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.

Deleted Draft: Drelkensoul Story

This was started with the prompt, “As our story came to a close, I realized we were the villains all along.” Where I went became a bit of a mess. I created a species, the drelkensoul, for N’Zembe, but didn’t have a solid idea how the function. Not only that, but I didn’t have any sort of plan and my loose plot was a convoluted idea. This may get a rewrite/complete restart, but for now, here it is:

As our story came to a close, I realized that we were the villains all along. By then, though, it was too late. All was said and done, we had already faced our judgment, we were dead. I had always assumed that after death was nothing, but it seems I was wrong. Otherwise I would be unable to record our story. It is my hope that others will avoid our path to destruction, learn from our mistakes, be better than we were.

I don’t blame anyone who assumes this whole tale, including our deaths, is a hoax. But what does it matter? I lived it, so did they. I won’t try to convince anyone of the truth of my recollection by claiming to have been tasked to write my adventure by one of the gods. Yes, there is a multiplicity of deities. There are many, both benevolent and malevolent, in balance.

This is not a religious text, so I shall move on. Surely it is more important to know who we were and what we did that was so terrible. At least, terrible in retrospect. I never realized until after we had died that we had done anything wrong, inflicted pain upon so many. I didn’t know what we truly were until it was too late.

I had my suspicions that we were villainous, but never were they very great. Our people were not known for their kindness anyway, but rather our cruelty and ruthlessness. We were drelkensheath.

I’m not sure how old I was when I became aware of another entity within me. Yes, another entity. A literal separate being inhabiting my body.

We fought for quite some time over control of my being, the external portion of it, at least. Eventually, I was offered a compromise.

Share this vessel with me, and I will grant you unfathomable power–power that will free you from your dependence on the sea. I can still hear those words in my mind, even now that I’m dead.

Knowing the alternative was to continue fighting, as the spirit had made clear he was unwilling to leave, I readily agreed.

Peace brought a strange sense of cohabitation within my own body. I was no longer one person, but two in disguise, if this other creature was even to be considered a person. Are they even a creature? The gods are unwilling to entertain my questions, so I’ll likely never know.

When I rose upon the fertile land, I soon met others like me–drelkensheath who were now cohabiting their own bodies, vessels as the spirits called them. We decided to band together, the seven of us. Perhaps we’d survive better, figure ourselves out quicker, understand these new abilities.

“Hey, we need to leave! Everyone get up!” I yelled at the five still laying on their mats.

Adesola consistently woke up early enough for us to leave, but she had also been out of water the longest–she was the most at home on land.

Don’t Risk the Mind-Wipe (Short Story)

This is a sequel to The Hunters and the Hunted. It is from a different perspective than the first part. It’s also based on a prompt, which is the first two sentences.

“That is a terrible, horrible, incredible, foolish idea. Let’s do it and see what happens,” Lail proclaimed.

“You’re not serious, are you?” Alwin asked, hoping that Lail would not proceed.

“I was joking, you know,” I feel obligated to clarify, hoping Alwin and I can convince him.

“So? It would be hilarious!”

Alwin audibly groans, frustrated, “Why do you want to release those Draupnir? We could be fired and mind-wiped.”

“Hey, it was Zarol’s idea!”

“I said I was joking!”

“Both of you, calm down, you don’t want Hyrah to overhear, do you?” Alwin cut in before Lail could further increase the tension.

“We’re not actually doing it. It would be really stupid.”

“Why do we keep them locked up, anyway? It’s not like they could actually escape, is it?” Of course Lail still wants to find a reason to convince us…

I try thinking it through when Alwin responds, “If they knew the layout of our building, they could plan an escape, which could work. Despite our abilities to subdue and dominate them, their powers enable them to work around that. Maybe, at least. They know some of what we can do and could plan around that strategically.”

“I’m going to go visit them,” Lail notices my condescending gaze. “What?”

“What do you think?” I spit out, hoping he doesn’t lose all three of us our vocations and memories.

“I’m not going to let them out,” mischief sparkled in his eyes; he was clearly going to do something far more dangerous.

