TERRA NON GRATA: Blank Space Fairy Tales 2016

TERRA NON GRATA: Blank Space Fairy Tales 2016

1 : Fall from Eden

Aylan doesn’t like fairy tales. He prefers toys. His favorite is a green T-Rex. When his dad comes to tuck him in bed, Baba has to take the T-Rex and make a new story out of it every night.

Shush! He is sleeping now. Don’t wake him up.

The first missile strikes the next building in the middle of the night. A guided missile, emblematic of the meteoritic rise of sapiens hits as per the wish of the cronies of the military-industrial complex. Please order the next batch of missiles.

There is debris flying everywhere. The sound is deafening. The dust covers the twinkles of the stars. Alan’s wakes up and in the pitch dark runs to his parents’ room.

People shouting. A baby shrieks somewhere. Absolute chaos. Failed architecture. The Hippocratic oath of building to shelter humans has been breached. Lebbeus Woods hums in the background. The war zone is his playfield.

Morning light breaks upon the Death Valley. Hundreds dead, hundreds injured, hundreds missing and thousands waiting to flee. The journey is perilous. The city is a morgue. Can morgue be home? The path ahead gives a glimpse of escaping the black angel. Alan’s dad decides it is better to abandon home.

They only take the essentials. No one thinks about taking Alan’s T-Rex.


2 : Dante’s Camp

Archizoom’s emancipatory dream has turned into a nightmare. Mass produced tents do not help. These cells fuse into an endless camp set up for the Homo refugus.

Alan is no longer a homo sapien.

The transformation is complete. They survived the journey from the destroyed Eden to this no-stop city of tents, sweat, screams. Emancipation indeed. There are absence everywhere. Vacancy of food, of humanity, of empathy, of love, of nuances that make us human.  

Homo refugus do not require such human matters.

No-stop urbanity of refugee camps is indeed not a place Alan asks for his toy. He misses his T-Rex immensely, but even the three year old is aware of his degradation into subaltern species. He is aware of the metamorphosis. Existence at the price of losing species status is not acceptable to Alan’s father. They decide to cross into Europe. No passport. No visa.


3 : Noah’s Ark (Rubber)

The Mediterranean seems romantic in the moonlight. The waves crashing gently against his feet, Alan clutches his dad’s hand. Excited, hopeful yet fearful.

Contrast is in play everywhere. The stereotomic sea against the tectonic of the boat. The joy of leaving the tent city against the fear of the straw-filled life jacket.  The hope of finding a job in the mythical land of Europa against the loss of all wealth to find berth in this rubber dingy.

Alan is the first to drop into the water. The overloaded boat is no match for the mighty waves. His hand is declutchified from his father’s. He always loved swimming. There is a discrepancy in scale here for him to use his skill. Did I mention he is three?

The architecture of human body was designed for 70 percent water, not 99.


4 : The Miracle

The last thing Alan remembers is that he was crying, crying profusely. It’s difficult to realize you are crying once you are under water.

There are no fairy godmothers in this tale, but there is climate change.

Recent rise in ocean temperature caused a process called “Complex crustacean metamorphic mineralization” to start happening in the Mediterranean. The process lacked a key ingredient to complete the mineralization. A protein in human tear is a close match but as with such complex systems, the slightest deviation will not work. Hence, the process didn’t trigger despite litres of tears coming from the thousands of people drowned in the process of reaching the dreamland.

Alan had a mutated gene. The protein in his tears was a perfect match. The mineralization that triggered was like a giant mushroom cloud under the sea. Such materialization of such magnitude is rare but not unheard of. The minerals caused an island to form out of the minerals in the ocean water—it emerged spontaneously—a Terra Non Grata.

Alan washed up ashore, but the shore was on the island his tear had triggered. His lifeless body lay there, unknowing of the fact that a massive geological miracle had happened. Nature gave rise to architecture.

Everyone who survived by finding solid ground under their feet was crying with joy. Only Alan’s dad was not.


5 : Happily Ever After

The UN declared the 945-acre island a protected territory that, being on international waters, was open to all refugees. For the first time in human history, no foreign nations tried to grab it and claim it as their own.

The war ended soon after Alan’s lifeless body took social networks by the storm. The neo-empires retreated. The military- industrial complex broke down as no one wanted to go to war anymore. In a show of extraordinary solidarity, a memorial to Alan was erected, unlike any memorial in the world. A massive collaboration between bio-engineers, geneticists and physicians brought forth a giant, alive and kicking T-rex—its DNA rescued from a fossil much like Jurassic Park and given birth in an artificial womb. There was one vital difference. A genetic modification was made to splice the human gene of empathy into the T-Rex genome, hence, it did not eat the refugees living in the island (neither were they banned) and they all lived happily ever after.  


If you are tired of our fable, click here to go back to reality.

This project was submitted the 2016 edition of the Blank Space Fairy Tales Competition. Collaborators: Nafis Imtiaz and Tanzil Shafique


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