He could have moved into one of the vacant houses, he even considered it, but it seemed wrong. The water had stopped a short while ago, but he still had intermittent electricity, though he knew that wouldn’t last much longer either. He had moved his furniture around, so he could watch it through the window. It was strange. Almost like seeing everything though a thin layer of fog, though the skies were clear. He watched as two smoke stakes faded away over the course of a few hours. They became hazy at first, indistinct and difficult to focus on, it was like he was looking at them and through them at the same time. He couldn’t watch for too long, not without getting a headache. He would look away every so often, read a few lines in the book that rested on his lap, then he would look back, startled at how it had changed so much and so little. It seemed more real after the smoke stacks were gone, he didn’t know why, after all the news footage and people scrambling to get away. The smokestacks were something that had always been there, ever since he was a child, and they always would be. But not anymore. Now they were gone. Gone forever.

It didn’t seem to just be earth that the anomaly affected, it was space as well. At night, he would look up and see the stars crowding the sky, until they stopped, in an almost straight line, their light just went out. The moon would sometimes go behind it, as would the sun, and they would disappear from view, but they would always return. He figured it was some kind of warping effect, they were still there, but the anomaly removed them from view. He didn’t know about the other stars, if they still existed.  Maybe it was systematic. Once the earth was gone it would take the sun and the moon, stop everything from going to hell before its job was finished.

He was going to go see it. There was nothing else he could do. The electricity had stopped for three days now, no running water. There was still food in the shops, people didn’t seem to bother with it in their desperation to get away, but now there were gangs, roaming the streets, breaking into the shops. They only came in for short bursts, get food, destroy some random things and leave. He had seen one man get cornered by one of the gangs. They beat him to death. He heard a woman screaming yesterday, he didn’t want to know why. It wasn’t safe in this place anymore, he’d leave, but first, he had to see it. He had his back pack on and filled with some food. He didn’t know how long he would be on the road for, nor did he know what the camps are like, when he still watched TV they were crowded and low on supplies, they probably weren’t much better since then. He’d have to keep going, try and get around them, go further, maybe it would hit some point and just stop there. No one knew what it would do really, it was equally likely that it might speed up. It hadn’t happened yet, he didn’t expect it to either. He took one last look around his apartment, at the things he could not take. The wooden box his last girlfriend had bought him, the glass paperweight with the star like swirl that his parents had given him when he got his first job. Soon they’d be all gone. He turned from it all, all the memories and left the room.

The walk wasn’t nearly as long as he expected. Though the anomaly had moved much further than he had thought. It had taken him just under three hours and that was with a bicycle. The anomaly wouldn’t reach his apartment for at least another two weeks, if not a little longer. He stood back from it, afraid to get too close. The trees around him were leaning towards it, he could feel it, pulling him, tugging him, trying to get him to move just a little closer. He took a few steps back, just to be sure. Up close he could see why he had gotten headaches, here it happened much faster. It was because his eyes were trying to see something that wasn’t there. That was the worst part of it all, the part that made his brain scream, his skin tingle, what made him know something was wrong, fundamentally wrong. There wasn’t whiteness, not here, not up close, there wasn’t darkness, there was nothing. Nothing at all. It was like trying to name the colour of glass. Shortly after his head began to pound he felt nauseas, a few seconds later, he started to vomit. It splashed against the ground, the drops moving towards the anomaly as they bounced. His shoes stayed clean, the vomit had moved in a slight arc. The pull didn’t feel that strong here, yet it was still there. Once he passed a certain distance he would have no choice in the matter, he would be going into it whether he wanted to or not. He took a deep breath, trying to clear his head. He turned from the anomaly and looked at the town, a piece of paper dragged passed him, hissing dully against the ground as it went. There was no breeze. He took a water bottle from his backpack and rinsed his mouth out quickly. He felt better now that he couldn’t see it. Despite that, he didn’t want his back to it either, it felt dangerous, like it might sneak up on him. He turned to look at it. He would see it again, eventually. Everyone would see it eventually. Some would probably take their lives by then. That had already happened. He had seen it on the news. People would walk out, go as close as they dared, then pull the trigger or slit their wrists. There had been a wave of suicides inside too, people taking their lives in their homes, away, where they didn’t have to see it. They couldn’t bring themselves to confront it, they weren’t strong, like him. He took another breath, trying to steady himself. His hands shook. Maybe those that walked in had the right idea. If it killed you, it would be quick, if it didn’t, well, he’d discover a whole new world, hopefully. No matter the outcome he’d know one way or the other and he’d know instantly. He looked at the buildings that were currently fading, He couldn’t see inside them but he knew if he could they would look like a diagram in a book, a building, cut in half.

He took a step forward without realising it.

It might be a good idea. Moving into it. It couldn’t be that bad, could it? He took another step. No. It was a bad idea, he’d do what he originally planned, move inwards, away from it, get to the coast, find a boat that would take him across. As far as he knew it wasn’t happening on the other side of the world. He wondered if anyone had gone past it, around the world to its back. They might have done so by now, maybe they’d found that it was moving from that side too. In that case it would be better to go to the middle.

He took another step.

Yes, that’s what he’d do, try to get to the back of it, then he’d be as far away as possible. If he found it was moving in both directions he could always change his plans by then.

He stepped forward.

As he did, he noticed he had gotten closer, then shook his head slightly. So this is why he came here, why he felt such a strong need to see it before he left. It made sense really. There was no denying it, he was drawn to it, he wanted to know what was on the other side, he needed to know.

He took off his back pack and laid it on the ground. It seemed to move slightly, then stop. He picked it up again, realising he might need it. With a jolt, he knew why he put it down. He didn’t expect anything on the other side. He expected to die. To just vanish from existence. He started to walk.

The pulling became steadily stronger and the closer he got the harder it was to look at it until he could only stare at the ground. After a short while things began to get slightly misty, it appeared almost pixelated. He was getting to the edge and the pull was strong, as though someone was pushing him forward, he couldn’t stop now, even if he wanted to. Suddenly it was there. His mind struggled to see it, he vomited without noticing, his stomach getting rid of anything that was left. The vomit moved horizontally to the ground for a few feet before it vanished. He hit the edge, the edge of the world, of sanity. Then he took the final step. There was pain, then it stopped.

 

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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4 Responses to The Edge of the World. Short Story.

  1. jessmittens says:

    This story made me genuinely scared that one day the world will start fading away.

    • It does happen with ideas and cities, they’re lost to time and just faded out of memory.
      It is a scary thought, I think in part due to that if it did start to happen, there would be no escaping it.

  2. A very haunting ending, my friend. And I do concur with jessmittens; it is truly frightening to think that this world will eventually crumble and fade away – both figuratively and quite literally.

    • You can see how it happened in places like Ostia Antica, where the city just slowly emptied out until everyone just left. The buildings are still there, though in ruins. It’s actually one of my favourite places to visit.

      It’s kinda weird to think that one day that’s going to be what our current cities could be like in a few thousand years.

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