- Aug 9, 2012
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Las Palmas, Catamarca y Ebría
La Ciudad de la Serenidad
Dharam sat on his stoop tightening the new shoes he had gotten for his birthday. He promptly jumped up and kicked his leg back, grabbing his foot and stretching. With his entire weight supported on his left foot, he couldn’t believe how wonderful it was to actually have a shoe that provided support. Then again, his last shoes – which were his only pair – certainly weren’t designed for running. After a while, they had become so worn that at the very least they didn’t hurt. But when the souls started coming apart, he was left little option.
His mother told him that the shoes were a gift from the entire family, but he had overheard the conversation she had with his Uncle in Alaghan, Jurzan about not sending money this month and instead using it to “get Dharam something nice for his birthday.” These were running shoes, but Dharam would be lying to himself if he said he wasn’t overcome with guilt every time he put a scruff or any sort of wear and tear.
“Don’t forget to stop by the Bodega on your way back, hijo,” his mother called to him. Even in their own home she did her best to practice Aurarian. “Did you know here it’s called Catamarcan? No Aurariano calls it Aurarian.” She’d tell him time and time again like it was a new fact. “Say you speak Catamarcan when they ask.”
Dharam had the privilege of being born in Auraria, his citizenship and belonging to this country was guaranteed by his blood. Even more so, the people of Las Palmas – in the Southern Consistuent Community of Catamarca y Ebría – generally had the darker, olive skin color typical of the Jurzani. Even better, Las Palmas was Auraria’s most prominent tourist destination. There were people of all sorts of nationalities and backgrounds – but usually they were stumbling drunk at odd hours of the day.
Nevertheless, the Aurarians did ask. While he could speak Catamarcano near flawlessly, he still had features that the eyes of the Aurarians – trained in the art of ethnic identification through decades of subconscious, “subtle” racism – had little difficulty.
“I’ve always wanted to go to the Jurzan!” they chirp at him every time he said “It seems like such a peaceful country.” It isn’t. “I’m sure not all the stories about Kadikistan are true.” They are. What could compel someone to voluntarily go to the Jurzan was a mystery to Dharam.
“Oh, I’ve met someone from Azraq!” They’d sometimes say as though the religious similarities between the Jurzanis and Azraqi bonded them, it didn’t. “Oh yes, I met someone from Pohjanmaa before,” Dharam would respond back, to the confusion of Aurarians trying to find the relevance.
Dharam leaned to his left, raising his right arm over his head and did the same on the right side – back cracking both times. He started off on his run. Dharam lived in Cas Capiscol, a community built into the sides of the mountains that surrounded the coastal city of Las Palmas. On the mountainside, you didn’t need to worry about heat but the Reman Sea provided more than enough humidity to make some days miserable.
His friends had told him that Las Palmas wasn’t like the other cities in Auraria. Unlike the proud, “ancient” cities of Solis, Tauritania, Navales, and Coronado – Las Palmas was a modern creation, birthed from a coordinated effort on the part of the Government to dispel the notion of Madurja, Asteria, Etruria, Furlanìe, or Eiffelland-Retalia as the premier tourist destination of Gallo-Germania. The Government constructed an airport far too large for demand, deregulated virtually every business, turned the entire city into a tax haven and sure enough in fifteen years Las Palmas had earned its reputation as the “City of Sin.”
All of that economic development managed to steer clear of the communities built by the Jurzani refugees. In the 1950s, the Kadikistani invasion of the Jurzan caused countless suffering and forced many out of their homes. The Aurarians were compelled to welcome in as many of the Jurzani as they could. They claimed it was out of a higher purpose of protecting the liberties of their fellow man, but in truth it was due to the country’s relentless flag-waving as the bastion of civilized society. The Aurarians welcomed the Jurzani in the same decade as they determined they could no longer hold Loago in Himyar and their “Second Empire” came to a crushing end. Dharam’s mother was only a baby when she arrived in Las Palmas. It was a very different city then, but even after all these years, even after the only home she knew being Auraria, the feeling of being an outsider never left.
For all of the steel high rises, sun glimmering off the glass surfaces, the coffee shops, boutique stores, and the immaculate resorts that stretched along the beaches – communities such as Cas Capiscol seemed like an entirely different world. The buildings were close together, the roads were a mix of broken up asphalt and cobblestone that was likely gorgeous in its prime. Dharam had never seen Alaghan and he likely never will, but he felt like it wouldn’t look much different.
Turning several corners, he came on the main stretch of road that lead into Las Palmas Central District. Like at the flick of a switch, the scenery changed. The Palms for which the city got its name, lined the streets that were devoid of any sort of dirt. It was early enough that the shops weren’t open and most tourists haven’t awakened from their drunken stupor so the city was quiet and serene. The only noise coming from the ocean roaring onto the beaches and the gulls calling.
At this point, drenched in sweat he slowed his pace down to a walk and took a right off the main path. Soon, he was on the beach. The sun had made its way into the sky by the time he reached the ocean – he was slow today – but the sight was still breath taking. The sky was bright and clear as the water twinkled in the sun’s reflection, a bright, clean blue. The sand was almost white – not yet hot from the sun’s rays. The loud sound of the waves crashing hit him as hard as the salty smell of the air did.
He took off his shoes and set them on the beach as he walked along the water. Nobody was here yet so he didn’t worry so much about letting them out his sight.
“Nothing like this at home,” his mother would tell him about the Jurzan – still calling it home. She loved the beach and Dharam remembered she would take him on walks almost every day along the shore.
Up ahead, Dharam noticed a dark mass sitting along the rocks of the shoreline, the water swaying it back and forth. He couldn’t quite make out what it was so he went into a light jog to get closer. Still, the closer and clearer it got, the more confused he was. By the time he was right up close to the mass, it became clear what it was. Even clearer yet when a particularly strong wave managed to dislodge it from the rocks.
There, sliding across the beach with red lines trailing behind it was undoubtedly a human body. Or rather, what was left of one. It had been mangled beyond recognition. Entire limbs missing, the right eye hanging off to the side of the face.
Dharam felt himself go white, nauseous and immediately turn to vomit. The only thing more disgusting than the sight was the smell. Collapsed, on the ground, he looked over to the body again and muttered out “Khwdaay” or God.