Seamus rode his bicycle down the street, glancing nervously behind him. The soft breeze whistling in his ears wasn't enough to hide the eerie silence. The complete lack of sound, the slight wind, the constant sound of his tires rolling across the pavement were all contributing to the shiver running down his back.
That's not even the worst part.
The papers in the plastic bag hanging from his curved, beaten handlebars wobbled in the weak draft. Seamus put on hand on them to hold them still, looking down at them. Once he was sure they were secure, he looked up, still riding. He gasped. There was Peter, grinning crookedly down at him, flying backward in front of the bike. Suddenly, the world dissolved around him, becoming dark. A dim orange light was blocked by a tall silhouette, exactly in the place where Peter was in Seamus' vision. There were other, slightly smaller figures surrounding it. It grinned down at him, obviously pleased about something.
"You lost, tiny boy."
The silhouette stepped out from in front of the light. As it moved sideways, the lamp behind him illuminated his face. Seamus crawled back and whimpered. The other boys were so much older than him. He was only thirteen, the youngest child there. There, in their tiny hideaway in an abandoned apartment building. There, where Seamus knew he would see humans for the last time.
"Please," he sobbed. "Just give me another try. Please, I'll do anything!"
Peter didn't even consider it for a moment.
"You win or you lose, tiny boy."
Seamus couldn't come to accept what had just happened. The kids had been playing their monthly game of bridge with an incomplete, beaten up deck of cards given to them by the Supplier. Seamus remembered when that had happened. He had been eight years old at the time, a homeless fugitive with the rest of the children. Food was scarce after the Segmentation. At least, on this fragment of the Earth. Seamus had heard rumors that people on the West Fragment lived in luxury, trapped with a lesser population and more natural resources. He wanted to be there more than anything else.
Well, almost anything…
Then, a shady man they called the Supplier had shown up. They never saw his face. He was always in the shadows, as if light were dangerous. He had given them a deal: he would provide them with fresh food, clean water, and clothing if they delivered fake news to everyone remaining and took care of his son, Peter. The other children were about to refuse, until one of them hesitantly told them they were running very low on supplies, and he had been reluctant to tell them. The group then agreed to the deal, and took Peter, a deck of cards, and boxes of fake newspapers.
Seamus still thought it was wrong of the Supplier to control the population through a gang of homeless children. All the other children did, too. Then, one by one, Peter took them. He made them into cruel, heartless bullies like him. He had done this to all of them. All of them, at least, except Seamus and his best friend.
His best friend, Logan, had been the only child to stand up to Peter. He might have been younger, but he was much bigger. Logan had remained his only friend after the others had turned. Seamus closed his eyes. He remembered the last time he had seen Logan.
Children were sitting around a table, laughing. This laughing, however, was not laughing of humor. It was laughter of cruelty, laughter of hatred and brutal victory. The cards scratched against each other as the children shuffled them. Logan was concentrating hard. He had a cold empty hole in his stomach, where he felt this would be his last game. He couldn't shake the feeling, but he could try his hardest not to lose the game. He could outsmart Peter one more time.
An ace of spades caught his eye. He looked at his hands, then the deck. If he could get that ace after he drew a card…no it was impossible. He smiled. It was impossible within the rules of the game, not completely out of his skills. So, he waited. It was Peter's turn, and everyone was watching him. Logan stealthily grabbed the ace and flicked it up his sleeve. Seamus, sitting next to Logan, saw it all. His eyes widened. Logan looked at his friend and winked. Seamus tried to suppress a smile. Just one more turn, Logan thought. One more turn until I don't lose. Time passed, and it was Peter's turn again.
"Royal flush!" shouted Peter, slamming his cards down on the table. Everyone but Seamus and Logan clapped. Time seemed to slow down. Logan put his hand down on the table. Peter noticed this out of the corner of his eye. He saw a little glint in Logan's sleeve, something glossy catching the light.
