“Let me tell you a story.”

The twelve-year-old girl looked across the room in confusion. Her grandmother was at it again; talking weird.

“What?” the girl asked, trying to hide her annoyance. After all, she’d been waiting for a movie to come on; the kids in school had been talking about it nonstop. She’d have liked to go to the theater, but they didn’t have the money.

Her grandmother, a small woman with short snow-white hair, who dressed in a dark blue bathrobe, stared over her head, eyes unseeing, yet intent on something.

“Let me tell you a story…” her grandmother looked her way, and the girl shivered. She wished her parents would get back from the store soon. “… a story about a time called L’apatia.”

The girl didn’t get it. Places had names, not times. This time period, February 2016, didn’t have a specific title…it wasn’t like it was an important dynasty!

And what was L’apatia anyway?

Her grandmother had grown up in a different country, speaking a language she’d never heard anywhere else. Perhaps this word was common there.

“What’s L’apatia?” The girl asked, forcing herself to sound interested.

“It is when people don’t care about another person’s suffering.” Her grandmother said slowly, her voice deep. “It is when people lie to you, steal from you, beat you, and murder your friends and family… and nobody else does anything to stop them. It is when people sworn to protect you and represent you turn their backs. L’apatia is ignoring what is happening because it doesn’t fit into your world. L’apatia is indifference.”

None of this made the least bit of sense for the girl. But her grandmother went on.

“The Time of L’apatia poisoned many lands, many peoples, for many years. And yet, people pretended otherwise.”

The girl sat down on the couch, forgetting all about her movie. Grandmother was forgetful; she would get delirious and confused easily. But there was something now in her eyes, in her words, that told the girl her grandmother was not only with it, but more tuned in to something that no one else could see. And she listened as her grandmother described that time called L’apatia, one land at a time.

“In the time of L’apatia, Siria was once a lovely place. The cradle of beliefs. The site of ancient wars and kingdoms and cultures long since gone.

In the time of L’apatia, a fifteen year old girl lost her family. They died in a hail of bullets, their corpses thrown into a bottomless pit, never to be seen again. The fifteen year old girl was kidnapped, forced to marry her family’s killer. A real animal he was, half-wolf, half-person, with wide sharp teeth and a horrible stink. When this girl escaped a year later, she tried to tell everyone. The kings and queens of other kingdoms, the people… and many people did ache inside when she described her family, the way her village was burned to the ground, what her so-called husband had done to her… and what her husband’s many friends had done to her. There were many who cared, it is true. But many others did not. They turned away and closed their eyes and covered their ears.

Many people, especially leaders, made excuses for it, reasons why it happened. Some rewrote it in their minds, as if the murders hadn’t mattered at all. And there was no change; to them it hadn’t happened.

In the time of L’apatia, a young man lived in Txad, a desert world in the hottest part of the earth. He was poor, his mother was a housewife and his father was a fisherman. Though the young man hoped to leave his tiny village someday, he also loved it. He could go fishing with his father. He could play with his three younger sisters. Their neighbors would call to him and they would stand by their fields, chattering away. They could see smoke of war across the wide lake, but could never dream what would happen to them.

And then one day the smoke curled across the lake, spitting rain. Instead of drops came men, men wielding silver swords in one hand and burning torches in the other. Like an evil army, the men ran towards the village.

The young man had seen them and panicked, he ran home and grabbed his little sisters. They were young, too young to understand why their neighbors were screaming, why their older brother looked so scared. He took them into the fields and they hid behind a rock. And all they could hear were screams and shouts and curses. And popping noises, guns. And the young man could smell a dark, choking scent… death, which curled over the village in tendrils.

They didn’t leave the fields until that night. The young man was horrified by the sights. Almost all of their homes were burned to ash. Bodies lay everywhere, bathed in red and holes; including his parents and 14 villagers.

He told everyone as well, told the kingdoms and rulers and people what had happened. Many cared. But some did not. They turned away and closed their eyes and covered their ears.

Many people, especially leaders, made excuses for it, reasoned why it happened. Some rewrote it in their minds, as if the murders hadn’t mattered at all. And there was no change; to them it hadn’t happened.

In the time of L’apatia, people loved music. The people of Franca were known for their fine music, fine wine, fine food. It was a kingdom of high standards. And the people were loved by everyone… except the ones who picked up giant guns, larger than the largest rifles, and slaughtered more than a hundred of them.

It had been a normal night—families and friends dined at the best restaurants. Teens gathered to watch sporting games. Music flew through the air as people danced and cheered and hugged in excitement.

Then the largest guns, the largest rifles, the fastest bullets exploded into the night. Dining was replaced with shattering glass. Sports replaced with screams of fear. Music was silenced, blown away by shouts of hatred.

And bodies were left lying on the blood-streaked ground.

The survivors told everyone. Many cared. But some did not. They turned away and closed their eyes and covered their ears.

Many people, especially leaders, made excuses for it, reasoned why it happened. Some rewrote it in their minds, as if the murders hadn’t mattered at all. And there was no change; to them it hadn’t happened.

