Short Story Review: In The Twilight Age

Link to the short story: In The Twilight Age

Abrar Rahman has done it. Finally a story about twilight that doesn’t have anything to do with Vampires, The Legend of Zelda, and the Dot Hack Franchise.

I had a talk with the author before I sat down to write this review and in his eyes he envisions this as a “not” coming of age story about a teenager who has made his own share of mistakes. As the boy is transitioning into adulthood, it dawns on him that his responsibilities will only continue to grow from here on out. This causes him to indulge in escapism and withdraw further into the abyss of his comfort zone.

Interestingly when I read the story I interpreted it quite differently. I like my characters dead, hence I took the sea to mean the place where he drowned, the sand to be where he was buried, the twilight (right after sunset) to be his eulogy, the sky to be where he will be ultimately ascending to, the forest to be his life, the wet footprints in the sand to be his legacy in the life he left behind, the wind to be his guide (Like Virgil to Dante), and the lion to be his family trying to bravely accept his death and move on with their life.

First off, let us address the title.

twilight

As you can see, the second meaning of the word can be closely related to the story.

“In The Age Of Decline” is how I see it.

Perhaps the narrator  treaded water, and, unfortunately, had an encounter with a box Jellyfish, thus spelling his demise!

This line is truly food for thought, “The water was not salty. It tasted of a flavor that I could not understand. It tasted like everything, and nothing.”

Our atoms are 99.99% empty space,  yes there is a bit of nothing in everything. Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” After considering his life in hindsight he arrived at this conclusion, “Do I regret what I have done? No. I don’t really regret the past. Not much, anyway.”

A question raised by the story is this one, “The wind whispered into my ears, ‘You can’t imagine what you don’t truly know, can you?’”

One can imagine a war vicariously or live through someone else’s story, but can they visualize a new color? I think not. There are limitations in place.

The narrator laments about not being able to swim or climb trees. This stops him from exploring to his hearts content and prevents him from gaining new perspective. While it is true that he can sink to the bottom of the ocean while drowning and still view what it has to offer, this will cost him dearly. Had he learned those two skills more doors would have been open to him in life.

“You must be wondering what happened in the forest. Well, nothing. Nothing happened in there. I kept on walking around until I felt calmer than before.” These sentences are anti-climatic in nature. It off sets the excitement which had been building up, demonstrating that life isn’t always as grandiose as we make it out to be.

The narrator further contemplates about his life and asks a question asked by philosophers then and now in the follow lines,

“The wind showed me the way out. As I stepped to the edge of the forest, it whispered in my ears, ‘You’re leaving already?’
It sounded melancholic and distant. I questioned, ‘Does it truly matter?’”

I could continue to do a line by line analysis or tell you bluntly that the overall message the short story gives, to me at least, is that, “the answer is not yours to give. It is mine to find.’” 

Whether or not we look with blurry eyes (bias, lack of clarity) or enlightened ones is up to us.

Rating: 8/10

Stars: 4/5

Yes even lions yawn. (Ps. that’s Aslan from Narnia)

Writing Poems For Certificates

Aghast, I stood somniferously staring at the trophy cabinet

It served as a footnote, reminding me of the past:

I wake up at six, just so I can hear a melodic death metal mix

Some of youtube’s very best, it gives me time to rest

Because dreaming takes effort,

This much we all know,

So are trophies mostly for show?

I have received three, and believe you me,

While they are rather shiny,

It’s the experience that has made all the difference,

Had I given up,

The first few times I had succeeded at failing,

All you would be reading is wistful kvetching and wailing,

See, Ron was made prefect and not Harry

Seeing that Potter already had a lot on his plate,

as far as I can recall, if one gives it their all,

the rest is up to fate

The boy who LIVED never asked for his destiny

But he followed Henry David Thoreaus’ words to the letter

Pray tell, what could possibly be better?

‘Turn yourself into a go getter’

Was all I had in mind, as it’s never too late to find

The right mindset which may help us rediscover what we’ve left behind

Tell yourself:

“I may not ever be the best at anything,

But I’m going to be the best at not being the best at anything.”

Put on your thinking cap and take a victory lap.

Reference: HP, the boy who lived, and Walden by HDT.

We can choose to live a deliberate life, but we cannot chose to be born. Some things are not left to us to decide. Do what you can.

Abstract: Reaching out to the vacuum we know to be space

Silence. Eternity stretched thin, yielding naught but yet another influx of rhetorical questions. None, save my own personage was present to answer them. Now that I had finally grown accustomed to the zero-gravity environment, things weren’t so bad. My makeshift corporeal silhouette faced away from a glaring omnipresent sun. I had to visualize a shadow trailing behind indefinitely, making non-existent snow angels, as outer space is, to be frank, quite vacuous.

Was my mind playing tricks on me?’.

Had it not been for my watch, surely I would have lost all remnants of sanity by now! It was true, what they say about a dead-man’s clock that is. Time waits for no man. If not for the incessant ticking, this dimension remained resolutely mute. Hearts do not beat when there is nothing to throb for. And so resigning myself to this, I gave up on hearing the rhythmic pit-a-pat of a human heart ever again.

