1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Winner BabelFish42 Short Story Contest 46: You Are A Wall

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Jun 26, 2009.

    BabelFish42 - Boy Meets Wall

    That stubborn little child was back again this morning, with a rusty old shovel in his hand and a look of fierce determination on his face.

    “You again,” I grumbled. “Haven’t you given up yet?”

    “Nope.”

    If I had a head, I would have shaken it. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. It can’t be done! I’m too high to climb, too deep to tunnel under, too hard to chisel through, too wide to go around, and you won’t find any doors. So beat it, kid. You’re wasting your time.”

    “No. I’m not going anywhere, except to the other side of you,” the obstinate little brat replied.

    With that, he hopped down in to his hole, which was right at the base of me and so deep now that his head was at ground level. He started shoveling, just like he’d done yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that, and so on.
    He wasn’t the first to try to get past me. Every generation, there was a handful of frustrated dreamers like this one, most of them young idealists, so convinced that the world was not as it should be. Time and time again they approached me, carrying everything from shovels to dynamite to climbing gear. But sooner or later, they all gave up – grew up – and went back home to live the lives they were born into. I wondered how much longer this scrawny little boy would keep up his pointless efforts.

    The first couple hours of digging passed in tedious monotony. I yawned. I was getting bored watching him sweat and strain to deepen his hole.

    “Have you ever considered channeling all this productive energy of yours into something a bit more productive? You know, something you might actually be able to do?”

    “I am going to get to the other side. Just watch me.”

    He lifted his shovel and plunged it into the earth with all the strength his half-grown arms could muster. The shovel blade burrowed maybe half an inch into the dirt, then stopped.

    “Okay,” I drawled. “I’m watching.”

    His brow furrowed in confusion. He frantically scraped at the surface of the dirt again and again, until a layer of hard, unyielding bedrock became visible.

    “Oh dear,” I taunted. “Looks like you’ve hit rock bottom!”

    “Ha ha ha,” the boy fake-laughed. “You’re hilarious.”

    I chuckled. “Yeah, I think so too. So what now, pipsqueak?”

    For a moment, he said nothing, just stared at the rock floor of his pit. Then he climbed out slowly, wincing at his sore muscles, and pulling his shovel along with him.

    “I’ll just come back tomorrow and try something else.”

    “Like what? Nothing will work! I’m too high to climb, too deep to tunnel under, too hard to chisel through, too wide to go around, and you won’t find any doors.”

    He ignored me, walking slowly in the direction of his village, until all I could see was the sunlight glinting off the spade of his shovel. Then even that disappeared.

    Sure enough, the next day he was back, this time with a small burlap knapsack slung across his shoulder. When he reached the pit from the day before, he veered to the left and kept walking. I followed him with my mouth and eyes.

    “So what’s your brilliant plan for today, kid?”

    “You can’t go on forever. It isn’t possible. So I’m just going to keep walking until I reach the end of you.”

    “You have a very poor grasp on what’s possible and what’s not,” I commented dryly. “You think you can get past me just by travelling somewhere far away? Think again. Like I told you, I’m too high to climb, too deep to tunnel under, too hard to chisel through, too-”

    “Too wide to go around, yeah I know!” he exclaimed. “You don’t have to tell me. You don’t have to keep following me either.”

    “But you’re entertaining,” I grinned. “And you’re the one who can’t go on forever, not me. I have a bet with myself on how far you’ll make it before you turn around. I want to see how accurate my guess was.”

    He stopped talking to me after that.

    I had to hand it to him; the boy was determined. He walked from sunrise to sundown, through forest and prairieland, with only two short breaks, when he would pull a tiny loaf of bread and a hunk of cheese from his knapsack. He had a flask of water too, which he refilled at a stream that ran through the forest. When darkness fell, he laid down on the prairie grass, using the knapsack for a pillow.

    “I hope the coyotes aren’t hungry,” I whispered.

