Four Walls, One Window | Short Story by Nour Salhi
By Nour Salhi (Edmonton, AB)
The world seemed to be an endless pit of darkness. There was no telling where it started and where it ended. It just went on and on and on and on. Until it didn’t. Light burst through the veil, pulling me out of a deep slumber I hadn’t even realized I was in. I blinked, once, twice, three times. I was awake. When had I even fallen asleep? Looking around, my eyes took in every inch of the room, though there wasn’t much to look at. Underneath me? A bed. In the far corner? A bathroom. And around me? Four walls, one window.
The window. Why was it there? It almost seemed as if it was sucking the light out of the room. It didn’t feel right. A glaring flaw in a perfect space. A safe space. Safe from what? I couldn’t remember, but it had to be dangerous, why else would it try to take away the light. A glimpse of something red turned my attention away from the window. On a stool sat a telephone, so bright I wondered how I hadn’t seen it before. It was beautiful, inviting, I could feel it calling me. But when I picked it up there was no sound, just silence. Disheartened, I turned away from the telephone, turned my back to the window, and went to sleep letting myself fall down, down, down, back into the pit.
Startled out of my sleep, I looked around frightened. I didn’t know why, I just knew something was out there and it had to be kept out. My frantic gaze landed on the window and somehow I knew that whatever it was that scared me so much was right outside. I could call for help! Scrambling to the telephone I realized I had no number to call. But something told me I didn’t need one, I just needed to put it up against my ear and listen. But I couldn’t hear anything. Except, wait. Is that-? No. It couldn’t be. I slammed the telephone back down and retreated to the safety of my bed. The sound I heard echoed through my head. It couldn’t have been. But it was. I heard a roar, I knew I had, an earth-shattering roar, and the alarming thing was just how familiar it sounded. It almost sounded like – no, that’s impossible. With that concluding thought, I tried to sleep, but I didn’t think sleep would come to me today.
I was right, I hadn’t slept a wink, watching the light go and come from the room. That blasted window, why couldn’t it leave the light alone? A shrill ring pierced the air. The telephone! Tripping over the blanket, I struggled on my way to pick it up.
Gasping, I dropped it.
Yet the voice was still there, distantly I could hear it “Hello, anyone there?”
Pick it up. Be strong and pick it up.“Yes someone is here.”
“Wonderful. So, what are you?”
“What am I? I-I don’t know.” I stopped there, my tongue chained by unasked questions.
“Intriguing. I shall call you Lost. And you may call me Curiosity.”
I tested it on my tongue, then asked the one thing I needed to know, “was it you? Yesterday, was that you?”
“No, that was my brute of a brother Strength. As obnoxious as it is, it can be useful. What are you doing in there?”
“…I-I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? You don’t know what you are. You don’t know why you’re there. You don’t
“ – it’s safe! That’s why I’m here, nothing on the other side of that window can touch me here.” The realization was almost startling, I’m afraid.
“Go look.” I ignored the instruction. “Go look.”
“I can’t,” why couldn’t it leave me alone.
“Oh Lost, do you not want to know what is there?”
I took a long glance at the window, what was out there? Nothing good.
“No.” With that, I hung up.
I stared at the red telephone, just waiting for it to ring. Strength, Curiosity, who was next? I remembered what Curiosity had called me yesterday, Lost. Was that what I was? Lost? That didn’t make sense, I know where I am, I’m here; but where was here? I looked at the window, maybe I should go to it, maybe it could tell me where here is. Just one look, one look won’t hurt you. But it might. Before I could delve deeper into my thoughts, the telephone rang. With a tentative look at the window, I made my way to the red telephone.
Picking up, surprisingly it was me who spoke first, “Hello?”
“Hello? Are you Lost? I haven’t the slightest idea why Curiosity would name you that, you are not Lost you’re just on your way somewhere.”
“…I suppose? What are you?”
“I, my dear, am Hope.”
“Why have you called me?”
“I’m here to get you to look at the bright side.”
“The bright side? I already see it.”
“Is that so?” Did it know something I didn’t?
“Yes, I am in a room that gives me light, and a place to sleep, I am safe.”
“A room that gives you light?” It asked with an underlying tone. It did know something.
“Yes, yet the window seems to steal it away.” I looked at the window again, something looked different.
“Are you sure?” Hope asked.
“Are you sure that the window is trying to steal your light away?”
“Yes.” I didn’t feel sure.
“Why don’t you take a look, you might be surprised at what you find.” And just like that, it was gone.
Putting back the phone, I made my decision, I was going to do it, I was going to look. One step, two steps, three steps, one more. There I was, right in front of it, the godforsaken window. Breathe in, breathe out, and look. I didn’t even bother stifling the gasp that escaped me, I couldn’t believe it. The light didn’t come from the room, this is where it came from, the window! Suddenly the room didn’t feel so welcoming anymore, but the outside? The outside seemed exhilarating.
I hadn’t even been able to sleep, which wasn’t uncommon, but the difference this time was that fear hadn’t kept me up, excitement had. I stopped my pacing for a second to stare at the telephone, just waiting. I had practically paced a trench into the floor. I was so wound up that the moment the telephone rang I practically attacked it.
“What are you?” I asked, straight to the point.
“I am Courage, and you are rude.”
Rather sheepishly I explained, “I’m sorry, I just need help.”
“Yes, I figured. Hope was rather optimistic you would finally want it.”
I looked around me, four walls, one window. “I want it.”
“Then go get it.”
If only it were that simple, “How? Can’t you come help me?”
“We’re already here. Look closely.”
Look at what? Humoring it, I did what it asked, analyzing every bit of the room until my eyes landed on the telephone I was holding. I followed it from the handset all the way to the cord, at least where the cord should’ve been. There was nothing there, the phone wasn’t connected to anything. That’s because we aren’t in there. Courage spoke. Not from the phone but from inside me. Go on, get us out of here.
“I will,” and I knew exactly how.
Taking the bright red telephone in my hands I walked towards the light, the window. Breathe in, breathe out. I brought my hands behind my head. 1. Curiosity counted. 2. Hope. 3. Courage. A roar sounded in my head, go on. Strength. I felt it guide me as I threw the telephone at the window. Pieces of glass flew around me and I could suddenly remember it all. Birds flying in the sky unchained, wind wildly whistling, unrelenting waves on a shore, that’s when I understood.
In a world where Danger and Safety stroll down the path of life hand in hand, it seems almost natural to want to hide. With so much to lose we push away all that we can gain. We put bars on our windows, locks on our doors, and barricade ourselves with walls. Then we blame the world for what we are, Lost. Lost from Strength, Lost from Curiosity, Lost from Hope, and Lost from Courage. But we forget we can’t lose them. They’ll always be there, waiting for us to walk hand in hand with them. Waiting for us to realize our cage wasn’t put there by the world but by ourselves which means only we can get rid of it.
With that realization, I pulled myself through the window, tumbling out I sat on my knees on the grass, clutching the soft blades of green between my fingers. A hand appeared in front of my face, offering to help me up. Reaching out to take it I realized, I’m not afraid anymore. I got up, looking at the owner of that hand, and somehow I knew exactly what it was, it was like meeting an old friend. Curiosity.
With three other figures behind it, Curiosity asked again, “What are you?”
What am I? I am out. I am free. “I am Liberation.”