The edge of shadow was more like a cliff and a drop than a shore and a tide. A soft, living breath of wind seemed to pulse from the infinite depths. Yet, despite how logic might function, oftentimes debris found itself along the edge. And sometimes, this flotsam and jetsam from beyond the void made for a excitable discovery.
The winged boy found amusement in these occasional discoveries. The cast-off treasures from beyond the reaches of the infinite delighted and perplexed him. His ration of food was discovered along this shadowy edge, along with a variety of useless bric-a-brac that the boy would as often as not toss back into the void. He found hope in the thought that perhaps those useless baubles might find their way back home, and not live orphaned as he.
He cautiously moved toward the edge, eyeing the windmill. It loomed, a still and lugubrious predator, blades shifting in the occasional breeze. The boy dared not stare at the shadowy windows.
The high grasses dwindled near the edge of shadow, shrinking away, aware and fearful of its savage mystery. By the time he reached the edge, the grasses faded to ashen dirt.
Before him, the endless loomed.
He could hear voices masked amidst the wind, echoes of eternity unintended for his mind. His stomach roiled in the presence of it, as the emotions of terror, awe, and curiosity fought for control. The void spoke to him; a cacophony of shrieks and shouts arguing amongst themselves, both demanding he flee and begging him to jump. He clapped his hands over his ears and shook his head, his faces twisted in unyielding defiance.
When he removed his hands, silence greeted him.
He walked along the shadow’s edge, contented by his solitude. He discovered a small plastic receptacle filled with tiny metal rings that were flattened on the ends. They were cool to the touch, and shimmered in the weak light.
Further along he discovered a platter made of clay, and a viscous gruel trembling upon it. The ooze singed his nostrils. A wave of nausea crossed him. He carefully tossed it back into the void.
A hairbrush, a paper clip, and a stretchy cloth highlighted his daily discoveries. He walked and waited for hours, undaunted. A belief that something of meaning might eventually find its way to him remained steadfast. A hope for finding his way back to wherever he was supposed to be flickered.
He sat on the gray dirt and looped the metal rings through the paper clip. It clinked and tinkled as he shook it, eliciting a weary smile. He wound the stretchy cloth around his forearm. The light receded; the days were frightfully short in this barren place.
Disappointment etched his features. He turned his back to the void, when a soft 'whump' distracted him. He blinked and discovered a new cache of discarded treasures a few feet down the edge.
He was impressed. The first discovery was a small book, its cover torn. The pages crinkled to the touch, and the words were small and illegible.
A multicolored plastic box rested in the dirt nearby. It was round and stark white at one edge. A small strip of clear plastic, marked with lines and symbols, ran along the middle. A round plastic base and a small cranking arm rested on the other side, and tabs and switches covered the top. The boy twisted the crank, and a soft, mechanical groan answered. He smiled.
The final discovery was a larger book. A huge word decorated the cover, written in artful script. When he opened the book, his breath escaped.
Images of children smiling filled his vision. A gap-toothed girl with auburn hair and freckles danced motionless. A beaming boy held a fish from a line. An adult woman and man hugged one another. The winged boy flipped through the pages, mesmerized by the images. He could feel the happiness in each smile, and hear the laughter. He could taste the love.
The pang of loneliness echoed through him. He closed the book and hugged it. A brief whisper of shame crossed him; these pictures should be cast back out, in the hopes that they might return. But the boy wanted to experience that love, even if it had to be as a surrogate.
A sharp, violent clapping tore him from his discovery. Fear overtook him as he he watched the door to the windmill, opening and slamming shut in rhythmic fury. A voice pierced into his mind, intrusive and furious.
YOU AREN’T ALONE, LITTLE ONE. COME IN. NEVER FEEL ALONE AGAIN.
Invasive laughter ripped through him; high, wheedling, mad laughter of a man left alone for far too long.
He raised his hands to his ears again and shook his head, his defiance marred by his terror, but the laughter remained. Tears spilled down his cheeks, and he shook his head again and again, but to no avail. He swallowed and looked upon the windmill, vision blurry and smeared.
Taking a deep breath, the winged boy bellowed.
The laughter died.
The boy stood motionless, panting as the light of day winked out. For a time he waited, bracing himself for more madness from the windmill, but it did not reveal itself. Exhaling a shuddery breath, he gathered up his last discoveries and wandered into the tall grass.