Dark Light

The Island

by Mahmoud Mansi

“All I hear is the shuttling of the waves. They are like thoughts; with each crash they chant, they tend to be newer than ever. The bubbles that the sea whispers are as moody as myself. Some bring hope, while the rest bring doom.

My silence is oppression. My loud cries are null compared with those of the vast sea. It is either one speaks to himself or to his God. It’s a strange state that one becomes a connection between his deepest core and the farthest point of the universe. Yet, from time to time, we might be blessed with this soothing sound, the one which awakens a certain kind of beauty within one’s heart. This voice is the only medicine that heals my heart, the tranquil voice of a she…Why should we be granted such wonders when one loses everything? Unused wonders they are.”

Thus, Prisoner shut his eyes to the darkness around. He kept listening to the surrounding universe, hoping a different sound would strike his attention. Finally, he gave in to sleep, hoping for fake dreams to embrace his night, and only worrying about the knocking on his door that woke him from his Utopia each morning.


The dungeon was dull, just like it was every day, Doorkeeper thought. As he knocked on the door of the only prisoner there, carrying the food that he could not handle the smell of anymore, he wondered how long the same day would continue to be repeated over and over again. The knocking on the door and the feeding of the poor creature in there was his nightmare at night and an ugly reality by day.

The daily food was keeping the creature alive, but Doorkeeper could see the slow death of hope. Either he or his heart should die. For one to bear such pain and still keep the heart alive, one needs to be like Jesus, yet life still managed to crucify him endlessly, every single day—like the immortal liver of Prometheus eaten by the eagle.

Doorkeeper sighed and knocked on the door…


A banging like the drums of a destined war was what Prisoner heard. It was too loud for his mind to handle. He felt that it was similar to the banging of his heart.

He never blamed Doorkeeper, as they were both prisoners on the same island, without a boat to take them away. Indeed, there was only that one that visited them quarterly to provide them with semi-rotten food and expired medicine. And even if they had built their own boat, they would have escaped to another island—only food, medicine, and shelter would not be guaranteed there.

It was a picture of how humanity had become such a slave to security, safety, and salary, all which corner one within the bars of fear and psychological illness. Humans have been enslaved by the things that make them suffer and bring them ultimate misery.

Both of them, though alone on this island, were perfectly excelling in their duties. Though they were not free, being slaves to their routine duties gave them identities. But why does one become so keen to have an identity? Does it give one the right to live, perhaps? Or, probably, since everyone has an identity, then being without one is considered a distinctive quality—one that is unique and against earthly rules?

Perhaps having an identity is more like a label, just another shirt humans wear, change, and throw. It only reflects a small part of who one is, what one’s moods and lifestyles are like, and what one is capable of. It is the shield one wears in the battlefield.

Both Prisoner and Doorkeeper pondered all that. What if one walked naked without wearing any limiting identity? To be more like a subjective book that embraces endless theories for artists to anticipate and shape. One will find something deeper than the shallow identity one used to wear and hide underneath. One will find a definition— meanings rather than names and customs. “Having an identity to shelter us is much better than being exposed t freedom that would handicap us!” Doorkeeper always believed.


Sometimes, they would both fall silent for weeks; other times, they would curse one another for being there and for being the reason for bringing the other to this static pyramid. At a certain point, they would share and empathize. Forgiveness in the realm they lived in was a major curse, it seemed. It was just another wave—just another trend—a part of a seasonal cycle, endless as the ocean, countless as the secrets embraced by the seven seas.

Forgiveness was only a blessing in one case: if it was immortal.


“What good is it, when thoughts are my only friends? They don’t keep me company; rather they make me realize how lonely one can be. What is the value of thoughts when the body is chained to incapability, weakness, silence, and repulsiveness? The only value thoughts bring me is hushing my earthly desires. My cursed desires rise whenever I discover how helpless I am within the dark walls of my prison cell. My destiny is within the key that lies within the hands of Doorkeeper.”

The keychain melody was like a blade moving back and forth slaughtering the strings of a violin. Why was he not like Doorkeeper? At least he would have had the chance to hold onto something, to control it. He longed to own something other than thoughts and feelings…

“I am condemned to be a prisoner under the mercy of a sinner like myself.”


“I sit among the rocks, watching the motion of the waves as they never change every day, bringing me the same thoughts with each one—or, to be more accurate, reminding me of the same thoughts I force myself to forget with each night’s bottle of liquor. I find within their soothing whispers the vocals of the sirens, tempting me to go away; thus, I embrace the secrets of their beauty. They will always be the distant lovers I will never touch. Gardens of roses are not yet enough to grant the distrustful sea as a loyal messenger to deliver to the other side.”

He longed to hush such whispers, see the waves not speaking any thoughts…He wanted to wake up to find the sea sleeping, static, and solid as a glass sheet. He longed to walk on this sheet to find the thoughts he always desired, and not just the ones fed to him because they were available. He only longed for freedom of choice and a suitable identity rather than the one forced on him by both his society and his earthly desires.

