The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan (P3 of 3)

Suddenly I find myself awake, my mind already returning to last night’s thoughts.

I’ll send a note down to my house for Mother and Ni. Then I’ll go.

I have enough food for a couple of months, if I’m careful, and enough water for almost that long.

Does it matter though? Actually speaking? It won’t change anything.

The light from outside of my tent is faint, from the moons only.

I drag my bag outside of the tent, rifle through my belongings until I find the notebook I brought. I find my pen in the bottom, and hastily pull that out as well. I scribble a note to Mother and Ni, careful not to write over existing letters and words.

I scrounge around on the top of the wall, searching for loose rocks. I eventually find one, and though it is small, I secure the note to it with a bit of string. Before I can talk myself out of it, I drop the rock over the wall.

“Iran, please forgive me, and get this note to my mother and Ni.” I can only hope the god of mercy will understand.

Now that I have told them I will not return, I pack up all of my belongings, save the rope. I pull up as much as I can, coiling it on the wall next to me. I reach down and cut the rope.

I untie my harness and remove my backup rope from my bag.

I lay down on top of the wall and pull my shoulders and arms over the edge away from home. I search the surface of the wall for a place to insert a camming device, luckily finding one not far down from the top. I attach a carabiner to the camming device and begin working the rope through it.

I fashion a new harness and tie a loose sliding knot not far above it. I will have to climb down the wall to the end of my doubled rope, and then I should be able to lower myself along the rope to the ground. The only problem is that I won’t get my rope back.

On a whim, I take a piece of twine from my pack and a good sized rock from the top of the wall and tie the rock to the rope. Once I get to the bottom and remove my harness, the sliding knot should slide down with the additional weight of the rock. Then I can keep my rope.

I throw the remaining length of the first coil over the wall.

I pull my pack over my shoulders and prepare myself for the descent. Once I feel ready, I lower myself over the edge of the wall, finding grips with my feet.

Slowly I begin climbing down. My arms, legs, and hands ache and throb as I descend. Acteonil, Cayne, Naiyah, Vilmariy, four moons I saw earlier tonight, shine brightly in the sky, along with Morik, Favonius, Shelaght, and Odhrin. They provide some illumination to my work, though it is scant compared to when N’Zembe burns hot and white-blue above me.

The wall is endless, my rope is long. It feels as though I will never reach the ground. I long to quit climbing, but to do so could be dangerous. If I fall now, I could bang against the wall and hit my head. I already have a concussion, another hit could be deadly.

Everything hurts. There will be no relief until I reach the ground. I can’t see the ground below me, and the wall mere inches from my face is in deep shadow.

Finally my rope feels tighter. It hangs above me, attached to a carabiner some distance above, though my eyes cannot focus on something so small in the dark, even without a concussion. I look at Odhrin, a dark blue and gray disc, and it splits into two, the images swimming close together and further apart. I turn my attention back to the wall in front of me, my head throbbing harder than before.

I close my eyes and remove my hands from the wall. I slide downwards, but don’t fall. A grin splits my face, and I take my feet from the wall as well. I move downwards more quickly now that my weight is propelling me, but not so fast that it scares me.

I drift down, down, down, and yet I still can’t see the ground! This wall is clearly intended to be impassible, or that’s how it seems.

Why build these walls? Why all the death outside them? Was the world out here ever bright and filled with life? Could it ever be so again? I wonder as I fall far enough that Shelaght, Odhrin, and Morik are out of sight, blocked by this wall. Is there anything or anyone out there in that dead land? Is it possible for anyone to survive? Will I survive?

The thought shocks me. My heart beats fast. If my eyes were open, they would be glazed over. It’s too late to change my mind and do anything but wander aimlessly through this dead world, waiting for death to come to me, too.

My life has no purpose, what does it matter if I survive? Mother and Ni might miss me, but at least they still have purpose in their bright, life-filled existences. I have nothing to live for. My dream was for nothing.

I put my hands over my closed eyes, blocking out the throbbing, trying to hold out against the onslaught of hopeless thoughts. Endlessly they swirl through my mind, nothing I try to distract myself with changes that.

