Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Earth Salvation - Story by (Mahmoud Mansi) - Reviews - Criticism

Stone and Flesh Pray to The Lord / © Mahmoud Mansi
Spain / Barcelona / Sagrada Familia Church / December 2010

Earth Salvation..

In the world of Literature, we as writers sometimes refer to the champion of the story as a “He / She” or as an “I”. This is not done randomly but each has its own reflection into the realm of the story. When we use the “He” tool, it leaves more space for us to delve into the world of descriptions. We will have much space giving details for the internal / external skeleton of the character. However, when we refer to the tool “I” we will cover other internal / external details for the wandering character along with the world around it. Personally, I believe that the story is always missing another half as long as it is based on only one of these tools. It is an exciting thought to write a story twice, using each tool of these, but will the reader urge to read both!

If you did not notice so far that I am starting this story by wielding the tool “I”. Yet, this time is an exception because this is a true story that personally happened to me; the writer. I don’t usually narrate my stories directly and announce it because the best part in reading a book is that the reader never knows what can be true and what cannot be! But as I said this simple story is an exception.

About two years ago, I was waiting for one of my friends in the “Tram” station. He was late as usual, and I was anticipating the tiny universe around me; the street, the people’s faces, the buildings, the sky… I noticed how this tiny area had much several worlds within its invisible walls. We were going to the gym, but he still didn’t show up.

Across the street and the railway, it was the other side of this tiny universe, I found an old woman; a beggar, who walked randomly, alone, not begging! She tottered while looking around, as if searching for something. She accidently found a soda can resting aside. She held it while walking, and shook it but sadly it was empty. For my surprise, she held the can and walked to the garbage, and threw it there!

At first I thought that what I saw was surely from my sheer imagination. Luckily my friend didn’t show up yet, so I drove myself toward the garbage, and looked into it, yes the can was there. This was no fiction, only the unbelievable truth.

I stood there, wondering, and analyzing. As any other writer, I was trying to understand and find a philosophical justification, or else I wouldn’t be able to do my work out well!

Is it education that affects our attitudes? I thought so. Is it our social level? I thought so too. But at that moment I’ve fell into a well of doubts and confusions. It’s when the stable ground you were always standing on, is after all only an ice edge that is about to crack at any time.

There were two ways of thinking to walk through that I’ve noticed. The first was that logic and social class had no direct effect in influencing us. But why do we learn and wear the best clothes if we carry no class in such things? Why are we so keen regarding our degrees as long as they will never change what we do? If our struggle toward knowledge and royalty was a myth, then what are we?

The other path I walked in, after I failed piercing into the first one was that this beggar considered this street as her house. Maybe she was homeless and this street was her only shelter so she longed to keep it clean. For sure this explanation soothed me more as it illuminated the first one. But still, my confusion did not flee. If this was her home, then how could we (the educated and elite), be such an intruders and pollute her home-like shelter! I still find myself guilty with each path I choose through my life. My philosophy is failing me with each thought from freeing my spirit from the cross of sin.

Thanks to God, I have been inspired to find an unexpected third path that may be a salvation for my spirit, away from the lashes of a whip or the nails of a cross. She was an old “woman”. It’s in women’s nature that they focus more on these things, they have always been the ones protecting the houses from the dust and bacteria, and now that they have got their acknowledged freedom, they are now doing this to the streets too! I liked this theory; it made my spirit float free. It made people seem innocent once again… No! Wait. It only makes the other gender free. Not mine! I am now a criminal against my gender too! In all cases and with any justification, I would have been a criminal to someone…

I heard my friend calling me. Finally he arrived. Finally he postponed my death for a few more minutes. And now, after two years, I still remember this ignored story, as simple as it is, but I failed to vanquish its secrets. Oh philosophy, you want to crucify me with all means… Accept me now. You deserve to have my death with the greatness of your secrets… Embrace me, for though I’ve always been a sinner who failed to understand, yet never abandoned the eagerness for you.

·         Published with Beyond Magazine / Cairo / June 2010.

Reviews by my Readers,

Renee Drummond: Salvation : Redemption : Deliverance from Evil!!! Nice story beautiful diversion of life’s ability to manifest guilt... I feel the spirit of this story is one of entangled enlightenment!!! I await the day of your sacred... arrival!!

Muhammad Hazem Sherif: This is a truly intriguing narration, Mahmoud. It certainly is mentally provoking to eye such a scene without a swift understanding of the underlying causation.

Extensive observation is the prerequisite qualification for any writer, and you... certainly do possess it, masha-Allah :).

Rhoda Ismail: Very flattering especially the part where we women are neat =) Thanks.
In general, I could say that it is true that morals have nothing to do with social standards or education, what makes us middle class people hire uneducated servants to clean our houses then, aint I right?

Rowida Elbahi: Like the style... and the analytical thinking. I believe you would know why did she did that if you kept watching her, anyway, after long talks with people and long watching them I am sure of one fact...What you wear or what your class doesn’t reflect your understanding for life, it only gives you tools to do so yet many don't use them.

Alia Taher: This is marvelous, Mahmoud! I like the way you delineate the theme of relativity in your story. For, the story expounds the fact that everything in life is relative & that there is always a hidden facet in every person's character which remains concealed and sheltered inside a kernel which only the sensitive & perceptive can crack & delve into. It reveals that every human being is enigmatic to a certain extent & that we should never allow people's appearances to be the measure or scale by which we can understand & fathom who they really are. The fact that you managed to see the bright, civilized nature of the woman which was muffled by her shabby, tattered clothes is similar to that of a surgeon who uses his scalpel to treat his patients. With your perceptive & penetrating eye, you managed to peel off the hidden layers of the old woman's character until you reached the bright core of her being. I also like the metaphor of the street as her home which she is so keen on keeping clean because it was her only shelter. I wish all people would follow in this old woman's footsteps & be as eager as she was to keep the streets clean. A lovely piece of writing indeed, which both instructs & delights!! Perfecto!! Keep up the great work :)