In the time of L’apatia, leadership was abysmal. In Alemanya, New Year’s Eve, meant to be a wondrous festival, was instead a night of evil. New Year’s Eve had become New Year’s Evil. It happened in various cities. Men grabbing at women as they walked by, grabbing their arms and hair and legs and whatever they could reach; ripping clothes, beating their friends, sending terror into the hearts of everyone nearby. The leaders ignored the frantic cries for safety. They continued to allow in dozens of men who claimed to be desperate… many of whom later raped women, called them filthy names and shamed them for what they wore.

The witnesses told everyone. Many cared. But some did not. They turned away and closed their eyes and covered their ears.

Many people, especially leaders, made excuses for it, reasoned why it happened. Some rewrote it in their minds, as if the attacks hadn’t mattered at all. And there was no change; to them it hadn’t happened.

In the time of L’apatia, people believed in various deities. Depending on one’s upbringing, they believed in a single god, or many gods, or none at all. Some were taught chastity, others were taught charity. Some read from old, archaic scrolls and scraps of paper. Still others learned their heritage orally, through stories passed down from one generation to another.

In Terra Santa, the sun stretched as far as one could see. Some people built walls, others built gardens, others built golden temples. There was much anger in this beautiful, ancient, but troubled land. But there was also much hope.

Explosions and stabbings marred it forever. Men and women; blown to pieces as they rode home from work. Teenagers stabbed as they walked across the street. Neighbors looking at each other with suspicion, fear, hate, and for all of them—even the hardest heart—sorrow.

Those who lived there every day, those who looked over their shoulders every day, told everyone. Many cared. But some did not. They turned away and closed their eyes and covered their ears.

Many people, especially leaders, made excuses for it, reasoned why it happened. Some rewrote it in their minds, as if the attacks hadn’t mattered at all. And there was no change; to them it hadn’t happened.

In the time of L’apatia, Estats Units was one of the biggest kingdoms there was. The people loved life, freedom, and family. Yet there were many problems that worried them; poor people worried about how to provide for their families. Their leaders’ inaction and stagnancy made them feel as if no one cared. And they viewed the distant fog of war and death across the waters with increasing concern.

They had tasty food, plenty of toys and clothes, yet their lives were not the gilded existence many others may have believed it was. A current of fear for the future—and anger at their leaders—ran fast just beneath the surface.

And then came the bullets. Bullets flew into somebody’s workplace, blasted into areas soldiers worked, aimed at cars beneath an overpass. Bombs exploded at a race, among crowds of cheering—soon to be screaming—people.

The families told everyone. Many cared. But some did not. They turned away and closed their eyes and covered their ears.

Many people, especially leaders, made excuses for it, reasoned why it happened. Some rewrote it in their minds, as if the bloodshed hadn’t mattered at all. And there was no change; to them it hadn’t happened.

Children would come home from school, from the markets, from playing in the sands and grasslands and beaches outside. They would overhear their parents discussing the news—beheadings, shootings, and bombs blasting.

Children would see the grimness on their relative’s faces, they would catch glimpses of blood and torn flesh and chains and swords before their parents managed to turn off the news.

They’d hear the cries of family and friends who’d lost loved ones.

They’d see the relief on their friends’ faces when it turned out a loved one had survived.

No one could hide the deaths and hate and bloodshed from them.

Not even the most protective parents in the world could prevent their children from seeing, from experiencing, from knowing what it meant to live in the time of L’apatia.”

The girl shivered again as her grandmother fell silent. The story she’d told had shaken her up. What kind of time was this L’apatia?

When had life meant so little? When had people ignored cries of pain, ignored the obvious, so they could go on living in their made-up worlds? When had people killed each other so easily and gleefully?

Grandmother seemed to go distant then. She shook her head and flicked on the television, seemingly forgetting about the story.

“Grandmother….” The girl asked slowly, unsure if she would even understand the question. “What time period did L’apatia happen? When exactly? I don’t remember hearing about this in school.”

Grandmother didn’t answer a moment, just stared at the screen, which was tuned in to a news channel. Images of a suicide bombing, of hostages, of beheadings, and men in black calling for the death of everyone else in the world flashed across the screen. The girl turned to her grandmother again, cold knowledge creeping into her heart. She knew what the answer would be before it was even said.

“Granddaughter….” The old woman said calmly, as if it should be obvious to her by now, “… we are living in the time of L’apatia at this very moment.”

L’apatia… also called by the names of

Apaatia

Apatia.

Apathie.

and Apathy.

Note: L’apatia is the Catalan word for ‘apathy’, or indifference. At the end of the story, ‘apathy’ was written in different languages. Siria is Catalan for Syria, Txad is Chad, Franca is France, Alemanya is Germany, Terra Santa is “Holy Land” or, Israel/Palestine. Estats Units means United States. Catalan is the official language of Andorra, and is spoken in areas of northeastern Spain. The grandmother in this story is from Andorra.

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Sarah M. Prindle
"I love to read and write about many different topics: poetry, current events, history, mysteries, and fantasy. I'm a freelance writer and have had poems and short stories published in other literary magazines. I hope to publish my own novels and poetry collections one day."