Edge of End
Chapter one: The smell of ground
How would you know you no longer exist? Ask me, I know. Amidst absolute darkness you see nothing, you hear nothing, you smell nothing, and you feel nothing. Time doesn’t have meaning there, infinity had obsessed me swallowing my soul until a musty smell like rotten eggs and decaying fish mixed with the stench of a dead rat lying in the sun for days, that worked its way through my nostrils and filtered my lungs.
I was pushed away from darkness, from not-my-existence.
Opening my eyes, I sniffed, my vision blurred, no idea where I was.
The dust carried on the wind had stuck to my face and mouth, and as my tongue ran over my lips, I screwed up my eyes with disgust at the taste.
I blinked, my vision gradually restored, and I gazed over the landscape.
The first image that I caught sight of was the light-brown colored ground–solid and cracked as if it hadn’t seen rain for months. Placing my hands down on it, I managed to push myself up into a sitting position.
It wasn’t easy.
My body felt weak and sore, as if I had been beaten. A sharp pain shot down my neck towards my spine. My instinctive reaction was to scream, which followed instantly; I couldn’t help it.
Still in pain, I took a deep breath, inhaling the stifling air. Who was I? No, it was a difficult question. What was my name? My head was empty, darkness lying behind the picture of endless sand now I was staring at.
I pressed my hands against my eyes and rubbed my face, balancing my breath and trying to concentrate. I knew I had had a life before the darkness, in the back of my mind I saw how the world worked, but I had nothing of my own. I knocked on my head by my balled hand as if trying to switch it on, and it would process and pull out my memories from darkness.
Nothing. My past was gone.
I dug my hands into my pockets in search of a wallet or anything else, but they were empty–no credit cards, no papers or checks. Nothing to connect me to my past.
I stared ahead at empty spot feeling nothing yet until panic registered in me and I gasped for air, breathing rapidly, my heart hammering. Squeezing my eyes shut, I let out a painful and long cry until my lungs were out of air and my voice reduced to a weak squeak, and then died away.
“Where am I?” I cried in my full voice after I filled my lungs with air. “Hey! Can anybody hear me? Anybody.” Then I started cursing by that letting out my anger and my fear.
At least I knew I could talk.
I sucked in a great lungful of the air trying to take control of my emotional explosion. I opened my eyes, slowly scanning my surroundings, an alien and barren landscape.
Where was I?
I stared ahead, feeling giddy and weak in the legs. There was a road, if you could call it that–more of a dust track that led to a town just beyond the horizon. On either side, just a carpet of endless desert sand and dust bowl stretched before me.
I found myself staring hard at the horizon.
However, the horizon was not your typical skyline. Overcome with grayness, there was not a single cloud in the sky. Somehow the earth was illuminated, despite there being no sunshine. The source of the light lay invisible.
The town shimmered through the heat, making me feel kind of giddy. Although I couldn’t see it clearly, I focused on some distant rooftops. That point in the distance became my destination as if I was in the ocean, and the town was my island of salvation.
Without giving it too much thought, I tried to stand up, but it was difficult. As soon as I had a stable footing on the ground, my ankle rolled, and I tumbled down, rolling over the dusty, smelly ground once again. I cried out in pain as I keeled over backwards, gazing up into the sky, and crooning under my breath.
My eyes got lost momentarily. Never in my life had I seen such a sky. There were no stars, no sun, and no moon above me, just a hanging void. I felt that void surreptitiously seeping inside me through my eyes. It flowed within my soul sucking the remaining strength out of my weakened body.
Surely, there had to be unbelievable, inaccessible powers hidden amongst those gray skies.
Blinking, I tore my eyes away from the mesmerizing sight and shook my head. With great difficulty, I managed to pull myself up again and, raising my head, I stared ahead at the town. I had no idea what I was going to discover in that place, but the peaked rooftops were my only hope.
The second time I took a step, I did so more gingerly. With only one road to take, I pushed on, dragging my heavy limbs.
I moved like a child learning to walk, wobbling with each step and swaying with my arms. With each step I took, I felt the strength returning in my legs. Although, I was limping, at least I was moving.
