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.

Life Is What You Make It

I frequently think about my life, what I want to accomplish, what I’ve done so far, and how long I have to do everything I dream of. This will be a series featuring things I’ve written about such things, both poetry and prose.

Ponderings and Purpose

9 January 2018

It’s enough for them to assert

that this, too, shall pass,

that nothing here will ever last

And saying so is absurd.

For how could something finite

outlast that which is eternal?

But that for me wasn’t the

question but the answer.

For how can anything we’ve

ever done outlast a world

that’s just begun

after we’ve left it, gone,

all traces erased,

all paths equal, the same.

A life lived —

regrets and mistakes aplenty,

sure, it’s the same for ev’ryone.

There’s no reason to waste time

pining after a time

that may not come to fruition,

that may be entirely fiction.

We can’t know for certain

but we all love certainty,

so we create it.

Our assertions are flawless,

arguments misguided.

We’re all trying to make sense

of this life we’re all

so lucky to be living

on this wet rock in a

deep vast space

with other rocks and balls of gas

co-existing along with us.

Why are we here?

we wonder,

How are we here?

we ponder.

Sometimes you have to let

all that go, all those

big questions for philosophy

and live in the moment

because this life is the only one

we know for sure we’ve got

and wasting it, letting it rot,

we should be ashamed.

We should live life to the fullest,

not in the sentiment of YOLO —

which justifies stupidity

but for a focus and drive

to make the most

of what we’ve got

because in too short a time

it will be gone.

Deleted Drafts “The Etaloniy Story”

Five years ago I began writing a story about a girl named Etaloniy Whitlock. The result was quite the disaster of a story. Because it is rather long, I have split what I have of her story into three parts.

1: CHANGES

I don’t know how to tell you this. I don’t think I can tell you this! My life is changing rapidly and I can’t do anything about it! Okay, okay, I’ll slow down and explain everything.

My name is Etaloniy Whitlock. I have one brother and three sisters. I also have two dogs (and a cat named Meecklow). My mom and dad are both in their thirties. Oh yeah, and I’m turning thirteen next month. In the dreaded month of the Ruby Rains!

So now I’ll explain how it all started….

Five years ago today I was soon to turn eight when my parents got divorced. I couldn’t handle the news, so, I went to my friend’s house and told my parents I wasn’t coming back. Two weeks into the arrangement I went crying back home — homesick. My mother welcomed me back joyfully. I wanted to see Dad, but Mom said he was on a business trip for about two and a half years.

Mom said Dad would be back in two and a half years, but we haven’t heard from him since. I’m starting to think he’s never coming back.

As if that’s not bad enough, that’s only the start of my troubles! I also have “friends” who are trying to make me sell my brother!!!! They told me that he was the cause of my troubles, so I should dispose of him as quickly as possible. I didn’t believe them of course, but I didn’t tell them that.

Meecklow is another story, but I might as well tell you of his wonders as a cat. Oddly enough he chases the dogs, and they are scared when he walks in the room with them. Meecklow doesn’t like my friends and after a fight with him they’re scared of him. So all-in-all he’s one exceptional cat.

Now for what happens daily to me….

2: DAILY

Ahh, breakfast my favorite part of every day. The reason is simple — the food is delicious (and it’s much quieter in the morning when everyone’s busy eating).

“Good morning sweetheart,” Mom says when I reach the kitchen.

“Good morning Mom.”

“Hey Bran,” I tell my brother.

“Hey.”

“Is Clamal up yet?” I ask Mom.

“Yes, she left for school already.”

“Did she take Preana to school?”

“Yes, sorry you missed them again. You just don’t get up early enough,” Mom told me.

“Well I’m not the only one,” I say as Maglina walks into the kitchen sleepily.

After the morning “glad you’re up” routine with her we all fall silent and concentrate on the food. This morning Mom made cinnamon toast rolls. Cinnamon toast rolls! Those are only for special occasions!

“Mom, what’s today?” I ask urgently.

“The day before the Ruby Rains,” she replies calmly.

“No! No! It can’t be!” I shout at no one in particular.

“Yes honey, just check the calendar,” she said back still calmly.

I get up and do just that. It’s true. Tomorrow the terror will begin as every year. My face pales and I go back to the table.

“The Ruby Rains. Why? Why!?” I shout.

The Ruby Rains are when it rains glistening rubies. That makes it dangerous, but it’s also a time of grieving for the people. This is because during this month a monster of a man took over the country. He’d parade through the streets in clothing decorated with rubies, mocking our pain. It was mockery because during the Ruby Rains over five hundred people die every week!

“Honey nobody knows why. It just is.”

I almost cry, but I can’t, not in front of my mom and Bran and Maglina. Instead I excused myself and went and got ready for school.

I dressed in my school uniform — a simple blue shirt and tan pants — then I don my socks and tennis shoes. I hurried, checked the clock, and rushed out the door. As soon as I was out the door I ran and waited for the bus.

I waited and waited and then it came! I was shocked to see the painted rubies glaring at me from the side of the bus. (This is normal, it happens every year the day before the Ruby Rains.) At the “monster of a man’s” orders the Ruby Rains are celebrated as a holiday, the only non-holiday-ness of this arrangement is that the children still have to go to school.

I jumped onto the bus as soon as the doors opened and went all the way to the back. I then waited for Bran and maglina to show up. They did knowing exactly why I left in a flurry. (They knew this because it happened every year the day before the Ruby Rains.)

The bus hurried to school so we wouldn’t be late. We arrived in about ten minutes with a busload of kids.