“Don’t come in any closer,” he whispered.
“Bardino! We have to see the truth!”

Bardino cowered in the corner. His suit was ripped, and he held the shreds of his jacket over his face. Broken furniture was scattered across from the room from where Josef and the other men had forced the barricaded door open. Papers were scattered across the desk.

“Let us see you, Bardino. The boy is dead. We must know your place in all this.” Josef stood as a pillar in the doorway with his workman’s jeans and dirty wife-beater.
“No, no, no,” Bardino whimpered back.

Josef surged forward and hoisted Bardino up. Bardino’s arms flailed weakly and then settled down to keep his face covered. The two struggled as Josef finally got a grip on the arms and held Bardino firmly. His body went limp.

Bardino’s face was covered in smudged paint and messy makeup. His eyes were firmly shut though you could see the black streaks down his face.

“Open them.”
“No, never, no, I can’t! I won’t! Leave me alone! You’re the monsters! Leave me be!” Bardino raved.
“Help me,” Josef called to the men behind him.

One grabbed each side and held Bardino as he began to thrash. Josef roughly pulled back the eyelid as Bardino began to scream.

The eye was pure, deep purple. Josef poked it and Bardino screamed louder.

“This isn’t a lens, Bardino. You’ve been touched.” Josef checked the other eye. It was the same. “Hold him steady. I’m sorry, Bardino. I’m so sorry.” The two men grunted. Josef proceeded to beat Bardino to death. Tears slipped down to join with his sweat and fall to the floor to mix with the blood.

Thus died Bardino the magician. He was hurriedly buried that evening in an unmarked grave. The young boy who had volunteered for his trick was buried the next day. A master mortician came across town to hide all the stab wounds, so his family could have the casket open for the wake. Josef did not attend.

Instead, he was in the police station. Not that he would have gone to the funeral anyway. He didn’t know the boy. He had simply worked part-time leading the stagehands for the show.
He explained to the officers how Bardino had hired him off the docks and had him put together a small team of friends to handle all the heavy lifting for the shows. They had worked in a small theater in the lower part of town where Bardino had rented one of the theater offices and could perform a few times each week.

It was a simple job to make a little extra money in the evenings or on an occasional weekend. He had been doing it for a little over a year with breaks as Bardino took time off to develop new tricks.

The two had never become intimately close, but they had a friendly work relationship. But, then when Bardino had done one of his classic sword tricks, instead of the swords not hitting the volunteer audience member, when he opened the box the boy and been pierced through with each one. Bardino had run away screaming.

That’s when Josef knew he had to check Bardino’s eyes. The town of Parindisa had been created with magic on the literal edge of the world. You could watch the water flow around the city and off the cliff of life. The city spiraled up out of the water, a populous and towered hill surrounded by nothing.

The great mage Lin-Mancus had given few rules before he vanished. But the most important one was that anyone who’s eyes turned deep purple had committed a great and secret crime. They must be removed.

Serial killers, rapists, and others caught in rare and murderous circumstances were the most well-known culprits of the eyes. Catching such people was paramount to the survival of the city, so two decades ago the mayor and the police had announced that anyone caught with the purple eyes could be detained or killed on sight.

Whether or not this had been Lin-Mancus’s original intention, no one could say, but it was an essential law of the city and one Josef had carried out immediately.

The police let Josef talk as he shared all of his history and explanation. When he became quiet one of them spoke, “The autopsy confirms the eyes and your story matches the other witnesses. I’m sorry we had to bring you in, but as I’m sure you know there’s been attempts in the past to fake the eyes to get away with murder.”

The officer’s eyes didn’t even look up from his report as he talked.

“I’m aware,” Josef replied.

“You can go. Just don’t leave town anytime unexpectedly,” the office joked and showed his first smile of the interview.

As Josef walked down the cobblestone streets, he didn’t know where to go. His home was empty. Still dressed nicely in his one suit, he decided to go to a local cafe, order a mug of dark beer and watch the sunset across the horizon.

My whole life is here, Josef thought to himself.

It’s been almost 30 years. I have a home, a reputation, a job. In the old country, I would have been a slave in the fields. Now, I get to eat fresh vegetables and meat instead. Right off the ships.

I shouldn’t have come here. I should have gone home and slept. I should be asleep. But the sunlight off the water as it sprays off the end of the world is so beautiful. I can almost see the endless ocean beyond.

For such a beautiful city, I wish more of the beauty was mine. I’m growing so tired. Would I have still done it all if I had known? Would I have stepped onto the boat all those years ago after hearing the promise of a new city free from the kings and queens? Free from the tyranny. All I wanted was a better life.

Would I still have been a killer if I had stayed?

He stared at his bruised knuckles and drank more of his beer. His eyes glazed over and he wondered what would happen if he just slept here?

It turns out that an hour after a sunset, a server will lightly tap your shoulder and make sure you’re alright as they begin to close the cafe for the night.

Josef apologized and made his way out and down the spire of the city to his home by the docks. He swore he could hear whispers as he passed. Here he was. The latest killer of the Purple Eyes.

The magic lights flickered in the occasional fountain and the rare passerby lightly tipped a hat as they moved out of his way.