My feet brush against something solid. I place them against it, flat. It does not waver. I stand and open my eyes.

Faint, dark images swim before me, vacillating. I pull off my harness without untying it and place my pack over it. For now I need to rest, then I can retrieve the rest of my rope.

I lay on the ground, not bothering to pull anything out of my pack. I rest my head on it and curl into myself. The pounding in my head rises to a deafening crescendo and I struggle to sleep, exhausted though I may be. Finally, finally, I succumb to sleep, overtaken by exhaustion.

When I awake again, it is early morning, N’Zembe peeking over the distant black horizon. I force myself to sit up and look around.

A few green shoots surround where I slept, in stark contrast to all the death around it. Everything beyond that is uniform, as far as I can tell with my unstable view.

I pull my bottle out of my pack and sip it slowly. Even though it is warm, I do not want to drink it too quickly. I don’t drink much, either. I rummage through my food choices and eat a small portion.

Through my jumbled thoughts I realize I cannot rest uncovered during the day. Fears of heat stroke rush through me and I clumsily raise my tent with the walls toward the rising sun and crawl inside.

I lay down, feeling helpless and worn out.

If there is green here, maybe there is more that I couldn’t see from the top of the wall.

I eventually drift off.

I spend the next week or so resting a lot and consuming the bare minimum for survival. By that time, I seem to be recovering at least somewhat from my concussion.

A lush green carpet has sprung up around my tent, but the rest of the world is still black and empty. It puzzles me; I cannot for the life of me figure out how or why anything grows here but nowhere else.

“I should see if anything else grows out there,” I say aloud. It’s early morning and the sky is tinged a darkish blue with a rising circle of white along the horizon.

I eat and drink then pack up my tent and bag and rope. It takes a few minutes to get all the rope together, but I do get it back as I had hoped.

Shakily, I push myself to my feet and slip my arms into my bag’s straps. I look around. The black extends endlessly around me until the ground meets the sky. But the ground near me is covered in green shoots.

I place one foot in front of the other and repeat endlessly until my feet ache and my legs complain.

I look around, all is black around me. The wall rises up behind me, imposing even from this distance. I haven’t traveled far, but it was a long and hard walk under the hot sun.

I raise my tent and sit under it. I eat and drink and then rest.

The next morning is the same. A circle of green shoots surrounds my tent but nothing grows anywhere else.

As before, I pack up and head out. Walking, walking, walking. Taking step after step after step until I can bear it no longer. Day after day after day.

N’Zembe beats down on me and I long for shade. If only there was a tree. Or even a bush I could lay next to for a bit. Anything. Anything but this endless dead land with no escape.

The wall is a thick line obscuring the horizon, but appears small from this distance. I’m so, so far away.

Sluggishly, I pull up my tent and lay under it. I sip from my bottle slowly. Soon I fall asleep from exhaustion.

I wake up in the middle of the night to the gnawing of my stomach and the dryness in my throat. I open my pack, keenly aware of how little I have left in supplies.

I’m going to die here. I don’t have enough food or water to go back now. I shiver. There’s no green out here either, I can’t find more food or water.

Shakily, I take a sip from my bottle and lay back down.

The thought echos through my head, keeping me from sleep. I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die.

I turn on my side, beginning to sob. Leaving the walls was a mistake. Climbing the wall at all was a mistake. I wish I didn’t know, hadn’t seen.

Eventually, I collapse into sleep, though I’m not even aware of such a reality until I find myself waking up. I just lay there, paralyzed as my thoughts from the night before resurface, clawing out of my subconcious. They spiral, circling through the same few thoughts inescapably.

I’m going to die… Why did I leave? Why did I have to see? Everything’s dead, and soon I will be… I miss Ni and Mother… They probably think I’m dead… I’m going to die… I wish I had never thought of climbing the walls…

I forced myself to eat and drink a little. I looked out of my tent at the dead, black earth.

Somehow, a new thought crept in, pushing the hopelessness aside at least for now.

How did this happen? Why is everything dead? I squint, trying to think of reasons.

A different, startled thought, “I haven’t prayed!”

I crawl out of my tent and kneel on the black earth, raising my arms to the heavens and closing my eyes as I turn my face skyward under the direct heat of N’Zembe.

