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Pandemonium  •  26 July 2021  •  Fiction

Fade to Black

By Stephanie Susanto
Content Warning: Death

Fade to Black explores the high moral stakes which pervade difficult ethical decisions and how child naivety and innocence blurs the dichotomy of good and evil. The story follows an eight-year-old boy who watches his drowning body float face-down on the surface of a lake — unaware he is straddling the planes of life and death. The Gatekeeper of Death offers the boy two choices: live or die, then conjures visions of the future to help him decide. The following is an excerpt from the piece…

“Mr Ellis‭, ‬please come back and stand beside me‭.‬”

The sound of ripping paper punctures the air in front of me‭, ‬and a hairline tear appears in the very fabric of reality itself‭, ‬like a crack on a windshield‭.‬

I reach to touch it‭, ‬but Mr Jackal grabs my hand and returns it to my side‭ ‬—‭ ‬the same way my sister Candice did when we came across a dead cat on the road‭. ‬Mr Jackal pulls me back by my shoulder until we‭ ‬stand hip to hip‭.‬

The tear grows‭, ‬splitting the sky into jagged halves‭, ‬and slices its way down to diverge the ground‭.‬

The crack widens and parts the river‭, ‬the horizon‭, ‬and the clouds‭, ‬until black consumes all like wildfire‭.‬

Faded colours and patterns appear and dance like the northern lights into the darkness‭. ‬Blurred shapes sharpen until they resemble people and slowly‭, ‬a movie surrounds us in bodily form‭.‬

A school bus eases to a stop and the door opens with an exhale‭. ‬Two boys jump off the platform together‭, ‬pushing past slow walking children on the pavement‭. ‬They sprint to the end of the street as trees‭, ‬fences and houses fly past them in a brown blur‭. ‬Jimmy careens to the left‭, ‬bounding onto the park first like an Olympic sprinter reaching the finish line‭.‬

The Boys throw their bags on the ground and arm themselves with gnarled sticks‭. ‬They battle on the yellow platform‭, ‬across the bridge‭, ‬underneath the monkey bars and weave between toddlers unfortunate enough to get caught in the melee‭. ‬The Boys clash their‭ ‬weapons‭, ‬jab at the air and jab each other‭. ‬Finally‭, ‬their sticks snap in half when the force of their sparring proves too much‭ ‬for the slender branches‭.‬

Their hearty laughs and resounding‭ ‬hiyaaahs‭ ‬punctuate the suburban air throughout dusk‭.‬

I point to the fading image‭. ‬“That's Elliot and me‭!‬”‭'‬

“Yes‭, ‬in two months from now‭, ‬you and Mr Wright will be playing‮…‬”‭ ‬Mr Jackal checks his

book‭. ‬“The Knights and Sticks Game‭, ‬a pastime that will expire in the fifth grade‭.‬”

“What does expire mean‭?‬”

“End‭.‬”

“Why does the game end‭?‬”

“You and Mr Wright will be separated by oceans‭.‬”

That's impossible‭. ‬Elliot hates swimming‭.‬

Mr Jackal adjusts his glasses‭. ‬“Let’s move on‭. ‬This is ten years into the future‭.‬”

I cover my eyes with my hands‭.‬

I don’t like this movie anymore‭.‬

After a while‭, ‬I dare to peek‭.‬

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