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A story of isolation – Reedsy submission

Reedsy published new prompts daily. If you haven’t already it’s worth checking them out if you’re looking for opportunities to spread your writing wings or flex your writing muscles, short story prompts may be the perfect opportunity for you to do so!

The following short story is based on Reedsy’s prompt: someone who can’t remember their past & doesn’t want to..

The man on the edge of the world

It could not have been longer than a week or maybe even two – at a push. His mind had become numb to the passage of time, and even now his stomach had begun to yield. No longer growling and grumbling like a vicious dog desperate for scraps. No. Now like all half-starved animals, it too had grown still. Grown silent and grown weary.

The sun hung heavy in the sky, suffocated behind a cloak of grey mists, only briefly outstretching itself and burdening the sky with its presence. Bleaching the once grey horizon the suns light bathed the man in an all too rare glow, during which, he was safe. This respite from the icy embrace he had come to know was something he had begun to yearn for. Sporadic was the nature of this beast and as such all hopes for this amicable meeting between, he and his sun god were dashed. Hope was for fools. Hopes did not serve him before. Hope was not a welcome bed friend, not for the man on the edge of the world.

Once the sun had burst through the dulled atmosphere clearing a passage through the air, bulldozing the clouds and mists away for miles around. It was then he could see, see where it happened. He hastened to look, knowing what he inevitably will see, knowing he’s looked any number of times before. The conflict driving his body into meltdown, his blood pulsing through his head, so furiously his vision becomes distorted with the pressure of fluid pushing and pulling its way through the veins in his eyes, like a frate train coming at full speed he knew there was no stopping it. As it had come to be, each day a fraction of his mind desperately stood century fighting off any glimpse or thought for what had happened. For what he had seen could not be explained nor reasoned with. This losing battle became ever more futile at night. When the darkness crept in, in all senses, from all sides, it consumed him. A black beast coming again and again to feed on what was little more than a breathing corpse. This battle went on, without the need for a reminder. Better not to look.

Call it foolishness or call it desperation, he looked. Out on the horizon he searched for the familiar. It was then he learned the true magnitude of his situation. He glanced up and down, hoping to abet the pulsation of his eyes while fighting against the stinging sensation in his pupils. They screamed for him to look away, the brightness was something they had long forgotten. Amid this struggle his weary panic became molested by a feeling of dread, the kind that sent hot chills down one’s spine. He began to run towards the horizon, slipping in the snow he scrambled for a better view. What he had not wanted to see he now could not. The grey ice arch in the distance that had once stood menacingly in defiance of the battering ocean that haunted him, that he had tried to forget he now wished to see, was nowhere to be seen. He looked left and right along the barren landscape searching for a sign of the familiar. The icy architraves and malicious spikes were the holly and thorns of this maze, indistinguishable and unyielding. His body was now in overdrive, this one connection, this one image he had desperately wanted to forget had now crept away. His only anchor to life before ripped from under him he crumbled. No longer did his damp clothes and frozen limbs trouble him, he let out a long, lonesome yell that was swallowed by the twisting winds.

Much to his disappointment, he awoke, the snow had settled about him, childlike and alone he cracked his frozen clothes into submission as he stretched out his limbs. Abandoned by the sun once more he looked out into the darkness. His eyes now wishing for light in the unrelenting dark. It was time. He had been waiting. For what? He was not sure. But it was time to go.

Staggering away up the snow-covered slope he slipped out of all thought, barely able to manifest the will to keep moving. Gladly aided by the wind he climbed as it pushed him forward. As he walked the icy tunnel tightened around him. Overgrown icicles sliced the winds to shreds, humming as ice and snow weaved between the frozen shards. He trudged through the ominous passage as the overhanging ice-walls tighten like a noose around him in the nights air. Hollow, this man trudged at the end of the world, the wind robbing him of his hearing, the darkness robbing him of his sight. An eery presence hovered over him, each footfall mirrored by another. He turned quickly, searching through the swarm of snow. Searching for what? He did not know. None the less he turned, to no avail each time. Yet he knew his footsteps were not alone.

Fatigued by his paranoia he grew close now, close enough to see but not to touch. A large bronze door. Not like any he had seen before, this door stood four, five times the height of a man. Wide like the bow of a ship and curved, curved like a giant’s eye on its side, driven halfway into the snow.

Clambering and clawing his way forward as the winds spat ice and snow at his back, he felt it. Not by any tangible sense he knew of, but he felt it. Something drew ever closer. Mimicking him, where he stalled it stalled, where he hurried it hurried. Unlike the man it was untiring, never hesitating. The door was in reaching distance, but all the same he felt the urgency to get inside as though he were a million miles from safety.

Grabbing at the box next to the door he yelled, “Come on you fucker!”. Though he was not sure if he was yelling. For had he not been conscious of his own thoughts, he may not have even been aware he had said anything at all, for the wind screamed in his ears. As he pulled at a large bronze lever the ground shook, as though something huge had been dropped nearby, causing settled snow to pour down from above. The giant bronze slab that was the door began to fold open, disappearing into the cliff face above. He ran through the opening, racing the sleet and snow into the room beyond. Fearing the cold was not the only thing he was racing he searched desperately for a means to close the door behind him.

