He’d always lived next to the wall. It dominated the landscape, an abrupt barrier to hold back the fields and trees that flowed down from the distant purple mountains, a line that ran as far as the eye could see in either direction. It loomed, yet offered the comfort of protection as much as any uneasy sensation of captivity. His tumbledown hut had huddled against it for longer than anyone cared to remember, isolated and remote, sheltering in its fatherly shadow. He’d been happy for years, perfectly happy, until one day a traveller had come by and asked him what was on the other side.
He’d replied that he had no reason not to believe the government when they said that there was nothing there, but the way the traveller smirked at him made him feel uneasy. He had never thought about it, never doubted the officials, but from that moment forth curiosity consumed his life. His every waking hour was spent thinking about what bizarre things might be on the other side, just yards from his own hut, until finally he grabbed his ladder and flung it against the wall. It fell pitifully short, so he chopped down tree after tree for wood to add to the ladder until it was long enough to reach the top of the wall. When, finally, it was long enough to reach the summit, he leaned it against the bricks and ascended to the top. With heart in mouth, he peered over.
He saw a vista of trees and fields, and in the distance, purple mountains wreathed in cloud. Then he looked down. Below him, hugging the wall, was a single small, dilapidated shack. Beside it, a man was urgently hammering lengths of wood onto the end of a ladder.