I think first of Fasa, the giver and protector of life. “Fasa, I call on you now to keep me from the clutches of Saun who has surrounded me on all sides. Please preserve my life! Avun, giver of hope, please come to me. Without you I may give in to death. Irek, preserver and protector, please preserve me. Work with Fasa and Avun to keep me from Saun. I am hopeless, running low on supplies, and worn from my climb and my travels. Please come to me!”

I remain still and do my best to quiet my thoughts. I slow my breathing and relax.

Soon my flesh feels hot from N’Zembe, so I go back into my tent.

I eat and drink a bit more before allowing myself to drift back into sleep. I still fear I might die, but if the gods have heard me, my fears will not be realized.

A few days go by the same as the last. Eat, drink, pray, and sleep.

I notice the tufts of green that I saw as I traveled. With each day when I go out to pray there are more. After a short while there is a carpet of green underfoot and a sprout resembling galos, a fast-growing edible leaf.

Sure enough, a few days after I spotted the sprout, and just as I’m at the end of my supplies, there is a large succulent galos. Just when I need it, it’s ready.

“Thank Fasa!” I shout. “For you truly are the giver of life!”

I turn in a circle, astounded at the gorgeous patch of greenery surrounding me. It tapers off a few yards away from my tent, but the plants that grow within! More galos, the start of some malna, a brelth bush, and a valen tree, a short stout tree offering plentiful shade when it’s grown.

I spread my arms, close my eyes, and turn my face skyward in thanksgiving.

And as if things couldn’t get better, it begins to rain. First a soft drizzle, then light sprinkling, into a full-on downpour!

I put out my water jars and use the rain to rinse my food jars to fill them with rain as well.

I kneel in the rain and turn my face upwards into it, spreading my arms in a prayerful position. “Thank you Fasa, Avun, Irek for saving my life!”

Days pass and the plants bloom and flourish around me, creating a small slice of paradise amidst a black, dead world. I have enough water for nearly a month and food growing around me as fast as I can eat it.

I’m going to survive. I think triumphantly. I’m not going to die!

It is then that I am struck with conviction. Plants grew around me. I can go back. I can bring others out here. I can keep my promise to Mother and Ni.

We can all enjoy this vast world and make it green again.

The End

This is the first part of my novella The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan. The first two lines, “It’s been so long that no one knows why the walls were built. Nobody wants to leave.” were the prompt that inspired the story.

This takes place on Irqulnirn after the apocalypse.

The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan (P2 of 3)

This is part two. Read part one if you haven’t already.

As soon as I return from my rope-collecting errand, I stop by home to visit with my mother and Nimshi. I stay one more night in my old room before going back to my mission, back to the wall.

“How best to secure the rope?” I mumble aloud. “I need it at the top, but I’d have to climb up first…” I sigh, “I’ll have to climb all the way up without falling the first time before I can be assured of a safer trip.”

I tie one end of the rope to my waist, around my legs, and over my shoulders to form a harness of sorts, using a trilene knot to ensure it will stay tied. I grab my pack. Before I trekked to the other side of the wall, I would have grunted under the weight of my bag, however, I have grown accustomed to bearing its weight.

I pull on a pair of sturdy leather gloves, trying to prepare myself for the long climb ahead. I stare endlessly upward to the top of the wall, finding my first hand holds.

“Here goes nothing,” I whisper, pulling myself up onto the wall.

I move my right hand, my left foot, my left hand, my right foot, and cycle endlessly. The motion repeats and repeats and repeats. I can’t stop or I won’t be able to continue, or worse, I’ll fall. I continue climbing and climbing and climbing.

I don’t know how far I have climbed when I find myself panting, legs and arms burning, hands aching, feet starting to throb. I force myself to move the left foot, the left hand, the right foot, the right hand.

I can’t stop. I can’t stop. I have to get to the top. I can’t stop. I have to get to the top. I repeat the thought like a mantra, unwilling to give up when I worked so hard to get where I am now. Unwilling to die the same way my father did, unwilling to break my promise to return safely.