“Here comes the dark night. I am nothing but an empty stomach filled with a sea of alcohol eating at its walls, as salty water eats the surface of metal.” He shut his eyes and slept as silently as death.


“I know you are there somewhere, behind the dead walls of the castle. I listen to your lively sighs each night. Forgive me, for sometimes I get confused and think that it is the voice of my thoughts. The question that confuses me the most is why a heavenly mermaid like yourself would bother loving me, whereas you have a vast sea of sailors, fishermen, knights, pirates, and captains to long for? I feel guilty because this is unjust for you.

Or maybe you know me so well. Maybe you know that being a prisoner is not my real identity. You deprive me of your divinity, yet you don’t deprive me of your existence. I understand you now, I see you more clearly. You want me to break the curse I am immersed in. You want me to venture out and find my reality. You want me to rise to your divinity and become equal to you! You are waiting for that to happen. You definitely see something different in me other than the colors you see every day. You must have believed in me so much to define me as a very distinctive one. I feel my real value whenever I think of you or listen to your voice. Damn you for believing in me that much…while I am nothing but a prisoner!”


At first they used to talk through the dungeon door, but later on, they wondered what good it would bring when one reads a book that has been already memorized. But Prisoner and Mermaid were slaves to their routine and to their identity. They never asked for their rights. They never worried or struggled. They never changed; thus, they have always seen one another as static books that are only there to fill in the missing space of a library.

They barely spoke, but they knew the reason behind that. At least there was telepathy between them. They were still alive, unfortunately…they thought.


Throughout the day, soliloquy was their only rehearsal. It had all the books they ever needed. It carried all the past and future, all the memories and dreams, all the ones they knew and the ones they wanted to know. It was the endless land they longed for.

Prisoner wrote on the wall, “I HAVE ABANDONED THE UNIVERSE AND DEDICATED MY LIFE TO MYSELF ONLY. I THOUGHT THIS MUST BE THE END OF MY MISERY, BUT, CONFUSINGLY, I FOUND ANOTHER UNIVERSE INSIDE ME.”

Another night landed on the island.


One day, as Doorkeeper contemplated among the cliffs of the island, he found in the far end two figures moving silently and steadily. The man was terrified of their customs, stability, and identities. He rapidly galloped toward the prison cell, unlocked the door, and told Prisoner about the intruders. Prisoner smiled and thought it must be salvation.

Together, they went to speak to them.

Prisoner said, “Why are you that late? We have been waiting for you for too long.”

The first intruder, overwhelmed, responded, “Really? And what do you expect us to give?”

“Freedom, salvation, wings to fly. Death!”

“Unfortunately, we are here to bring you life!”

Doorkeeper, sighing with relief, asked, “Life?”

The second intruder replied, “Yes, we are here to bestow upon you justice and equality.”

“Oh, finally!” Doorkeeper said, looking toward his friend, Prisoner.

The two intruders asked them to return to the castle before anonymously disappearing.


Both companions were thrilled, but they found themselves alone with the same motionless rocks, waves, and thoughts. They were still trapped. They were still slaves, with unbroken handcuffs chained to their spirits.

Prisoner walked back to his cell and locked himself in. Doorkeeper went back to the rocks, where the waves were waiting for him.


Two weeks later, the boat carrying the supplements did not show up and both Prisoner and Doorkeeper were starving.

A few hours later, Doorkeeper unlocked the door. The two companions endeavored to search for water, fishing and hunting tools, and new survival methods. They both became equal partners with new identities. The boat never showed up again. Two months later they locked the cell from the outside, threw the key into the sea, and watched as it was eaten by the waves.


They adored their new identities, cherishing such freedom.

Prisoner was able to sleep peacefully through the night, and Doorkeeper tasted wine occasionally. Finally, the waves spoke a different language!


Prisoner missed Mermaid so much. She visited him shortly after his release, and he felt blessed when he heard her voice again. This time there was no prison wall to separate them. He finally saw her, and saw how beautiful she truly was. His happiness was finally complete. They spoke for hours. With each word, they were both astonished by the amount of experience the other possessed. Her last words stroked him even more, regardless of how logical they were, “You always had the chance to come for me, to be who you really are, yet you never moved. You always had the chance to excel, but you chose to stay in your dark room, enshrouded by the mere safety of the darkness. You only changed because you were forced to!”

She dived as her eyes were welling with tears. He never saw those eyes again…


Doorkeeper walked to the waves, with his feet touching the tip of their tongues. Their whispers did not change much. They were only rephrasing their sentences. He found out that he and his neighbor were still trapped on the island. Nothing changed; they had only turned into Survivors. That was even worse, he thought. He met his companion in the brotherhood of survival sitting on a rock by the sea and sat beside him.

Sometimes, they would both fall
silent for weeks.

Prisoner looked around him with shadows full of misery and said, “They brought us life, and life brought us nothing but misery, ugliness, and sorrow. The curse either lies within us or within this island. We will never know I guess.”

They both started drinking.

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