Sep 21, 2012


Syeda Rabea Sarwar

Q. Write the opening to a short story where a detailed use of setting helps the reader to appreciate the moods and thoughts of the character. 

It rained once again today. The pitter-patter of the ceaseless drizzle was a welcome change from the usual moans that resonate within these four walls. However, having spent the last five years of my life in this hellhole, I knew that this pleasure would be short lived. It would fade away, just like the colour in the cheeks of all those who enter here.

I focus my gaze upon the beetle scurrying across the granite wall, going one way and then another, looking for a way out. Its bout of panic finishes as quickly as it started; it gave up even before the real trial began.  

I am engrossed by the green mould slowly working its way from the grimy floor to the comparatively unstained ceiling. It will never reach it, try as it might. It has blended with the grey of its surrounding. The slimy frog and the mysterious shark.  Thorny caterpillars on a jagged boulder. The Nazi's uniform.

The rain has finally stopped. I try to look outside through the tiny excuse for a window. Only a dark expanse meets my eyes. Eyes those are hungry for the bright, yellow sun to wink at them. Eyes that want to see, at one go, a whole area bathed in the golden warmth of the sun. Eyes that want...that want. 

The never-ending clank of chains demands my attention and I slowly look towards the current pair of shackled feet outside my cell. I have learnt to stop paying attention to the newcomers as I have come to terms with the fact that, pretty soon, they would also resemble the rest of us. Gaunt face, shaved head, sunken eyes, hoarse voice- meet the next generation of the living dead.

The poor man shuffles slightly, trying to scratch one foot with the other. He inevitably ends up on the floor, his pristine uniform beginning its journey to shoddiness. His black eyes, reflecting the gloom of his surroundings, meet mine. I can read the despair in them, the cry for help. I look away, like I always do, knowing that he would soon learn to accept his miserable fate. The only way to survive here is to accept the grey. The grey and the green. The grey and the black. The grey and the night. The grey and death. 

The hulking figure of the warden puts an end to my musings. He jangles the rust-covered keys in front of me and lets out a booming laugh. A few insults later, he finally lets me stumble out. I trail after the others, our steps forming a path in the dirt. 

Walking outside, I look up at the overcast sky and unwittingly step on a stone. Falling to my hands and knees, I feel the wet mud all around me. From grey to dark brown-it is an improvement. 


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