Marlene De Fabrizio: The subconscious is the balanced warrior angel and knows what you write physiologically. The conscious has an opportunity to choose compassion in action with an open heart, humbled by nature and with no fear. What is real won't hurt us and ...what is unreal does not exist in the realm of truth. This gift is the grace of Goddess-God. It is the dream come true in a marriage made in heaven and our the purpose of human manifestation, to live in union with the other. Collective--Jungian Akashian human spirit--unconscious, and under analysis our nose is not really our nose...LOL... The answers are in the stars, and we experience what is in the stars within and in the union with each other. Through this union springs forth a karmic life, over and over again, till we are one inexplicable enlightened and eternal blissful energy. We as humans are here to love. As a woman loves, with wisdom, and a man with wisdom, man says "In you I find my spirit!" and she then dances for him, as wise women live to dance the dance of spirit.

Kerrie Guy: We are all students and teachers top each other ...
Once we accept this truth learning becomes so much clearer...
I often ask myself as I observe supposed beggars on the streets who in fact is the real beggar ...The one who begs or the one who gives to the beggar...?????

On a lighter note...
Mahmoud I knew this was a true story the second I read your friend was late!!!
Welcome to Egypt :))) LOL

Nawara Magdy Belal: I like your justification as much as I think it’s more of psychological than philosophical because it’s your unconscious that is trying to find a relief... and if I know you a little bit I would say that you are always seeking for salvation but turn into... self punishment and if that is the case then you want to curse your whole gender as if its men who are contributing to the earthly state that we are going through now which is of course somehow true... because if you don’t empower women you will always lack earthly salvation...

Zainab El-Mansi: Yes, it's not education or social class that governs our behaviour though they of course affect it. I believe that one's own beliefs coming from one's own thinking that govern her/his behaviour.

You never know how this woman used to think or was before being a homeless person! Maybe she considered others one day, and now when no one considers her, she unconsciously considered them, people can be really cruel to each other.

AGAIN stereotypes :))!!!! It is NOT in women nature that they focus on keeping the house clean!!! It's supposed to be there in every human being who is CLEAN. Society stamped women with this "job" of caring about the house, but human beings should care about the place they live in :))

Monda Salem: As I told you a couple of days ago,, we writers seek a philosophical explanation for every little thing in that world. We kind of complicate everything no matter how futile or trivial it is. We conduct experiments, we keep everything under observation then reach and draw a conclusion. We believe everything happens, happens for a reason. That makes us permanently in unceasing search for the reasons behind anything and everything which leave us restless. We don't believe that some things sometimes happen for no reason. Bottom line, we invent a reason in our minds and we don't care facing hard times in this strenuous mental trauma trying to find an explanation for anything.

As for the attitude of this woman, my family did not teach me how to respect the street. Or they taught me theoretically without following the rules themselves. However, I learnt all that by myself or you can say "acquired". So, I believe that such things are not taught or learnt. Actually it is a gift!!

Noha A.ElGedy: The thing I like the most is your view for things, your analytical analysis for the situation, and the storm of unanswered questions that blew through your soul! You just missed one and simplest answer that you might think of to be absurd; each and every living human being has some small morals left in him...

Ahmed Elmaghraby: Well my friend, I’m not trying to find reasons for the old woman, why she had to do that, because as you mentioned it is a multi factorial issue and we will go through a dilemma until we find out why she had to do because no one can answer it but the old woman. So it was very nice how you start this about we the writers make a variation when we use the pronouns, but sometimes we shift and convey to use (you) to get the complete attention of the readers in order to make them invade the heart of the incidence :) Good job bro :)
May Rostom: Egyptians WORSHIP delegation. We have cooks to cook for us, drivers to run errands, maids to clean our houses, people to wash and iron our clothes and simply someone to pick up our rubbish! and as long as we have someone there for us to help us out, we'll NEVER do anything on our own (that applies to all human beings but Egyptians happen to take FULL advantage of this option!)

Hanan El-Dakkak: Well, the first thing I thought of when this old poor lady threw the can in the garbage can, was that she was deceived... she thought it had something to drink, but then it was actually empty. She might have done this because she thought that's where it deserves to be, or, she's avoiding the deceiving of any other desperate street wanderer. She doesn't want someone else to feel the same depression she had.

Salma Mohamed: Well Mahmoud I agree with Hanan's post. That's what popped in to my mind when I first read it. Adding to that I think that she could be minimizing her options of finding empty cans. She does not want to get back to the same street and see the empty can again. In that case she might look at the can again and feel desperate again because she remembers that the can is empty or she might forget that the can is empty and inspect it again and then feel desperate again. Anyway she is in a miserable state.

Noha Khatib: It is really so puzzling how sometimes observing starts from a point of just spending time, ends up with thinking about our role or even what we have felt during our act of observing... it is a very impressive journey that has discoveries... on both sides; outside and inside ourselves... very beautiful and deep short story, it arouses many and a lot of questions inside my mind, by the way I hate short stories :) just as I have studied most of times they end up without specific end and am so specific person and always love clear ends but really this one is fabulous in the way of starting it and in the way you narrate the whole incident, very smoothly that affects me how really I can justify the old woman attitude and really am eager to read more of your writings... with my best regards. 

 Geetanjali Dey: A very sensible yet a very simple story..... I simply went with the progress of the story... The depict was beautifully done and narrated well in the platform of expression..... I have developed a respect for you for recognizing the beauty of womanhood...... Very few people, rather being very categorical, a class of "Gentle Men" only has the courage to regard women for who and what they are..... We are so drown in the world of class, society, show off etc., that we are forgetting our own foundations..... I am glad to know you Mahmoud, who translated a story for a poor lady, barring her class, her belonging and what she is..... It's a true homage to her!!!