I climb through the pain, burning, aching, and need for more air, for a break, for a drink. If I stop I won’t start again, if I grab my drink from my belt I might fall.

My arms and legs feel like wet clay when I hear people below, shouting.

Don’t look. Keep climbing. You’re getting close. You can make it. You are going to get to the top! You’re not going to fall! You have to get to the top, no matter what they think, no matter what they say. You’re going to make it! You’re going to show them it can be done! You will not fall and die at their feet! My face hardens with determination, and I push myself harder.

I register the surprise and amazement in the gathering crowd from the hush that precedes louder chattering. I smirk to myself, pushing and pulling myself higher, not stopping.

After a long while, the crowd goes silent, presumably just watching.

I climb until my hand slips, a few pebbles falling down, down, down. I jerk my gaze back up, not wanting to think about the distance. I fit my hand in a slightly different space.

I go several more feet, arms, legs, and hands about to give out when I find myself eye level with a perfect notch. I smile, reaching down to my belt. I carefully pull out a camming device and cram it in place as far and tight into the hole as I can with one hand. I attach a carabiner and push a portion of the rope through the eye. I grab that side of the rope with the hand already not holding the wall. Gradually I pull all the rope through but what was used in my harness.

I hold the rope tightly in my hand and remove my other hand, fingers aching, from the wall. I scrunch my eyes closed and hold my breath. My feet remain on the wall!

With much difficulty, and almost falling a few times, I manage to tie a sliding friction knot, one that will allow me to continue to climb but will catch if I fall. I release some of my weight, holding myself with my hands, and the knot holds.

“Thank Fasa,” I mumble under my breath, thinking of the goddess of life.

I sit in my harness to rest and finally allow myself a drink. I’m very close to dehydration, but I force myself to take small sips so I will keep it down. I finish half the bottle, glance at the crowd below, then resume climbing.

It’s near dark, but I’ve been relying on touch alone anyway. I’ve rested some, and now it won’t be as hot as I climb.

I climb as far as I can despite the darkness, ignoring the exhaustion that threatens to overtake me. Shortly before I would be able to take it no longer, I place another camming device in a small crevice and switch the rope’s attachment to a new carabiner. I again almost fall a few times when I try to tie a sliding friction knot. This time, since I intend to try to sleep, I use the length of rope to tie another trilene knot, this one just below my friction knot.

I wake up, terrified when I feel only air beneath me, until I see the carabiner and camming device just above me and the rope about my waist, legs, and shoulders. I breathe deeply to calm down, to slow my wild heart before it beats out of my chest.

Carefully, I pull a small bag with dried lan slices from my belt. The smooth, blue rimmed white ellipses taste sweet as they melt slightly in my mouth. It takes almost no time to eat every last slice, which together had been three of the long, tubular fruits. I drink some more to wash down my breakfast and regain some hydration.

After the bottle and bag are securely attached to my belt once more, I begin climbing for the day.

I creep closer and closer to the top, heart beating fast in anticipation and from the strain. My muscles and hands ache from yesterday, but I must continue upwards. Sweat streams down my brow, neck, from my armpits, elbows, and knees.

I pause momentarily for a drink. I don’t want to be parched. That could kill me. A headache from insufficient hydration may cause me to plummet to the hard ground so far, far below. I tuck the bottle into my belt once more and resume moving steadily up, up, endlessly upwards.

Around the middle of the day I’m forced to stop. The heat is overwhelming. I’m panting from the effort to continue and from heat. I’m sweating as much as though I had gone for a swim in a stream.

I use a third camming device and carabiner combination to create a seat. I must rest. Today I cannot climb through the noonday sun.

Once I am secured, I drain my bottle and extract some baked renka from my bag. The soft but firm legume yields to my teeth. Once the black skin is broken, the green, starchy inside is revealed. This is my favorite food, and the taste reminds me of my mother, of Ni, and of life before Father died.

I swallow thickly as I finish and prepare to complete the climb.

~*~*~*~*~

It is nearly nightfall when I reach the top. I collapse on the horizontal surface in exhaustion. Looking over the other side can wait until tomorrow. I need rest, food, and fluid.

