Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hope

A Short Story by Ehtisham Rizvi

Art by Tehreem Naeem

Art by Tehreem Naeem



“What is on the other side of the wall, father?”

The kid was excited. His eyes sparkled with curiosity and anticipation. The eagerness to discover the unknown and the thrill of seeing something for the first time oozed from his every pore. Unlike his elders, he didn't try to hide his emotions. He was still at that stage in life where the food tasted better, the songs sounded melodious, and every day seemed like a fresh start.


The infinitely large wall was as wide as it was tall, and seeing it for the first time was a wondrous and somewhat overwhelming experience for young Abdul.


“What is on the other side of the wall, father?” He pulled on his father’s sleeve.

“Where do I begin?” The father sounded a little tired, but it was important for him to pass the legend on to his son. The story of the wall was passed from generation to generation, and every peasant knew it by heart. The reason why Abdul’s father had brought him to the wall was to tell him the story, and to introduce him to the entity that he would face for the rest of his life.

“Behind the wall, there lies a lush green valley where the rivers are sweet and cold, the trees are bountiful, and there is enough food for everyone.” For a second, it seemed as if Abdul’s father could look beyond the wall, as if he could see the valley he was describing, smelling the flowers and feeling the soft caress of the cold air on his cheek.

“In that valley, everyone gets their heart’s desire and all wishes are fulfilled. No one sleeps hungry at night. No one has to fear for his life. There is peace in the valley. There is bliss…there is happiness behind that wall.”

“Is that why all these people are trying to break this wall?”

“Yes, and we have to join them.” His father picked up his sledgehammer, and handed a smaller hammer to Abdul.

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. As Abdul grew taller and his shoulders grew wider, his father seemed to shrink with every passing day. The father and son continued the daily ritual of beating the wall with their hammers, until the father grew too weak for the tiresome activity. Abdul continued the proud tradition, waking up early each day and trying to break down the one and only obstacle that stood between him and a good life.

The huge wall still continued its stubborn existence, but for some reason it didn't seem as majestic to Abdul as it did the first time he saw it. The wall was not the only thing that lost its charm - the food tasted bitter, the songs out of tune, and everyday worst than the last. The slums where he lived grew filthier and more dangerous, and with every passing day he lost the most important thing a man can lose – hope.

While Abdul hated the wall, he acknowledged it as the only constant in his life. Growing up, he had found love, lost it, got married, and had a son. Now that his son was big enough to hold a small hammer, it was time for him to pass on the legend.

“What is on the other side of the wall, father?”

His son asked him the same question he had once asked his father. Before he could reply, something stopped him. He saw the large horde chipping away tiny chunks off the seemingly infinite wall. He noticed that the many hammers striking the wall failed to do much damage, and it was at that moment he realized that the wall was there to stay. In the split of a second, reality came crashing down on him and his dreams were shattered. A better life beyond the filthy slums, the lush green valley behind the wall, the  bountiful trees, the cold air - everything revealed itself to be an empty promise.

“What is on the other side of the wall, father?” The kid pulled on his sleeve. Abdul looked at the innocent face of his pride and joy, and made the toughest decision of his life.


“Behind the wall, there lies a lush green valley where the rivers are sweet and cold, where the trees are bountiful, and there is enough food for everyone…” He repeated the legend to his son - word to word - as was told to him by his father. After all, he did not want his son to grow up without hope.
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