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The Building at the End of the Universe
The sun is larger here, the boy realized.
It hung in the sky much closer than it should have, and after a moment the boy found that if he stared at it, he could see oranges and reds among the too bright yellow and white. The sun lit up the area with a fierce glare, but the boy did not feel any hotter than he should have. It was simply brighter. The light illuminated things in a stark, simple way. Intentions were clearer here, the boy noticed. There was less to hide. No point in it.
The road he walked was cracked in seemingly random but also familiar ways, small weeds poking their heads tentatively into the harsh light in the spots where the asphalt had decided to no longer be. On the rare occasions he glanced to either side, all he could see was desert.
The boy had been walking for a long time. He didn’t wonder how long – he had never been one to ask why, even before he started walking. And now that he had, questioning his purpose just seemed so pointless. He was here. He was walking. He was walking towards something, something he would find at the end of this road. And that was all he felt the need to know.
Every couple of miles, he would take a long, steady sip from his canteen. It was tied to the bag he had slung across his back, a bag he had been given a long time ago, but hadn’t opened yet. He wondered briefly what was in there, but the thought seemed to dissolve into smoke, drifting away lightly on an imaginary breeze.
The canteen itself was metal, old and dented. Rusted in places, but the boy didn’t mind. The water was cool and refreshing. He would need to refill the canteen eventually. Or maybe he wouldn’t. He hadn’t had to yet after all, and he had been walking a very long time.
Eventually, he saw something on the side of the road.
He turned his head slightly to the side. He had not seen anything like this while he had been walking. It was an anomaly.
When he got close enough, he stopped, for the first time since he had begun walking, and examined the anomaly. After a long moment, he realized it was a little girl.
She was younger than him, the girl, and much smaller. Her hair was long and dark and fell in front of her eyes, which were green, like a cat’s. He felt like he had seen them before, a long time ago, but like most thoughts from a long time ago (or indeed, most thoughts from any time ago) it drifted away almost as soon as he had had it.
The girl was wearing the same thing he was, a collection of brown rags with a bag slung across one shoulder. A metal canteen hung from her bag – it was much like his, but different. He wondered if she had gotten it from the same man he had.
She looked up at him with her green cat eyes, and he understood. She didn’t need to say anything – the light made intentions clearer here.
He offered her his hand.
The girl took it, her tiny hand wrapping around his as he helped her to her feet. Then, hand in hand, they walked down the road.
They never spoke. They never had anything to say. Intentions were clearer here. They both had something they needed to get to, and both of them knew they would find their destination at the end of the road. Every few miles, they took a sip from their canteens.
Eventually, their canteens ran empty.
The girl gave the boy a look, and the boy responded with a look of his own, and they continued walking. They would not need to refill their canteens.
Eventually they reached a precipice, and for the second time since he had begun walking, the boy
The road simply ended, its random but somehow familiar cracks vanishing into thin air. The boy thought for a moment, and then looked over the edge. There was nothing below, but not in a way that could be described. Describing it would imply that it existed, and it did not. The boy was looking at the end of the universe.
He exchanged a look with the girl, and finally bent down to one knee. The girl crawled up to his shoulders, and he walked to the edge of the precipice.
And then he took a step forward – and as if it were the easiest thing in the world, continued his journey, now walking on the nothingness at the end of the universe.
He did not have to walk for very long. Eventually, they both saw it – a lonely building floating in the nothingness, directly ahead of them. As they drew closer, the boy decided that it looked like a very large, very old house. It was surrounded by a wrought iron fence, complete with a very fancy gate. It looked like a house that belonged on a hill, but the boy had not seen a hill since he had begun walking.
They reached the gate. The boy walked very close to it, and the girl raised one tiny fist as if to knock. She needn’t have bothered – the gate swung open on its own accord, and they walked through it.
The house had no door. One moment they were standing in front of it, suspended in nothingness, and the next they were standing inside.
It looked very different on the inside. The halls were white, with wooden doors leading to different rooms as far as the boy could see. Men and women in white uniforms rushed back and forth between the rooms, paying each other no mind, each illuminated by the fluorescent lights hanging from the ceiling. They were even brighter than the sun outside, and the boy found he had to shade his eyes.
He bent down, and the girl got off his shoulder and stood next to him, gripping his hand in her own. Eventually a woman in white came towards them. Her face was blank and she said nothing, but the boy could tell that they had been expected – just not this soon. They had exceeded expectations. The woman was impressed.
She grabbed the girl’s other hand, and began to lead her away. The girl gave her one last look as she released her grip, following the woman in white into one of the rooms.
The door opened, and suddenly the boy could see two of the little girl – the one he had been travelling with, and one laying in a hospital bed, surrounded by a team of doctors and nurses. None of them seemed to notice the girl he had been travelling with, but the boy did not wonder why. Not because it didn’t matter, but because he already knew.
The woman in white took the girl’s bag, and her canteen, and turned to face the boy. The girl faced the boy, and made a small motion, as if to wave.
She needn’t have bothered. Intentions were clearer here. The boy simply watched her vanish as the door swung closed.
He turned to face a man in white that was standing next to him. The man looked at him, and the boy took off the bag that was slung over his shoulder and opened it.
Inside were white robes, and the boy put them on slowly. They were clean, and light, and soft. He followed the man in white up a flight of stairs that hadn’t been there a moment before. Or maybe they had been, and he simply hadn’t cared.
The man in white lead the boy to a door, a door like all the other doors, but different. There was no hospital waiting behind this door, the boy knew. He did not know what was behind the door, but he was beginning to feel strangely curious.
But as he pulled the door open, he knew it would not be another road.