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The Niche

by Peter Charles

“Crazy,” muttered Pellser. He edged past the remains of Fillkey and swung himself into place.

A mile below, the Village conducted its ordinary business. Mrs Bolltuf pegged out skins. Geoff ‘Missy’ Gellbet kicked his dog. The elders performed their exercises, skirts hitched. But Pellser’s wife and children stayed indoors, because on this day — his 40th birthday — Pellser had been sent to the High Place to take his Test.

He would sit in one of a set of niches cut centuries before into the cliff-top rock. Once in position, a man could with great ease pull himself forwards over the cliff edge. Alternatively, he might sit back, legs a-dangle, for as long as he wished. Or rather, forever. Because the construction of the niche made it impossible for a man, once settled, to extract himself.

A strong wind tore past Pellser, ripping at his trousers. He looked beyond the crazed fabric, down into the valley, and thought of his children, Joni and Marcie, and of his wife, Faie.

He glanced at Fillkey’s corpse in the next-door niche. “My friend,” he said, “I’d never have thought it.”

Immediately, with hands shaking, Pellser reached to the edge of his niche, and pulled.

Copyright © 2007 by Peter Charles

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