The End

by Jen Larsen

He carried her all the way to the end of the universe, and showed her where it all dropped off. Stars streamed down the long black wall, leaving streaks of silver behind.

From the crook of his arm, she asked, “Where does it all go?” She was five, and she asked a lot of questions.

He juggled her a bit in his arms, and pointed. “Down there,” he said. His eyes were bright, reflecting the shine of the stars and the spaces around them. He was not what she expected at all. For one, he was far too prosaic. Her mother said that platypuses proved he had a sense of humor. Her father said physics was serious stuff—no dice games. Both of them were at home asleep, and either of them would have felt all their questions sucked away down into the streaming black of the end of the universe. Either of them would have felt like they were falling and falling and falling. Either of them would have woken up immediately, relieved.

She asked, “Where’s that?” and he frowned at her. He was used to being questioned. He was used to ignoring the questions he wasn’t interested in, which was most of them. His frown seemed to take up all the rest of the end of the universe, and echo back to the beginning. Streaming stars trembled, and swept around him.

She sighed, and struggled down out of his arms. He let her go, spreading out his hands, watching her make her way to the edge. It was not behavior he was particular familiar with. She thrust out her chin, assessed the drop, the lines of incandescent light shivering down into points, away and away forever. She turned and smiled at him, and he could not help but smile at her, wrapped in the luminous vapor of the stars. She smiled at him again, and turned, and she leapt past the edge of the universe, beyond the end.

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