By Kate BEKAERT, EEB4 S7 NLA
“Well, here we are”.
He turns his head to look at Syme. I loathe the pity in his eyes. He’s always there – so careful – trying to get everyone to like him and he never gets that that will never happen. Not everyone can like you. Not that Peter cares, he still tries, and I loathe him for it. I also envy him. At least he keeps trying. I don’t like him very much.
“Kyra are you ok?”
No Syme, but who are you to care? No. Syme is nice. I want the voices in my head to shut up. The voices telling me to hurt my friends with hurtful and sarcastic comments. They deserve more.
“I’m fine Syme, just thinking.”
He nods. They all know I’m lying. They all know not to ask more questions. All of us hide something and we all know that everyone here is a bit cracked. Maybe that’s why we respect silence so much. Peter’s the best of us. He still tries. Syme isn’t too bad either but he’s been giving up lately. We’ve all been giving up lately.
“It’s different from what I had imagined.”
No shit Kaisa, what the hell did you imagine it to be like then. I swallow the words before they turn into sounds. Instead I just nod.
“I just thought it would be greener you know, like the books and shows always say. It’s just, so barren, there’s nothing there.”
I look out over the fields which we all had thought would be green and not the greyish brown we’re all so used to. We’d all thought that as soon as we left the Kryle everything would be magically better. Stupid. There’s no such thing as magic. Maybe there once was, who knows? No one’s left to tell us the tales and fables and legends and myths Peter wanted to believe so badly.
“Kyra are you sure you’re ok?” Peter cowers when I look at him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to, it’s just you look so lost and -”
No need to finish that sentence. Here we all are, breaking the silence I hold so sacred.
“It’s fine Peter, don’t you worry about me.”
The silence is back. It’s uncomfortably quiet. It makes my thoughts run too wild, too free. Kaisa does a cartwheel and lands on her feet. Miraculous. Somehow she always lands on her feet. Syme is looking at her, little smile on his face. It’s weird to see Syme smile. Smiling is so open, so free and when are we ever free. I’m not even looking at Peter. He’s looking at me again. Worry in his eyes. Pity in his stance. He shouldn’t worry about me. I once told him that. That he shouldn’t care so much. He’d looked at me with those dark brown eyes and wouldn’t let my eyes flee back to nothingness and just held them there. “Says you,” he had said.
Kaisa whistles and I flinch. There goes the silence. The uncomfortable feeling stays. My mind still running circles, going haywire. I sit down in the dried mud. Syme looks back and walks up to me. He crunches down in the dust too. His back is bent a little. It’s really not an ideal place to sit.
“You know you don’t always have to be this grouchy right?”
I look at Syme and his knowing eyes look back at me. He’s so calm. How is he always so calm?
“I don’t know Syme. Someone’s got to do the worrying here right, and it’s clearly not Kaisa or Peter.”
He lowers his eyes again and I see that I have hurt him. We all are a bit cracked here. All are a bit broken. That’s how the light comes in. Syme lost a lot of his light. He lost it when his brother died. The one who had been taking care of him. We all need someone to take care of us. But who takes care of the person who cares for everyone else? Dan had been that person. Dan had been the one to worry, the one to fret about everything. He always tried so hard to keep everyone safe. To keep everyone sane. He’d been able to bear it quite well. He was the one who always told us that it was all fine.
“We’re all a bit cracked, that’s how the light gets in”. He kept on repeating that. He’d carved that thought into each and every one of us. He’d gotten it from Hemingway. Or Cohen. He wasn’t very clear on that. We all needed Dan. We needed him to worry for us. Dan worried healthily. I don’t. I worry too much, can’t keep track of my thoughts. They run too fast and I can’t seem to keep up.
He shrugs. “It’s fine. It’s just – it doesn’t always look like you can take it. Dan looked a lot like you in the end you know? Not physically I mean. Just that look in your eyes. He had it too.”