I pull my pack off my back and set it next to me. I turn to lay on my back, watching as Acteonil rises in the sky to join Cayne, Naiyah, Vilmariy, Kadyre, and Sehlvyn in illuminating the land. The moons in their varying colors stare down at me. I smile, and glance to the side and down.

Mother and Ni are likely outside, looking at the moons, admiring Cayne for its soft blue-green, Naiyah for bright, flaming orange, Sehlvyn for light purple, Acteonil for white spattered with black, Kadyre for sunset-like pink, and Vilmariy for its unforgiving, harsh green glare. It can be hard to remember all the names, but Mother always loved the moons and space. We always spent the nights outside admiring them, learning their names, acknowledging their beauty, and thanking Uval the night god. Tonight and last night are the first times we won’t have done that together.

I roll over, push up onto my elbows, and pull pickled dren fruit from my bag. I try to avoid touching the brine as I probe two fingers into the jar, grasping at glowing purple slivers. I fail, being forced to submerge my fingers into the warm, slimy liquid as the dren fruit slivers slip and slide from my grasp. I scrunch up my nose, wishing I could have brought enough silverware with me to have used it instead.

Finally I manage to extract a single sliver of dren, globs of brine slowly dripping off the sliver and my fingers back into the jar. I shake the sliver, trying to be rid of some of the slimy liquid coating it. It mostly fails, but I shove it in my mouth anyway.

The taste of food increases my desire to eat. I desperately upend the jar, fingers barely parted over the opening to drain the liquid but not lose the dren. I right the jar but keep my hand palm-up, cupping most of the pickled fruit. The brine pools where I poured it, gathering together and thankfully not finding my clothes.

Greedily I eat as much of the handful at once as I can fit in my mouth. I chew hastily, and swallow thickly from the amount of chewed solid I’ve taken at once. I eat all of the pickled dren in the jar, finding that I’m hungrier than I even thought.

I carefully set the jar, brine nearly coating the outside of it, next to my pack. With no other option, I wipe my hands on my clothes, grimacing as the slimy fluid soaks into my shirt and pants. I’ll be wearing these clothes for a long while because I could only bring so much up the wall. Ruining them now is far from ideal.

I roll onto my back, pulling my pack to rest under my head. I sigh and close my eyes, drifting off to sleep.

I did it, I think, I climbed the wall just like Dad always dreamed. I smile and fall asleep.

~*~*~*~*~

I groan as I wake to bright light in my eyes. I place my hand over my face, shielding my pupils from the sun. I turn onto my side. I’m not ready to wake up, not ready, even though it means seeing over the wall. After two days of climbing, I’m exhausted. Whatever’s over the wall will still be there when I’m ready to look at it.

I twist onto my stomach, trying desperately to get comfortable. I continue tossing and turning until finally I give up on sleeping any longer.

I sit up and pull my water out of my pack and drink greedily, but remain conscious of how little water I probably brought in comparison to how much I would need, seeing how I’m in the sun constantly.

From where I sit, I turn to look towards the horizon over the wall expectantly.

I jump to my feet, move to stand almost on the edge of the stone structure. I glance down. It’s the same, it’s all the same.

No. No, it can’t be black and gray. Where’s the life? Where’s the hope? Where is the land I’ve always dreamed of?

I stagger backwards away from the edge, dizzy. I trip over my pack, my head bouncing on the hard stone and thudding down again.

~*~*~*~*~

I crack my eyes open. The sun is still lighting the land from so, so far away, but everything blurs, two images floating around, first coming together then separating again. A thought surfaces, something I learned in school but never thought I’d need – this is likely a sign of a concussion.

I sit up anyway and my head starts pounding immediately. I down another bottle to rehydrate and hopefully quell the headache.

If I really do have a concussion, I’ll need to go back down.

There’s nothing outside the wall anyway, I remind myself. The world is dead. There was never a point to this dream anyway. It was bound to be a disappointment.

In that moment, I consider jumping. I wouldn’t have to face my people and tell them my quest was pointless, that nothing is outside the wall but black and gray death. I stand up despite the throbbing in my skull and the splitting and reconverging images before my eyes.

Then I think of my promise to my mother. I promised to return, to not die. I have to go see them again.

