Falcon sat on the curb, turning his head slightly to stare at the view from outside the house. Once, the place he was sitting might have provided a picturesque ocean view. Now, in the dark, the street seemed to slope down into a great abyss that swallowed up the pastel shops, houses, and cobblestones.
A few weeks after they’d found him, Melanie and Dominic had taken him outside the city to a park with steep cliffs that had seemed at odds with the rest of the landscape–because they’d been created by stone mining, he’d later learned. He’d still had trouble communicating with his new friends, but Mel had led him by the hand up a trail, then up toward a rocky ledge. He’d stopped walking and tugged on her arm upon seeing a ‘danger: cliff edge’ sign, and she’d tugged back and tossed him a reassuring smile over her shoulder. They’d dangled their legs off the edge and watched the sun set behind the city.
Below them, there’d been a lit pathway overlooking the river, and in the distance, there’d been the skyline, lit up and shimmering, its reflection glistening on the water. But somewhere in between, there’d been complete darkness. Melanie had put her hand up to block the view of the city, and Falcon hadn’t understood at the time–why would she want to block out something so beautiful? Months later, she’d told him. She liked to block out the city, and pretend the world ended at the pathway below them before dropping off into an endless void.
She’d been wrong. The drop down the cliffs into the river hadn’t looked anything like the edge of existence. It had just been the ordinary darkness of a river at night. Looking out into the complete oblivion in the distance, he now knew what the edge of existence really looked like.
A movement out of the corner of his eye startled him out of his thoughts. He turned to see Mahender sitting beside him, staring out at the darkness too.
How long had he been sitting there?
Mahender shot him an apologetic look, then turned back toward the darkness.
Their brothers slept now, huddling together on the cobblestone streets. They could sleep anywhere; they hadn’t been designed to care much about physical discomfort, or maybe they were just used to it after a lifetime of sleeping in glass pods.
Falcon turned to look again at his brothers’ brother–the near stranger who’d saved his life. He wasn’t good at reading moods or facial expressions, but he had a hunch as to why Mahender wasn’t sleeping either.
Mahender had found a family in Falcon’s brothers, but he had a family at home too. Falcon’s brothers were his family, but the new family he’d found was waiting for him back home. He wasn’t ready to leave his brothers, but he knew he couldn’t stay.
Neither of them could, as hard as it was going to be to say goodbye.