All that I can say lastly is "God Bless You" !!! :)

Emily Richardson: Well, this is a perfect example of "Be the change you wish to see in the world" and this woman illustrates how good character is not based on social class or education, but on something much more intrinsic. Even though she's a beggar, she has maintained her self-respect.

Jackie Shaeffer: One of the first things I thought was... it doesn’t necessarily HAVE to be a woman thing. I, for one, know plenty of women who could care less about the cleanliness of their own home, never mind the streets which they walk on.

Perhaps she is simply one of those human beings, both men and women alike, who long to see this world in its natural glory... where the sky was a clear blue and the grass was bright green.

It did remind me of the stories my mother told me about a small very old village in Guatemala she visited sometimes. She was always fascinated by how the people that lived there would sweep the front of the streets of their houses and how they all seemed to work together to keep the whole city clean. Can you imagine if all of us as humans cared that much to try to keep our cities clean? Can you imagine the amount of unity that could bring? Seeing something like that would be miraculous!

Marwa Tarek: "Way to go, dude" And considering that beggar, I guess she did that out of emptiness "faragh" -.- I mean if you took her back to the same situation again I guess 90% she wouldn’t make... that "effort" again I don’t know.

Book Reviews on Amazon.com:

Your Native Writer,
Mahmoud Mansi.
-One of the Twenty Winners for the Literary Award / A SEA OF WORDS 2010
-HR Specialist / Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport
-International Author  / “A Journey from Darkness to Light

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fragments of Me - Story by (Mahmoud Mansi) - Reviews - Criticism

© Mahmoud Mansi
Egypt / Alexandria / Gleem / 2009

Fragments of Me…
A Story about Alexandria,

I left the lights behind, and vanished through the darkness of the pure night. It was something much more mysterious than magic which called my name. I heard the sighs of the Mediterranean, whispering me back for an old reunion. I’ve just entered the forgotten zone of wonders. The breeze that I couldn’t exhale for years, took my spirit flying into another world. It’s been ages since I left the lights of the city, and explored a new variety. My native genes nostalgically awakened the lost feelings inside my heart. I looked at the wavy sea and the few scattered fishermen busy in its science. The young ones were wearing a moustache, while the eldest grew their beards. I stood still trying not to disturb their nature, and listened to their spoken words of wisdom. Such words could not be spoken by philosophers or written in any foreign literature books. How determinant they were! I wondered, “How life is so different here, while the city is just a few steps away!”

I looked to find the boats resting on the shore waiting for their next expedition. I wondered, what if we spent our sleep times dreaming about our next battle! Walking through them, and feeling the salt on their old wooden body, my eyes spotted their painted names. They were all names of their beloved ones and symbols of an unfound culture. Maybe those poor fishermen have no effective tools to change the city, but they still got the passion that doesn’t exist anymore in the bright citizens, and in me! I knew that the shore (that everyone sees but never approaches with a thoughtful spirit) was actually the real Alexandria! The spirit of magic that yet never died, but have become nearly extinct… We have been attached too much to the city with all its seducing lights and twinkling desires till we became part of it, while pulling one another to its vortex. The more we dive deeper, the more we move faster toward the center of such vortex, and that’s what life is like now; rapid circles that get narrower with each day!

I noticed that it’s only the sunset image that is seen from the seaside, but the huge buildings are always covering the first moments of the sunrise birth. Well that’s the way it always goes with human beings! You are always obligated to greet someone in school, work, street, club, and anywhere, but you only care about saying goodbye to the special ones! You never know when you can see them again. Well, by one way or another, the sun knew about that too! Maybe its rays were late in greeting the fishermen, but were always there for a passionate crimson goodbye. The fishermen knew about that too, that’s why the hidden view of the sunrise greetings didn’t bother them. How amazing!

I thought about the real Alexandria as a word, symbol, history, meaning, culture, and future… How original! I thought about The Lighthouse and how it guided the merchant, fishing and war ships. And I thought about the Great Castle, which took over its glory, and defended the loamy shores of the blessed city of science, art, and magic. Its existence longed for years, “But where was all that now?” It’s no more than a place to visit, watch, and add some words in the history books. Where did all the wonders of science, poetry, art, literature, love, and passion go to?

It’s the land and sea that saw the misery and couldn’t speak about it. The land released its germs. The sea refused to swallow our mistakes, and left it as a living evidence for our bloody crimes. We were born rich in an era, and had to live watching our wealth go with the next tide. We let it go, because the fake light twinkles tangled our greedy eyes. Our departure was the cause, leaving everything good behind, just gone with the wind. And in return, we struggled to reach a new goal, our desires. We became part of a ridicules game; perusing fashion, taste, colors, movies, cars, races, and any other kind of shallowness while leaving behind only one thing, “Our Life!!!”

I looked at my reflection, and saw the pathetic reality of the life I was living. I thought I was a leader of my own, I thought I was the master of any internal storm and I thought I was actually in control! But I turned out to be just another puppet, dancing for the pleasure of other puppets! No wonder those fishermen own such wisdom, it’s the ugly world they see every day while sailing with their boats. Studying more about a virus, would surely tend to realize a cure! That's what I thought about… I remembered, when there was a curious baby with energy all over his body, and trying to always touch a hot cup of tea while ignoring the orders of his parents; sometimes after all their plans would fail, they eventually leave the child touch the cup! Why did they do that, and still do? Is it cruelty? No it’s reality. When the child learned about the "bad", "danger", "threat", "weakness", I mean any kind of the spread "viruses" around… this child was able to be saved from its danger and its effects!

From this short expedition in the darkness of the shores, and on the gleam of the reflected moonlight I learned too much about my small city. The city which had been my home since I was born… The city that Alexander the Great once dreamt to make it the Capital of the World!

I glanced at the magnifying view once again, feeling so free, feeling so strong, and feeling like a native too! I’ve been breathing passionate magic for minutes. I wished to stay in this place forever, my real Alexandria. Nevertheless, I faced the lights once again, gave my back to the endless knowledge and walked away… knowing that I have a mission to do, a forgotten message to carry on, and a buried culture to resurrect…

  • Published with Beyond Magazine / Cairo / July 2010.
  • Published online with ActivYouth.com.

