Piercing the maimed corpse of the decrepit tenement, the first ambassador of the morning sun provoked the worn figure from his fatigued unconsciousness to the gentle pouts of the child in his arms. As the last of the night withdrew within the nooks and crannies of the desolate wreck around father and son, so ceased the infant’s pouts. Outside what were originally stoically standing walls, smoke from the phosphorus remained lingering from their craters; scars within the soil, the beacons of hell. He was barely able to get a single sinew in his body to budge, gazing down at the predecessor of his despair. 

“Hehe, papa!” giggled the infant.

Despair, he wished for none to inherit.

“Papa wants to tell you a story.”

Every cell within his flesh was protesting at the rhythmic cresting of his chest, producing a searing pain at each beat. Time was not something he had much of left.

At the word ‘story,’ the infant chuckled and squirmed in delight, its eyes bulging in anticipation and excitement, bulging from their sockets. Heaving a long, deep breath, the father began. 

“Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there were many, many great big clouds. Each cloud housed many happy little raindrops. Each tiny little raindrop was all unique, however, they had one, single, collective goal, which was to be a part of a flourishing, blooming forest. A beautiful land of prosperity with hope for the raindrops’ future. It was like any normal day, the sky was blue, and the clouds were drifting, little raindrops searching for any sight of greenery. Suddenly, a terrible gust of dry, sandy wind struck the clouds, hurting the little raindrops and threatening to break them into pieces!”

The infant’s glowing gaze had sealed to his father’s face.

“Gone as quickly as it came, the winds soon stopped and the dust soon cleared. What appeared before the little raindrops was truly a chilling sight. A vast expanse of arid land, with crackling wounds tearing through its fruitless soil, and even the corpses of once-growing plants had long rendered to ash. Frozen in fear, the little raindrops urged to rid themselves of this horrific place as soon as possible. However, as all were fully prepared to leave with the greatest haste, one little raindrop paused, pointing at a relief in the hopeless soil. 

A sprout. A single, long-dead sprout.

All the other little raindrops were incredibly confused. ‘There’s no way you’d think we can do anything for that sprout, right?’ Everyone crowded around and asked.

‘Nope! I certainly can’t….but we can!’

Gasps of surprise accompanied by cries of disbelief echoed in a cacophony of protest around the little raindrop. Surely it isn’t asking for us to do anything for this wreck of a region. We have nothing to gain from this, no reward of any kind for ourselves…and if we all pour into this dry, dusty soil, we might all perish here! However, the little raindrop simply laughed at every objection to his claim.

‘Think about it this way, guys! This little sprout hasn’t given up, it’s still firmly rooted here. Just because it’s drooping, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any hope! Our goal is to be a part of a blooming, flourishing forest, isn’t it? We want to be somewhere where there’s hope! Well…what’s hope when it’s spoon-fed to you? That’s not hope!’

At that point, every little raindrop had turned their gaze to their speaking companion.

‘Without despair…how could hope ever hope to blossom? Haha! We’re constantly seeking for it far and wide, but we forgot, we all forgot! Hope lies within every single one of us, and isn’t the greatest despair the only thing that can draw it out? None of us believed in this sprout, but this little defiant guy had never given up on itself for a single moment. This is the hope we’ve all been searching for! Now, friends, come on! We’ll make this barren wasteland a beautiful forest in no time, which won’t just be hope for us, but for our future companions who make it here too! To think we were neglecting the most precious hope this whole time, it’s so silly! Now, what are we waiting for?’

And believe they did. As the little raindrops permeated through the barren soil in a whelming wave, great shoots of vibrant green erupted from the earth. On that fateful day, the world had one less crackling scar to present on its surface.” 


He had fallen silent, chest ceasing its steady crest, the light seeping from his pupils.

That very light had found its way to the enlightened child, his eyes shining with a vigilant aura beneath the vessel of an infant. The last gift of the father had been bestowed to steady hands. 

Despair, he would not bequeath.

Time was soon to pass amidst the daily rain of sorrow. The same eyes, the same vigilance, the same unnerving gaze, now locked on the borders of home. He must’ve thought of his father when he tightened the straps of his paraglider, looking left and right at his motley crew. Motley, they were, desolate they were. 

Hope was burning brighter than ever.

“Comrades, know that behind us, is our land and our home we must protect, our people who are counting on our news of victory, know that we will not be returning.”

The boys took a last glance at the disrepair before them. It wasn’t much, home was never much. 

“But what despair, fate, and destiny will never conquer,”

It was their home of everlasting hope.

“Is our unrelenting decision to live, and our unrelenting decision to die.”

Gliding across the Iron Wall were the beacons of hope. Bobbing in the wind, as if waving goodbye after the final farewell. Don’t be mistaken, they feel not a single drop of fear.

Writer – Daniel Kang
Editor – Aaron Huang
Artist – Maryam Nawaz

–April 2024–

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