Logan jumped backwards, causing the ace to fall out of his sleeve.
"You know what happens to cheaters," growled Peter, rounding the table. "They get the Edge."
"Not that," Logan gasped. "I was just trying to avoid my fate."
"Your fate?! Avoid this, idiot!"
Logan didn't have any time to duck before the metal bar Peter had picked up slammed him in his face, knocking him out. He crumpled to the floor.
"The Edge. Got it?"
Logan sighed. "Got it."
As he accepted his fate, the hole in his stomach disappeared. Logan stood up straight, towering over Peter.
"Got it!" Logan smiled and punched Peter, walking away afterward to the head he saw looking around the corner.
"You okay?" He asked Seamus. Seamus shyly nodded. "Good. Because I'm going to the Edge."
"No," said Seamus forcefully. Logan looked surprised. Seamus rarely talked. When he did, it was always in a shy, quiet manner. Now he was standing up to his best friend.
"No. You're not going. I won't let you."
"Listen. I have to. You know what will happen if I don't." He gestured to Peter, lying unconscious against the wall. "I'll see you in a bit. Okay?"
Seamus nodded. He knew it was a lie. It was an obvious, obvious lie. His eyes watered up.
"See you tomorrow." Logan smiled. He grabbed an overcoat and stepped towards the door out of the alley between apartments. He turned back and looked at Seamus one more time before he departed. Seamus looked forlornly at the door.
Seamus was snapped back to the present. He sighed. That was three years ago. He was lying on asphalt, blood coming out of his arm. He ripped off part of his shirt and tied it around his arm. The blood stained the cloth, but Seamus pretended not to care.
He walked to his bike and righted it. The newspaper bag was still on the handlebars.
Of course. He thought. Now it stays on.
He straddled the seat and grabbed the handlebars. He absentmindedly gripped and re-gripped them. He saw what he was doing, and stopped. He sighed. This place didn't look as menacing as the stories told. He was looking straight down the main street of the Edge. Normal houses lined the empty road. A large, ornate sign read: The Edge Estates. Seamus snorted at the irony. The people who lived here before the Segmentation had no idea how true this name would come to be. He pushed on the pedals and rode off, the loose bits of asphalt flying in a spray behind his tires. The blood leaked through his makeshift bandage.
He was approaching the first house. He gripped his back brake halfway down, slowing down to a speed at which he could easily throw a paper. He remembered the Supplier's last wish: you must bring papers to the Edge. It is of the utmost importance that you bring papers there. Seamus wondered why. Why was important that this neighborhood, void of anything but a few remaining people, receive fake newspapers? A few houses hold people, yet all the houses are populated, the stories said. The sentence sent shivers down Seamus' spine. What was living in those other houses at the Edge Estates?
He arrived at the first house and threw the paper, which landed right on the front porch. A pair of glowing, misshapen red eyes appeared in the dark window at the sound. Seamus froze. The gaze of the eyes landed on him. He heard a hissing sound. The eyes disappeared from the window. The door slowly opened. Seamus didn't dare move. A shape darted out and back in in the blink of an eye. The paper was no longer there. Seamus hurried onwards.
After delivering to 27 other houses, Seamus stopped for a break. He had come to the end of the road. He only had one more street to go after this. He sighed in relief. He might just be the first person to deliver here and return to tell the tale. Seamus walked to the end of the neighborhood, where a jagged line was barely visible. As he approached it, he gasped at what he had found. He had heard stories about it. He had seen pictures of it. However, none of them came close to the real thing. He was at the Edge. Not the neighborhood, but the actual Edge the neighborhood bordered. He willed himself not to go any closer. One wrong step meant a horrible death. Yet…he wanted to go closer. He wanted to see what was over the Edge. No one had ever seen and lived, as they all fell off. Seamus kneeled down, and then sat on his stomach. He army-crawled forwards until his hands touched the Edge. The fabled Edge, home of mystery and death. And Seamus looked into it.
