Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Edge

The edge of the world appealed to me, because sometimes the tide washed up amazing artifacts, and because everyone else feared the edge, so I could be alone. My brother used to say that if that water even touched your shoe, your whole foot would wither and fall off, but the spray hit me full in the face a thousand times, and nothing ever happened. You taste salt, that’s all.

Nobody liked me going down there, but they pretended not to know, because almost always I could find something amazing, or useful, or, at the very least, metal, and bring it back to the safe zone. But scavenging was just an excuse. I went to the edge to sit on the twisted, charred remains of the old world, and to look out at the things left behind, tilted battered monoliths, frozen in their death march miles off the coast. The jutted from the water like broken blades of grass. Some people say that humans used to live in there.

Yesterday I found a broken plastic box, with wires and other old things jumbled up inside. It could be valuable. But the important part about yesterday happened after that, when Marina yelled at me from the last road.

“Hey, aren’t you scared of ghosts?”

Probably, it would have surprised me, since you get used to total solitude, but when you spend all your time at the end of the world, nothing can surprise you anymore.

“No, are you?” I turned back to the water, watched it dance around the shattered infrastructure. Every wave tore the crumbling remains down a little further. You’d think she would run away scared, but I heard her feet leaving the safety of the last road, crunching through the fragmented debris, and finally climbing up to sit beside me.

“They said I’d find you here.” But she didn’t chastise me, or warn me, or ask any stupid questions. She just said, “Thanks for saving my sister’s life.”

“I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did. And I figured, if you found that thing down here, the edge of the world can’t be as bad as people say.”

Years ago, I had figured that out. “It’s spiritually bad; it’s not physically bad. Bad things happened here, but now nothing happens here, except for the ripples of that first bad thing.” The winds were strong and constant, but I could actually feel her body heat beside me, and in one second, I went from craving my solitude to requiring her company.

“You’re really brave,” she said. “They say the ocean ate the world here.”

I nodded. “Once. Not like it’s going to happen every day. It’s safer at the edge than the center, with bandits and mutants and fighting.”

“How do you find things?” she asked.

“Just look,” I said. “You just look.”

So she jumped down and looked and after a while she squealed, “Metal! I found metal.” The thing she found was so big we had to put my thing on top of it and carry it back to the center together. Before she went to tell her family what she had, she kind of bumped her elbow against mine, and it felt different from an accidental bump, like in a crowded market. It felt like a meaningful bump.

And today I’m sitting here on the same chunk of wreckage and looking out past the edge, but for once, I’m not thinking about the past. I’m thinking about the future. It’s different from being lonely with ghosts. Is there an opposite word, I wonder, a word for a thing that’s not dead and gone, but is still a kind of seed that hasn’t happened yet?