During that arduous lonely journey to the town, I tried to recall what had happened and how I had ended up here. Where? I asked myself. Here in the middle of nowhere, I thought. But my memory had sunk into oblivion, and as much as I tried to extract something from it, it didn’t give anything up. I probed deeper and deeper into my memory, but could retrieve nothing–not who I was, nor how I had gotten here.
I could have wondered for hours, but my mind was blank, as if my brain was a computer’s hard drive, and a devious child, clicking repeatedly on the folder with my memories inside, had pressed shift+delete.
I was confused with no idea what to do next, my legs hauled me towards the town themselves. A moment later I stopped, put my head into my hands nervously, closed my eyes and wished myself back to my past, looking for anything familiar to me, but again there was nothing. I couldn’t even remember my own name. I couldn’t remember anything from my life, but I had somehow strangely retained a wealth of random information: the date of First World War, the US presidents in chronological order.
Is that even possible?
I could tell you Einstein’s equation of relativity, too. But I had somehow forgotten who I was. I had lost all the memories related to my life.
I scanned the area around me, desperately searching for my memories. In my mind, I perhaps thought that I could have uncovered them there–in the desert’s dust. I have no idea whether I had read it or seen it somewhere, but somehow I knew that people who had lost their memories sometimes got them back. But I couldn’t stand around waiting for that to happen. I had to move on; I didn’t have much choice.
Running my hands through my hair, I let out a heavy sigh and shambled onwards, occasionally looking back on the path I had travelled, but still nothing had changed. The sky remained calm with a sense of eeriness to it. After having looked up twice already, I decided not to take another look. Every time my eyes came into contact with the sky, I felt a hand pressing down upon my head, placing pressure upon my brain.
Look ahead, I scolded myself, keep going.
There were no tracks or footprints on the dusty path that I’d called a road. It was six inches below the desert level. The rotten smell that had stirred my slumber wasn’t nearly as potent as when I’d been lying on it, or perhaps I had adjusted to the stench. I don’t recall now. At that point, there wasn’t much to examine apart from the roadside that seemed to have been made idyllically. You will never see anything like that in any other desert.
I am not sure if I came upon the town, or the town came upon me.
Soon I could see that the road divided the town in two, with different houses lining its sides. There was no sign of life, apart from the movement of the trees and even they seemed dead. The leaves had darkened to a deep yellow and hung precariously off the branches.
I reached the town and halted at the entrance. Scanning the first two houses curiously, my eyes stopped on a notice, bearing the name Morsfinis.
Weird name, I thought.
I stood in front of that notice with doubts about moving on. The town was beneath a shadow of nothingness, and it was as though a big dark cloud had come and strategically hung itself above that place.
I tried to refrain from looking upwards. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t look up again. The emptiness that lay before me grew my doubts; I just had no idea what I was going to do next.
Where should I go? There might be a telephone, in the town, but whom was I going to call?
Go to the police, I heard a voice in my head say. Good idea I thought.
Taking a huge breath, I walked over the town’s threshold confidently. As I walked the street, the ground became softer and damper and my footsteps vanished without leaving any trace of my presence.
I contemplated my surroundings with a feeling as though I’d been transported to a nineteenth-century town, with dusty metal roads and scruffy looking lawns. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d seen hoof-prints too.
But the first two houses on either side were new and modern. The one on my right was a light brown two-storied house with a long balcony on the first floor. The roof was a gloomy gray that darkened the walls.
My attention fell on the house to my left. I examined it with great curiosity–it seemed strangely familiar. I narrowed my eyes, staring at it much longer than I had had the house on my right. It too was two-storied, with bright wooden walls that had lost their shine under the shadowy sky.
Confusing, but it was as though the sky was sucking up the vital forces from everything–from the houses, from the ground, the trees, and even from me.
A cobbled path led to the door, dividing the yard in two. The remaining yellowy grass told me that there had once been a green lawn encompassing that house. Now it had died leaving dry blades for the wind to carry through the air and encircle me. My eyes ran over the yard and became fixated on a dry tree that was squeaking in the wind, and there was an old rocking swing hanging from its thickest branch.