Reviews by my Readers,

Rasha Adel: "I thought I was the master of any internal storm and I thought I was actually in control! But I turned out to be just another puppet, dancing for the pleasure of other puppets!" this is so insightful on identity crisis of modern humanity... Beautiful work of art. Thanks for the share :)

Jenny Mitchell: Oh wow Mahmoud... I love this piece; it so reflects life in all its light and shadow. I was moved by your sunset images; your reference to the need to greet everyone, but only say goodbye to those who are special... but more so to your references to children's life lessons and how we teach our children, our efforts to shield them from the bad things in life, but in the end having to allow them experience it (your reference to a hot tea - it's very special to me as I have a very strong memory as a child needing to give my mother her hot tea and spilling it on myself and suffering burns as a result, even after my mother trying to tell me it was too hot for me to pick up).

Mahmoud, your words ring so true to me and mean so much to me. Aside from the obvious references to Alexandria and its lost written wisdom and the lighthouse... I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Alia Taher: Wow! It's amazing, Mahmoud! I like the profound reflections of self & world expounded here. As an Alexandrian, I can easily relate to the exquisite description of Alexandria as the city of magic, charm, beauty, discovery, revelation & inspiration. In relation to that, there is a beautiful poem entitled "Alexandria" written by Desmond O'Grady & published in his book, "My Alexandria."

I also think the title, "Fragments of Me" is very well chosen because I believe that it is very expressive of the feeling one gets when contemplating the sea. For, we all as humans feel very minute before its vastness & immensity. It fills us with awe & sublimity. Thus, the picture with the caption, "My Parlor of Inspiration," is very befitting of the halo of illumination the sea endows people with. A lovely, eye-opening work of art & great reflections on Alexandria by an Alexandrian writer :)

Enjy Maged Ashour: I think you should check out a song called “The Islander” by “Nightwish”….couldn’t help thinking about it (lyrics & video) while reading,

It’s true how amazing the wisdom of the fishermen is…”the ugly world they see every day while sailing with their boats” & the pirates they encounter on their adventures teach them how to understand & appreciate the buried treasures of life. We too as city people have our own pirates & ugliness to face & learn from but unfortunately we do not always learn our lessons & we still walk right towards the “light” traps just like bedazzled moths!!

What we truly need is to hop on board those “boats resting on the shore waiting for their next expedition”, set the sails & explore life, see the world with the eyes of fishermen…because experience is the only road to “knowledge” & “wisdom”…we need to be ourselves :“Native Alexandrians” & try to collect the “Fragments of [us]” to be whole again.

All in all, this is such a great & relatable piece written by a true fisherman. One day, more of us will truly see Alexandria’s wonders & untold tales…One day, Alexander the Great will return to us & lead the way…
I also think the title, "Fragments of Me" is very well chosen because I believe that it is very expressive of the feeling one gets when contemplating the sea . For, we all as humans feel very minute before its vastness & immensity. It fills us with awe & sublimity. Thus, the picture with the caption, "My Parlor of Inspiration," is very befitting of the halo of illumination the sea endows people with. A lovely, eye-opening work of art & great reflections on Alexandria by an Alexandrian writer :)

Carina Bastain de Souza: Very, very beautiful and wise. And the True Alexandria is always inside you, you were never far from it... you just forget the way for a while...

Noha Salah: I have to make an expedition in the city :)) I felt that I miss many things in it !! I liked every word in this story!! We must ask our selves about the history of this city and what is happening to it now...

Noha Khatib: Very impressive ... as we are created from this world soil and inhabit it we share with it a lot, I believe we all are affected by the place we grew up in it with a way or another it became an unseparated part of us in our personality and ...our way of thinking .. we are fascinated by the city with all its glowing and attractive things to the limit that it stated to haunt us to chain us with our own wish while on the other contrary we never can abandon the nature with its sea ... we share the sea, this very puzzling nature as he is hugged by the earth and its waves longing for spending sometime on earth's land but it still hold its dignity to be just as himself. I think your words echo with a way or another in everyone's own life ... I adore the spirit of this story a lot and also the powerful metaphors in your writings they always hit a nerve in a mysterious way :)) ...Very Nice short story .. keep it up and wish you the best of luck :)

Hanan El-Dakkak: I'm impressed!!!I love the depth of your vision of Alexandria, the sea, the people...I've always looked at the sea as the treasure of knowledge, wisdom and passion. Alexander the great saw the strength & greatness in the sea, the sun rise is... born through the sea and sets within its arms... Moses sailed the sea to learn from a privileged slave of Allah! What a gift Allah has bestowed to us, may we learn from the mysteries and deep wisdom of it. May we have it as a mirror to see our true selves, and the waves will only blur our contradictions that plain mirrors don't reflect.

Abu M.Yusuf: I am amazed with the fluidity of construction of scenes with words so nicely chosen. Alexandria is in our subconscious...a nostalgic reminiscence of prosperous past where humanity had excelled and that is not only fragment of you but fragment of us all, from the feel of magic you make. Thanks so much...lots of love & regards. Hope to read you more in near future, so please keep me in your list of readers.

Colette Frege: Despite the fact that Alexandria is facing a myriad of problems, there is still magic in this city as you say and this is why I stay! Enjoyed sharing your feelings.. Thanks.

May Kosba: "Nevertheless, I faced the lights once again, gave my back to the endless knowledge and walked away… knowing that I have a mission to do, a forgotten message to carry on, and a buried culture to resurrect…"

I love it... One thing stands out here is the strong sense of belonging to the place. There's a man who acknowledges mistakes of his kind and is willing to carry the burden of responsibility to enliven the culture and the Alexandiran identity..Awesome!