There’s no point to living at all. There’s nothing more to this world than what is inside the walls and the death outside them.

I collapse into a sitting position once more, putting my head in my hands.

I can’t do it. I can’t live in that world. I just can’t.

I force myself to stop thinking, to think about anything else, anything but this revelation. Once I reach a semblance of normal, I take my rinebark woven tent from my pack, pausing every few seconds to close my eyes against the pain. It takes a long while, but I get the tent up and gratefully crawl into it out of the sun.

~*~*~*~*~

I could just leave, I think suddenly. I could go down the other side of the wall and disappear. Walk away. Never return. There’s no point to staying anyway. This way, no one would have to know the world is empty and hopeless.

Mother and Ni’s faces swim into my thoughts.

It’s crazy, I know it is, but I want to. I want to just go over the other side of the wall. Disappear. But I can’t.

They would be heartbroken if they never saw or heard from me…

I wrestle with this line of thinking for a long while before drifting off into a tormented sleep.

To be continued…

This is the first part of my novella The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan. The first two lines, “It’s been so long that no one knows why the walls were built. Nobody wants to leave.” were the prompt that inspired the story.

This takes place on Irqulnirn after the apocalypse.

This was available early to my patrons. If you would like to have early access to blog posts as well as other benefits, check out my Patreon.

The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan (P1 of 3)

It’s been so long that no one knows why the walls were built. Nobody wants to leave. They are the tallest thing anyone has ever seen, and they stretch for the furthest distance anyone can imagine. Everything anyone has ever wanted is inside the walls. No one knows what is outside, what we are unable to see. No one has ever been to the top of the walls, no one knows how thick they are. We know they are stone, but not what variety, it is something we do not have inside this enormous enclosed space.

I will be the first. I will climb the walls. I will tell everyone about the world we have never seen, the world we have never known. I will document the measure of the walls’ breadth, length, and height. I will draw the surrounding land for all to see and imagine what I have seen with my own eyes.

Then they too will wonder as I do, will wonder what of the world we have missed, will desire to explore and know it, to understand it, to be in it. They will help me open a door in the wall to the outside, and a search party will explore and further document this land we have never known, the plants and animals and maybe even people we have never seen, never imagined existed.

Maybe they won’t want to leave the familiarity of it all. Perhaps I won’t want to leave either, after seeing what we cannot reach or touch. That is unlikely, but certainly possible. I want, at least, to see it before I decide. I want to know what is out there for myself, to no longer rely on the unsatisfactory folklore of my people, who have never seen what is outside either. If anything, I will at least inform everyone. They will know with certainty what the walls are keeping from us and if we are being sheltered from something insidious.

“Kaashif!” my younger sister, Nimshi interrupts my thoughts.

“Yes?”

“Mother wants you, Kaa. Said for you to come inside.”

“Thank you, Ni.”

She nods, smiling, skipping away, presumably to find her friends. Her long blond locks trail behind her, bouncing with her movement, swaying from side to side. I smile, watching her for a moment, then turn and head indoors.

“There you are, Kaa. I was wondering. You were outside for quite some time.”

“Yes, Mother, I was thinking again. Do you need help with something?”

She smiles, brushing a strand of graying brown hair from her cheek, “No. I just wanted to check on you. See how you were.”

“Ah. I’m doing well. Easier to think outside is all.”

She nods. “The sweet air is nice this time of year.”

I smile, taking the knife from her hands and cutting the malna for her. The red tuber yields easily to the blade, the ashy rind only slightly difficult to cut through.

“You really don’t have to help with that.”

“I know, Mother. You always say that.”

She ruffles my ragged brownish blond hair. “It’s always true. You have more important work to be doing than cutting vegetables and preparing food.”

“So do you,” I note, finishing the first of the round tubers and starting to cut the next.

Everyone does. I have outdoor studies to take part in and people I’m to interact with. She has the garden, the sewing, and crafting to do here. Even Ni has responsibilities.

Mother nods, washing a handful of brelth berries, the small, lumpy green sweet berries found all over during spring. “This is true, but someone has to cook and keep house, and surely you or Ni don’t have the time to do it.”

