Why Why Not?

She rushes on ahead of him, the way she always does.

“Come on, it’s up here!” She says.

He half-jogs to keep up. As he goes, he counts off bricks by pointing, and then reaches out and touches every fifth one along. He has done this for as long as he can remember when walking the wall, though he doesn’t know when he started or why. Moving at speed makes this harder, and he appreciates the challenge.

There isn’t much to break up the stability of life in City, and while that makes people happy, distractions aren’t unwelcome. Still, his feet are starting to hurt, and he vaguely registers that she has been dragging him on through the outskirts for nearly an hour.

He stops and looks up at her, running on ahead. He’s aware that to his left there are only fields, and off in the distance, a mile or so away on a clear day, a cluster of farm buildings and houses. They left City a while ago.

He leans against Wall, his hand against the most recent of the fifth bricks, his other hand removing the shoe from his lifted foot, shaking out tiny stones. Wall is there, solid and secure, from his hand and on. She is still running, getting smaller, and Wall runs alongside her. In the distance, way ahead of her, he can barely make out Wall’s curve. He knows from trips to the lakes with his family that Wall continues on ahead of them, describing that same curve, and from visiting his grandparents he knows that the circle continues way out on the other side of City behind them, too.

Wall is taller than most can crane their necks, but out here in the open he can see the top of it, where clouds cluster and push over it. Wall is tall enough that when there are fires, the smoke struggles to escape climb over it, drifting down the streets instead. Only the rarest breeds of bird ever migrate beyond the top of Wall.

“Are we close?” He shouts to her, before she gets out of range of his voice.
“We’re here!” She calls back, and skips a few more paces before stopping, and looking at Wall.

He has no idea what is so important that she couldn’t just tell him, but he is relieved that they are finally there. He doesn’t like surprises all that much, but he likes her a lot, and she has always been one for adventures. He picks up the pace. every fifth brick getting only the slightest scrape.

As he draws closer, he sees what she is so excited about. She is looking, rapt, through a hole! In Wall!

From the second he registers the absence of bricks, he stops still, a ball in the pit of his stomach making him reluctant to move closer. Bricks lie in piles around the base of the hole where they have fallen. From here he can only see the clean grey of the exposed thickness of Wall, but can’t see any further. From where she is standing, she must be able to see clearly into the hole, to where light is shining on her face. The hole is tall, enough to drive a train through, but such is the vastness of Wall, you wouldn’t be able to see it from a distance.

“Come closer!” She says. “Come see!”
“Why?” He replies.
“Why?” She repeats. “Why not?”
“We might get into trouble.” He says, and hates how weak it sounds.
“Why would we get into trouble?” She laughs. “There are no rules about this. Not that anybody ever told me, anyway. What about you?”

He quickly sorts through the rulebook in his head, that catalogues every piece of advice – strict or informal – that he can remember ever being given. Lots of rules about eating and drinking, about tidying up and doing chores, and lots of laws about not hurting people or taking things that seemed like common sense to him anyway. But nothing about Wall. Wall is just there. Wall never changes. It hasn’t ever really required any discussion or clarification. Wall is where Country finishes. It doesn’t really occur to anybody to think outside of those parameters.

So a hole in Wall seems impossible for him to process. He feels oddly nauseous about the notion of there being an outside of Wall. He had thought they were already outside. He can’t imagine how she could be brave enough to just stand there, in front of the hole, when he feels as if he is already too close. That he’ll be sucked through.

“What… What can you see?” He asks, though he isn’t sure he wants to hear the answer.
“It’s too complicated to explain!” She replies infuriatingly. “Come see for yourself!”

He starts to step back, as she starts to step forward, closer to the hole. There she is again, always pulling him on, dragging him behind her. That stab of irritation at himself comes again. Life in City doesn’t bring with it much sadness, but it has always made him insecure, not knowing why she keeps his company.

He is thinking this when he stops moving backwards. Then he works out, maybe only a fraction of a second after she does, that she is about to step through the hole, to get closer to what she sees through there.

There isn’t a fifth brick for him to reach out for. It is either at their feet or through the hole. So he reaches out for her instead, and they go through together.

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Nicolas Papaconstantinou
Nicolas Papaconstantinou is an enthusiastic amateur creative type, and the chap behind Elephant Words. Be nice to him. He growed up kinda wrong.

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