For today, flash fiction.
The two ducklings are friends, one slightly older than the other. They are not yet adults but are old enough to go paddling on their own, their mother having taught them to look for food.
One day the younger one, looking into the far distance over the river, says, “I wonder what lies beyond that.” The older, looking in the direction of his gaze, replies, “I too have been thinking about that and so asked my mother. She said it’s the ‘edge’ and we must go nowhere near it. Her voice sounded ominous”.
“But why? Why must we not go near it?” The younger is impatient in his curiosity.
“I’ve seen twigs and leaves disappear into it and when it rains, the sound it makes becomes louder, so the ‘edge’ must be a dangerous place.”
“Has anyone gone there?”
“No. Everyone just obeys the rules.”
“Let’s go and find out. Then we can come back and tell everyone stories of how it is beyond the edge.”
“I don’t think my mother will be very pleased if she finds out if we are planning such a thing.”
“Let’s not tell her, let’s not tell anyone.” The younger is very excited now.
“I’m not so sure. What if there’s something out there that makes that loud noise. It could eat us alive?”
“What if there isn’t? How are we going to know unless we find out?”
“You go find out and come back and tell me.”
The younger is a bit deflated. He can’t muster the courage to go alone and his friend’s decision seems final and so he decides to shelve his plan.
But his curiosity won’t give him any peace. Everyday, he takes breaks from his foraging to gaze longingly at the water bubbling and disappearing into the ‘edge’. “It must be going somewhere and wherever it’s going there will still be water and food. If no ducks live there, there might be even more food, so why did they make this silly rule?”
A few days later, it’s morning and all the ducks are out paddling and diving for food. The younger one slowly and imperceptibly moves closer and closer to the ‘edge’. His friend, not suspecting anything paddles along. When they are away from the others and quite close to the ‘edge’, the younger declares, “I’m going to the ‘edge’. I’m going to find out today what lies beyond.”
And before his friend can even react, he paddles furiously towards the ‘edge’. The water has picked up speed, as though it’s all excited too about going to the ‘edge’. It is now flowing faster than the youngster can paddle. He stops paddling and gives in to the flow, turning back to steal a look at his friend who is staring at him, beak agape.
When the duckling turns again, he is at the tip of the edge and the next instant he is over it. For one long wondrous moment, as though time has moved into slow-motion mode, he gazes at the river, gleaming in the morning sunlight, as it snakes its way through the valley. The mist embracing the sides of the hills are melting and snaking up towards the sky, wispy-fingered. In the long distance, sunlight is glinting off the windows of houses. Before he hits the rocks below and gets smashed to death, free-falling over the tumbling masses of water, just one thought takes over his entire being and fills it with lightness, ‘beyond the edge is such a magical place!”