“I’m coming with you then,” if we were caught, we would probably lose our jobs… even if we weren’t letting the Draupnir out…

“Don’t trust me? Fine. It was your idea anyway…”

“Still at that? It’s getting old.”

“Don’t start fighting, or you’ll both be caught for sure. At least try to get along,” she would never let us live through this if we did get caught for being stupid.

“’Kay.”

We walk down the long white halls, our muffled footfalls the only sound as our regulation boots contacted the carpet repeatedly. Turn after turn, corridor after corridor, my heart beat harder and faster.

What if our break ends? What if someone comes into the hallway before we get to the cell? Endless what-ifs…

“Hey, calm down. You’re breathing really loudly.”

“Sorry…”

Finally, we reach the password protected steel door. 4-7-6-2-9-9-5 would open the door, unless it was changed since two days prior.

I exhaled, holding my breath as I shakily entered the numbers. The soft bleep, bleep of the keypad constituted the only sound in this white space. As soon I pressed the five, a click signified our successful entry.

Lail opens the door, entering just as I think, The cameras! We forgot about the security cameras!

“Lail, wait!” I whisper harshly and he turns, “What about the cameras?”

“Pfft, security won’t know that we weren’t told to check on the Draupnir after our break. They also won’t know if our earpieces conveyed special instructions from Orva, who isn’t here today.”

“Orva’s not here? How do you know?”

He rolled his eyes, “My office is across from hers, duh.”

I nod, feeling ridiculous for forgetting, “Right, uh, nevermind.”

I slide through the doorway after Lail, sitting on the metal bench in the room.

“What do you want?” a shaking red haired girl asks with contempt.

I lock eyes with her, stunned by how bright her blue irises are, “Nothing. We just came to talk to you.”

“Hallan,” she whispers, “Hallan, wake up.”

A blond boy stirs at her touch, “Ana, what is it?”

“Them,” she tips her head toward us.

Hallan props himself on his elbow, glaring at us, but says nothing.

The two of them keep glancing at each other and then at us, but no words pass between them.

“Hello, I’m Zarol.”

Hallan stands up and walks to the bars, “What do you want Zarol?”

“Lail and I just wanted to talk to you.”

Sure. I don’t believe that for a second,” his gaunt frame shook visibly with anger.

“We actually came in to talk to you. We might be able to help you get out,” another girl stares at us at Lail’s words, her black hair covering half of her face.

“You want to help us escape?” Ana moved to stand just behind Hallan, a hand on his shoulder.

Lail nods, but I sit still, expressionless. I knew he would jeopardize our jobs. I knew it! How dare he!

“Lail,” I whisper sternly.

“You don’t want him to help us,” I freeze when Hallan says this.

“What?”

“You’re worried he’ll cause you to lose your job.” I shiver as I hear his voice in my mind, You’re worried you’ll be fired and mind-wiped for helping us.

“Lail, if you want to help them, fine. I’m going back to work.”

Just before I open the steel door to leave, I hear Ana whisper, “Hallan, you scared him. Now he won’t help us.”

Hallan muttered, “He wasn’t going to help us anyway,” just as the door closed behind me.

~*~*~*~*~

“Lail, where have you been?” Alwin and I caught Lail in the parking garage just after our shifts ended.

“You weren’t with the Draupnir all day, were you?” the concern in Alwin’s voice didn’t require reinforcement from her facial expression.

He shook his head, “’Course not. I left when my break ended. No one noticed that I was a few minutes late in returning to my desk. Probably because Orva wasn’t there…”

“It was stupid to go in there in the first place. You’re not going to –”

“I am. I don’t care if I lose my job. We have no further reason to keep them locked up.”

“Don’t tell me you care for those inhuman beasts!”

Alwin cut in urgently, “Calm down! You’re going to call attention to yourselves. We can discuss this at my apartment and have dinner.”

For once, Lail and I left our disagreement behind us, seething silently.

~*~*~*~*~

“What do you want for dinner?”

“Anything’s fine.”

“Do you want anything specific, Zarol?”