As he approached his small house, he looked out over the docks. The water was calm. As soon as it would slide past the center of the island, it would begin to pick up speed and careen off the cliffs. At the wooden and newer steamships sat quietly together. Resting before their next voyage to trade with the old world.

He entered his home and lit his lamp. There was the small restroom he had added on 20 years ago when proper plumbing had been brought to every home. His living room with a few chairs. A bookshelf he hadn’t touched since he was young. All connected to the kitchen with its oven and icebox.

And there sitting at his table was a surprise.

A man sat smiling at Josef.

“Welcome home Josef! I must admit you’re later than I thought you would be. Did you nod off for a while?” the man asked. He was dressed in a suit far more luxurious than Josef’s with a deep purple color and hints of velvet interior. Clean-shaven, he looked as if he could be anywhere from 21 to 30 years old depending on the light. His dark hair was lightly moussed and slicked back.

“Who in the wizard’s crack are you?” Josef said.

“Now, now, Josef. It’s not like you to swear. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you do so before. Not even when you were on the docks or even during the other incident this week.”

“You’ve been following me? What’s going on?” Josef was becoming increasingly alarmed.

“I’ve been keeping an eye out. Did you know Bardino considered you one of his best friends? He felt he could always rely on you and that you were a good listener.”

Josef’s brain started picking up speed. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Are you the Purple Prince?”

“Bravo Josef!” the Prince clapped lightly and beamed a giant smile. “Most people completely forget about me. Such a silly story. Why if it wasn’t for the eyes I think people would have completely forgotten about me. But good on you, you remember.”

The stories flashed through Josef’s mind. It was rumored the great mage Lin-Mancus had a son. The son had grown up in opulence and power and became a complete monster. Lin-Mancus kicked him out of the towers atop the city but wasn’t strong enough to force him from the beautiful island city.

Children should avoid strangers because one of them might be the secret Purple Prince who will trick you and turn your eyes purple. Once your eyes turn, your soul belongs to him and he can do with you what he wills.

“Is it all true? Are you the cause of people’s eyes turning? What did you do to Bardino?” Josef rapidly whispered.

“Oh my. I’m shocked at how easy you’ve accepted the truth. You know currently, all I’ve done is shown up in purple and make a few vague statements. All of this could be an elaborate prank on you.”

“But it’s not.”

“No, you’re right. It’s not.” The Prince’s eyes immediately became pure purple same as Bardino’s had been. “I admire what you did to Bardino. That man was a fly. No one with his complete lack of power can hold claim to the title of magician.”

“You killed him? Why?” Josef muttered confused.

“I already told you,” the Prince snarled. “I won’t tolerate fake magicians on the island. But you, you impressed me. That’s why I’m doing this for fun. What will you do Josef? A man of such conviction and strength.”

A large mirror magically appeared next to the Prince reflecting Josef’s image back at him. Josef gasped. His own eyes were now completely purple as well.

“What have you done?” Josef shrieked. “I’m not a murderer. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Well I do remember watching you kill a man and you’ve just had a conversation with the devil of the island. Good luck Josef. Don’t disappoint me.”

The Prince’s smile was back as he disappeared into purple smoke. The mirror continued to hang in the air for several seconds, Josef’s deadly eyes staring back at him, and then it crashed to the floor and shattered.

Josef collapsed.

I’m a killer. I have the purple eyes. But it’s the Prince’s fault. It’s not divine judgment, and I’m not going to die here. I need to escape, get on a boat, make my way out to sea. If I can make it back to any of the old countries, I’ll have a chance.

They won’t kill me there. Not on sight at least. Maybe I can find a cure or a way to hide them. Worst comes to worst I can sell some basic information about Parindisa to one of the monarchies. Nothing too damaging, I love this city, but since it’s their fault I’ll be executed I can make an exception.

Deep breathes, Josef, deep breathes. Focus on escaping first. Surviving later.

Josef finally stood up. He tore off his crinkled suit, threw on some work clothes, and his tough long coat, collar raised to cover as much of his face as possible. Rushing around the house, he gathered a bag with his essentials and all the food he could find. He snuck out into the night.

Images flashed through his mind. The envoy from Parindisa standing in the city square, bright light coming from his staff, as he declared an escape from the monarchy and the newly built factories.

His first look at Parindisa, the city on the isle, the roads curving gently up all lit with street lamps, the many towers towards the crest, houses for everyone that only the rich could have afforded back home. And, above it all, fireworks welcoming the new arrivals. The phoenix crest of Lin-Mancus revealing itself in the explosion and slowly sparkling away.

His time with Laurain at the bar and how beautiful her smile was and how witty her jokes. The tears she had when she left to return to the old country and save her younger siblings from the plague.

The first trick Bardino showed him a few years ago. The strange and outgoing man pulled a king of hearts out of Josef’s ear and a 10 gold note out of his nose. Josef almost punched him, but then realized he was being offered a job.

He tried to push the thoughts away as he rushed down the roads to the docks. The lights were dimmed down here, close to the edge of the city’s magic. His palms were sweating. He saw figures ahead, so he darted down an alley.