Somehow colder than outside his fingers grazed against the rough stone walls, grasping desperately he found what felt like a lever. Almost numb from the cold his hands glanced off the lever. He felt the quickening steps of his counterpart behind him. In a hurry he threw his arms against the lever and pressed his half-frozen body against them, letting all his weight bare down upon it. And with that, the ground began to shake, a cloud of dust shot from the ceiling and the bronze door slid back down the giants eye doorframe. Entombing himself inside, finally he was safe.

Then came the sound. It started off quietly, a gentle hissing at first. Looking down he saw the bronze lever glowing red hot as it cooked his body and burnt his skin. A perfect sear mark along his body ran parallel with the lever. However, it was only by looking did it become real, as the perfect line flashed with heat along his body. Pulled his cooked flesh apart from the now smoking lever he felt the heat vibrating through his body. The man fell to the floor folding over to shield his burning side, eventually growing still, the room grew silent.

Where once a lightless void reigned unchallenged, now a small fire in the centre of the room warmed his frozen extremities with enough light to douse the expansive room in a dim amber glow. He looked around at the place he had come to know, there were no windows, no other doors, just smooth curved bare rock boring its way up into the cliff face meeting its peak an unknown, unknowable distance above him. For the dim orange light of the fire could only shine so far in the otherwise pitch darkness. How many days had he spent here; he did not know? Losing himself, losing time. Unquestioningly he stood up and placed his wet clothes on the fireside logs adorning the floor. Then it started.

He was not sure when the knocking began once more time and reality had enveloped him as a river parts around a rock. In the empty darkness behind the monolithic door he lay, frozen and burnt, each knock against the door pierced him. The question of who or what was out there was tossed around his head without resolution. He knew now, knew for certain, he was not alone. Feelings of fear carpeted his mind, only breaking form to allow moments of satisfaction to make themselves known, after all, he knew he was not alone out there.

Looking into the flames, he searched for answers he already knew, flinching with each knock from outside. He stared into the flames remembering the flames he saw at sea, the flames he saw that swelled around him at the grey ice arch. The glowing embers were metal, iron bolts and bulkheads all fading to nothing in the kaleidoscope of his mind. The knocking continued. The man entranced by the story offered by the flame, the guilt and gruesome truth crept in from the edges of his mind. Probing his defences. “No…” He Whispered, not a whisper one could hear, besides the knocking you could hear a pin drop to the ground inside the room. Yet if his dry and broken lips had not cracked open fresh wounds at the effort, he may have not been aware he spoke at all. The knocking continued, getting louder, “No.” He said again, louder this time and despite his now bleeding lips. The knocking got louder, “No!” he now shouted, as he fought away the encroaching beast circling his memory. “No!” he yelled, now standing, “No!” he yelled again now running. “No!” he yelled again, “No! No! No! No!” his hands now savagely battering the bronze door, blood and skin from his knuckles blistering against the red-hot door which now glowed red. The knocking continued as the door glowed brighter and brighter.

Clutching his burnt and broken hands the man was now faced with an intrusive, blinding white light coming from the door, brighter and brighter it shone. Using his hands to shield his eyes this light permeated his flesh so cleanly he could make out the silhouettes of his fractured and broken bones within his wet and blistered fists. The knocking reached a crescendo as the light shone brightly before at once, both evaporated from the room. Silence fell.

Cradling his head in his broken hands, a flash of anger dragged the man up to look the giant door in the eye. As quickly as it came his renewed anger and confidence dissipated as a new sound emerged to challenge his newfound boldness. The familiar ringing of metal through the room was replaced with a gentle tapping. The sound radiated from behind him. Turning, unsure what to expect, the man was confronted by the now dark and empty room. Where once smooth stone had paved the ground, now water sat. Coming up to his knees the water marred his pace as he effortfully waded through the darkness. As he drew ever closer to the knocking, suddenly smacking into an immensely flat surface. Falling down to the ground he looked up to see a great and terrible mirror stood staunch over him. Defiantly, begging him to look.

To his horror, he saw it. He recognised it. It had chased him all this way. It was inside. It was inside with him. He stood unmoving looking at it as ripples in the water turned to waves, giving glimpses of the decaying and hollow faces barely below the surface. His gaze fixed on it within the mirror, human but unhuman. Just like him and unlike him. Overcome with fear his mind finally buckled, losing his grasp he fell through shadow and spite. The man on the edge of the world stood starring out from within the mirror. Frozen in place he starred as the shadow of a grey ice archway in the sea eclipsed the sun, casting shadow over a man, whose arms were red with blood. The perfect snow stained with blood in his wake.

He began to knock at the mirror from the inside only then for it to shatter. He was lost.

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