Apprenticeship Week 9

A snapshot of some mental health from the last couple weeks as well as some project updates and announcements.

This is late. I should not be writing this on Monday, but here I am.Not a lot happened last week. I don’t know if that’s a skewed look at the week, but I think it is. I’m going to do something I haven’t done in these posts so far. And that’s discuss some of the more mental side of things. I don’t have a lot to say for how I tangibly spent the week, but I do know that I spent it.

Work and Mental Health

I’ve talked about struggling with mental health here and on Over the Invisible Wall (which has sadly died). What I haven’t done is give a glimpse into its affectations in the present. Everything I’ve previously discussed wasn’t so now.

For the first month, I was on an emotional “I’m getting my life together!” high, and it was fantastic. I was sad to leave Panera because of the friends I’d made, but I was also moving forward.The last couple weeks have blurred and have felt the same. I feel disjointed, almost, seeing the positives of the steps forward but also feeling like I’m standing still. I see the work I’m doing at Original One Parts, but then a cloud obscured my motivation. It doesn’t feel like drudgery, exactly, but it appears like a huge, monstrous project to slog through. I see the paradox of what I’m writing. That it isn’t what it is. And maybe that’s me trying to stay optimistic. Because there’s definitely trends to suggest that’s been a struggle of mine.

And these last couple weeks have been new instances of the same old winds.

Personal Projects

This weekend I decided to start my next poetry collection. Coincidentally it is one presenting a lot of the darkness I went through, mostly not super recent. The darkness lately hasn’t been as dark or as long lasting, for which I’m thankful. It’s going to be a sensitive, difficult collection both for me to make and for people to read. I think it will be good, though, to publish it, because it could help shed light on what it’s like to be depressed and even suicidal. It’s not pleasant, like Inside a Writer’s Head, but by being able to see and start to understand the darkness, it could make it easier to help people who are struggling with it.

The second project I only just settled on last night. It was a difficult decision, but I’m putting Mystical Warriors on hold. I’m going to start a new novel. I am not going to share what it’s about yet, though. This one will be a surprise.

The main worry I have in starting a new novel is that I will run into the same problem I’ve always had, which is that I get tired of the idea. I managed to fall in love with Mystical Warriors, become “obsessed” with my own world and story enough to spend time writing. I got over 30k words. But then I didn’t write for a long time, and I feel disconnected from the story. I’m going to combat this by writing every day in Blurt. I’m not going to write the story in order, because that has proved difficult. Rather, I’m going to write short bits and pieces and scenes as I desire to and sort of cut and paste them together later. Almost like a collage. If it works, I plan to take this approach with Mystical Warriors when I return to it, too.

“Bike Crash” (Poem)

A short narrative poem by Alyssa Wright about a fictional bike crash.

I watch, cloaked in invisibility, as the
boy straddles the seat.
A look of determination etched on his
face as he pulls up one,
Then two feet into the air onto the propellors.
Push, push, push,
Around, around, around go his legs.
Arms bent at the elbows, hunched back, bottom lifted off the seat.
He flies down the street as a streak,
Figure barely to be seen.
My eyes move ahead, then I turn, throwing off invisibility.
I barely make it outside,
he is heading into…
sprinting to come close enough in proximity
to Warn him of impending doom lurking nearby.
He sees me in his peripheral vision,
pulling up on the reins slightly, slowing his stylish steed to
A mere trot.
I simply motion forward, he scrutinizes the spot,
alarm overwhelming his features as he,
Too, looks into Danger’s cold, dark eyes of cruelty.
He slows even further before stopping his craft.
Danger did not succeed, the
Crash never occurred.


This is a narrative poem I wrote in November 2014. I only made one edit to it. The form is a bit odd, but as far as I recall, it was intentional.

If you like my poetry and this blog, be sure to check out my Patreon.

How to Start Worldbuilding

A great story has a great setting surrounding the plot. How do you create a believable, consistent world for your story?