    “Shut up. I’m trying to sleep.” His voice was steady and unafraid, but later I saw his body stiffen when a spine-tingling howl echoed across the moonlit prairie. I think it took him a long time to fall asleep that night.

    I expected him to go home the next morning, but he didn’t. He travelled for another day. And another day. And another day…

    “That bread looks kind of stale,” I observed.

    “Gee, thanks,” he replied, biting forcefully into his crunchy breakfast. “I hadn’t noticed.”

    “And is that mold on the cheese?”

    “I’m going back today, all right? Happy now? You win this round.”

    “Well, I won’t say I told you so. Even though I did. Now do you believe that I’m too high to climb, too deep to tunnel under, too hard to chisel through, too wide to go around, and that you won’t find any doors?”

    “No. I’m going back because I’m almost out of food. But I’m not giving up.”

    “You’re an idiot.”

    “You’re just a talking wall.”

    “A very big talking wall. One that’s too high to climb over, too deep to tunnel under, too hard-“

    “I KNOW!”

    After two days, the boy ran out of food. After four days, he made it back to his village. And after five days, he showed up again carrying a pickax. He still looked a little underfed, but there was a furious glint in his eyes today.

    “That’s right, take all your anger out on me, a poor defenseless wall. Go on, let me have it. But I’m telling you, it won’t do you an ounce of good. I’m too high to climb, too deep to tunnel under, too hard to chisel through, too wide to go around, and you won’t find any doors.”

    For once, the boy didn’t tell me to shut up. Instead, he swung the pickax at me with all his might. It bounced off my surface with a resounding clang. I think it might have left a tiny scratch.

    “Hey,” I mocked, “that actually felt kind of good. I’ve had an itch there all morning, but I can’t exactly scratch it myself. Could you do that again? Maybe a little higher this time?”

    The boy struck me again in the same spot. He kept at it all morning, until I had the tiniest of dents on my surface. Finally, the boy sat down to catch his breath, utterly exhausted and clearly disheartened.

    “Ready to give up?” I asked.

    Still panting, he glared up at me. “It isn’t fair. I know there are people on the other side. Why can’t I go over there too?”

    “You?” I laughed. “Just look at you! Look at your hair, your skin, your nose, your eyes, your clothes; listen to the way you talk. It’s all wrong! Everything thing about you is wrong, wrong, wrong. You’re nothing like the people over there. Nothing! You’re too different, too inferior. You would never make it on the other side.”

    He crossed his sweaty arms are scowled at me. “How do you know, you big stupid wall?”

    “Trust me, I know, you little stupid boy. You don’t have the intelligence, the talent, the money, the upbringing or the resources to make it over there, and you shouldn’t try. Everyone else knows you can’t do it. Your friends, your parents, your teachers, your neighbors, all of them. They know you’re nothing special. You’re the only one delusional enough to believe you can do the impossible. But it’s high time you to grow up and face the facts. You were born here, and you’ll die here.”

    Tears glistened in the corners of his eyes. Great. I really hated it when they cried.

    “Why are you here?” he shouted at me, his voice cracking at the end. “Why won’t you just disappear?”

    “Child, I’m here to protect you,” I crooned. “Not to imprison you. I’m here for your own good. It’s my job to make sure you don’t get hurt by trying to be more than you are.”

    “Why don’t you let me decide what’s for my own good?”

    “Because you have very poor judgment. Now, you can waste more time and effort with me, or you can go home where you belong.”

    Silence. He sat staring at his empty, calloused hands. Finally, he stood up, retrieved the pickax, and, for what I was sure would be the last time, walked slowly home. One more child awakened to harsh reality. I silently congratulated myself on a job well done.

    Needless to say, I was unpleasantly surprised to see him return the next morning.

    “I thought you gave up!”

    He shook his head. “I decided what I need is a door.”

    I rolled my eyes. “Haven’t you been listening? You won’t find any doors! I’m too high to climb, too deep to tunnel under, too hard to chisel through, too wide to go around, and you won’t find any doors.”

