With Radhika knowing about Alisha, it had become a lot easier to communicate with both of them. I was greeted by Rahul every day, and every day Alisha insisted on asking him. And every time Alisha asked me to, Rahul would suddenly stop mocking and just look at me as if trying to figure out something. I thought for once that he might be reading my mind- a very good possibility of that happening.
Rahul was what you call- a teacher’s pet. His good marks and smart looks got every teacher’s attention and he moved around being the perfect kid. I had been wishing every morning that one day I should get to see him being embarrassed in front of the whole class- I really don’t see that happening though.
It had been a month now since I met Alisha. She would accompany me to school every day. It wasn’t awkward anymore because I got used to her constant commenting on various topics. It seemed that it annoyed Radhika when Alisha passed remarks on what she said. Radhika obviously wouldn’t have known of them if I hadn’t laughed aloud. But Radhika kept quiet.
“Is Alisha really imaginary?” Radhika had asked once. I had simply replied, “Of course she is.” Alisha kept quiet that day.
That evening, Alisha was unusually quiet. I asked, “You have been silent all day, what happened?” She answered almost immediately, “I envy you.” She probably thought I could understand the meaning behind that sentence, but I didn’t. “What is worth envying in me?” I asked. “You are living,” she said. I still couldn’t understand. So she explained, “I am not a person. I am not living. I used to live but I am not living now. I am jealous of you. I am jealous when people talk to you. I am jealous that people can see you…”
It felt like the answer was just there but I couldn’t see it. It might have been a few moments until I actually realized- “You are a dead person?”
“Yes”, she answered. This truth was something completely unexpected.
“So… you mean to say that you are real?” I asked.
The answer came almost immediately again- “Yes”.
“You are a ghost?”
“And every other person I talked to here was a ghost?”
“Prove it,” I demanded.
She didn’t answer until a few moments had passed- “A boy in white shirt has fallen down on the road and is bleeding. People have crowded. The mother in green salwar(clothing) has lifted the boy. If you go out now, you might reach just in time to see them climbing into a white car.” I ran to the opening and stood in the passageway connecting this section to the open area. A white Maruti 800 had just stopped and a stout woman in green salwar was climbing into it. Then a man carefully placed the bleeding boy (wearing a white shirt stained in his own blood) into the car. The man climbed back into the car and drove away. I stood there for a moment, considering what I just saw. Then I traced my steps back into the abandoned section, onto the swing I had previously occupied.
I was confused, scared, and filled with many other emotions that I couldn’t identify. I sat there for a long time before I left for home. This time I was the one who kept quiet.
I had the same nightmare again that night. I guessed that it must have been the effect of the truth.
Alisha accompanied me to school again. When Radhika asked me about my dullness, I lied that it was the because of that nightmare.
My confusion combined with my frustration on Rahul that day. I don’t know if it was the effect of my already bad mood or Rahul had really got way more irritating than ever. Whatever it might have been, it had just led me to the peak of my anger and I was desperate for revenge.
It was then that Alisha finally spoke again- “I know a method for revenge.” I wasn’t really keen on listening to her, but the idea of revenge urged me to.
That day we had a speaking-skill test. Rahul had been getting full marks every year, and he was sure to get it this time too. While he went up to the teacher’s desk, I prepared myself for the game I was going to play on him.
It needed a lot of concentration before I could finally focus on him. Then, I tried to imagine his brain between my palms. Though I couldn’t feel anything solid there, I was sure that now I could try to control him. This was an experiment, and he was my rat.
“Turn towards the blackboard…Turn towards the blackboard…” I started repeating in my mind without letting the concentration waver from him. The calm, composed and confident Rahul suddenly started to stammer in the middle of his speech. His face contorted in confusion and he was struggling with some unknown thing. Then he turned around to look at the blackboard. I was jubilant.
As soon as he had done so, he was calm again. Though still confused about what had happened, he continued with his speaking fluently.
My happiness and amazement at my achievement was at its peak. I tried again, now repeating it even after he had turned around. It was hilarious for me to watch. He struggled to resist many times but had turned around at least four times before the teacher finally gave up on him and sent him back to the desk. Before leaving for his seat, he silently looked at me. There was neither anger, nor embarrassment, nor sorrow, nor any such emotion that should possibly have been on his face. The only, unexpected look on his face was indicative of- “I know what you did there.” I wasn’t even scared. I had taken my revenge.
During break, Radhika left before me to stand in the line in the canteen. I had my box so I took my time to keep my books inside the bag.
“Can I talk to you?” someone had just approached my desk. “Yeah wait a sec,” I replied as I struggled to get the last book inside. Once I was done, I turned to look at my guest, ready to greet him with a smile. My guest was the very person who just faltered my smile. It was Rahul. I somehow knew what this was about, but I acted innocent- “What would bring Your Highness to this poor, dumb soul?”
He laughed- “That is too exaggerated.” It really wasn’t that funny.
He sat on the chair beside me and, regardless of my scowl, continued with his conversation. “You spoke well today”, he said. That wasn’t true, I had screwed up. Nevertheless, I kept quiet. He continued- “Alia, you are a very unique person.” “Yeah, because you chose me as your toy, that is very believable,” I thought, but my expression didn’t change. “I heard you shifted to a new place,” he waited for an answer. I looked at him once, and then said- “Yes.” “I wonder where it is,” he said. He wasn’t wondering, he was asking. After a debate in my already filled head, I said- “Nehru Nagar.” Though the smile remained, I saw a tiny bit of sorrow in his eyes. I ignored. “I used to live there once…” he paused for some moments, and then continued- “before I lost my sister.”
The first question that rang in my mind was- why was he telling me all this? But I didn’t speak it out. He searched for an emotion on my face, then resumed- “She wasn’t much older than me.” I couldn’t resist, so I started speaking- “How did it happen?” He answered- “I don’t remember. The only stuff that I remember about that incident was mum and dad crying… and some other stuff.” He fell into some thought, and decided not to elaborate. “Made any friends there?” he asked. “Not many,” I answered casually. He was being polite, and so I didn’t mind talking normally. “Hmmm…” he sighed as he looked behind me. It wasn’t a casual move. There was intent in his eyes as he studied whatever he was looking at. I traced his gaze and looked behind me. He was probably staring directly at the wall because there was no one there. For a split second, I had a feeling that Alisha was standing on the exact spot at which he was staring. The thought crossed my mind too soon.
“Have your breakfast. It’s not much time before the break ends,” saying so he stood up. “Why do you like teasing me?” I asked. He chuckled and left without answering.