“That probably applies more when a father is earning the money.”

Her face washes with sadness, causing me to regret resurfacing such memories.

Father died five years ago now. I remember crying, clinging to Mother at the burial ceremony. He had climbed part-way up the wall and fallen. Probably about thirty feet in the air, about ten feet below the height of our tallest buildings. He was so far from the top, but he had been determined – determined to at least see the world beyond this enclosure at least once before he died. He never did, he never will. That is part of why I have to. I must. I can’t let his dream die with him, even five years later. Even if he’ll never see it, everyone will remember his son as being the first who did, and as a result, remember him.

Tears prick my eyes, fire building in my chest as I remember my purpose, my calling, my mission. The one goal I have in life is to fulfill my father’s dream. Somehow, someway. I have to at least try, even if I die as he did. I will climb the wall. I will reach the highest point anyone has ever been. Hopefully I will reach the top and see beyond.

Mother doesn’t respond, merely pulls out another knife and begins cutting the brelth berries and extracting the hard seeds from the centers. I finish cutting all five malna for her in silence, turning to ask if she has anything else to cut.

“Are you all right?” I place a hand on her shoulder upon noticing her tears.

“Yes. Yes, Kaa. Thank you for your help. You can go back outside if you want,” she brushes the salty droplets from her face, giving me a quick sideways hug.

“Are you sure? I can keep helping you.”

“No, no, it’s fine. I can handle myself. Please check on Ni, though. Find out just where she went.” She smiles, gesturing for me to go back outside.

I nod. “I’ll let you know, Mother. Don’t worry.”

“I never do. Now go!”

“Okay, okay!” I jog out the door and in the direction I recall Nimshi headed.

I need to weave rope. Lots and lots of rope. One long, long strand. Strong, too. It needs to be able to support my weight and probably about twenty pounds more, too. Just as a precaution, and to allow me to carry supplies. On second thought, more than twenty extra pounds. I’ll need to gather vines, but they’re not on this side. They’re all the way on the opposite wall.

I’ll need to gather food, stuff that will last. Preserves and anything else that will keep. It’s hard to say how long I’d be up there, on top of the wall, drawing, measuring. I guess I could tie the rope to the top and climb back down, but I’m not sure I’d want to risk others cutting my rope while I’m away, or climbing up themselves. I want this to be my accomplishment. The Sarwan name will be remembered for having a dream and bringing it to fruition. For being the first to know what we have never known.

I’ll need more clothing, durable articles. Stuff that will resist wear and weather. And shelter. A tent, or something that is light and easy to put up and take down. Bedding, too. How long is this list going to get? How much will I need? How many trips up to the top of the wall will I be taking? Maybe I should build a house at the edge of the wall, and a fence too, to claim some property and have my rope secure. Then I can come down and go back up till I have everything I will need to go around the whole wall.

I have to assume the top of the wall is wide enough to camp on. Based on what I have learned about architecture, it is very likely the walls would have fallen if they were not, merely because of how tall they are. Unless the walls are somehow strong enough to withstand the shaking and waving a tall, thin structure would experience, they must be thick.

I pause my thoughts when I notice someone outside. When I come closer, I find that it is Mr. Chanrin.

“Hello, Mr. Chanrin, have you seen Nimshi?”

“Yes, I believe she went to visit her friend Kolora.”

“Thank you.” I walk in the direction of the Fertun household, hoping Mr. Chanrin is right.

~*~*~*~*~

“Kaa, what are you going to do after you finish school?” Mother smiles at me, bringing up a topic I had been avoiding.

I sigh, she would find out eventually, not that I want her to.

“I-I’m going to… I’m going to climb the wall,” I hold my breath as I wait for her response.

She freezes, her back to me, preventing me from knowing her exact expression. When she finally speaks, her throat sounds tight from the strain with which she chokes out, “What?”

I speak more gently, “I’m going to climb the wall.”

I watch her hands clench the towel she’s holding. She was in the middle of washing the dishes, refusing to turn and look at me as we speak.

She shakes her head, “No. No, you can’t. I can’t lose you too, Kaa! I can’t lose you the same way I lost your father!”

