Edge of the World


By Brook Cheuvront

If there is a place that should have never been found, then I am it. I, the darkest dream of the Earth, the greatest sin of mankind, my creeping conscious like so many ants crawling up a spine. Deep in my darkness I have listened, watched. Here, I will show you a man on his last voyage sailing over the edge of the world, not knowing what’s on the other side and not caring, either, for he didn’t know that the world had an edge until his boat slipped, quick and fast over all that he had ever known. I will tell the story of one such man now, my words echoing across a watery coal-dark grave. One day, more than my own voice will answer back. 

In the field that the fireflies danced a midnight waltz underneath moon-scared stars and trees that promised secrecy, two bodies circled, heads crowned with stars, feet bare on the sun warmed grass, the sun itself in another room, to give the two privacy. Her footsteps so light and soft the grass moved more on the breeze, his hurried and quick, a lost deer in the field. Twisting threads in the great loom of fate. Twin smoke signals drifting above a great fire, dark and deep. 

Her name was Rose and she had lived here for many months now, after the ground dissolved beneath her feet and her home had disappeared like a passing dream. She never left the soft green hollows those days, not after the flood, when she had run far from everything she had ever known, because everything she had ever known lay deep at the bottom of the Mine. There lurked the men in the wolf uniforms, whose hard rifle butts she felt against her forehead still on the darkest of nights, all these years later. Then she would hear their voices, her mother’s voice, and her soul would cry with the anguish of a thousand sorrows, another life. 

When the moon had set behind the trees, tucking its head deep into the shaded forests, they turned the last turn of the waltz, and walked home. Her hand rested ever so gently in his, perched like a bird in a hollow, as they walked the path that, once silvery with moonlight, was now thrown into a watchful darkness. There was quiet in between the trees and Rose felt peace slip into her heart, quickly and gently like a mother after kissing her child goodnight. They walked home. 

He had no name anymore. Like a wraith, he had snuck into her life with a most innocent gift: blackberries. Dark as his hair He stood at the door to the house where she had lived alone––except for those wolf-like mice scattering across her floor––missing a notch out of his ear and his eyes a glowing gold.  

“Would you like some blackberries?”

His voice did not carry into his eyes. It was musky, like woodsmoke. She had not ventured out of the house in so long, and the last time she had picked blackberries was on that last summer day before winter set its deep teeth into her forever. Rose shivered––she would rather face starvation and death than that outside world where the men with the wolf uniforms lurked, still searching for her, looking for more victims to feed the Mine. She took the blackberries carefully, weighing each in her hand. 

She counted thirty blackberries. Rose tipped her hat to the stranger and moved to open the door. 

“You are most welcome. Please, make yourself at home.”

Those golden eyes, miniature suns glowing with something she could not name against the backdrop of a terrible night. He had known how to find her. Deep in the thicket of Rose’s stomach, dread reared its head, opened its eyes to those twin suns, and cowered in fear. 

He used to have everything. A small, wooden house cradled in the woods, close enough for the river to whisper in its ear. His family close enough that the cornbread he brought for Sunday dinners was still warm by the time he stepped through the front door. He had a name then, and he was not a wraith. Not then, not yet. It was Joseph Johnson, but everyone had called him Sliver since his mother’s pocket knife haircut had taken off just a sliver of his ear. They would’ve forgotten about it, but the name had stuck like the hatchet did when the cold numbed his hands and slammed it down on the top of his pinky. Only a sliver. That was the only conception of loss that he’d had in those days. 

Rose dropped the sassafras root bark into the kettle, giving it a boil for the tea. The man sat in the corner watching her, notched ear listening for the hiss of the kettle, fingers tapping like a woodpecker on her scarred table. She noticed that one was missing its tip. 

Forcing that beast in her stomach to bow its head, Rose turned to him. “Which parts are you from? Don’t get a lot of folks passing by.”

He grunted, strange eyes flickering like a camera as he took in her home. 

“Twenty miles north. Sewell.”

Rose’s head emptied and distantly she heard the hiss of the kettle like a beast long forgotten, like the water’s dark roar. Night was in his eyes as he said softly, “Sounds like you’ve heard of it.”

She’d fallen in love with him on a June evening the color of a baby blanket. The man had only planned to stay for only a month, but he had nowhere, and no one, to run to. Rose didn’t mind because he kept the rats away––they scurried from him like sheep from a predator. She did not want to love him, the beast in her stomach gnashing its teeth and beating its tail in fury at the graze of his hands against her skin, but she had to, her last remnant of Sewell, though he had been old before she was born. He had been kind to her, bringing rabbits that they skinned together, cooking the meat the Sewell way. He had also danced with her the way she had always wanted to dance with a man, like they did in fairytales. They reached the clearing, and the man spread the blanket over the cold grass. Together, they watched the sun lose its grip on the ledge of the sky and being its long fall of the edge of the world. The man’s eyes glowed like lamplight, casting his face into shadow. Rose, emboldened, had said, 

“Tell me about your family.”

