Life is weird. I mean, I always knew that, but it took me until this moment to realize just how weird it is. I don’t remember how long I’ve been walking but now I’m here. For what reason even? What is here? How far have I traveled? Have my legs carried me for hours? Days? Months? I don’t know. I never know. It’s partially why I left my life behind. Has anyone even noticed that I’m absent from my place in their lives? I. Don’t. Know.
I think I’ve hit the end of the world. It’s something people only whisper about. A conspiracy amongst them, something to talk about without having to worry that it could potentially be reality. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, at least not anymore. I mean, here I stand on a ledge overlooking nothingness. There’s no water or trees or grass or pavement or anything. All I can see is darkness. Just a void. Something with no exit and no entry. Nothing. Is the end of the world just filled with nothing?
“Is this really the end? There’s nothing else?” I don’t know why I sound disappointed. It isn’t like I was expecting anything to begin with. I just wanted to see if it was real. “You just aren’t looking hard enough,” a voice materializes beside me and it takes every bone in my body to not jump. I’m sure the owner of the voice can still tell they’ve startled me. They can see it in the way my eye twitches and my shoulders tense. I turn my head, not sure what to expect. If this is the end of the world, who else could have decided to choose the same path as me? They’re smiling at me, mirth dancing around in their eyes. Their eyes are as dark as the world in front of me. Their hair too, as it moves with a wind that doesn’t exist. Or maybe it does and I can’t feel it in my hair or on my skin. I can’t really tell what they’re wearing. It feels like I can barely focus on seeing them, like a slight glitch in the universe. Someone who’s there but not all the way… someone who’s…
“Are you part of the end?” It doesn’t hurt to ask. It makes them laugh and I can see a shrug but it blurs their face. This doesn’t make sense. Nothing is making sense. Maybe the walk here has meddled with my mind. The atmosphere of nothing is creating that same void in me.
“That’s for you to decide.” Their face clears up to reveal a large grin before they’re tugging on my sleeve, and pointing into the nothing. I don’t budge, trying to pull my arm away from them. I don’t want this. I should just turn around and go back to my life. I’ll tell people I had urgent matters to handle that they wouldn’t understand. They tug harder and I stumble forward, surprised by how strong they are. “Well? Are you going to decide?” They seem overly expectant.
“It’s… a little dark… I don’t know if I want to continue…” I know that I’m just making excuses at this point, there’s no reason to not step forward. The end is the end, what could go wrong if I just entered it?
“Dark? Are you even looking at it clearly?” They sound confused and we stare at each other for a long moment. What do they mean? I break eye contact first, looking ahead seeking the darkness and instead finding a lit up path. Everything around it is still dark, but there are lights floating around the ground now. I blink in confusion and the strange person tugs me forward again. “You see it now, right? Have you made a decision?”
“I… uh…” They drop my sleeve as I try to mumble a reply, walking up to the path. They step over the gap that sits between the grass and the end of the world. I still can’t focus on their entire being, but I know they’re still grinning at me. I can assume their hands are resting on their hips, one foot tapping as they wait for me to make any sort of move aside from an inability to talk. Huh. Maybe the end of the world is more than I’ve been leading myself to believe. I stick my hands in my pockets and follow after them, it probably won’t hurt to just follow them for a little.
The end of the world still doesn’t seem like anything special, but I’ll humor this persistent person for a little while longer.
It feels like we’ve been walking forward for hours without actually moving. The only evidence that we’ve made progress is the fact that the grassy field we had started in is just a speck now. Where are we even going? I want to ask, but they seem too focussed on the journey to give any solid answer. Ugh, I could use a nap. No one ever took the effort to tell me that the end of the world never ended. Someone out there would probably appreciate the irony of that. I get so caught up in my own thoughts that I don’t realize my… acquaintance has stopped moving until I walk directly into them.
“Ow! What the fuck are you made of? Steel?!” I check my nose for blood, startled by this person for the nth time in the amount of time I’ve known them.
“I don’t know what I’m made of, really. But look, we’re here!” They step away from me, presenting to me whatever it was they were blocking. I don’t see it right away, too busy admiring the fact that I can finally see them solidly. They’re dressed in all black, it seems like a skin tight bodysuit clinging to their skinny frame. Everything about them is dark, except for a pale face and red shoes. It’s nothing like what I expected. I almost want to go back to the inability to focus on the entirety of them. I tear my eyes away after they smirk at me, trying to avoid the feeling of judgment.
“Oh… wow…” What lies ahead is incredible. It makes the whole journey feel worth it. It makes me feel warm outside and whole inside. Like nothing wrong has ever happened. The end of the world isn’t void of anything, but it also isn’t full of anything. It just is. My stranger holds their hand out and I take it.
“I’m the end, and the beginning, and so much more. But you’ll never learn of everything.” They tug me forward again. This time I don’t hesitate, I’ll follow the end of the world anywhere. I feel like I settled on that decision when I was born and have been walking towards it ever since and the idea of it is exhilarating.
C.K. Stein is an aspiring author from Western New York. They’re currently pursuing an MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing at Emerson College. They tend to mess with POV in the works they write. Their crowning achievement (outside of writing) is being the founder of a small Worm Cult in their undergrad’s creative writing department.