‘Why must we become emotionally detached to cope?’.

Stars would occasionally spring up, materializing from some unknown origin. They must have devised this just to show me that I was outnumbered. Strive as I might to shut out their black looks by closing both eyelids, it was ineffectual. Like floodlights, they bore into my soul, shedding light on corners that were best left alone. Never before had I felt so empty, my secrets, excruciating as they were, had been something to call my own. There would be no more ups and downs on my cardiogram line. In an instant, everything became linear.

Should they covet the truth?’.

Numbers, lots and lots of numbers, a whole myriad of them spiraled out from null. What’s more they were colorful. “My god!”, I gasped. A bull’s eye was hurtling towards me, at 10 m/s^2 free fall acceleration. This was too much. Overburdened, all my mind could do was replay scenes of the harrowing harassment I had undergone as a child. “Teacher’s pet” they had called me, ironically I was the one who consistently looked out for everyone else, the “scapegoat” if you will. Subsequently, the red mark enveloped me, faintly echoing of past failures. I was literally seeing stars. Colliding head on against one’s fear with such unsettling force could not possibly bring closure.

Do problems when left to themselves reach astronomical proportions?’.

                                                        *

Once upon a time, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, a timorous kid had happened upon the answer to life, the universe, and everything. It was so simple! The answer was obviously the question. Yes, that was all it took to handle his predicament. The comic relief it provided was deep-felt and immediate. He had realized that even if he were to ponder about the purpose of his existence for an infinite infinity, he could never attain a satisfactory answer so long as the query was unsuitable. Newly armed with this knowledge he set out to change his world, for the better or worse.

THE END IS NEVER THE END

^ The above is an allusion to The Stanley Parable…try the game if you haven’t already.

The Lesser Evil Is Not The Greater Good

Written by:

Aaida Nawar Arpa, Class XI

I watched as the sun, our sole beacon of hope, rose above the horizon to illuminate the world with its glorious light. In this place, with each daybreak comes a promise- for peace, calm and serenity. Along with the slow, gentle tide of the ocean, the momentary gushes of sea- sprayed wind, and the warm glow of the sun, we cannot imagine this place to be any sweeter than it already was. Nevertheless, it always felt as if the intensity of happiness and tranquility we were experiencing increased day by day.

A seagull squawked overhead as I stared into the distance. many might think that standing in the same position for hours on end is quite monotonous. However, captivated by the gentle lapping of the waves, it felt as if every sore wound from the treacherous nights were being slowly being healed. The world seemed silent, now that all the gunfire and explosions of the war had ended. But all that mattered to me was that my family was safe and well-protected.

I was not alone on the beach. The ecstatic laughter of small children rang all across to the harbour where a few fishermen were hauling up their magnificent catches. Mostly, I saw elderly people with the same grin of happiness spread across their faces as I had on mine. At only rare moments would encounter teenagers like me, wandering around, skipping rocks, or just contemplating deeply, soaking in the breathtaking aura of the environment. And how could they not? Just being here could wash away all the distress from one’s mind.

Just when I had fully accepted the fact that life could actually run smoothly here, I noticed the sun slowly making its way down towards the horizon. “No not again…”, I thought to myself as my heart started beating faster. All of my survival instincts perked up, but I knew that there was no running from this. It was inevitable.

Time seemed to have quickened its pace since the sky already turned dark-red. For a while, everything remained still as a cold jolt of wind went up my spine. All of a sudden, someone screamed triggering all the others to feel a soul screeching shout and answer a frantic call for help. But I could not move- not when my body felt as if it had been run over by a hundred-ton tractor. Even though I desperately wanted to scream like the rest, something was preventing  me from that freedom of expressing the pain. Without warning, the ground gave away and I fell down into an endless pitch black pit, only to hit the ground again with a sickening crunch. My ears erupt as the throbbing of the blood engulfs my senses, sending jolts of pain to my head now and then. Slowly and steadily the throbbing sensation flows down my body, dead centre on my chest- to the point I was shot.

A piercing white hot flame shocks me where the bullet was still embedded into my skin, making me double over in agony. Against my will, my limbs twist, deforming me while the fire continued to burn inside of me. The pain. The unbearable pain. It was too much for me, but there was no escape from this. The place that had seemed hopeful before, now was bleak. “Murder!”- unrecognizable voices whispered. Warm tears ran down my face as I tried hanging on to my consciousness, hoping this torment would end soon.

They say there are two places we can go when our life has ended- heaven or hell. I now realize why they had merged into one. A person is rarely completely good or bad. But they have to be punished and awarded accordingly. I am probably let off easy since the only crime I believe I have done was to kill people in the war. If this is what I deserved for my paltry sins then I shudder to think what the real criminals were going through.

I forgot how many days and nights I have been here, nor do I want to think about it. The daylight rewarding enough for my life on Earth.

As I surrendered to slow lingering torture of the flames, I await the sun to rise again and bathe us in its forgiving light, denoting our release from hell for it is to be repeated all over again.