387 37 36

Ljerumlup is technically the name of the of two mountains that peak from the shroud of Elhem. They're the most recognisable landmark of Dronesk, and till this day they're still printed on all of our postcards. But ever since my great-great-grandfather relocated the Bikjaru settlements from Rujga to Dronesk, Ljerumlup had become synonymous with the proud estate he had built and the land that now belonged to my family.

To me, Ljerumlup was my backyard. It was the valley that I knew like the back of my hand. I knew where our property began and ended before I could even write. It was embedded in my being, cemented forever as home. I was too young to have formed an objective view of it. It wasn't until I brought Yuri Karamov home that I got to witness what other people had to process when they saw our famous estate.

I grew self-conscious when I realised that we had reached a point in our travel where the only thing separating us from my home was a small hill. Yuri had called the residence a castle, and it wasn't the first time I had heard the likeness being made. I had never before been forced to ponder what it meant.

At the root of my self-consciousness was the fear of not being able to live up to his expectations. Mystery enshrouded a castle. Embedded in its very definition was an aura of excitement and fun—whereas home was...home. It was where I had to take long, tedious baths, do my homework, sleep, and eat. I wasn't completely oblivious at that age. On some level, I would like to believe that I understood that my house was larger than other people's. Larger than Yuri Karamov's. But I never went around to my classmates' homes and rated them. It was a deduction that happened subconsciously.

As soon as my home came into view, Yuri grew quiet, and the distance between us seemed like meters instead of centimeters. I was afraid that if he wasn't impressed his mood swung on the opposite end of the spectrum. He was either impressed or gravely disheartened by the magnitude of the building.

I must have been staring at him for some time because he looked over at me with a quizzical expression.

- It's not that big, right? I asked.

He shook his head.

- It doesn't really look like a castle.

This made me more relieved than I cared to admit.

- It's just a big house, I said.

Yuri's eyebrows drew together as he directed his attention to the house. I did the same, trying to gauge what he saw.

There was no fence around the residence. The trees grew wild around its perimeters, except for the gravel passage that facilitated access to vehicles. The house was almost as tall as it was wide, but there was little symmetry to be found looking at it from the front.

The middle part of the building hosted the entrance and was also the only part which hadn't been decimated in the war in 1988. Formed like a half-cylinder, it protruded out of the stone facade. The stone-wall roof had indentations that reminded me of an archetypical mediaeval fortress—like the one I had seen as a child in Odzhonskía; where my great-great-grandfather had fought against the Red Army.

Flanked on either side were two newer additions. Their facades lighter in shade, and thus distinguishable. On the left side, was a tall rectangle with a traditional sloped roof which was bare save for its many windows. The right side—more cubical—hosted several smaller, cone-shaped rooftops. Vines covered this side of the building, which due to the cold January weather looked like a knot of twisted thorns; withered and gnarly.

The building melted so seamlessly into the mountainsides of Ljerumlup, that if not for its stature, it could have fooled you into thinking it lay abandoned. There were no bikes, nor any garden tools, nor small trivial every day-things placed outside. Those had their own shed in the back, far out of sight.

If We ExistRead this story for FREE!