The Samaritan Chronicles: One Good Turn

The man perched, balanced precariously on the tiny jutting edge that protruded from the wrong side of the bridge, so insignificant that it failed even to make the category of ‘ledge’. It was night. There was no-one around. Only himself. And the bridge behind him. And the night before him.
He had been a man of edges all his life, through no fault of his own. Life on one side or the other, in the safe, familiar circles of the Venn diagram of reality, had just seemed to drive him away. But then life on the edges had seemingly driven him away too. Or perhaps he had just run out of edges. And now this was the only edge left. And in no time at all he would have left that one too.
“It’s a long way down, isn’t it?” announced a voice from nowhere, interrupting his reverie. His head snapped around. There was a girl sitting on the bridge wall, the handrail, call it what you will. Just neatly seated there, beside him, looking at him with something that wasn’t quite understanding but wasn’t quite pity.
The man looked past her, to the end of the bridge. And then in the other direction, to the other end. Both were closed off. The bridge was being restored. He himself had been forced to sneak in here earlier and wait until the workers left. There was no way the girl could have got to him. And nowhere else she could have come from.
“I certainly wouldn’t like to fall,” she said. She was clearly talking to him, as there was no-one else around, but her tone was not that which one would use with a stranger. Her accent was… difficult to identify. Something with a vaguely western twang, but nothing too obvious beyond that.
“I wasn’t going to fall,” he told her, turning back to the night before him. “I was going to walk.”
The edge was barely enough to keep him where he was. He could only possibly have walked one step.
“Look,” said the girl, her voice cutting into his plans once again. It was quite irritating. “You don’t need to walk anywhere. There are things to do and see right here. I don’t know for sure what there is to learn in the next world, but I’ve seen myself that there are things in this world, hidden just out of sight, that can keep a person learning for the rest of their life. This ‘world’ is a lot bigger than you’d think. There are mountains of things out there, oceans of them. Things that are beautiful and terrifying and fascinating and wonderful and inexplicable and all of the above at once. Things no-one but a select few know about. You take the right exit off this bridge and you could become one of that select few. Take the wrong one, and you’ll never know what I’m talking about.”
“You don’t make any sense,” the man objected thoughtfully, turning away from the night again and back towards the girl. She smiled at him, and winked.
“Nor do a lot of things out there, at first. The secret is to keep learning until they do.”
“Is there anything of any substance to you, or are you just words and philosophy?” the man asked. “Are you even really here? Are you just some vision from my mind?”
The girl swung her legs over onto the right side of the bridge, the inside of the bridge, and pushed herself off onto her feet. “Something else you could look into. If you don’t, who will?” From the pocket at the front of the blue dungaree-like garment she wore, she produced a large gold coin. It glowed in the pitiful light, seeming to radiate a golden aura all around itself. She flipped it into the air and it came down on the surface of the bridge, just over her shoulder. “Present,” she said. “Something to start you looking.” She turned to go.
“Who are you?” the man objected, pivoting carefully and wrapping his arms around the low barrier she had been sitting on. The girl looked back, and then glanced down at some sign on the wall below him.
“Think of me as the Samaritan,” she smiled, and walked until she was covered by the darkness. Abruptly, even the sound of her footfalls disappeared.
The man looked down at the coin on the bridge. It was still shining.
Perhaps he had just found some new edges, he reasoned, as he swung one leg back over the barrier.

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