“No, whatever you have on-hand will suffice. I’m not particularly hungry anyhow.”

She nodded, rummaging through her pantry and fridge. She pulled out a number of ingredients, and began cooking, though just watching her confused me. How do people understand cooking at all? I can analyze data and invent a device utilizing the natural proponents of the Draupnir’s “powers,” but I’ll never understand recipes and cooking. The most I can do is boil water with pasta…

“Zarol, despite your prejudices about the Draupnir, I’m going to help them escape.”

“They could be dangerous! They have the power and strength to hurt people! We can’t let them go!”

Lail glared, “They’re more human than you think. All of the time before we captured them, Hallan, Analyn, Colby, Shelly, and Leynard never hurt anyone.”

“How can you be so sure?” venom oozed through my teeth unintentionally.

“I called Garter’s Family Grocery. Mr. Garter, the owner, attested to Hallan’s account. Hallan or one of the other Draupnir would come in, wash up, work for the day, and he’d pay them with food.”

“If you won’t be convinced not to destroy your job, fine by me! I’m not involved anymore. Just because one man was treated well says nothing for anybody else.”

Alwin spoke, “Lail does have a point, but so do you, Zarol. Is freeing the Draupnir really worth your job, Lail? Is it that important? What if they are dangerous, and you’re responsible for their freedom?”

Lail sighed, “Forget it. I’m done talking about this. I’m going to free them.”

I shake my head, disappointed that he refused to listen to reason, When will he ever learn?

~*~*~*~*~

Alwin and I saw but did not speak to Lail after that night. Most times, during his break, I would notice him walking toward the steel door, but I said nothing. Whether my knowledgeable silence would cost me my job as well, if Lail succeeded, I couldn’t know for certain, and I hopefully wouldn’t have to find out.

“Orva, is Lail here today?”

“No, Zarol, he called in sick.”

“Oh, okay, thanks,” I turned and walked back to my cubicle, closer to the break room.

I open the door when Hyrah rounds the corner.

“Zarol, I’ve been looking for you since lunch!”

“You have?” the confusion must show in my eyes, because she nods emphatically.

“I was wondering if you know why Lail’s been acting strange lately. He called in sick, but he sounded… elated over the phone.”

My eyebrows come together, puzzling over this revelation. Lail probably freed the Draupnir, or at least told them how to escape… If I tell Hyrah… But if I don’t…

I shake my head, “I’m not sure… Alwin and I haven’t been on very good terms with him lately… He hasn’t been talking to us.”

“Okay. Well, if you find out anything, please tell me,” she starts walking off toward the copy room.

“Hyrah, wait,” she turns on her heel, waiting. I hesitated to reveal my friend. Eventually I spoke, “Sorry, nevermind. I thought I remembered something, but I didn’t.”

~*~*~*~*~

After work, I decide to call Lail. Despite everything, I don’t want him to lose his job. I want to help him somehow if I can.

“Hello, Lail. Can I talk to you for a few minutes?”

“Zarol, why are you calling?”

“You weren’t actually sick today, were you?”

“No. I told the Draupnir how to escape yesterday… You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”

I hesitated.

“You did?!”

“No, no! I didn’t. I thought about it, but I didn’t.”

He sighed, “Good.”

“If you show up at work tomorrow after the Draupnir escape, they’ll likely assume you were responsible. Especially after reviewing the security tape…”

“I’ll call in sick again, then.”

“Wait, that’d be suspicious too… Tomorrow, come to work, and go to ‘check’ on the Draupnir like you have been. You be the one to report their disappearance.”

“That seems like a good idea. I’ll be in trouble, but hopefully I won’t be mind-wiped…”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye.”

~*~*~*~*~

Zarol. Zarol, wake up. “Zarol!” I jolt awake, jumping further at the sight of shadowed faces in my bedroom.

“W-who are you?”

“Hallan”; “Analyn”; “Colby”; “Shelby”; “Leynard.”

“The Draupnir?! How did you get in here?”

Hallan, closest to me, spoke, “Easy, through the window. Colby opened it for us.”