Marwa Fawzy Mahmoud: You resurrected Alexandria in your own so special way. Now, I understand what you meant by Native Writer. I never thought that a land can spark this stream of thoughts and pictersque words into the brain and sentiments of someone with such eloquence and grace.That was a beautiful piece really :))))

Salma Mohamed: Mahmoud. It's really great why don't you continue it as a story. I think you are great at describing what u see and mix it with feelings that bring the picture alive. I think it would be nice to consider a story in which the hero is a boat... for example and transfer what your eyes see and what your heart feels to the reader through the boat for example. REALLY GREAT. VERY PROUD.

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With Pleasure,
Your Native Writer,
Mahmoud Mansi .
-One of the Twenty Winners for the Literary Award / A SEA OF WORDS 2010
-HR Specialist / Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport
-International Author  / “A Journey from Darkness to Light

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Keyhole - Story by (Mahmoud Mansi)

The Keyhole, 
First half of the story is published on paper with Beyond Magazine / Cairo. The second half is published online with Beyond Magazine on this page.
With each floor the man ascended, he thought about such assumptions, until he reached the dead-end of the road. He reached the last floor where his creation resided. In such dead-end roads one finds nothingness, one finds nothing but the past along with the death of hope. He believed that there were no dead-end paths in life. There was always a gate there, a closed door somewhere, yet he failed to find it. He only found a door leading to his past, to reality. One becomes entrapped, and finds no other choice but delving into the past. He opened the door; his experiment laboratory. The door toward immortality as some observers would conclude…


