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.


“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.