By Ibraheem Shakeel
The construction was finally complete.
It had taken me almost thirteen years to finish, but now it was done. I took a step back and tilted my head upwards to marvel at its height.
Now they’ll never know, I thought to myself happily. The grey lines of dried cement between each layer of red bricks were a cliché that barked ‘philistine!’ at me, but I did not care. It didn’t matter as long as the structure served its purpose.
He stood at the top, peeping through the last remaining gap waiting to be filled by a brick in his hands. “This is it,” my faithful friend shouted, “There is no turning back after this.”
I smiled as I imagined my coliseum of solitude, my perfect circle, complete. I looked at him, calmly thinking of how I was going to shove him off the top and hear his back crackle on the ground from where I stood.
It’ll be magnificent! To kill the last remaining obstinate tie with my horrors of the world– to forever cut off the comrade who would rip the world apart on a single word from me. I couldn’t wait.
Not yet, not until it’s complete, I told myself.
“Yes, quickly before the layer dries,” I shouted back with a straight face, holding back the urge to grin manically.
“You know, it’s completely normal. Not even a big deal, if you ask me,” he mumbled as he lowered the burning red into its place. I could barely make it out: “Shit happens. But since you’re a pal and everything…”
He slid the brick in and slapped it twice with his rusted spade, the sun’s red beam finally cut off. I was left alone in the dark, swallowed by its nothingness.
I fell to my knees, and felt my face crack into its manic true self: this was the happiest moment of my life.
I heard my friend turn around and hop off the wall, calmly. I didn’t see his expression, but I was glad he’d jumped to safety. I don’t think I could’ve killed him.
“You know,” he said from the other side, “I finally got to read that book you lent me, the one you couldn’t read.” I moved away, preparing to dismiss him before he spoke again.
“The ending was fantastic,” he said, “It was all about you, too. I memorized it, it went:
‘I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me, and through me. And when it has gone, I will turn to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.’ ”
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing, only I will remain, I repeated to myself. And then a laugh came over me, a crazy manic laugh that not even I knew was within me. In that dark crypt, waving my hands wildly and dancing in circles, I laughed wildly until grief took over me.
And then I crumbled to my knees and sobbed, unable to stop.
Behind the wall, my friend sighed. “I’ll go get the steel mallet,” he said as his steps took him away from the wall.
Ibrahim Shakeel lives in Islamabad, Pakistan, is a computer systems engineer by profession, and likes to write from time to time. He is currently employed, and spends most of his earnings on PS3 games, cigarettes and caffeine. Ibrahim also happens to be a music lover, often misquoting lyrics from time to time.