The genre of your story will determine how in-depth you need to worldbuild to create a believable setting. Sometimes a barebones, “basically earth with different cities/countries” or “actually earth” will suffice. If you’re writing fantasy, though, you probably need to create a new world or at least rules for how the fantasy elements interact with the world. “Earth plus magic,” for example, has a lot of possibilities.

The questions you should ask:

  • Is this earth? If not, you’ll need to decide if your story takes place on a planet or just a country/region of a planet. You may not need the whole planet, but you could name it and create vague areas. Only put the detail work into the areas you’ll be using.
  • If this is earth, what year is it? How has earth changed between then and now? For futuristic fiction, decide on some general events and changes that have taken place. Flesh out the ones that will affect your plot. Have a timeline in case you need to make more history.
  • Do you need or want to create a language? Who speaks that language? Define the people group or context for the language. For example, in the Middle Ages most written work from educated people was in Latin. The Catholic Church services were in Latin. At that time, Latin had a specific context even though the majority of people did not speak or understand it.
  • Are the people human? If not, how are they different? How are they similar? Are there humans in this world? Will there be humans in this world? If you have multiple species consider how they interact with each other and why.
  • What religion do the main characters adhere to? What religion(s) are common among the people in the city/country/region/etc? Do they believe in god(s)? Are the god(s) real in this world? What are they like? What are the religious practices or rituals, if any? Religion plays a huge role in culture and has a large influence on people’s lives.
  • Who is in charge of the government or power structure? Are either of those present? Do the majority of people like the officials? Why or why not? Do the main characters like them? Why or why not? Have the officials influenced the city/country/etc positively or negatively? How?

These are some basic starting questions. As you create, more questions and their answers may come to mind. Feel free to create as much or as little detail for your world as you want or need.

Just don’t get so caught up in it you forget to start writing your story.

Behind the Scenes: The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan

This post contains spoilers about my novella. If you haven’t read it, check out parts one, two, and three before reading this post.

Yesterday I released part three of my first novella, The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan. I posted it in three parts because of the length. I wanted to break it into manageable chunks, and two parts were still not right.

That all happened after the story was finished. This post is a look at ideas and inspirations I had while writing.

I don’t know the exact timeline, but quite a long time ago, a few of my writing friends and I were choosing writing prompts and sharing short stories. We all wrote from the same prompt and had the same amount of time to write. We started with every two weeks, then realized we were too busy for that to be adequate. It switched to once a month, rotating who chose the prompt.

Someone chose this prompt: “It’s been so long that no one knows why the walls were built. Nobody wants to leave.”

I recall wanting someone to pick it. I don’t think I chose it, though, if I remember correctly.

At first I didn’t have a clear plan. I just started writing and went where my thoughts said to go.

Then I named Kaashif Sarwan. Both parts of his name are related to exploring or adventure or discovery. I don’t remember exactly what meaning I chose, but both parts have the same meaning. Because that’s what he is.

Around that same time I realized this story should take place on Irqulnirn, in the N’Zembe system. I’d been thinking about the star system and how far away Irqulnirn was from the star. I created quarzyls to be the solution and explanation for how Irqulnirn could support life. I decided/figured out what was outside the walls and why they were built. That led me to write the Apocalypse of Irqulnirn, the background for this novella.

Once I knew how and why the walls were built, I had to go about the business of writing Kaashif through his journey to the top of the walls.

When I first had the idea for the dead world outside the walls, the conclusion was going to be bleak. Hopeless.

But because of how quarzyls “work,” and their life-giving abilities, I was able to work in a hopeless, depressed period for Kaashif and end with hope.

This story is as much about Kaashif as it is about my own journey with depression. Not literally or even symbolically, but experientially, to a degree. I wrote my depression into Kaashif as part of his journey, including the hopeful ending.

I changed as my vision for the story changed.

When I thought the ending would be bleak, I was in a dark place and wanted to reflect that artistically.

