Highly Commended Story - Beyond The Horizon
“Beyond The Horizon” by Navya Sahrawat, Sanskriti School, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2020.
Navya has always found solace in stories. Her mom first introduced her to stories, soothing her with them every time she got hurt or couldn’t sleep. The older she got, the stronger her relationship got with stories and she soon realised that she didn’t always have to be a passive recipient of stories and she could also create one. Navya has always enjoyed literature. The way an author conjures up a whole world and serves it on a plate in the form of a small book has always amused her and is what she wants her readers to experience as well.
Beyond The Horizon
She was staring into the horizon. Standing alone at the shore with her hand holding down her hat to keep it from flying away. The waves came with a ferocious roar and quieted down as they reached her feet, getting tamed by the shallows and her eyes. The wind occasionally came to pat her cheeks, play with her hair, trying to remind her to move forward, move ahead and not stand still. The sun had gotten tired of seeing her standing at the same spot for so long and being as impatient as he was, was now quietly going to bed. It was moon’s turn to have a look at her anyways.
Everything had been in motion, well, everything except her. She was still as a statue, yet seemed welcoming. Her large brown eyes reflected the ocean, deep and vast.
“What is… What is beyond…” she suddenly whispered to herself.
Interested in her sudden, uncharacteristic actions, everyone stilled, providing her with all their attention. The moon moved closer, the waves stilled to hear her over their echoes. Even the sun came back to get a better look, pushing the enveloping clouds away. It was almost as if time itself had stilled. The eerie quiet must have affected her as well because she broke away from her statue-like calm and started walking forward. Stumbled a bit and then took another. The water slapped her ankles as she continued walking towards the sea. Splish Splash, she continued, the water soon reaching her knees, her floral dress had started getting wet but she couldn’t care less. Splish Splash, elbow deep, the entire ensemble was getting more confused by the minute. What is she going to do now? Now that the water had reached well above her neck, she hesitated, for the first time.
Sun, assuming she’d turn back, had started walking back to his chambers, but then he heard a harmonious gasp from the crowd and looked back to see her take in a large gulp of air and vanish under the sea.
She continued walking.
The ensemble had suddenly become very loud, almost as if a spell was taken off them. Some were scared by her actions, some pondered what would happen next, some sighed not being able to see the dangerous beauty again, others walked away, completely unbothered.
“What madness! No one walks into the ocean!”
“That is true, some courage she has, assuming the world under won't eat her up.”
“This was no surprise, after all, humans have always been a strange specie.”
“Maa, I’m tired.”
The sun gave moon a knowing look and went to his chambers. Whatever happens, he’ll care about it only tomorrow. It was moon’s shift now.
Under the surface, the girl still hadn’t stopped, just slowed a bit. She could see small animals and big ones. She could feel some recoiling against her touch and others moving towards it. She could feel her feet squishing the plants. She was also aware that she could no longer breathe as well, yet she continued walking. Nothing stopping her.
That is until I grabbed her back. She thrashed around, obviously reluctant to being pulled back to land, but there is only so much a girl can do under the ocean.
I pulled her back onto the beach, others still oblivious to this chain of events.
She opened her eyes and screamed,” what did you do? Why did you bring me back? I have to go back, I need to know…”
“You have to know what?” I inquired, still struggling to hold her back. “Come on, tell me,” I persisted a while after her silence.
“I have to… know what’s beyond the horizon,” She whispered the end so that no one could catch those words. Although, they reached me.
“Is knowing enough or must you also see?” I asked.
She looked at me, shock evident in her eyes. She found it weird, I figured, that someone could actually acknowledge her words without ridiculing them first. The shock soon morphed into confusion. How could someone know what’s beyond the horizon? What’s above the sky? What’s beyond the stars? Who could possibly know?
Finally, she replied,” Knowing’s enough, I suppose.”
“Close your eyes. Now tell me what you see.”
“Darkness,” she replied faintly.
I gave the moon a sharp look as soon as i heard his first chuckle. He immediately quieted down. The others followed suit.
“Let’s try this again, shall we? Imagine standing on the shore again. Imagine walking on the surface of the ocean and reaching the horizon. What do you see beyond it?” I tried once again.
“Utopia!” she gasped. “Is that what’s beyond the horizon?”
“Well, yes, if you saw it, then that’s what’s beyond the horizon.”
“What logic is that? Me imagining it doesn’t make it true. And anyway, they… they said there is only a large fall, one so steep, it leads to instant death. There’s either that or unaccounted land roamed by madmen and savages… Nothing good, nothing good beyond the horizon.”
“Beyond the horizon is whatever you imagine it to be. It is, after all, untouched, unknown, pure and no one has control over it. If you imagine expanse, happiness, abundance, opportunity and peace, then that’s what it’ll bring you. If you imagine death, destruction, grief and chaos, then that’s what it’ll bring you.
It was bold of you to take it upon yourself to se what it held. If you must go and see for yourself, then don’t walk, don’t put yourself in danger to see beyond it. Build a boat or build a bridge. And you know what, sometimes even knowing is enough. Sometimes, you mustn’t know everything, see everything, experience everything. Sometimes, it’s ok to stay where you are, for your sake and for others.”
The moon looked delighted, the wind was calm and the waves slowly came forward to tickle our feet. I knew sun was also there smiling in his sleep.
But the girl showed no emotions, had no expressions. She was deep in thought. I lied on the beach, under the moonlight, feeling the waves and the wind. I closed my eyes.
When i opened them she was long gone and it was still night. Smiling, I got up, patting the ground on which she sat and walked back, hoping she had listened.