I put a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to console her as she began sobbing, but she pushes me away.

“You can’t climb the wall,” her voice shudders, but is the coldest I have heard from her. “Anything but climb the wall, Kaa. Anything. I can’t lose you! You can’t leave me with shattered memories of you and your father!”

My face falls to the floor in shame and I speak softly, “I-I’m sorry, Mother. I-I have to fulfill his dream. I can’t let it die. I must climb the wall.”

Mother turns around and grips my shoulders, eyes blazing, “No, you mus’n’t. You can’t leave me like that. You can’t leave Ni! She can’t lose a father and a brother also! Do anything else!”

Tears prick my eyes. “I have to do this. I can’t let Father’s death be the end of his dream. I have to try again for him.”

Her face turns cold, she looks away from me. She releases my shoulders and returns to the dishes, giving up on convincing me.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper.

She shakes her head.

I walk dejectedly to my bedroom, quietly closing the door.

~*~*~*~*~

I completed my schooling, building near the wall in my spare time. I had a fence and a meager structure. It was enough. I wouldn’t be living in it anyway. I bought a rinebark woven tent, hard but flexible, nearly black in color, insulating but breathable. It was perfect. The vine rope was under order, still being made. I lacked the skill to weave rope or fabric, otherwise I’d have made both items myself.

“Bye, Mother. Bye, Ni.” I hug them both, assuring them I would return, I would stay safe. The coldness that had developed between Mother and I, the constant attempts to dissuade me from my task, had worn on all of us. Even so, I could not turn back now, not when I have barely begun.

“Make sure you come back to me, in the name of Ouran. Whatever else you do, Kaa, come back to me!” she cries desperately. Tears are threatening to stream down her face, scared I will face the same fate as Father.

She references Ouran, the god of truth.

I nod somberly, “I will. I swear on Ouran I will, Mother.”

She tightens her grip on me and kisses my cheek.

“I’ll be coming back, probably sooner than you think. I can only take so much food.” I force a smile, knowing she’s worried, understanding why, but not wanting her to be.

“Make sure you keep your promise,” she says, a wild look in her eyes.

I nod, forcing myself to pull away. “I will.” I walk out the door, waving again to my mother and sister.

I walk a long, long time to the opposite wall. Probably weeks, but I lose count of the days. I’m close to doing it. Soon I’ll be climbing the walls, measuring things, observing the outside world. At least, assuming there is an outside world. If this is literally all there is, if oblivion lies beyond, I don’t know what I’ll do or how I’ll react.

Finally, weary but growing stronger, I arrive at the shop I ordered the rope from. The green-brown building looks worn, but not particularly old. It is not made of mud like most of our buildings. The sign in the window reads “open,” so I turn the doorknob. A bell dings as the door swings open.

“’Ello! Welcome ta ‘Vines an’ More,’ ‘ow can I ‘elp ya?” a grubby man behind the counter greets me.

“I’m here to pick up an order for rope. Sarwan.”

The grubby man flips through a stained notebook on the counter. “Aye, I’ll git it fer ya. Wait jus’ a minute.”

He turns and goes through the door labeled “Employees Only” next to the counter.

After the door closes he yells, “’Ey, Cropnik! Git the ropes fer Sarwan! The real long uns!”

“Aye, sir!” the response sounds feminine, but I can’t be sure.

The man comes back. “Should be just a minute. Cropnik knows w’ere it’s at.”

Cropnik, a short girl with her red hair in a boyish style, appears in the doorway. “’Ere’s yer rope!” She plunks two wide coils on the counter.

“Thank ya, Cropnik,” the man says.

She smiles at me before turning and heading back through the door.

“’At’ll be forty crenshins.”

I count out the money and pass him the full amount. He counts it to double check, and then pushes the coil across the counter to me.

“Pleasure doin’ business wit’ ya.”

I nod, “Thanks.”

To be continued…

This is the first part of my novella The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan. The first two lines, “It’s been so long that no one knows why the walls were built. Nobody wants to leave.” were the prompt that inspired the story.

This takes place on Irqulnirn after the apocalypse.

Part two will be available soon. Read it now by becoming a patron.