A strange sensation knocked me inwardly hinting that I’d been watched from inside the house, but I could see nobody behind those depressed looking windows. The glass was too dirty, and beyond them–the inside got lost in a mystery. The house had surely been abandoned a long time ago. However, it seemed so.
I glanced at the road and then at the other houses set along it. The town seemed desolated. Before I could begin worrying, the house door abruptly flew open. My eyes jerked, and a fluttery feeling started in my stomach.
A little girl of about nine or ten year old ran out of the house, a big smile on her face, her blithe laughter filling the pressing air around me and ranging in my ears. I froze. She didn’t notice me as she made her way to the swing, but I stared at her with unblinking eyes.
Several pictures flashed before my eyes in a second. They might have been outbreaks of my wounded memories, and I was sure I knew that girl. Her loose black hair, dancing in the wind, brought her scent closer to me and I inhaled deeply. Closing my eyes, I allowed my mind to wonder, trying to conjure up memories of that girl. Instead I experienced the same darkness as I’d had in the desert.
“Melissa,” a soft voice came from a woman, and I forced my eyes open immediately.
A beautiful woman, probably in her late thirties, appeared from nowhere. Her eyes were dark brown, unlike the girl’s glacial blue ones, but she had the same sleek black hair as the young girl.
The girl peeked back over her shoulder. “Yes, Mom,” she called back and her smile faded away instantly.
“Get back home,” the woman said sternly. “It’s dinner time.”
“But Daddy,” the girl hopped down from the swing and reluctantly dragged her feet towards her mother. “Where is he? He’s late,” she asked, holding onto her mother’s hand.
“He’ll come soon,” the woman’s voice quavered.
I sensed her obvious lie.
“But he promised me,” the girl tilted her head. “He never keeps his word.” She added.
“Don’t say that, honey. He’s on his way.”
Then she stared right at me as though demanding an explanation from me with her widened eyes.
I glanced back vacantly. Nobody was behind me. Perplexed I turned my eyes towards them again, but they were walking to the door.
I watched them go inside. They disappeared from my sight, and emptiness rested on the yard again with the air whipping through it.
I stood for a while rooted to the ground, just gazing at the house. Maybe I hoped to see that woman outside again, and then I could talk to her.
Then the girl’s face appeared looking out of one of the windows. Her eyes were sad, probably waiting for her father’s arrival, but she kept staring at me. I couldn’t break eye contact with her, I had this annoying feeling as if I knew her, that she was important to me, but I could not recall how.
You can go and ask her mother, I thought and made a step back onto the path warily.
The door blew open, and the woman appeared on the threshold with an accusing expression painted on her face. I stopped in my tracks, but then I realized she wasn’t staring at me, she was looking through me as if I were a piece of glass.
“Ma’am,” I tried to sound confident as I called out to her. “Excuse me, please, but–”
My words hung in mid-air unfinished. She faced back towards the house and called out for the girl. “Honey, your father is coming.”
Then she eyed me, or through me, and I saw the girl’s head emerge from behind her mother’s back, her face lit up with joy. She looked at me.
I watched them waiting for the lucky man who had such beautiful wife and daughter. The woman’s lips moved, and she mouthed ‘Come to us, darling’.
I can tell you that she had talked to me, and I won’t deny that I wholeheartedly wanted to go to them. My insides demanded me to move ahead and enter the house, to take that fetching woman into my arms.
‘Jonathan’ she squeaked vaguely.
It might be me, who knew, I was unnamed at that moment.
I pressed my hands on my eyes breathing rapidly. Was this just a dream? When I opened them, the woman and the girl had already gone inside, leaving the door wide open.
I hesitated, staring at the threshold.
At least I could go in and ask for help, as they were the only humans I had seen that day. But this vague day had only just started, and the strange way they had acted held me back. With an uneasiness in my heart, I moved backwards, indolently and uncertain.
When I was in the middle of the road, the front door shut itself. A sharp wind came from the far end of the road and cut in front of me. I peeked at the heart of the town.
Where was I?
Had the scene with the woman and the child been real, or had it been a cruel game of my mind? Was it making me relive a glittery moment from my past disturbed when I was trying to gather the broken pieces of my memories?
I thrust my hands into my pockets and moments later started off hastily deeper into the town.