    “I’m not looking for a door.”

    I raised an eyebrow.

    “I’m going to make one myself,” he explained. “Since there’s no way for me to get through you, I’m going to make a way.”

    “The pickax didn’t work, remember? You can’t force your way through with violence.”

    “Yeah, I know. I’m not blasting a hole, I’m making a door. There’s a difference.”

    “Uh-huh… and how exactly will you make this door?”

    “With this.” He held up a piece of charcoal.

    I had to laugh. The poor kid had completely lost his mind!

    “Let me get this straight,” I snickered. “You’re going to draw a door with charcoal?

    He knelt down, pressing the charcoal against my base, and drew a steady, determined line from the ground, up as high as he could reach. He moved the charcoal a few feet left, then down to the ground again, completing the rectangular “door.”

    “You’re crazy!” I exclaimed. “How can this possibly work?”

    The boy stood up and looked me straight in the eye. When he spoke, there was no anger in his voice. He spoke with the quiet certainty of someone so deeply convicted that nothing can sway them.

    “Because I don’t believe you anymore. You said I’m not good enough. You said I can’t get through. You said I don’t belong on the other side.” Still looking up at me, he placed both palms against his door. “I say you’re wrong.”

    I opened my mouth, but before I could ridicule him, he shoved against me, against the door he had created. And I felt myself give way…

    “Impossible!”

    But the boy didn’t seem to hear. He was no longer looking at me; he was looking ahead. He stepped forward and disappeared through the open door.
     
  2. sophie.
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    sophie. Contributing Member

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    great story :)
     
  3. Gamecat
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    Gamecat Member

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    Yeah, congrats on a good tale mate, loved it.
     
  4. Catchlight
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    Catchlight Member

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    Perfect winner! It's a modern fairy tale told absolutely beautifully. Congratulations :)
     
  5. SpecifyIt
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    SpecifyIt Member

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    Aye, well done! Enjoyed it.
     
  6. chirography
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    chirography Senior Member

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    Wonderful story, so well written, I loved it!
     
  7. BabelFish42
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    BabelFish42 Member

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    There were some other very good entries too. I didn't really expect mine to win. Not that I mind, of course. Thanks so much for all the votes and compliments! It feels great to know that people liked it.
     
  8. nativesodlier
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    nativesodlier Member

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    Yeah, I read this one and said, "damn." I knew you already had it.
     
  9. losthawken
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    losthawken Author J. Aurel Guay Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    This was a really tough topic, everyone did really well! I wish I could have come up with something as creative as the entries submitted. Congrats Babelfish!
     
  10. W.K. Freely
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    W.K. Freely Member

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    Wow! I'm blown away, kudos!
     
  11. penelopecarax
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    penelopecarax Active Member

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    Fantabulous. Wish I could write like you xx
     
  12. Doug J
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    Doug J Active Member

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    I am not sure what caused me to look in the contest archives - but I'm glad I did. I found this story - and it is wonderful. Very well done.
     
  13. BabelFish42
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    BabelFish42 Member

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    Thanks Doug :) I'm not sure what caused me to look back at this old entry either. I haven't been on this site in years. I guess I was just thinking about... things, and those things reminded me of a story I wrote a long time ago, and then I had to go back and find it and re-read it.

    Thanks for your comment! I'm very glad to hear you enjoyed it. I ended up becoming a teacher instead of a writer (which is something I was considering at the time I was active on this site), but it's still always really cool to me whenever people read and comment on something I wrote. So if you ever see this, thank you! You just made my day.
     
  14. Still Life
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    Still Life Active Member

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    I'm not sure what made me come here myself, but I'm so glad I did. The story isn't without its flaws - I mean, what story isn't? - but those few kinks are insignificant when taken at face value. The drawing of the door reminded me a bit of Pan's Labyrinth when the girl had to draw a door to escape. Even as an adult I crave a little bit of magic in my life, and you gave this armchair adventurer an ounce to keep her going. Loved it. :)
     

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