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To the End of the World and Back

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I girl travels to the end of the world and back in search of freedom, but what does freedom mean? HEAVILY inspired by the works of nishioka kyoudai.

Fantasy / Horror
Age Rating:

To the End of the World and Back

One morning I woke up. This was nothing new, and at first there didn’t seem to be anything abnormal about the day. My mother made me breakfast as usual, while I prepared my lunch. After eating I put on my school uniform and headed out the door. It was as I walked that I noticed something was different.

I took the same winding path that I do every morning, I’m sure of it, but this time it seemed to go on forever. As I walked, some familiar houses appeared repeatedly, while new ones where placed in-between them. This both scared and confused me; at times I felt like I was lost, only to be greeted by a familiar sight I recognised from other days that was sure I’d already passed.

After walking for what felt like days, I reached a fork road that definitely wasn’t supposed to be there. One path led to my school, while the other one led down a road I’d never seen before. Upon realising that school had already started, I was faced with an opportunity I’d secretly been looking for. Now with a way to escape the mundane of everyday life, I resolved to explore the foreign road.

As I walked, my suburban neighbourhood slowly began to morph into what looked like a quiet, rural town. I looked around a bit, admiring the large trees and noisy birds that I wasn’t used to in my usual setting. Eventually, though, my legs got tired and I was forced to rest at a nearby bus stop. Almost immediately after I sat down a bus pulled up, seeming to have materialised out of nowhere. The doors opened and the driver smiled at me and gestured with his hand for me to get on. I considered telling him that I was going somewhere else but, upon realising that I don’t know where I’m going, I climb aboard. I found it odd that there was no one else at the bus stop, as well as no one else on the bus, but I brushed it off.

I took a seat up the front and only then decided to check the little card above the driver to see where we were heading. The card read “Hell” and, probably having seen my perplexed look in the mirror, the driver smiled.

‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘it’s just a joke.’

This put me a bit more at ease and I returned his smile.

Not much later the bus came to halt. After climbing out I was hit with the unmistakable smell of the ocean – dry and salty. I found this very strange, considering how far away from the ocean I lived; but then again, I wasn’t exactly sure of how long I’d been walking for, so being near the ocean wasn’t impossible. I gave the bus driver a quick ‘thank you’ and got back to walking, having spotted a railing up ahead.

Looking over the railing I saw the side of a steep, grassy hill, which led down to a beach. Without thinking I jumped over the railing and slid down the hill to the sand bellow. Once at the bottom I quickly removed my shoes and socks, stuffing them into my school bag, and began wading through the water, careful not to let any touch the hem of my skirt.

After a while the weather began to cool down, and I was faced with the new dilemma of what to do next. I considered putting my shoes back on and waiting for the bus to come back, but something about that seemed wrong. Having come this far already, I felt that the journey needed to continue from here, so I couldn’t go back to that town. I decided to walk along the pier for now and clear my head.

At the end of the pier I was surprised to find a line of unguarded row boats. After a few moments of consideration I decided that it must be a sign, and my journey was going to continue on water. Getting into the boat was difficult, as the wind was picking up and causing the boat to rock slightly, but I managed. I placed my bag next to me and began rowing the boat out into the ocean. At first this was hard due to the deteriorating weather, but once I was far enough out the current took over and I lay down, holding onto the sides of the vessel to keep it from tipping, and waited to see where fate would take me next. At one point the waves became too much and the boat lurched sideways, throwing my bag with my shoes and socks overboard. I was momentarily concerned, but decided that it didn’t matter; I probably wasn’t going to use them again anyway.

At some point during the boat ride I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I remember was the feel of the sun blaring behind my eyelids, and the feeling of stillness as I realised that the boat was no longer moving. I opened my eyes and sat up, surprised to find that my boat had been pulled fully onto the shore. Looking around I saw a boy, probably a few years younger than me, emerging from the tree-line. When he saw I was awake he nodded at me and I nodded back.

