The Edge of Uncertainty

 

The man stood, relaxed, at the edge of uncertainty. The black water below him seethed against the sharp rocks, hungry. It was almost 300 meters from that black water, up the side of the volcanic rock cliff, to the man who stood condemned. He didn’t know what for; he had washed up on the black sand beach, half-drowned and wholly-exhausted, and immediately encountered strange-looking men wearing strange-looking clothing yelling at him in a strange-sounding language.

 

They had taken him to their village, fed him, clothed him, but no one washed his wounds, and no one left him alone for even an instant. In the center of the village there was a brightly colored rag hanging from a stick, as if drying. To the man’s eyes, this was the cleanest item in the whole of the village, and as soon as he was strong enough, he had limped to the rag, taken it down, and used it to clean his wounds, watched as ever by the strange-looking men.

 

It wasn’t until the next day that he realized the import of that moment; a woman in stranger-looking clothes had stalked up to the rag, taken it down from the stick, and examined it. It not being to her liking, she began yelling things in her strange-sounding language, stamping her beautiful feet and tossing her beautiful head in righteous anger. This was deeply unnerving to the man, as this woman was the first he had seen who wasn’t strange-looking; in fact, she was more beautiful than any he had yet met.

 

But her words must not have been beautiful, for many men with rough hands grabbed him, and began dragging him away from the village, followed by the beautiful woman. During this journey, it had begun to rain, the clouds rolling in, pregnant with rage, darker than the black sand beach, darker even than the volcanic cliffs. The rain fell slowly at first, each fat drop warm as blood marking the dirt it landed in, before the clouds opened up, and individual drops were no longer discernible. When the man stumbled, the men jabbed him with sharp sticks, when his strength flagged, he was dragged through the mud with those rough hands.

 

And now here he stood, far above the angry black sea, far below the angry black sky, surrounded by black dirt, and washed with black, blood-like rain. The trees in the distance shook with rage in the wind, the strange-looking men and the beautiful woman surrounded him, staring reproachfully and expectantly. He didn’t know what they were expecting, until the woman motioned towards the ocean with a delicate flick of her wrist. Weighing his options, he decided there was only one possible outcome. He could try to run, but injured as he was, and ferociously athletic as they were, he would not get far. He could try to fight, but those sharp sticks guaranteed failure. He could jump off the cliff to the waiting rocks below, and thus end the saga. Or he could wait where he was, until the beautiful woman lost her patience and had her men throw him off.

 

And so, he stood, relaxed, at the edge of uncertainty, for he had no choice. He would die, that much was certain, but what came next was infinite. He knew not of what he was accused, he knew not how he had gotten here, and he knew not what was to come. But he knew exactly where he stood; he could change nothing, and the universe was done with him. The sea had robbed the universe once by washing him ashore, and the universe was ready for revenge.

 

In that instant, he wanted to rail against certainty; he was done with his life – the universe could have it – but he wouldn’t allow it the satisfaction of guessing his actions. A smile broke slowly across his beaten face, dark hair washed into deep eye sockets by the hot-blooded rain, unshaven face trapping the blood from uncountable cuts. His arms rose from his sides, frailer than they once were, bleeding openly, bruised and bumpy though they may have been, still they rose. As he reached for the black clouds he began to laugh – not a mirthless laugh, as might be expected – but full of joy; his life was in that laugh, every sun-soaked, rose-colored, nostalgia-warped memory clear in his hoarse, broken laughter. He was never more free than in this moment, and never had he appreciated life more. He stepped slowly, deliberately backward, towards the edge, crushing the brittle stone into pebbles that drifted noiselessly down, whetting the waves’ appetite. On arrival, he stopped laughing, lowered his hands, and leaned back, picking up speed as the wind tried to carry him and the rain tried to hammer him and the waves tried to reach him. Fluttering downward, his limp body like a rag in the breeze, he disappeared into the blackness, appearing only once in the brilliant blue flash of the first thunderbolt, just before vanishing forever.