VIEW LEADERBOARD

The End

The End

The end of the world is nigh, and what lies beyond is the last big question. One man's journey sheds the answers he never thought he'd get.

1

Fantasy / Sci-fi


author-small

Tim McDonald (Australia)


I got to the end of the world and nearly fell off.

Not only did I realise the earth wasn’t round, as I’d been forced to believe all of my years, but also that it was a vertical plane which I have been scaling sideways. This wall world, onto which grand mountain ranges and finite oceans cling, where man-made structures, great walls and expansive bridges threaten to snap off and float into the chasm of the universe, has duped our supposedly superior minds and opposable-thumb science for thousands of years.

The meaning of life as philosophised by religions and cults, physicists and numerologists, has been reduced to the perpendicular ascent of a populated sheet in the sky. As I teetered on the thin edge, my toes clinging to the sod and my arms flailing wildly, I started to laugh. I laughed at the hippie philosophy of freedom, love and sexual liberation. I guffawed at Jung’s garbled view that man’s sole purpose is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. I lost my shit at Aristotle’s theory that we must be virtuous via virtuous activities. I laughed at all their smug faces floating in the ether realising their profound thinking and ostentatious offerings were of no use in the climbing of a wall. My laughter eventually waned, giving way to thought of what to do now that I’d reached the top of the plane. It was stark and bitter--lonely with no one talk to. Where had the human race gone?

With my arms splayed, I maintained my balance, unsure if I should put one foot forward and allow my body to stiffly topple into the unknown. I felt an invisible force holding me stable but waiting for me to make my choice. Was there any choice? If I chose to do so, could I carefully kneel down, grasp the end of the world, let my legs dangle and rappel to my preferred age? Could I stop at a time in my life when everything worked in my favour and I was utterly happy without a worry in the flat world? I wondered what everyone else had done once they got here. Then I looked down.

What I saw were fingers. Clinging fingers of all colours and densities, finger nails in various states of length and filth. The fingers stretched across the edge of the world for as long as my eyes would take me. Some of the fingers were pale, blanched from blood loss with signs of black mould in the webbing. Others presented deeply encrusted wrinkles while still others were mere infant digits, dimpled and clutching onto a future that would never come. Leaning forward ever so slightly, I tried to view what lay on the other side. The force surrounding my carriage gave way little by little without letting me topple, and I slowly gained enough confidence to lean out at a full thirty-degree angle. The phantasm was horrific.

It is not something that I care to, or would even attempt to emulate with words. I felt a rush of absolute terror defile the husk of my body through which an evil, black tar had been dumped. All I had ever considered about the other side, the afterlife, heaven and hell, was shot down, cascading with the glint of broken stars. The lids of my eyes would not respond to closure, but recoiled like powerful flesh shutters vacuumed into the sockets of my skull. With them went my eyebrows--two hirsute protrusions sucked through the straw of my optic nerve. Next came two loud pops and pain so excruciating that I let out a shriek that was lost in black gas as my globes narrowed into elongated spheroids, disappearing into the back of my skull.

At my bare toes, the noxious gas that rose from the other side ate away at my flesh; first my nails curled up into crisp, black chips before blowing away in a crystalline dust. My legs went next—one at a time—breaking away at the knees and disintegrating beneath me so that my body balanced on the two thin discs of my pelvic bone. I saw nothing, heard nothing. I only felt my soul being ripped from my core, and what little air I was able to siphon closed to that of a pin hole. The flesh-eating toxins got more aggressive as my testicles swiftly inflated and popped, and the burning sensation of my melting penis caused me to pass out.

Now I hang--two arms, a half-empty skull and ten clutching fingers. The steel cold of the universe cutting away at what little flesh is left on my shoulders Movement impossible. Reason incomprehensible. The end of the world as I’d never imagined it. And for what….?


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

SEE MORE LIKE THIS



Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • The protagonist didn’t always respond believably against the backdrop of the story. Ask yourself if people would really answer to a situation in that way. Think about whether the characters’ voices could be more convincing for their age, background, gender, time period, genre, gender and ethnicity. Dialogue should be natural and consistent throughout the story.
Characterization
  • Make sure your characters are multidimensional. Do they have strengths and weaknesses? Mere mortals make the most interesting stories because they are like you and me and we are able to empathize with their journey. That’s how the connection with a character is formed.
Main character
  • Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • Point of view helps the reader identify whose perspective we are engaging with, i.e. who is narrating the story. It can sometimes be helpful to double check that the point of view in the story is successfully handled. Ensure you consistently use the same point of view and tense throughout, either: a) First person; b) Third-person limited; or c) Third-person omniscient.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice. Impressive.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Make sure your characters are multidimensional. Do they have strengths and weaknesses? Mere mortals make the most interesting stories because they are like you and me and we are able to empathize with their journey. That’s how the connection with a character is formed.
Main character
  • Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot. A truly absorbing story!
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice. Impressive.
Atmosphere and description
  • A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your great opening was a promise of wonderful things to come. I was hooked!
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
You did a great job, technically in this storytelling. I am probably not the ideal reader for your genre, though you've succeeded in making me fear death a little more than I did. I think the weakest part of the story was the final line, because it suggests the narrator doesn't have all the answers even here at the end when I want him to. What did it mean in the end besides "death is ghastly; decay is ghastly"? I was totally engaged in the concept of the earth as a vertical plane that you had to grapple your way up to gain (only a knife edge and gruesomeness on the other side). But I wasn't completely clear on the symbolism there. Just that everything we've been taught in life is wrong? Anyway, you're on to something good here - just focus on the meaning and somehow answer your own final question, even if the answer is still dismal.