Impact (formerly known as Astoria), OR

May 8th, 2073

“It’s not too late to turn back.”

The voice startled him so badly that he lost his footing as he spun about, thinking to grab for the long knife he carried at his belt but failing as he landed hard on his butt. The figure that had spoken remained standing a good arm’s length away, his features emotionless, or perhaps a little perturbed, it was hard to tell.

“Who, who are-”

“The one telling you to go back,” the man said, “That’s who.”

The stranger in front of him was dressed in an old style that he had only seen in books, with what looked like faded blue jeans, what could have been ancient sneakers on his feet, and some light jacket made of a material that was similar to that of his gliding suit. But it wasn’t his clothing that really set this man apart, it was his features.

Dark, ebon orbs glared at him from beneath bushy eyebrows. A face that looked as though it had been carved from stone and a body that looked much the same made the man look rather dangerous, as though he could pick him up and break him in half. He refused to be afraid though, and stood to his feet.

“And what if I don’t?” he asked defiantly, “What if I decide that my destiny is on the other side of the river?”

“It’s not,” the man said plainly, “You’re not my son, and I never knew your mother, much as I’ve told a number of young men and women that have tried to enter my home in the last several months. Go home, find a wife, and live nice long and peaceful existence, far away from here.”

There wasn’t a lot of give in the man’s words, but as he turned to view the river he knew that he wouldn’t be going back.

“Your decision,” the man said behind him, “and your grave.”

That widened his eyes as he turned back around, seeing nothing, not even an impression in the grass where the man had been standing. But his resolve was stronger than ever now, though he couldn’t fully understand why.

*                   *                    *

40 minutes later…

Something had gone horribly wrong. He’d caught the first thermal he could find from the first broken piece of the bridge, and had been flying high enough to set his plan into motion. The cable and grapnel he’d purchased from a trader just a month ago was new enough and sound enough to allow him to swing from one section to the other, trusting in the gusts of wind that would carry him along.

But upon this last jump something had gone awry. The powerful updraft he’d felt and had started navigating only a few moments ago and inexplicably died away, leaving him without anything other than a watery view that exploded quite suddenly into a gaping, tooth-lined maw that rose from the river to envelop him.

The stranger had been right, it was his funeral, and his grave.

*                     *                      *


He should have felt guilty, but he didn’t. He’d warned every last would-be thrillseeker and stranger claiming to be his kin or spawn away from this place, but no one seemed willing to listen. Even as he stood there he could feel the unseen barrier he’d erected around this place being penetrated for the third time in as many months.

Sighing to himself, the caretaker flexed his will and was gone from the spot he’d selected to watch the demise of the young man that had thought to enter this place, ready to toss another dim-witted soul to the wilds.

(to be continued)

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