The End Clause

“It just goes on forever, don’t it?” said Cowboy Buck, shifting his enormous hat.

“It’s so… white,” said the prairie mouse in agreement.

Cowboy Buck kicked a tuft of prairie grass into the void and they both watched it slide across the smooth blank plain until it sat like a tiny island.

“In your travels, have you ever seen anything like this?” asked mouse.

Buck shook his head.  It had taken all of mouse’s courage to tag along when Cowboy Buck came strutting through, claiming tales of adventure and travel, but it wasn’t even a page before they came to this… end of the world.

“What should we do?” asked mouse, testing the white surface.  He took a few steps out onto it and then scurried back to the safety of the prairie.

“I reckon we aughta trade some words with Ol’ Man Plot,” said Cowboy Buck.

“I’ve heard of him,” said mouse, “but I never thought he was real.”

“He’s hard to follow,” nodded Cowboy Buck, “but there’s a spot not far yonder where he practices his yoga.”

“Yoga?”

Cowboy Buck shrugged.  “Reckon it keeps him limber.  Seen him twisted up like one o’ those salted pretzels ya see at the fairgrounds last time we crossed paths.”

“Where’d you learn to talk like that?” asked mouse, following the cowboy back along the path they’d made.

“Back in chapter thirty-seven,” said Cowboy Buck, “every other word’s ‘partner’ or ‘reckon’ or a good ol’ ‘yee haw!'”  He gave that last part such energy that a flock of birds took to the air complaining loudly.  After a minute, Cowboy Buck added, “where’d you learn to talk?”

“Page four hundred, I guess,” said mouse.  “What are the other chapters like?  I’ve only ever seen this prairie.”

Cowboy Buck took out his pistols and spun them artfully.

“Full o’ adventure,” he said, mimicking gun battles.  “Some sappy love stories, a few man-eating lizards… one princess.”  Cowboy Buck grinned and holstered his pistols.

“Wow,” breathed mouse, trying to imagine such a big world.

They passed the prairie mouse’s home and ventured through a prairie house, upsetting the scene of a man and woman holding hands, seeming to be in a conversation of love and the future.  The couple gasped at the intrusion.  Cowboy Buck tipped his hat in apology, and mouse scuttled past with a guilty shrug.  They found Old Man Plot on the porch swing, his legs and arms crossed.

“Cowboy Buck,” said Old Man Plot, “what have I said to you about wandering?  And who is this?”

“Partner,” said Cowboy Buck, tipping his hat, “this here’s a prairie mouse from page four hundred.  Interested in seeing the world.  That is, till the world done dropped off to nothing but bone white far as the eye can see.”

Old Man Plot nodded.  “When our world was created, it was left with a dangerous flaw.  I tried to speak up, but I’m just old Plot.  No one listens to me.  Especially now that it’s been so long since anyone’s read us.  Cowboys and prairie mice willie nillie.”

Mouse realized that Old Man Plot must have learned to talk funny, too.  The old man didn’t make a lot of sense.

“What’s on the other side of the white?” asked mouse.

Old Man Plot shrugged.  “No one knows.  If our creator had done his job and added “The End,” none of this would be happening.  Our world would be contained, and the characters within it wouldn’t feel the need to continue to explore their potential.  I tried to tell him this would happen.”

Again, mouse was confused.  Old Man Plot didn’t make a lot of sense.

“What would happen if Cowboy Buck and I adventured into the white?” pressed mouse.

All the cowboy’s talk of adventure had excited him to no end.  Cowboy Buck coughed and shifted his boots around the porch floorboards.

“That’s what I’m saying,” said Old Man Plot.  “Anything could happen.”

“Anything,” breathed mouse.

“I reckon we should take a gander at chapters thirty-six to one,” said Cowboy Buck.  “I hear chapter fourteen’s a knee-slappin’ hoot of a time.”

Mouse shook his head.  “You’ve had those adventures,” said mouse.  “Let’s have a new one.  I want to see what the world is like beyond the white.  I think there is one out there.  Don’t you, Old Man Plot?”

Old Man Plot switched the direction his legs and arms were crossed.  “I know there is, little mouse,” he said.

As far as mouse was concerned, it was settled.  He nodded to the man and woman holding hands, scurried back along the path carved by Cowboy Buck’s boots, and stopped again at the edge of the white.  Cowboy Buck had followed in silence.

“You really fixin to go out there?” asked Cowboy Buck, all of the bravado now missing from his voice.

“I’m ready for my adventure,” said mouse.  “I’m not a brave cowboy, like you, and I’m not wise about the strange things Old Man Plot knows, but I am a steady little mouse.  If I just keep walking, eventually an adventure will find me.  You coming?”

Cowboy Buck chuckled and tipped his hat.  “Lead the way, partner,” he said. And without any of the gusto from before, added, “yee haw.”

Written by W. C. McClure http://www.wcmcclure.com. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. Comments are welcome at http://www.farsideofdreams.com. Oh, and if you want to show your support, tell your friends about this short story blog – and pick up one of W. C. McClure ‘ s books. Thanks!

Oh, and The End.