Hesitance colored his face and he began quietly at first, but then quicker, words flowing like the torrent of a river after a thunderstorm. 

He had grown up far from Sewell––a town up in the northern woods. When his father broke his mother’s nose, they had to move. Sliver remembered telling his sister that it was a game, thieves stealing treasure and sneaking out of a castle on a grand adventure, the logs that they slept behind the great four postered beds of kings, his father the great dragon that they ran from, his mother the stolen treasure. During the day, his mother would venture into town, begging for food and information.  At night, when his sister was sleeping, his mother drew him away, moonlight gleaming in her night dark hair, and set her hand on his shoulder, her voice a whisper as it edged around her broken nose.  

“Sliver, I reckon it’s time that you get work. I’ve been speaking to the folks in town, and they said that there’s a company in these parts that’s looking for men like you.” 

His eyes filled with fear. He had never held a job, but Sliver had watched his father leave in the early hours of the morning for work before the sun had cracked its first egg on the skillet, colors running down the sky. He had come back a different man, voice as deep as thunder, lighting up the house with fury. Sliver shivered. 

“Momma, I don’t know.”

She continued on, as if he hadn’t spoken. 

“It would be a good job. Guarding the coal mines in town. Comes with housing. I talked to some of the company men today and they said they’d even give you the clothes on your back.”        Sliver stood up straighter. A guard sounded a lot like a knight, which was a step up from a


“Momma, would you come with me?” 

His mother’s golden orbs swirled with a mixture of exhaustion and determination. 

“Of course I will darlin’. You and me are in this together now.”

Rose and her mother were picking blackberries in a thicket. It was midday, and her sleeves were rolled up to her elbows. She wiped her brow, glancing over at her mother whose gray hair winded down her back in a tight braid. 

“I think we have enough for the cobbler.” 

Her mother laughed. “You never did like pickin’ blackberries.” She squinted up at the sun, brown eyes crinkling like leaves underfoot. 

“I reckon it’s about time for your shift anyways. Run on back and tell your father that his cobbler will be ready by supper.” 

Her mother leveled her eyebrows as juice slithered its way down Rose’s chin. She made to wipe it away, but Rose darted to the side, laughing, and the yelping in pain as the blackberry bush ran its spiky tongue up her calf. 

Her mother laughed and ruffled Rose’s sunflower hair. “I’ll see you at supper.”

“Of course, I know Sewell,” Rose said softly, cradling the sassafras tea to her chest as if it were her last friend in the world. “I grew up there, workin’ in the coal mines.”

Her skin was hot like a sunburn as that stare focused all of its attention on her. 

“How’d you end up here?” His voice was a growl, deep, like a wolf cornered. Her hackles raised. 

“I could ask the same of you.” He stiffened, and she drew breath to force the memories out. 

“You know why, if you’re truly from Sewell.” 

That day, they had all worked the evening shift. Rose, her mother, her father, even her brother, lunch pails swinging as the sun yawned its exhaustion through the woods. They had walked a different way that day on Rose’s insistence, so that they could see the dam, hastily constructed by the mining company to keep the river’s meddlesome paws out of what the men had decided was theirs. They stopped to greet the Mine guard on the way in, embroidered wolf snarling on his coat pocket. Rose shuddered. The coat had been made by the city folk, who had no way of knowing that the Mine was no place for a wolf. Once they were inside, Rose turned to her mother. 

“You know where you’re workin’ today?”

Her mother glanced at the Mine guard, teddy bear brown eyes soft with wariness. 

“Same place as yesterday. I’ll see you at lunch.” 

She pulled Rose into a hug, the thick blackberry scent from last night’s cobbler clinging to her clothes. Rose’s father grunted and then gathered all four of them in a tight embrace before letting go. Rose shivered as the coldness of the Mine slipped into her bones. Her father’s pine eyes softened and he tucked her in close to whisper, 

“I put the last of the cobbler in your lunch pail. Don’t tell your brother.” 

The warmth returned to her bones. Rose’s father gave her one last comforting look before the Mine swallowed him whole. 

She was working in the shallow part of the Mine when it happened, close enough to see the scraps of daylight that were brave enough to venture into the Mine. The miner next to her jumped suddenly, causing Rose to hit her head on the ceiling. Rubbing her head, she looked at him darkly.  

