“The Black Sun Boy” by R.J. Jacobs

There was once a boy. He sat at the edge of world. He missed death that way.

     Sometimes he would look down at the bottomless drop with its purple colours. Especially when somebody made the leap.

     Mostly he just stared straight in front of him, at the nothing. His mind was empty of thought, and his soul was empty of feeling.

     He played with a grey blade of grass. Almost everything on the edge of the world was grey. The boy wore a scarlet jacket, and that was all.

     If you ever met the boy, you’d probably ask him how he’d got there. You’d be right to. His face was young – it was unlined, and as pale, and clean as new linens. He smiled often, too.

     But he wouldn’t talk to you. He wouldn’t answer you at all.

     And that would be all, before you leapt.

     Sometimes a wind blew through those parts. It was a biting wind that stung skin and made eyes water. It smelt of the ocean, salty and heavy. 

     When it came through, the boy would hug himself, and shiver. Then, mechanically, he’d breathe in until his back arched. He breathed out. And he breathed in, one last time, before the breeze left.

     His stomach, while he sat there, pressed against itself. It made a small roll of flesh and skin, and when the sun hit him, the small gap between the flesh would sweat. He adjusted himself, slightly, to get the skin free.

     The boy remembered everything that had ever been said to him.

     There was once an old man who came through. He was cheerful and wore brightly coloured clothes. He had killed himself, and the blood was still on his wrists, dry and cracked between the creased skin.

     The boy stared at him briefly, but it was enough.

     The man smiled.

     “I missed you.” The old man leant forward and kissed the boy’s brow. “The world is going dark, you know.”

     And then he jumped.

     Like the rest.

     One afternoon, people were streaming in. They were different. Their skin was charred and burned black. Their faces were broken and their bodies bent. There were a lot of them.

     The boy’s face was wet, and his cheeks were flushed. You might have thought he was scared.

     After that, they almost all stopped coming. The grey fields at the end of everything stood empty for a long time, with just the boy there, sitting, toying with a blade of grass, and sighing when a breeze blew through.  The fields stirred in an unfelt wind, beneath the grey sky with a hot, black sun.

     The last one eventually came.

     An old lady once asked him what he was doing there. She was worn, and weathered, and wrinkled, and her skin was baked like leather. She wore a white dress with black and purple flower print. They looked like each other, the boy and the woman, if you knew how to look. The boy knew how to look.

     He had things to say to her. Silence for three lifetimes had wiped, however, his power to speak.

     She hugged him, before jumping.

     And the last light on earth went out.

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