“What?! How?”

Colby chuckled, “Hallan can speak and read thoughts. I can open locked doors, windows,… and other things.”

My eyes widened, my foggy mind comprehending how dangerous these five children could be. If they were even human… or even actually children…

What are the Draupnir? I think wondrously, hoping they do not decide to harm me.

“We’re like you,” Hallan replies aloud.

“W-what? O-oh, right… Why are you here?”

“We thought we might visit you. Lail suggested it actually, thought you’d think more highly of us if we did.”

“So you broke into my apartment? That’s not a great way to convince me you’re good news.”

“That’s what I said, but they wouldn’t listen to me!” Analyn exclaimed.

“I was hoping he’d have food for us, actually. Otherwise, it wasn’t a good idea,” Leynard put in.

I cut off their impending argument, “Do any of you want something to drink? I can give you a small amount of food, but it’s” I look at the clock, “3 AM.”

“Awesome,” the lights flick on when Shelly speaks, and I see the faces of all the Draupnir.

None of them are standing by the light switch?

“Oh, sorry. That was my fault,” Shelly explains sheepishly.

“It’s alright, I’m just still getting used to your… powers?”

On Hiatus: Shapeshifter Story

This is a new series featuring partial and incomplete drafts of stories that I hope to come back to sometime after I finish Mystical Warriors. The length and quality vary and the amount of work I would need to do to revive the story are debateable.

This is all of this particular story. I didn’t get very far along before abandoning it. I have some clue of the plot and where it is meant to go, though, so it’s still a story I could come back to.

The darkness pervaded the room as well as my thoughts. They had arrived early; I wasn’t ready for what lay ahead. I was different; they had sent that back after the rigorous tests had been analyzed in three stages. No one has ever known for certain what they’re testing for, just that they’re trying to separate something. Anyone who has it gets sent away to the somewhere that supposedly exists nowhere.

They rapped on the door again. I knew if I didn’t go out to them, they’d come in to me. Rolling off my bed, I opened the door. As I trudged across the room, I snatched up the heavily-packed bag containing my basic belongings.

“You take nothing with you into the Nowhere,” the leader-looking man dead-panned, though I sensed the capital n on nowhere nonetheless.

As my mind started to go into overload, I dropped the bag. I was allowed no personal belongings but the clothes on my back, and I was being forced from my home. I crossed the threshold of my bedroom, my personal space, my hand lingered on the door frame.

“We must leave immediately.”

“Can I at least say–”

“No,” the voice is firm and I recognized my inability to argue here; I had no rights.

I nodded, submitting, following them out to the government-issued van that would transport me. The blackness, seemingly no stars, the missing moon, encased me without hesitation. How fitting that on this night I was to be taken away to the Nowhere. As the spacious van rumbled away, the inside as black with the lights off as my bedroom and the night outside, I found myself tensing in anticipation of the worst.

The ride was long and dark as well as silent. I didn’t realize I was sleeping until I was shaken awake by rough hands. Once I was somewhat conscious, I was dragged from the dark van toward a large, poorly-lit building.

“You will be assigned a dorm in the morning. Tonight you will reside in this guest bedroom. You will also be assigned a gray uniform–once you are in your section you will receive a colored uniform.”

I was too tired to fully take in what was said as I collapsed on the twin bed, falling asleep once more.

~*~*~*~*~

Bright light passing through my eyelids woke me. I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and looked around at the cramped “guest bedroom” I had lodged in.

I’m still wearing my shoes, I thought suddenly.

I didn’t bother taking them off, but sat with my legs hanging off the edge of the bed while reading a list that was on the bedside table.

I had just finished reading this long list, seemingly of things I needed to to today, when the door opened.

“Follow me,” a black haired woman wearing a gray uniform quickly turned around without waiting for a response.

I quickly moved to obey. No reason to start my time in this new place punished. Without consideration, I abandoned the to-do list in the guest bedroom.

She guided me to an office-like room. The woman at the desk stood and came over with a measuring tape.