After jumping a fence and slinking through a tiny backyard, he was finally in the shipping zone. Warehouses lined the street as he made his way to the docks.

Josef was in luck. There was a small fishing schooner lazily docked at the end of the pier. Not that he would have had a chance with the larger vessels and their guards. Josef wasn’t the strongest sailor, but he had been out enough to handle a ship of this size. But, he’d have to move slow. He buckled down and got to work. He had two masts to get up and ready before he could start to steer himself out of the harbor.

Absorbed in his work, he didn’t hear the steps on the pier creeping up on him.

“What in the 7 hells are you doing with my boat?” a rough voice shouted.
Josef froze, his hands shaking.
“Get out of there!” The voice was getting closer.

“Ashbel, is that you? This your boat?” Josef asked hoping he truly had recognized the voice.

“Aye, it’s fisher Ashbel alright, and I’m about to kick your carcass into the sea faster than a rotting tuna!” Ashbel grabbed hold of the rigging and jumped aboard.

“It’s me. Josef,” he said turning around to face Ashbel, eyes closed.

“That really you, Josef? I haven’t seen you around the pub in ages. What are you doing here? Why are stealing my boat?” Ashbel stood still, confusion splayed across his face.

“I’m sorry, Ashbel. I need to leave the city. If I ever get a chance to pay you back I will.” Josef slowly opened his eyes.

“What in the magician’s name? You’ve been touched! What did you-“ Ashbel was cut short as Josef’s fist crashed into the side of his head before he could get his guard up.

Like paper in the rain, Ashbel crumpled. Josef hoisted him up and was able to toss him back onto the dock.

“To be fair, you should have done a better job of docking,” Josef muttered to himself as he finished getting the boat ready to sail.

He pushed off the dock and as the boat began to float away, Ashbel scrambled to his feet and started sprinting down the down.

“Sneaky old-man.” Josef grunted as the yells of “thief” began to reach his ears.

Dock lights started turning on. Parindisa had an efficient naval security force to keep itself safe from outsiders ever since Lin-Mancus had gone missing. His old magic could keep the city alive, but couldn’t keep it forever safe.

Lights from the shore blinked messages to the patrol boats.

Nothing for it. Josef thought. If I keep going straight on they’ll catch me. I’m not dying yet. Not like this. Damn that Prince. Damn this city. Damn it all.

Josef swung the boat hard to the right. He’d ride the current around the city and hope he could shoot off of it before he went over the edge of the world. Security would be too scared to follow. Not worth it for one unknown man.

As the boat leaned into the current, Josef could feel the ship picking up speed. The distant lights of the city started moving by faster.

He strained with the ancient wheel to move the twin masts. Slowly he inched towards open water. Already, he could tell the security boat was holding off. A smile almost crept up Josef’s face. He could escape.

Then he heard a loud crack and the ship stopped turning out of the current. The wheel spun freely with no impact on the sails anymore.

Josef stood silently as Parindisa went floating by, and there before him was the maw of the end, a ginormous waterfall into oblivion. He began to tie himself to the mast. No one had ever come back. At the top of the city on clear days, you could catch glimpses of more water on the lower level, but no one knew what all lay below.

The roar of the water was deafening. The spray blinding. Secured as best he could, Josef squinted through the barrage as the edge came closer and closer, his palms sweating and shaking.

With a final whoosh of water, the boat went flying over the edge of the world. Thrown forward, Josef could briefly see all the stars twinkling both above and below on an endless ocean, brighter than he ever seen had before.

And then he was facing downwards into complete darkness. He blacked out before he could feel the pain.

But Josef, despite the assumptions of himself, the security boat that saw him go over the edge, and Ashbel who felt a little guilty when he heard the news, did not die.

Instead, he washed ashore.

The light was shining when Josef woke up spitting and groaning.

“You’re alive my friend!” the voice of an older man chattered at Josef.

“You’re alive! Most your ribs were broken, but I fixed that. Oh yes, I did. I’ve still got the touch. So tell me when are they coming? I knew they would send an expedition. Only a matter of time. A little too much time if you ask me, but well you’re here now. Let me help you up.”

Strong arms helped lift Josef up. The man slung one of Josef’s arms over his shoulder and helped him half walk half be dragged towards the tree line.

“Where am I?” Josef squeaked out.

“My brave man, you’re in Paradise. It’s a beautiful island. Little small, but it was fine enough for a single occupant, I suppose. Can’t say I won’t miss it from time to time. Still, I think I’ll get over it. Now, let’s see if you can stand on your own.”

The man carefully put Josef’s arm back at his side and slowly scooted back in case he fell over.

“You’re mending wonderfully. Absolutely wonderfully. The great mage Lin-Mancus still has his charm”

Josef finally opened his eyes and saw his rescuer in disbelief. The man was tan and wrinkled wearing a mix of rags and foliage. White hair ran wild around his head and a huge, scraggly beard billowed out.

The two of them finally made eye contact, and then Josef realized. Lin-Mancus’s eyes were bright, shining, purple.

Lin-Mancus’s eyes went wide as well.

The silence drifted between them until the great sage finally spoke, “Damn it.”