He saw darkness. Horrible, horrible darkness. The darkness that threatened to engulf him.
I should jump, thought Seamus. Everything would be better if you jumped.
Wait. He just thought you instead of I? No, wait, never mind. That is perfectly normal; to think as if something else is thinking for you…
These thoughts stopped as he saw something in the chasm. In the midst of the darkness, there stood a light. A bright, burning, spherical light fought the darkness, even though the darkness had strength in numbers. Seamus recognized that light. That was light was…
His train of thought was cut off as he was pulled backwards. Large, strong hand gripped his legs, pulling his body up and out of the pit. Seamus realized how far he had been leaning over. Seamus started to panic. Whatever was pulling him was saving him, but was it going to subject him to an even worse fate? Seamus turned to look over his shoulder. He saw a young man with short brown hair and pale blue eyes. It was Logan.
"What are you doing here?!" shouted Seamus. "Get off me!"
Startled, Logan dropped Seamus' legs, which hit the asphalt with a thud.
"I was saving your life, moron!"
"I would have liked it better if you had saved your own three years ago!" Seamus vented. Logan was at a loss for words. Seamus had changed. He was no longer a shy little boy. He was now much larger, as well as much more expressive. Logan was horrified that it was him leaving that had changed Seamus.
"Ugh…what am I saying?" Seamus asked himself. He ran to Logan and hugged him. "Hey." Logan stepped away for a second, looking at Seamus. "Hey, you're almost as tall as I am!"
"I assume the others have also grown. Always one step ahead of us, they are."
"Peter is over six feet, now," said Seamus.
"Yeah." Logan looked down. "You look like you have more important questions to ask other than how I'm still alive.
"You guessed it." Seamus grinned. "How did I get so far off the Edge?"
Logan's smile faltered.
"Did you notice any weird thoughts as you were there? Any strange urges?"
Seamus considered this for a moment.
"Yeah…a voice inside my head told me to jump. I remember it because it talked in second person."
"It's the darkness. It wants you in the battle."
"The battle?" Seamus asked. "What battle?"
Logan gestured to the chasm.
"The darkness. It's alive. It can control thoughts, and it can control minds. It lures people to the Edge, and then BOOM!" He clapped his hands together. "It makes them throw themselves off the Edge. The dead bodies, from what I've seen, turn dark and fight with the darkness against the light. The light has no way of recruiting soldiers without taking control of people like the Darkness does. It doesn't want to become the monster the enemy it's fighting is. It fights for good, so what if the methods of fighting for good were bad? What happens then?"
Seamus was still suspicious of how familiar this situation was.
"The light was weak when I arrived," explained Logan. "It seems to be growing stronger in your presence."
Seamus closed his eyes. It all snapped into place. The dark, the light, the Edge, the non-humans in the neighborhood, the urgency to deliver to this area…it all made sense.
The Supplier was protecting the planet. He had been misinforming aliens so they wouldn't attack. The light over the Edge is the molten outer core of the Earth. The darkness is everything not illuminated by the core. The people on the other fragments past the Edge were not living in luxury. They were living as everyone else on all nine Fragments was. Seamus squinted into the distance. He could barely make out the form of another Fragment over the chasm. He was excited beyond belief. Logan needed to hear this.
Logan wasn't standing where he was.
Logan was hanging off the Edge by his fingertips. His eyes were glazed over. Suddenly, his sight locked on to Seamus.
"Run," he said weakly. His arm shot out towards Seamus' foot. Logan did not seem to be in control of his movements. Instead, he was a spectator of his own body. He pulled Seamus in with him as he let go.
They both fell, their bodies burning with an orange light. A dark grey was inching its way up them, recoloring everything about them. They both turned pale before they were colored as stone. A tear ran out of Logan's eye, following them in their descent. They shared one last look before the darkness engulfed them.