The body was there, with eyes aiming away from the door. He longed to manifest beauty through a statue, but he only created a revolting freak. Her body had no specific shape. Her limbs were unequal in length. Her face was full of distinctive scars and dreadful wrinkles. His eyes circled with fear and bemusement. Failure fell upon his mood, same as death falls upon those who avoid it. Was this what he devoted his life for, he questioned?
“With our assumptions, we always reach unanswered questions, and this is always what we intend to do, however, it’s the times when we dull our ways, that we accidently reach one of the roots of reality.” The Philosopher once said.
“We say it is randomness, but sometimes we draw a reality that our minds could not yet fathom.” The Artist once said.
“Although mutation is a very common possibility that we all should consider in our field, but with its birth, we may unintentionally discover new facts.” The Scientist once said.
“Sometimes when I stare at the blank pages that I intend to fill with the unrecognized thoughts by my mind, and I start writing, I find myself lost, same as the reader, but in the end I discover much, and I respect such equality bonding a writer with the reader.” The Writer once said.
“I usually enjoy my struggle with the text. I always see myself through the pages, mislead with my personal life when unconsciously linking it with the text. Sometimes I fail when I try otherwise, that’s when I turn to reading other criticisms, yet accuracy in being neutral is nearly impossible.” A Reader once said.
Such hallucinations played much havoc with the sculptor’s mind as he shockingly contemplated the ugliness of his art, his perception to life, his picture of reality. There was no divinity indeed in what he created. The source of creation remained unknown…
The closer he became to the statue, watching her as she leaned her face away from her creator, looking toward the plain wall, exactly as he left her, the more he longed to figure out such result. He circled around her, hoping to find the other side perhaps carrying some beauty. He only found more ugliness as the corners of her face started to become visible. With much boldness and effort, he was able to unfortunately locate her wide eyes staring at him. Trembled with much desire to know, he wanted to leave the place, but he went on circling, hoping to only survive a full three hundred and sixty degree rotation around her.
Her eyes were too sharp, and he could swear that they were only looking at him. He moved away from their sight, but he still felt that there was something wrong. Reaching half way through, right in front of her face, he saw what every human being tried to avoid; a mirror that reflects reality with no fake facades.
He flinched back once again, but the room was round, with no corners to shelter himself within. He was about to push the statue to watch it being smashed into bits and pieces, he longed to see his creation become as the dust it was created from, but there was a very powerful reason which held him back from such salvation.
He escaped, carrying nothing but his unanswered questions and lusty quest for confessing his sin. But what shame would it bring confessing such sin, he thought? That is why he preferred to deal with his own guilt solo, same as he alone was the creator of such dark sin.
He locked the door and kept its key chained round his left thigh. He never approached such floor, same as all of us who failed to atone for our sins, and decided to live with a chain of keys of all the secretive locked doors we once buried.
The sound of the thunder was too loud, threatening indeed, as it struck through the hollowness of the Earth and Sky. It pierced through each unanswered question within his mind, through every keyhole, reaching every room, every secret… as he silently slept, and tossed in his bed.
He felt all those feelings as he slept. He was still aware of everything, as the mind never sleeps and the heart never stops. Guilt was a very ugly companion to share the narrow bed with every night. Such companion never sleeps…
The companion whispered many ugly words that the man failed to avoid hearing. Through such words, he heard another irrelevant sound. He heard sounds of friction between metals. He heard a squeezing sound, perhaps an old door being opened slowly. He heard footsteps gradually descending. He counted the footsteps, and the number seemed quite familiar. An ugly smell he felt from far away, a smell of something so recognizable, unlike home, it was like the smell of a rotten grave. Now the man knew that this sound was surely relevant to the one of Guilt. Guilt was not an enemy after all, rather someone trying to rescue what was left.
When the sculptor woke up, he was not sure if this was a dream or not. He went upstairs to check on the door and the statue. All was there in place. He shuddered when he saw the statue through the keyhole. He decided to go on with his life, and make a new piece, in another floor. It was a woman too, but this time, he was inspired by divinity. This time, he worked without covering the future statue with a piece of cloth. He thought this incident was a jinx.
Somehow the man found salvation through his new creation of art. He admired it more, although for the time being it was still incomplete. He worked every day from dawn to midnight, as the statue started to have clear features and a noticeable identity.
He spent this night with a new feeling of triumph. His guilt was silent as everything else was. Finally he could sleep with only light crossing the endless distances within his mind. Finally he felt that his art would manifest the true definition of reality.
Right after the dawn, he rose to the floor where his new creation rested. Every night when he was done with working on it, he would cover it. He treated her as if she was real, as he always did with any other piece he ever sculptured.
However, when he uncovered her, the tree of fear found its way through his heart again, as its roots grasped his heart same as an octopus treats its prey.
He found many details manipulated. All the good features were defaced. For sure someone sneaked there to commit such outrageous lure. But then he remembered, perhaps he was the one creating ugliness out of beauty!
He fixed the contaminated parts and went one with his art. Though suspicious, but tranquility nourished his mind as he danced with his fingers upon the clay, and shined the special flame of magic that intellectuals are always blest with.
The next day, while staring at the covered piece, he had the same flavor of fear that touched his heart right before seeing his other cursed statue for the first time, the same kind of fear that held him back from smashing it. However, this time he was bold enough to unearth his dreams from the coffin, and bring it back to life. No matter what can be waiting in one’s past, but he decided to confront it this time, only this time…
The darkness cast upon humankind, comes from the deepest fear of every human being, the fear of failure, the fear of being nothing at all, not even clay. And this fear is one of the raw energy that keeps one going on until the last drop. This is the way of doom, and the way of salvation. It is the way to death, and it is the way to life. One usually walks through this way, not knowing which to expect. This only happens when one knows the true meaning of life, finds more lively values within it, or it might also happen when one loathes everything in life and seeks a way out. The most vital element common between both scenarios is that one puts life on the other hand, and decides to totally risk its existence.
Ego sometimes opposes this kind of fear, and at other times it flows with it, this is when rationality comes to life, although, it is the output (the result of the experiment) that is the only judge that decides if a choice was rational or not.
With a trembling and hesitating hand he touched her face, as a blind one anticipating the face of a stranger. But she was no stranger! A bemusing smile was drawn on his face. He kept contemplating his creation with bliss and pride, as if he was watching his own self in the mirror.
On the morrow, he woke up to find the statue smashed, scattered… dead! absolutely turned into useless bits. He fell on his knees, thundering a deep cry while collecting the tiny particles of his creation within his arms, as if embracing her. He was exactly mourning, over her, over his effort, over the time he spent, over the hope that died… he was mourning over himself.
All the doors and windows were perfectly locked. Perhaps there were smaller gaps that only allowed a few insects to pass through and find their own survival into such ignored building.
His sadness and sorrow now shifted to extreme anxiousness, he was worrying about himself now. He started thinking about the source of such crime. For sure everyone has several enemies, especially thinkers.
He checked every nook and canny in the building, and found nothing at all, no clues or possibilities.
For an instant he wished from God that the other statue was the one smashed, although he would have never noticed.
He collected his scattered grief, while remembering each drop of passion he put into such piece. Tear drops never wash away the pain, they never wash reality, but they only make us more ready to face it. He was now ready to face his past. When one has no future to confront, the past becomes the only opponent.
He buried her fragments in the yard. He tottered to his parlor, buried himself into the bed, with much drugs being digested in his stomach. He succeeded to sleep. He wished he was alone, but he never was. This night, Guilt and Rage were his companions. He never expected his bed would fit such numerous figures. He wondered, would it fit for more?
Fierce friction between metals, irritating squeezing, heavy footsteps gradually descending, that is all that he heard. Coming closer and closer, Guilt and Rage surrounded him, enshrouded within their whispers he heard the same distinctive sound, coming close and closer, accelerating, racing with his heart beats.
He felt this clutch upon his heart, squeezing it with anger, as if revenging from him. Guilt and Rage were vociferating words he did not quite well fathom. They were useless, he thought. Guilt and Rage were no more than two useless soldiers. Like those of chess, they only take action when you are powerful enough to do so. He reminded himself to curse them later, if he ever had the chance to survive.
He woke up with sweat all over him, feeling deep pain piercing into his heart. No one was there. The place was dead same as hope was.
He stood up, wore his shield; Guilt, and held his sword; Rage, and headed up toward the heavens. He did not know that hell was waiting there for him...
“We are no more than various mirrors that only reflect what actually exists, yet we are blamed for being much accurate!” The Philosopher said.
“The only crime we keep on committing is the reality we urge to always reflect.” The Artist said.
“Our trip to discovery requires lots of intelligence, however, it requires more boldness where one risks everything… sometimes we risk our own beliefs.” The Scientist said.
“We are only here to suggest, and not force our opinions. Instead of attacking one, save more energy to suggest your own opinions.” The Writer said.
“As we delve deeper into reality, following it becomes more of an obligation rather than complete randomness.” A Reader said.
He bowed to look through the keyhole. It was all dark in there. He could not see the features of the statue, but she sure was there, erecting as a shadow.
He thought he heard a sound in there, but again he was mistaken. Every day he witnessed such struggle with the unknown past. He would take a peek, and then anticipate things while he slept. Never did he open the door.
At one night, as he allowed his vision to enter the keyhole, he thought he found the statue not in its place! The room was empty.
He hastened to open the door. The key was stuck. The door never opened. He rushed back to his grave and locked the door of his room. He did not sleep this night.
He avoided going upstairs. He did not find heaven there. He only found emptiness. Thus he ignited a flame and scattered fuel all over the last floor. He threw a small portion of explosives along with the flame and felt the heat growing right behind him as he ran away.
He smiled with triumph as he watched his own mutant being eaten by the fire. He was not afraid anymore, nor ashamed. This was hell indeed, but he had to wash away his sins.
He slept peacefully in his room, leaving it unlocked. They are the rare moments in this life that one witnesses peace within. As the ashes scattered, bliss filled his heart. A new artist inside him was birthed, a new human being!
The next morning he went upstairs, into the room of darkness, aiming to purify his past. He carried a shove upon his shoulders to end any remaining solid pieces of the ugly statue, but he found nothing, all ash.
He went to the other room, where he previously created the other statue, the beautiful one, to prepare his tools for the new beginning.
Blissfully he entered to find a guest waiting there for him. She turned from far away to face him. He previously recognized her from the smell. The scent of home he breathed, the scent of reality, the scent of his ugly creation, his ugly past.
“I knew you were real,” he hardly spoke.
She did not speak. Her silence was more irritating than any other thing. It was torture seeing such dehumanized details brought to life and moving.
He did not move. His stability was more of a curse, watching her getting closer while he failed to even blink. The numbness all over his body was same as the passion existing within him as he created such sin.
He knew that there was no escape. He had to pay for his crime. Perhaps Guilt and Rage were no more than two illusions, or perhaps they belonged to another world, he wondered.
As she approached, limping with her unbalanced body, he felt the clutch upon his heart once again. Her grip was stronger than what he expected. They were now face to face, with only inches separating them. He felt death soothing him. New details bloomed through her face. He saw oppression, humiliation, injustice, much rape and killing, children crying, people dying, nature weeping and fear controlling… He found a victim of life, just another crucified angel. He found in his heart much sympathy, love and sadness. He smiled at her as death took him away, she smiled back with much kindness and love.
Hours later, people from the village gathered along with some rescuers around the building with the burnt roof. They all walked in when no one answered. Astonishment struck their minds when they saw the scene.
“What a miraculous piece of art!” they all wondered with passionate eyes. “Poor Pygmalion, he passed away while blessing the world with his immortal art, his best piece ever!”
They all fell sad for a moment of mourning. One of them said, “This era needs such torches of light. We must deliver it to the rest of the world, this will be our message.”