That night he cooked us various animals. I ate a few lizards, but refused the mystery meat he kept offering. This appeared to bother him but he didn’t make a big deal out of it, instead just kept on insisting until there was none left. He didn’t speak so our ability to communicate was limited, but from what I could tell he was the only other human in the area, or possibly on the island itself.

The next morning we ate fruit and bathed in the river. At first I was a bit apprehensive about being naked in front of the stranger, but he showed no interest in my body and so I quickly felt at ease again. I then explored the landscape while he went out and hunted our dinner. At night he continued trying to pressure me into eating the mysterious animal he’d cooked, and I refused again. He seemed to be losing patience.

The next morning we ate fruit and bathed in the river. I then explored the landscape some more while he went out and hunted our dinner. This time I agreed to try the meat, he seemed happy.

The next morning we ate fruit and bathed in the river. I then explored the landscape some more while he went out and hunted our dinner. At night we ate in silence.

The next morning we ate fruit and bathed in the river. I then explored the landscape some more while he went out and hunted our dinner. At night we ate in silence.

The next morning we ate fruit and bathed in the river. I then explored the landscape some more while he went out and hunted our dinner. At night we ate in silence. I was getting frustrated.

The whole reason I’d taken this trip was to avoid the pain of routine and the limitations of societal freedom. Later that night, after the boy had gone to sleep, I got back into my boat and sailed off.

While sailing I had the strangest dream.

I dreamt that I was the emperor of a desert country. I was an angry tyrant, the kind who enjoyed invading the neighbouring lands and taking their citizens as slaves. We had a small shed that the slaves would sleep in, before being rounded up in the morning and forced to work.

The more places I invaded, the more my empire grew, and before I knew it the shed seemed too small. The adult slaves were instructed to build themselves more housing, while the children were taken away daily and trained in things such as hygiene and manual labour, so as to make them more useful workers in the future.

Not long after the houses were finished, disease hit and it became necessary to build medical facilities too. The small amount of doctors my country had weren’t enough to look after all of the sick slaves, and we couldn’t afford to let so many of them die. As it turned out, a few of the captives had studied medicine, and were quickly promoted. Their training was reviewed while the able slaves built a hospital.

Through all of the commotion I had trouble keeping up with things, and ended up passing more and more of my duties onto my advisors, slowly fading out of charge and blending in with the landscape. As I observed what became of my land I was fascinated as I saw more and more slave-based buildings propping up. It surprised me to see slaves go to work without complaint, to see them start families, and even see the introduction of a union akin to marriage. After an incident involving a spear and a guard, one of the slaves had been executed, and to my surprise, the others celebrated. They seemed to have accepted their roles and didn’t even think to question them.

The bigger the country grew, the stronger the winds got, until a sandstorm began to stir. I watched from a distance as the developing metropolis collapsed under the weight of sand dunes, leaving it looking uninhabited, like it did before I arrived.

When I woke up I was still in the desert, my boat half buried in the sand. I didn’t think about how I got there, it didn’t seem important. This must be where I needed to be, and all that mattered was where I’d go next. If there’d really been a city here then there would have to be more, so I just had to walk.

I walked for what felt like days, even if the sun’s rays never faltered. My legs felt weak, I was hot, and my whole body ached with hunger and dehydration. I removed my button-up shirt and tied it around my head, hoping that it would help to keep the sun off my face. I missed the cool air of the island I’d left, and wondered why I thought I’d be able to find anything better. In hindsight, I missed the agony of everyday life, because at least that left room for expectations. I could expect a roof over my head, water to be in the tap, and food in the fridge. I’d wanted freedom, true freedom, not the kinds that civilians had which was riddled with restrictions. But that makes it impossible to know what’s next.

I saw a shape in the distance and summoned all of my strength to run towards it. When I got closer, I realised it was a woman riding a camel. When they noticed me I must have given the creature quite a fright, because it began running, throwing the women off of its back and head-first into the sand. I knelt down beside the woman and touched her face, trying to see if she was okay. She groaned and her head fell to the side, revealing blood.

