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Maceen & Al-khatoo

part two: Maceen finding the lake and the desert

By Parwana FayyazPublished 3 months ago Updated about a month ago 3 min read

The night was getting darker. The air was feeling thinner. The only heaviness that Maceen felt was her hands and feet, not the book above her head. She loosened the two ends of black cloth around the book and tightened it around her head. With her back toward the moon, Maceen lay on her heart, on the side of the mountain, among the restless walking feet of the wolves, she slept in peace. She was awakened by the silence of the rising sun. The golden ray had forced the wolves to take their refuge among the caves. Maceen felt the urge to put down the book and open its layers to see what magic it beholds. But as soon as she lifted the book, she felt the fragility and fatigue of some old woman. It felt as if she had been carrying the whole mountain on her back, and it was weighing her entire body down.

She struggled to stand up but as soon as she tightened the book around her waist, suddenly, she gained back all her strength. No one and nothing can weigh her down on the ground anymore. She felt the joy of a million-year spring. She looked at the northern mountains and said in a loud voice, “Al-Khatoo, you are much weaker than I am”. She walked steadily toward the highest mountain where the villagers believed Al-Khatoo lived. But Maceen knew that there was no way Al-Khatoo could travel this fast to these mountains. Now Maceen was searching for Al-Khatoo’s source of power and magic, it was nowhere but in those mountains.

At the top of the highest mountain, there was nothing but a lake with a depth unknown. The midnight sun was almighty, shining right above the water, Maceen walked around the lake thinking that could be the source. Then she remembered that her father had told her about the Antar Banter Lake, “where the magic of all things begins there”. She wanted to know what was inside. She threw a white rock inside the lake only to see it transform into ice. “What could be there, inside…” Maceen’s curiosity could only be answered by walking on the ice. She walked above the icy lake, “Antar Banter…Antar Banter… What comes next…” There was nothing to see on the ice or under the ice to help her remember anything. She walked to a black rock and threw it on the ice lake. It now transformed into an open erupted volcano. Fire and air boiled in red. Maceen did not remember anything about this volcano in her father’s stories. She only knew that everything in the colour of dark can only be seen and not be entered. She fisted a handful of sand and threw it on the volcano. The erupting mountain turned into a dusty desert. The silence echoed from the desert and reached Maceen in whispers. Maceen remembered it. It was the Goft Desert.

Her father had told her about the quietest desert, “It is where you will hear the universe telling you everything you want to know. Remember to have your book with you and unwrap the blackest of black fabric to show its whitest of white cloth. Do not carry black into the desert.” Maceen hurriedly unclothed the black cover of the book and tightened the book to her waist. She hid the black fabric under a white rock. Maceen took slow steps into the edge of the desert, every grain of sand felt like a heart throbbing hit on the ground. “Goft Desert, where can I find Dafter?” She murmured in her head but the whole desert heard her say. It echoed back to her, “Dafter is resting in your waist. What else?... Maceen” Maceen was so sure that it was her talking to herself because it was her voice talking. "Engulfed in the desert’s parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind. " The voice kept saying.


About the Creator

Parwana Fayyaz

I am an Afghan writer. Forty Names, my first collection of poetry, was published in 2021 and named a New Statesman Book of the Year and a White Review Book of the Year. I also translate both poetry and fiction from Persian into English.

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