(This story is dedicated to my best friend Mohamed Mansour / the one who inspired me with his painting).
Published with Beyond Magazine / Cairo / 2010.

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Identity of a Shadow - Story by (Mahmoud Mansi) - Reviews - Criticism

The Exit Gate / © Mahmoud Mansi
Spain / Barcelona / December 2010

Identity of a Shadow,

In a world that never smiled, a truth that never spoken and miracles that were never visible… the moonlight shone so bright along the silver pond that was a plot for a historical yet unknown incident.

He was there, staring through the stars, devastated from life as lots of his kind, searching for salvation among the realms up high, as they may have searched for salvation within the low spot he stood still.

As he drank from its silver drops, he found his reflection upon its mirror visage. How much did life change his beauty into much ugliness! Scars were all over his face and body, making him smile from sadness instead of happiness. He kept staring at the sky that seemed like staring back to him. If the earth abandons us, will the stars disbelief in our mission?

He thought he heard a cry, but it was real. A continuous weeping of a child that echoed within the gaps of his life. Beyond the silver pond, he thought he saw the figure behind the tree, but it was only a shadow. It was too dark, too glamorous, when life goes too harsh while still it’s full of vast wonders for us to discover!

He found an old small boat that only had room for one. He felt lucky using it for reaching the shore that carried much mystery and puzzles. It’s the unraveled instinct inside us that always drives our interests to the unknown, to the unsolved riddles. It can be a blessing. It can be a curse. We can never know, unless we pass to the other side of the shore!

He floated on his way to the other side, where the pond was full of unknown creatures diving underneath his endeavor. He didn’t see them, but feeling their existence was enough! Nevertheless, He kept fighting with his doubts, risking his life, all for the unknown!

The other side was like a different planet. He followed the sound, and the shadow he saw from far away. He circled around the tree to find the one that was weeping. The child buried his face through his hands.
“Are you lost?” the man said.

The child never replied, as least he stopped crying. “Who are you?” he asked again, “Where are your parents?”

“You are!”

“I am? How come?” the man smiled to comfort the child.

“You found me, thus I am yours.” And he held the boots of the man. He kneeled to hold the child and life him up, but he found him too heavy. He tried to explain but he couldn’t understand. He wanted to tell the child that it’s not who found you that must be your parent, but it’s who led you to this alien place!

The grip of the child was too strong when he held the man’s left foot. The man struggled to release it till he succeeded in flinching away. Suddenly the child looked so scary, it made the man even farther with his body and further with his heart.

He kept walking through the dull trees and dark land, but wherever his fear drove him to, he saw the same images and scenes. It was as if he was thrown into a maze; one that has no way out except for being part of it.

The cries of the child never left his ears. The man struggled too hard to overcome the maze, and dominate it with his strength, intelligence, emotions and sixth sense, but he always failed.

He felt like being a part of an unbreakable system that he longed to decode. First it was failure that he felt, but later it turned to feeling lost. He wanted to go back. He wished he can touch the lake of beasts once again; to just stay by the shore of it, or have a dive with those creatures of doom, just anyplace away for this maze!

Through the woods he delved through, he was about to reach the solution for this equation, hence he found another child by a rotten tree. Her pigtail braids were about a meter long, dangling on the floor as she stood there silent as a grave. Their length reflected an age she never grasped for, yet he had no choice but to approach her.

She kindly smiled as she gave him her back. Her hair was as strong as wood. She never turned toward him. He was the one who circled to find her smile directed toward him after the anonymous song she was chanting.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your daughter!”

“And how can you say so? Because I found you?”

“No. It’s because you are afraid, yet approached.”

Confused, shuddering, “I approached because I am lost!”

“Those who abandon their offspring are surely lost,” her smile faded away.

As she stared, he found his way into the maze once again. He was lost there for who knows till when. Nevertheless, he found the lake once again! He raced his doubts toward it. The cries were there once again. And the first child was still there, waiting. Across the other tree, she bloomed, “I am his sister.”

The man knew that he had to confront them in order to find a way out!

The boy, “This is the land of the lost ones.”

The girl, “Take us to the other side.”

“So do I,” the man yearningly shared.

He endeavored to carry the little boy that was nearly handicapped. She looked at the man and said, “This boat only carries two of us. It’s the same that brought us here! You should make the choice.”

He wanted to go back by any means, though he was too suspicious regarding their anonymous identity. He decided to let them go on the boat, and he would swim among the beasts!