I put my head on his shoulder and listen to his heartbeat for a bit. None of us are good at talking. We watch Peter and Kaisa play in a land that looks no different from where we just ran from. But we’re out of the war zone. We’re supposed to be out of the war zone. No man’s land. Dirt and craters and mud and dead bodies. We’re out. We’re free. Why doesn’t it feel like we’re free? We’re supposed to be free. I sob. My whole body shakes, and my head hurts and Syme is holding me. Kaisa stopped playing. She’s staring back at us and Peter is trying to distract her again. Syme just holds me and looks at me and there’s not even pity in his eyes. They’re a bit empty. They deserved so much more. Dan should be here instead of me. They would have been happier. Syme would have smiled.
“Shhhh Kyra.” Syme pulls me a little tighter and hums. The humming turns into a song Dan always used to sing to me. I always sing it to Kaisa. Dan loved words. He gave that love to me in the end. Made me fall in love with pretty words. And look at us now. Here we all are, trying to string beautiful words into meaningless sentences.
The shaking stops and my breathing adjusts to Syme’s. Peter and Kaisa are playing again. I curl up against Syme and hum with him. I play the words in my head.
“Somewhere there’s a fairy land
with trees and grass instead of sand
Someday we’ll run and flee away
Run and hide from our world so grey
Run and fly and feel the wind
Make our feathers touch the sky.”
It had been his promise to us. It hadn’t been one of Dan’s best rhymes. Far from it. But it was his promise. It was our hope. He’d never been able to finish it. He’d never found the right word to rhyme on wind.
A little smile hangs around Syme’s lips. A little smile flies over my face. Dan loved the idea of flying. Syme still does. We look at Kaisa and Peter laughing in the field.
“So, what do we do now?”
Syme looks back at me and bows his head a little. “I don’t know. What do you think we should do?”
Here we are. Waiting for the next step on this endless labyrinth called life. We took a turn, not knowing where it would lead us. Time for the next step.
“We can go a little further. See if the land gets greener. See if we can find water. Take it one step at a time.”
He nods and puts his head on my shoulder. There’s not much we can do really. We’re not going back to the Kryle. Dan died to get us out of there. Dan promised to get us out of there. Now it’s our turn.
Kaisa and Peter come join us. Kaisa looks tired. At least she doesn’t look scared anymore. It’s painful to see her be scared. In a way Kaisa kept us going. She kept us from turning back with her happy daydreams of the world outside the Kryle. How she got us to participate in those fantasies, hopping around and smiling and laughing and when Dan joined in, the whole fantasy would somehow be real. Dan was a marvellous storyteller. He used to tell these mesmerising stories with dragons and mermaids and gods and nymphs and green grass and trees you could climb on and lakes with water so clear you could see the fish with silvery scales swimming around.
Peter pulls his bags to him and grabs some of the crackers we stole from the last shop near the border. He hands some of them to Kaisa and Syme and throws the rest to me.
“Aren’t you supposed to say something Kyra? Like Dan always did?”
Kaisa snickers. She knows I didn’t like the prayers Dan always said before dinner.
Syme is smiling too. “Leave her alone Kaisa. If you want to say something so badly, do it yourself.”
Kaisa flushes and quickly starts eating her crackers. I look at Syme and see the amusement flickering in his eyes.
“Thanks,” I mumble.
Once we’re done with the food we all get a sip of water to wash away the dry, salty taste. The three others turn to me as if by an unspoken command.
“Can you tell us a story Kyra?”
No getting out of this one. It’s my job now that Dan is gone. They all huddle together and look at me expectantly. Peter’s eyes light up and Syme holds little Kaisa in his arms.
Somewhere there’s a fairy land with trees and grass instead of sand. It’s worlds away but wait and see. Someday I’ll take you there with me…”
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Editor’s note: This is a creative writing piece by one of the writers for the 13Stars Newspaper at EEB4.