The Road: Alternative Ending

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
An alternative ending to Cormac McCarthy's novel, The Road.

Submitted: July 22, 2019

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Submitted: July 22, 2019

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“He slept close to his father that night and held him but when he woke in the morning his father was cold and stiff. He sat there a long time weeping and then he got up and walked out through the woods to the road. When he came back he knelt beside his father and held his cold hand and said his name over and over again” (McCarthy, 2006, pp. 300-301).

His father’s hand grew colder as the sun began to disappear behind the horizon. He no longer fears for his life, for his life now lies motionless on the sand. His protector, his leader, his friend, gone. He closes his eyes and all of the violent and horrific things he has seen come flooding back into his memory, the three bodies hanging from the rafters, the corpses in the city without shoes. He begins to become paralyzed with fear; he holds his father’s hand tighter, hoping for a squeeze of reassurance, yet is no movement. Just remember that the things you put in your head are there forever…his father’s words replay in his head over and over. They calm him in some way. With the tears comes an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, the boy falls asleep as the darkness engulfs him.

Papa, look out!

The penguin that had awoken him in another nightmare was back, this time, attacking the father as he lay helpless. He wakes up hyperventilating and reaching over to feel the warmth of his papa, but there is no warmth, nor is there a penguin, just a cold and lifeless body. The boy spent the morning walking the beach. Each step he took, the more futile everything seemed.  With each breathe, he feels himself withdrawing further and further into himself, is he one of the good guys? Was his father? If he was then why did he die? So many questions, yet nobody to answer them.

The boy finds himself on the road not too far from the beach. He is hungry and looking for any form of food. The pain in his stomach is almost crippling. He knows he needs food or he will grow weak and become vulnerable to the cannibals that govern the newfound world. He finds a can of baked beans, the expiry date is barely visible and a reminder that time means nothing anymore. He pierces the can with an old knife and begins to savagely eat the beans; it is the first meal he has eaten without his papa, it is the first time he hasn’t had to share with anyone and for a brief moment, the boy is reminded that he is alone and more vulnerable than ever.

He is woken up by a few drops of rain; the beat up car that he had slept in has a leak that had allowed a pool of icy water to form on the car floor. It is bitterly cold when he gets out of the vehicle. He goes back to the beach to cover his father. How selfish of him, he had left his father out in the rain; he had left the man who had kept him alive for so long out in the cold. He returns to his papa hoping that this was all a bad dream, hoping that his papa will be sitting next to a warm fire with some food and waiting to read him a story.

Hey, get away from him now! The boy points the gun at the man standing over his papa’s hollow-cheeked body.

Calm down son, my family and I have been following you and your dad for some time, I’m really sorry that he’s gone, son, can you put the gun down please? The man’s hands are in the air, the boy remembers the cannibal that had held his hands in the air and then tried to kill him.

No, no, not until I find out whether or not you’re one of the good guys! The boy’s voice is shaking as a tear runs down his cheek. He knows he won’t be able to pull the trigger if the man comes closer.

Miriam! Jake! Sarah! Come out here please

From behind the tree line, a family of three begins to emerge as the boy begins to sob more and more. He wonders if the darkness of the new world has consumed him so much so that he would actually consider murdering someone’s husband, someone’s son and someone’s papa.

You see boy, I have a family, we are normal people, we don’t eat humans, we are the good guys, he approaches the boy with his hands raised, he is vulnerable but open and the boy can feel a sense of trust for the man. He has children, why would he hurt another child in front of his own, perhaps he is human, and perhaps he is a good guy.

Thank you son, now listen, we’ve got a boat that we are going to leave on in about an hour, there’s an island just west of here with a couple of other families, families like mine, an old friend of mine had built a shelter there for situations like the one we find ourselves in, would you like to come with us? You won’t be safe out here alone boy, the man crouches in front of the boy.

What about my papa? He looks down at the helpless body of his papa.

We’ll bury him here, is that what you think he’d like? To be buried near the ocean? He places his hand on the boys shoulder

Yes I think so

The man and his son dig a hole and they place the man into it. As the man and his son begin to bury his papa, the boy remembers the flute his father had given him; he wishes he hadn’t thrown it away, another selfish act. As the sand above his now buried papa is hardened by the man and his son, they begin to walk along the beach to an old, but floating vessel beached on the dark black sand. The boy is hesitant as he watches the family climb aboard.

Come on son, the man extends his hand from the deck of the boat.

The boy pauses and wonders what would happen if his papa was here. But there’s no time for pondering, he needs to go or the cannibals of the world will eventually get to him before starvation does.

The boat begins to sail away from shore. The trees become smaller and land is no longer visible to the naked eye. The boy feels his eyes become heavy and moments later, he has no energy to keep them awake as he drifts off to sleep to the rocking of the boat in the ocean water.

Wake up

The boy arises in fear to the unfamiliar voice.

We are here son, you’re safe here.

The boy begins to stand up, his body is heavy and his limbs are weak. He walks across the deck of the boat, holding the railings with each step. He sees people, men, throwing a rope to the man as he catches it and ties it onto the boat. They have arrived at the island. The man jumps off and hugs one of the other men; the woman and her kids climb off and are greeted too. The boy begins to wonder whether or not he has made the right choice. He hears his papa’s voice

Go my son, keep the fire in your heart burning, however small, however hidden.

The man waves to the boy, calling him to join them and he follows hesitantly, his heart is beating out of his chest, he hasn’t seen this many people since the cannibals tried to get him and his papa. The boy is taken by the woman and he is introduced to the rest of the survivors, the good guys, the ones his papa had spoken about always.

The people offer the boy food and water and their condolences over the passing of his papa. As the sun sets, the boy walks into the forest and comes across a stream of crystal clear water; he sees a shadow beneath the water, then another.

Fish

The boy puts his hands into the icy water and catches a reflection of his face, he is smiling. He hears a woman’s voice calling for him; he looks down at the water one more time as a fish speeds by. He remembers his father speaking of the trout that he had once seen, he remembers his description of the patterns on their backs and the muscular look that they had. He remembers his father’s voice as he told the story over and over again until the boy was asleep.

We found them papa.

 


© Copyright 2020 Ross Scott . All rights reserved.

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