He watched the boat disappear within the darkness. He delved into the mystery of the murky silver lake that shone within the night. He swam too fast to avoid as much alien creatures as he can!

The temperature of the water changed much as he peddled. He thought he saw several islands and heard many secrets from underneath, yet ignored all for the sake of survival. When he was halfway through, an enormous storm was there, with towering waves, as if he was in an ocean. Waves took him so high and dwelled him too low, yet he kept peddling to the promised shore.

He kissed the land as his hands touched the shore. It felt like a journey of years! He looked around happily, ran along the bushes, toward his home that was once too alien for him.

With dazzled eyes, he pushed the bushes, anticipating the scent of his place to find himself in another realm! He sure landed on the wrong shore! He kept wandering through its ugliness, lost, confused… afraid too! Till he found the two children there…

He asked them eagerly, “What is going on? I do not understand!!”

They answered, “Don’t you know, misery and dullness are the shadows that follow us.”

The man fell silent, devastated, he sat there, right next to them. They became his best friends; his new family. They shared with him their company, and he shared with them their curse…

  • Published with Beyond Magazine / Cairo / August 2010.
  • Published online with United-Humanity.com

Reviews by my Readers,

Carina Bastian de Souza: Yes, the world is full of misery and dulness but it has light and love as well. Each one of us has scars as a result of our inner fight between those two forces.Each one of us has to decide what side we are going to feed inside us.We are stronger, braver and smarter than we think. Once we choose light and love, with all of our faith, we are not lost anymore. You carry misery and dullness with you only if YOU want it.It's your choice!! Don't blame others! Don't you ever dare to give up!!

Imelda A Williams: Common sense of communicating to any citizen in this world will all help us understand each other "culture, personality, tradition" appreciation of what in been gained in an Education; shall all link us in unity.

Nancy Schultz: Mahmoud...this is simply FANTASTIC !!! I love your writings...one would not dare skip over even ONE WORD for each word you write instills some emotion, or brings to ones eyes an actual picture of what is happening in the story. Keep writing, my friend, for if you don't the world would be missing something of great beauty !

Heidi Lessmann: The man's two companions misery and dullness found him after he had searched for something...his identity.Before he found them had to first deal with two other companions fear and danger.His life followed by shadows that we all have to master in our lives.Our lives are an adventure, we travel with shadows that we learn to live with. We have the choice, either we let the shadows control us or we have the strength to know their character and face them with a smile.

Alia Taher: Mahmoud, it's lovely & very profound as usual. I really enjoyed reading it. I like the way you tackle & depict the theme of belonging & the sense of closure that the story culminates into after the struggle the hero undergoes throughout the... story. The continuous weeping sound that he hears & which somewhat echoes throughout the story, thanks to the vivid description, reminds me of some famous lines in Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "In Memoriam." This is how they go:

But what am I?
An infant crying in the night;
An infant crying for the light,
And with no language but a cry.

Similarly, the hero of your story as well as all humanity are crying & yearning for the light. The hero & the children experience this light through sharing & togetherness, since he embraces their burdens & they embrace his & this creates a sense of comfort & serenity. A lovely piece of writing indeed. Keep up the good work :)

Aliaa Mohamed: An outstanding gothic story, a brilliant one indeed :). I loved those lines : "It’s the unraveled instinct inside us that always drives our interests to the unknown, to the unsolved riddles. It can be a blessing. It can be a curse. We can n...ever know, unless we pass to the other side of the shore!"

I like how you depicted the man's inner conflict & agony through scars & weeping. He was pursuing something neglecting his inner soul (the child within him) till it became dull & miserable. Portraying his uselessnes in the handicapped boy was really interesting. You made it easy for me to visualize it & I somehow perceived it as a dream =)

Noha Khatib: PERFECT ..... so impressive , really through life when we pass through the passage of being lost misery and dullness become a two familier companions for us our , lands become very strange places to us and we decame so doomed , but we must... never give up life is but a thread of challenges and we must fight for finding our way through it . Sometimes we must fight our fears to know what is ambigues to us in order to conqure it and find our way towards the peace road but if we surrender to it our life will be crowded by more heavy guests even heavy than misery and dullness . Really it is the first gothic short sory i read and it make sense to me , the way you repreasented his journey and his discoveries aroused my curiosity so much , i think it is not the man story only it is most of us story we always bring misery and dullnes to our life making them a stable guest then we suffer alot to puch them out and conquer them kicking them out of our life forever .... wish you impress us with more of your beautiful artistic pieces and cordial thanks for sharing :))

Maria Neville: Excellent piece of literature Mahmoud..beautiful metaphors...very moving...and true...we never know if our unsolved riddles are a blessing or a curse unless we cross to the other shore.....

Manal El Diwany: Great ending !

“He asked them eagerly, “What is going on? I do not understand!!”
They answered, “Don’t you know, misery and dullness are the shadows that follow us.”

Let me say that's sometimes the essence of the word 'fate' He left " the silver pond that was a plot for a historical yet unknown incident." to find something out there on the other side, returned back wiz"misery and dullness".Isn't that wat we face every single day?! expectations that may be shattered for any reason or another.

"They shared with him their company, and he shared with them their curse…"
I can say that this became his curse too.

But let me ask a question please. Is there any connection between the boy & misery,and the girl & dullness ?

Because I ended up founding the two of them wiz him and the girl was discribed as "she stood there silent as a grave. Their length reflected an age she never grasped for " that's simply dullness.Earlier u mentioned this about da boy "He circled around the tree to find the one that was weeping. The child buried his face through his hands" again that's how misery is,so I can tell that this is a connection may be from my point of view ! it will be a pleasure to hear urs too.
Great job Mansi
keep going..

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Your Native Writer,
Mahmoud Mansi.
-One of the Twenty Winners of the Literary Award / A SEA OF WORDS 2010
-HR Specialist / Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport
-International Author  / “A Journey from Darkness to Light