He pointed to the floor, his words drowned in the cacophony of yells that echoed through the mines. 

“Flood! Flood! Run now!” 

Every bone in her being chilled, hardened, and cracked, like the ground at the first frost. She could only watch as the water rushed through the Mine’s opening, that hungry mouth yawning  before it all went dark. 

She woke hours later, gasping on the riverbank, the imprint of a rifle and the dim memory of a snarling embroidered wolf in her head. Rose had known then that she had to run, that the Mine guards would be back, and that she would not allow the Mine to swallow the last of her bloodline off of the Earth. She had run, for miles, days, sleeping in logs at night, watching for the wolf men’s lanterns as they tracked down the last of the Mine workers. It took four days to find the cottage, grizzled with moss that obscured ideas of habitability. There Rose had remained.

The man wondered if he could ever love Rose. He loved the way she made her sassafras tea, the way her sunflower hair glowed like a crown in the moonlight. Perhaps he could love her, but then he would awake in the dark from nightmares of midnight dark hair disappearing deep under the surface of the water, golden hazel going dark. The man shivered. He wouldn’t want to risk falling off the edge of a world that he’d just discovered.

Sliver met Laurel in the spring while fishing, his lure tangled in a tree. She came gliding down the riverbank, midnight hair swishing like a cape, barefoot on the smooth stones. She’d already untangled the lure from the tree before he thought to ask for her name. 

“Laurel,” she said, smiling, and it was as if he had lived his whole life in the dark and seen the sun for the first time. 

Over the next few months he took her fishing, surprised her with picnics and flowers, made her pie the way his mother taught him, where you can taste love in the sugar. 

A year later he asked her to marry him. They had the wedding in the church where three generations of Laurel’s family were buried. Laurel moved in––she cooked biscuits and hashbrowns in the morning before Sliver set off to work, re-embroidered the wolf on his jacket when the threads came loose. 

One evening, after Sliver came home, she was sitting in the rocking chair that had been a gift from her father, soft lips pursed as she looked out on the river. She saw him approaching and gave him a smile, the kind that made his heart melt in his chest like butter on a pan. 

“I have some news, love.” 

Sliver paused on his way up the porch, his heart in his throat. 

“Something with the folks? Neighbor gossip? The house leakin’ again?”

Laurel laughed, and Sliver’s heart slid its way back down into his chest. 

“No, darlin. I’m pregnant.” 

He thought of that day, so many years ago, as he braved town to buy seeds for Rose, carrots and tomatoes and string beans. They planted them that afternoon, sweat dripping down their backs to darken the soil around the new seeds. Rose cut wooden signs into small squares to name each section. The man stared at the signs for a long time, feeling that ache in his chest, tracing the letters. He didn’t realize Rose was watching him until she put one small hand on his back.

“You know, if you told me your name, I could make you one too.” 

His mind roared. He fell to the ground, hands deep in that muddy earth, screaming for silence as he ran from the force of memory, the day he lost his name, lost everything.  

Laurel’s water broke before the dam had been built. Sliver left work early, normal for him in those days as he had been taking the extra shifts, leaving earlier so that she wouldn’t have time to make him his hashbrowns, coming back late so that he could sleep in the rocking chair instead of the bed. Laurel noticed and asked him what was going on. Sliver walked out on the riverbank, pushing his face into the water, trying to freeze the demons held his tongue. It was worse at night. He had sat out in the rocking chair on the porch, shivering, watching it all again, the tall oak of his mother breaking and fracturing under the lighting of his father, himself, standing there, helpless, four years old in clothes that didn’t fit. He knew now that it hadn’t been the job that had transformed his father into the thunder beast so he knew it must be this––the birth of a child. Sliver couldn’t risk it. He could not. Would not. 

The child was born healthy, Laurel laying exhausted in the bed of the small cabin, the town’s midwife standing next to her, triumphant. The child’s eyes were a golden hazel. A tree scorched by the sun. And that broke him. 

Sliver never saw those eyes again, but I did. I swallowed them, one by one, down my coal darkened throat, their souls drifting to rest in the pit of my stomach, company to those that had been the gift of the flood. Deep in that earthen darkness I held his story, even after his name had been struck from the family bible and he had been pushed, nameless, homeless, off the edge of the world. 

Brook Cheuvront is a second-year student studying English and philosophy. When she’s not eating insane amounts of M&Ms and getting existentialism-induced headaches on the 8th floor of Davis, you can find her saying hello to the cows on her evening runs.