After measuring me, the woman led me through the next door. She handed me a gray uniform and then left. I quickly changed into it, not sure what to do with my clothes. I hoped to keep them, but realized that was unlikely.

“Leave those here and come. Classes are starting soon.”

I followed her through hallway after hallway, hopelessly confused about direction.

Finally, she stopped in front of a door. She opened it and gestured for me to enter.

“Good morning, Miss Reinback. Class, please welcome our newest student, Meran Fonshil.”

Everyone clapped, but they seemed quite bored.

The teacher, Miss Reinback gestured to the room’s only empty desk, “Please sit, Fonshil.”

I sat down and the black haired woman spoke, “Fonshil will be sharing a dorm with Crein. Twilth will move in with Gohn.”

I glanced around to see three girls nodding, knowing one of them was now my roommate.

The black haired woman left, and Miss Reinback finished the roll she had evidently been taking, scribbling my name at the end.

“As most of you already know, you have been brought to the Nowhere to unlock your full potential. The way to that will be different for each of you. Once you have accomplished this task, you will be sorted into a color category.”

Miss Reinback pulled down the white sheet in front of the board for the slide shows. She walked to the back of the room, turning on her computer.

“Blue, red, yellow, purple, orange, green, black, and white. You will be in one of these categories. You’ll be in classes with others of your color and will share a dorm with another of your color.”

A boy in the front raised his hand.

“Yes, Lenthris?”

“Will we ever get to see the color uniformed students before then? And anyway, what even is our ‘full potential’ that you harp on?”

“No, you will not. I can’t tell you what your full potential is because I don’t actually know.”

A number of students groaned.

Ignoring their protests, Miss Reinback droned on about what things would be like after we had colored uniforms.

Finally, she stopped and said, “It is time for you to all go to the gym.”

Everyone stood and filed one after another out the door. I followed in silence with everyone else. I tried to note how to get there, but found myself confused and lost again.

 

Deleted Drafts: Once Was Garmasapon

I’m not sure how much of the original draft of this story I still have, I’ll have to search for it. This is just chapter one. I had at least three chapters.

It’s a rather strange story about the island country Garmasapon and a woman who has an Esther-like situation where she marries the king by arranged marriage. I don’t even know where the plot was going. There was supposed to be a conflict with Malaposie, a near-ish island country that hated Garmasapon. What I actually have, though, is just weird.

Once upon a time there was a far away land called Garmasapon. In Garmasapon there was always peace among the people, never violence. The people who founded the land had found the island by chance — it was completely secluded. As far as the townspeople knew they’d never been invaded by their enemy — the land of Malaposie.

But that’s just the beginning! This is a story about Garmasapon’s leader Garlasha who absolutely hated Malasha, the leader of Malaposie. First off I bet you’re wondering who I am? Well I’ll begin our story by telling you — Garmasha, wife of Garlasha. Now on to the story that I promised to tell you.

My husband was born into royalty — in fact he was a descendant of our founder Garmasapon. As a boy he wasn’t allowed to dirty his clothes, cause mischief, or interact with villagers and servants! He was full of hatred because of this rule, until he found that he would soon be king of all Garmasapon! When he found out he told the servants to go through all of Garmasapon and bring all virgins who are not married and are over eight years of age to the palace for him to decide whom he’d marry! The servants naturally obeyed.

I was (as you can guess) one of these girls. I tried to get them to let me stay, but they said it was the king’s command — so I consented. After pageants, beauty contests, and a filling out of many personality profiles, the last twenty girls were presented to the king. After he narrowed it down to ten, then five, he chose me as his bride. This to me was shocking because I was only thirteen! Still three years under the marriage quota!

He was sixteen and he ordered the wedding to be arranged at once! The cooks made cakes of all sizes, and invitations were sent out to all the nobility (and my relatives). The next week we had the wedding.

I was in a huge, white dress covered in gold adornments. He was in a matching suit and breaches. (I have to admit, he was stunning!) The wedding ceremony was simple: we both said our vows and pledged our hearts to each other. (I didn’t have much choice in this, but I was still excited about my wedding.)

