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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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”

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