The End of the World

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the aftermath of the unimaginable, one figure wanders alone.

Submitted: May 13, 2016

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Submitted: May 13, 2016

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Morgan walked tentatively across a world she had known all her life, yet was unlike itself in every way. Never had she believed she would live to see this, what had been talked about so much and that they had all been on the edge of for so long. She scorned the sky, lit up in strange lilac. In another time it might have been considered wondrous, but to her it felt brash and distasteful - that the earth would wait until such an occasion to display its beauty. You don’t dress for a funeral as if it were your wedding.

And yet it was here, at the end of itself, that the earth seemed more fully alive than ever. Nature was pushing itself through scorched earth; grass and flowers both more spectacular and lush than any Morgan had ever seen, drawing in bees and dragonflies that danced across their newly found home. Although all trees had been destroyed in the fire, the land was covered with a fresh meadow carpet, rolling out across hills for miles in every direction.

It was the antithesis of the landscape in Morgan’s own heart. Inside she was still dead and blackened, and parts of her still felt like they were being burned by lingering flames. She didn’t know how to navigate this terrain within herself – she felt like weeping and yet like she wanted to swallow up all emotion for ever and not feel anything again. What was the point of feeling anything? She had nothing left to feel for. It was all just memory now.

Morgan wandered for hours, though time had lost all meaning. She was just walking. Walking because there was nothing to be done, and why not walk? It felt like it relieved some of the hopelessness she felt – being in motion. She considered it the kindness of the universe that she could do it, though she could not enjoy it. There was even a certain release that came from walking on past the point of tiredness, as if by pushing on she was claiming control over one last piece of her life. So she ambled across endless fields and hills, and descended numerous valleys, eventually stumbling upon a dyke that had somehow begun to flow with water again, after being dry for weeks.

Stooping down low to draw water to her mouth, Morgan’s legs finally quaked beneath her and she resigned herself to sitting on the bank, exhausted. It was at this point, at the point of giving up, that the tears were able to fall freely, finding no resistance strong enough left in her. It hurt to cry, for each wave of grief brought with it memories, which were excruciating to feel after all she had lost; it was like reliving the experience all over again, except this time each layer of pain was replaced with fondness for those she no longer saw, affection for the world she had known… and even the beginnings of thankfulness for the life she had once lived.

When Morgan finally came to, she had lost sense of time altogether, now that night had fallen and stars were the only lights marking the sky. Somehow, she thought, their beauty was more comforting than jarring – and the paradox of goodness and sorrow no longer felt contradictory. It was fitting, though she still needed to repress a pang of guilt, to enjoy the beauty of the stars.

It was in this moment of staring upwards that she became suddenly aware of the sound of movement far closer to home. She started towards where the noise had come from and shrieked from her core.  There was a young boy – very much alive - hiding behind a rock.

“What are you doing?!?” she cried, her voice a bizarre mix of relief and horror - knowing he had just heard her weeping without restraint for goodness knows how long.

“Pl-please” he stuttered, scrambling away from her, “I didn’t mean anything, I heard you from far off. It was j-just so good to see someone… but I…d-didn’t want to interrupt.”

Morgan stared at him. Words tried to form themselves but got stuck somewhere in the process, and seemed to pile up behind one another at the back of her throat. She studied the boy from head to foot. He was filthy, much like herself, and looked not dissimilar to an old fashioned chimney sweeper with his ragged clothing and soot covered face. Beneath the grime and fear, she thought he had an agile frame and a quick-witted mind about him – but maybe that was because she knew she had been saved by those same traits. She took a step closer and he recoiled again.

“Look, I’m sorry alright!” he spurted, “I won’t bother you again,” and he turned to leave.

“No,” Morgan’s speech returned. She reached out a hand. “Don’t go off alone.”

The boy eyed her warily, searching for any sign of threat, and tentatively placed his hand in hers.

“What’s your name?” asked Morgan.

“Rupert,” he replied, “yours?”

“Morgan,” she answered, feeling strange and glad that someone now still knew her name.

Morgan!” the boy almost leapt into the air, “My favourite cousin was called Morgan! We used to go to the seaside together, we’d always build sandmen and hunt seagulls and…and…” Rupert trailed off, his expression becoming abstracted and distant.

Morgan put an arm round him, but he didn’t come to instantly. He ebbed back in gradually, out of the pain that she imagined he had not begun to process.  She knew what that was like. Grief can be a scary emotion to give into, though she had started to appreciate how much she needed it.

“I don’t need to be like your cousin, Rupert,” Morgan spoke tenderly, “She has just gone to explore the beaches of another world. She is not completely gone.”

Rupert turned to look at her, still a little vacant behind his eyes. “Who can you be?” he asked, in a soft but challenging voice, driven by a longing for hope.

Morgan hesitated, “I can be myself,” she answered, “And who knows? You might even like me after we’ve spent some time together.” The glimmer of a smile formed first in her heart and the then on her face, and she found herself chuckling, “I guess I’m a brand new adventure - someone you’ve never met before.”

Rupert began to grin back, and seemed to snap back to his rough boyishness.  “I like you already,” he said affectionately.

Morgan pulled the boy into a hug, and smiled properly for the first time in a long, long time. She realised she was speaking to herself as well. For she couldn’t go back… though she might long with all her being to, it was impossible. But there was an invitation here, in this boy, to the beginnings of something that could one day be joy. It was a birth place of ashes, but it was a miracle of birth nonetheless. And births should be celebrated, no matter how sad the rest of the world.

“Let’s go back to my place” Morgan suggested, meaning a campfire and a makeshift tent. “I’ve still got some pheasant. I caught it yesterday. You hungry?”

Rupert gave a look that left her in no doubt that food was near the forefront of his heart’s desires.

They walked back to her camp, and they ate and they exchanged stories of how they had both survived, and happier stories of happier times once the former grew difficult to speak about. They ended up staying up until sunrise, though after they had watched it Rupert quickly fell asleep on Morgan’s shoulder. They became good friends that day, though after a while they became the best of friends, and though sadness was interwoven through their relationship, love and laughter became the greater part. And eventually, for there was only 5 years difference between them, they married (as best as they could with no-one else around). They married under one of the first trees to spring up from the ground – a pine tree – under which they also built their first house. They were genuinely and completely in love, and they wondered both how something so beautiful could come out of something so tragic. And their children were more joy than they could have imagined.

“This is the nature of love,” Morgan told her grandchildren one day, “It is always worth it. Even when the only place left for it to grow is the foulest and most awful of places.”

They asked Morgan a thousand questions about love, about the world before, and about their lives afterwards. She had felt her need of these lessons again so recently, when Rupert had failed to wake up one morning. She had lost her second world that day, three days after her fourth grandchild had just been born. Now Morgan sat cradling her new grandson in her arms, with his older brother and sisters prodding their grandmother with their wonderful and ridiculous questions. She sighed. It might have been the end of the world, but it was also the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

 

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Samuel O Whitlock. All rights reserved.

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