A Descriptive Short Story based on a Photo through a Chainlink Fence

Ancient explorers thought the Earth was flat; they were terrified to sail too far into parts unknown for fear of cascading off the edge. History has shown there is no end of the Earth. For much of history, there was no end of the World either. Well, there is now. It's called the Threshold and on mild afternoons, I like to ride my bike there and look into the Abyss beyond. A sprawling city once filled that expanse. I've heard recordings of some of the Enclave's founders describing it: criss-crossed streets filled with cars and people, neon signs, expensive restaurants, and buildings so tall they reached as high as the mountains surrounding them. It was a place of excitement: always filled with music, the jingle of coins, the chatter of pleasure seekers and business men, and the nearly continuous roar of airplanes overhead. Those things are gone now. They say that in that one instant when the Flash came, all the sounds in the world could be heard, and it was terrible. Since that sound, this land has sat deafeningly silent for one hundred and seventy-four years.

At the Threshold, there stands a fence. It has rusted out almost entirely, but it was never particularly strong. Of course, it never needed to be. That fence wasn't built to keep anyone in, and it has no one to keep out; there is no life beyond the Enclave. This length of diamond mesh was originally created for a neighborhood park, I've heard it said. It serves a much less playful purpose now. That fence stands as a marker to remind us where the Enclave ends, where life ends, where the World ends.

Though it fascinates me, most people would not call the Abyss particularly interesting; there are only two things in it: the endless brown ground and the endless gray sky. The nature of the ground is easily explained as a plain of scorched rubble and debris stretching beyond the horizon. Some of it once formed that great city; some of it once formed the surrounding mountains. After the years of burning and weathering, distinction between the two is impossible. The only feature that truly sticks out is a line of stubbornly defined concrete. In the distance, one can still see a faded blue and red shield bearing the archaic numeral “15” hanging from a small steel pole that has defied logic and physics, remaining upright for all these years. The road is cracked beyond all use for travel.. not as though there is anywhere to go. Nevertheless, it is there, a distinct gray ribbon stretching off across the brown until both fuse with the endless gray beyond.

As one might guess the gray is formed by banks upon banks of clouds that gather there. It is a curious phenomenon really; the old meteorologist explained that clouds used to gather around the mountains, creating a similar effect. The mountains, however, are gone, brown debris like any other. So why do the clouds still gather? Some say foul winds blow from the ocean; some say dust remains in the atmosphere, thrown there by the Flash; some say they are ash clouds spewing from newly un-earthed volcanoes beyond the horizon. After much thought on the subject, I've concluded they are all wrong. The clouds gather because they too are a marker. They too are a fence. Just as that flimsy collection of wire forms the Threshold on the ground, those clouds form the Threshold beyond the Abyss. They do not physically stop us, but, like the other fence, they block our spirit and crush our hope. They remind us we are trapped.