When my vision morphed to something more hopeful, I’d come to a more optimistic, hopeful place in my own life.

This post is a bit different compared to my other posts. I’ve never written about what the nature of inspiration in writing stories is for me.

This post also marks 50 days of blogging! In another 50 days I could do something like this again, provided I have a new story to write the behind-the-scenes for.

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.

Myrtle Beach, SC Vacation

The url implies this was written and posted on September 4th, but it was September 3rd at 11:45 pm.

you may know, I recently went on vacation. Yesterday, my family returned to our home.

Before we arrived in Myrtle Beach, my brothers and I didn’t know where we were going. I knew two things: (1) it was a surprise trip for my birthday, and (2) my mom wasn’t sure if we’d be able to reschedule it when Walmart initially refused my time off request.

My younger brother Aidan predicted we were going to Florida. My mom’s teasing responses of “We’ll see,” or “Maybe,” with a smile seemed to imply he was right.

During the drive, it wasn’t until we were in the Appalachian Mountains that I realized how wrong he was. I guessed wrong, too, though. The mountains and the sign welcoming us to North Carolina brought me to the conclusion that we were visiting my aunt and cousins who live in the state.

But we drove on.

When we reached the South Carolina border, Aidan asked with a groan if we were visiting Bob Jones University again. A few years ago, we visited the university and met a few of the teachers from their homeschool distance learning program. Luckily for Aidan, that’s not what we were doing.

Finally, late at night after leaving early in the morning, we came to Myrtle Beach. That night we stayed in a hotel that had a small pool and served breakfast. Oddly enough, the room’s balcony was positioned such that we could see the next room’s balcony, and the people were sitting outside. We had two full beds for five people, three of us adults. I think my brother Aeryson may have slept on the armchair and footstool.

The next morning we checked out at 11 and headed to the other place we were staying, a condo overlooking the beach. We discovered that early check in was not an option, despite the room being vacant. On our way from the hotel to the condo, we passed the Myrtle Beach State Park. We decided to check it out.

At the park we walked down the pier, hiked in the woods, watched a demonstration in the park’s nature center, and my brothers played on a playground. At the pier I bought a small shark snowglobe to add to my collection. My dad and Aidan saw a shark and we all saw some brown jellyfish.

From that Saturday until the next Saturday, we were in the condo. The condo had a small pool and it was right on the beach.

Everyday we swam in the ocean and pool and played on the beach. I believe everyone felt a bit sick at least once while we were there, unfortunately.

One of the days we walked down the beach to a pier that was nearby our condo. As we walked down it, we saw two people surfing and I identified at least four different sharks that were swimming around. We saw some brown and some white jellyfish at this pier.

On Saturday  we left the condo before the check out time and started driving back west.  My brothers and I knew we were doing one more thing, on Sunday, but no notion as to what. I knew my grandparents would be joining us, as well.

When we stopped in Kentucky, my parents told us we were in Cave City and would be going to Mammoth Cave. Aeryson was super excited. Our grandparents, my mom’s parents, arrived at the same hotel later on that evening.

On Sunday, we drove the thirty or so minutes to Mammoth Cave National Park. This is the first national park my brothers and I have ever been to. We took the Historic Tour, which is two hours, and learned about the history of the cave and human interaction with it. At the end, there was a five story climb, up stairs, through a natural shaft in the cave. That was probably the only place we saw natural cave formations from the water running through the rock and depositing minerals.

While we were in Kentucky, my dad realized we would be driving through the town his uncle lives in. He hadn’t seen them since before I was born, he guessed before he had joined the army when he was seventeen. We met my great uncle John, his oldest son, his son’s three daughters, and two other cousins. I didn’t even know about this part of my family until the day before, which was pretty crazy to me. My cousins said they had known of my grandfather but never got to meet him.

It was a great trip and I enjoyed my break from work, but I’m glad to be back home.