After the ceremony had taken place, the festivities began. We cut the main cake and we (as was the custom) shared the first piece. Then everyone received their piece and we sang, danced, and enjoyed each other’s company. After what seemed like days we (Garlasha and I) went back to the Palace.

We had a four-poster bed and a giant room. The closet was very large as well, and amazingly it already had about fifty dresses! I asked him how the dresses got there.

“When you filled out the personality profile these dresses were made for you,” he replied simply.

“How did you know if they’d fit?” I asked.

“You had a dress fitting early on, like all the girls.”

“Oh yeah,” I said remembering.

“Yes, now if you’ll excuse me I have to go take my royal bath.”

“Is there another bathroom for me to bathe?”

“This one, you’re royalty now so you will bathe in the royal bathtub.”

“While you’re in there?” I asked shocked.

“No! After I’m done bathing.”

“Oh, good. You had me worried for a minute!”

“Well you had no reason to worry,” he said calmly.

So I waited for him to finish, but after a few minutes I got bored so I decided to try on a few of the dresses. The first one was an elegant, flowing, blue ball gown with pearl adornments! I tried it on at once (not knowing if I’d get in trouble for this). I waltzed around the room until I stopped in front of a full length mirror. I looked so elegant!

I hurried and tried on the next one. A blue, silky, flowing gown most likely for dining purposes. I rushed back to the mirror and looked at myself in the gown. Then I froze; I saw my new husband looking at me from the doorway to the bathing room. I slowly turned around, and saw him start to smile at me. I started to relax and smiled back.

He moved out of the doorway and gestured inside.

“I had the tub filled with fresh water for you,” he said.

“Thanks, I appreciate it. About the dresses –”

“Don’t worry about it, everything is fine,” he interrupted me.

With that I headed into the bathing room to take my bath. I undressed and eased myself into the hot water and bubbles. I had just fully encased my body, not including my head, in the hot water when three ladies came in through a door I hadn’t noticed. They were the royal bathing maids.

“What scent of soap would you like?” one of them asked me.

“Umm, do you have orange?” I asked mostly just wondering.

“Yes, we do,” another one told me.

“We’ll be right back with the soap,” the first maid told me.

They walked into what must have been a servant entryway to the bathing room. After about five minutes they returned with a large container of orange colored soap. They walked over to the tub and set the container on the side of it.

“Are you reader for this?” the third asked me.

“Honestly, no.”

“Would you rather wash yourself?” the first asked.

“Yes.”

“The king said this you’re to have that option.”

And with that she handed me the wash rag, opened to soap and left.

I washed quickly, stepped out, and then noticed they had not brought me a towel! Then someone peeked their head in and brought a towel.

“Thank you.”

They nodded their head in response, then left. I dried quickly then went to ask my husband (wrapped in the towel) where to find my night clothes.

“In your closet, at the very back,” he told me.

I walked to the back of the closet and pulled out a thin blue dress and undergarments. I went back in the bathing room and donned my night clothes. I put my towel on the rack and went back out into the bedroom.

He was sitting in the bed, waiting for me so he could turn out the lamp. I climbed in on the other side, and made an effort to be as close to the edge as possible without falling out. Then I heard his voice piercing the darkness.

“I understand your discomfort to this whole situation. I know that I’d be uncomfortable if a strange woman requested that I marry her,” he said barely above a whisper.

“Yes, I am uncomfortable, but I think it may be for the better of the people.”

“It is for the people. In a way… I didn’t want my father arranging my marriage to a girl I didn’t want to marry, so you know what I did from there.”

Somehow I felt comfortable talking to him, I think because he talked to me first.

“Yeah, I know how that feels,” I whisper so softly I didn’t think he heard.

Then he answered, “I’m sorry you didn’t have a say in this situation, but it was a bit urgent as my father was very sick. If I didn’t marry before his death I’d marry the girl he had hand chosen.”

“Have you met her?”

“Yes, only once, but she was as snooty as they come. That’s part of why I wanted someone who wasn’t as rich.”

“Thank you,” I said realizing this was meant as a compliment.

With that said we both fell asleep quickly.