At first I was confused, but then I noticed something protruding from the sand under her neck. I quickly rolled her onto her side and dug around the object, which turned out to be a wooden spear. The woman started gurgling, and at that point I knew there was no way I could save her. The sound bothered me, so I decided that the best thing for me to do would be to end both of our suffering. I took a deep breath and shut my eyes, quickly plunging the shaft into the back of her head. I opened my eyes in time to watch her convulse for a moment, before falling completely still.

I sat there in the sand for a few minutes, just staring at the body, not really sure what to make of what I’d done. But once my senses started coming back, I knew I had to act. I was still dehydrated and starving, and if I didn’t come up with a plan I was also going to die.

I noticed, for the first time, the woman’s bag lying beside her body. I open it to find a full waterskin, a blanket, dried vegetables, and an assortment of knifes. Finding water was a great relief, and the sight of the knifes and vegetables gave me an unsettling idea.

I used one of the smaller knifes to strip to the body of its skin, before grabbing a larger one to carve the flesh into small strips and lay them on the blanket to dry out in the sun.

I felt awful about what I was doing, but didn’t see any other options. The water may last me, but there were hardly any vegetables left, so if I didn’t find more food soon I was sure to starve.

Once the meat was dried, I ate a piece. I was surprised by how similar it tasted to the meat the boy had served me, but I guess it made sense. That explained why there was no one else on the island. The fact that I’d eaten flesh before was scary, but also provided unexpected comfort.

I put everything into the woman’s bag and continued my walk, feeling replenished.

Up ahead of me I saw a massive metal dome. At first I thought my eyes were just playing tricks on me, but as I got closer it became more and more obvious that that’s exactly what it was. Outside of the dome herds of people gathered around, all in various states of nudity, committing lewd and violent acts against each other.

Two men in suits stood on either side of a small metal door, their arms were crossed over their chests as the surveyed the crowd disapprovingly. They saw me approaching and straightened their backs, eyeing me like two starving hawks. I stopped roughly a metre away from them and met their gazes.

‘Can I go in?’ I asked.

‘No.’ they said in unison, speaking in a stern yet monotonous manner. ‘You don’t belong here.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because you’re like them.’ they pointed to the crowds.

‘What’s wrong with them?’ I looked over at the people and couldn’t see an issue, they looked happy enough.

‘They’re lustful, violent, gluttonous, unproductive… Uncivilized.’ They spoke the last word with distain so strong it was even present on their faces.

‘I’m not like that.’ I said, but could immediately tell they weren’t convinced.

‘You became like that the moment you decided to leave.’

‘You’re wrong.’ I said angrily. What right did these passionless clones have to judge me?

‘Open the bag.’ They demanded.

I did as asked and their eyes widened.

‘Violent! Gluttonous! Uncivilized!’ They yelled, causing everyone to turn to me.

The crowd screamed and cheered. I covered my ears with my hands but couldn’t seem to block it out— it was like they were yelling in my head. I fell to my knees and shook, my hands pressed so hard to my head I thought it might cave in.

‘I just want to go home!’ I screamed, causing everyone to fall silent.

I heard a screeching noise that caused me to jolt, and looking up I saw an open door. The crowd gawked at me as I stood up and walked wordlessly past the guards and into a strangely familiar street.

As I looked around I allowed my mind to fall silent, and instead just let my feet to the thinking. As a result I soon found myself on a doorstep, staring passed the already wide open door.

Seeing my house again, though it now looked filthy and abandoned, made me realise how tired I really was, and so I went straight to my bedroom.

The mattress was dusty and torn, as if I’d been gone for years, but I didn’t care. I was just happy to have it back. As soon as my head hit the pillow I fell asleep.

One morning I woke up. This was nothing new, and there didn’t seem to be anything abnormal about the day. My mother made me breakfast as usual, while I prepared my lunch. After eating I put on my school uniform and headed out the door.

Standing on the doorstep and staring out into the safe and familiar street caused a wave of sadness to wash over me. I pushed it aside and wished myself luck.

Good luck.

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