A large gilt framed painting dominates one wall of the Mystical Plains School’s Assembly Hall. A scene of an idyllic valley, surrounded by a narrow body of water which cascades down a steep fall, sweeping the sailboats and people at its end into the deep void. Children watch the painting and wonder. Sometimes they dream of falling into the great beyond and disappearing, forever.
Aloe fluttered her long eyelashes and pursed her lips. “I want to see The End of the World.”
“Are you mad?” Basil said. “You’ll fall off the edge.”
“Why would I? Won’t you come with me to discover new herbs and prove the theory?”
Although Aloe and Basil were the same age, Basil, being a ten-year-old boy, was more naive than his female friend. “What theory?” He rolled his eyes.
“That the earth is flat, as grownups say in Mystical Plains. And as it’s shown in the painting.”
“It is flat, also the sky is flat.”
“How about proving it? We’ll stop when we come to the end.”
“Are you sure about this? We don’t know how far it is.”
Aloe twisted a long strand of her celadon mane around a finger and shrugged.
“Only one way to find out. Meet me here tomorrow at dawn. Bring a sandwich and some fruit. Also, your notebook and crayons. We can draw the herbs we find on the way and collect samples. What say you?”
“What do we say to our parents?”
“Say it’s a school project. It’s true.”
“Great!” Aloe planted a kiss on Basil’s cheek and scurried away, the skirts of her pale green dress swaying in the breeze.
Basil could never refuse her. She was the most beautiful and clever girl in the Plains. Proud to be her best friend, he always relented to her whims, and she had many.
At dawn, they set off on their journey. Aloe pulled the hood of her olive cape over her hair. Fizzy jade curls that escaped the grip of Basil’s wide-brimmed hat bounced on his cheeks in tune with his quick step.
As sunlight burned away the chill of the spring morning, green fields spread out forever in their view. Basil was good at drawing, Aloe with writing the descriptions and colouring. They stopped several times to examine new finds and added them to their scrapbook.
When the sun was high in the sky, they rested for lunch and shared the fruit. Aloe figured they’d been on their journey for six hours. They’d need another six to return to the village before dark. She shaded her eyes with her hand and perused the surroundings. Eternal green without an end, but The End of the World nowhere in sight. She looked towards the way they came. There was no sign of the village or any familiar sights, nor the trees they’d marked as they moved on.
Biting the apple in her hand, Aloe pondered. “We must head back now and find our path in daylight. I don’t think we’ll reach The End of the World today.”
She studied the fruit closely. “I have an idea. Let’s see if it will work. Look at this apple. It’s round. If you were a tiny insect on it,” she picked up an ant and placed it on one side of the apple, “you wouldn’t be able to see the other side, would you?”
“No,” Basil said, eager to hear the rest.
“But if you keep moving towards the other side, you’ll be there and see it. That’s why we can’t see the village or The End of the World from here. It’s beyond our view. If it were flat, we’d see it.”
“Are you saying it’s a false theory?”
“Yes, but we’ll have to prove it. Let’s go back the same way, and see how the view improves as we get closer.”
Re-tracing their steps, making note of the landmarks, they resumed their hunt for various herbs. Three hours later, they had another break, and shared cookies and a slice of cake. Though they looked back and searched for the spot where they’d stopped for lunch, they could see no further than the forest in midway.
Aloe muttered pensively. “There is no End of the World. It doesn’t end, but continues.”
After two more hours of trekking and drawing, the village appeared in the distance. As the sky turned to shades of marigold and poppy, the sun began to sink behind the hills.
The amber beams of the sunset danced across Aloe’s green eyes and she sighed. “Maybe that’s why the sun and the moon are round. They don’t disappear, but go elsewhere.”
“But they will be back tomorrow,” Basil said, confident.
“The sun, definitely tomorrow, the moon to repeat its different phases next month.”
“Are we going to tell our parents?”
Aloe fiddled with the hem of her skirt. “Not yet. This is still a theory. I have to do more tests. Perhaps, we’ll keep it to ourselves for a while. Tell you what, let’s write down everything in a log, and wait until we’re old enough to prove it. Meanwhile, we have a beautiful scrapbook of different herbs to present to the teacher for our project.”
As twilight spread its velvet blanket over the Mystical Plains, Aloe and Basil chased each other down the road to their homes, their childish laughter filling the air with promise.