I was trying very hard to control, but I couldn’t help dancing on my seat every now and then. “It is so obviously urgent. Why don’t you just go to the washroom?” Radhika asked me. I looked at her desperately, not knowing what to say. This wasn’t as easy to explain as it had been in Alisha’s case. My eyes almost welled up, but I wiped it off. In a class of forty students, a tear stained face is the most easily noticeable thing.
I waited another fifteen minutes until finally the teacher decided to leave the class. Grabbing Radhika’s wrist, I dashed out to the washroom. “Please, please, please just stay here till I come out. Keep talking to me while you are here,” I pleaded. She gave me a puzzled look, but decided against questioning my distress.
The presence of those watchful eyes remained; I could not dare myself to close my eyes. The only thing that kept my fear at bay was Radhika’s voice. It didn’t matter what she was saying, she was there and that was enough.
This agonizing fear was born three days back, and in three days, the fear was already at its peak.
That day, three days back, I had gone into the washroom alone. It wasn’t break time yet. As I washed my hands, I felt someone behind me. I thought another girl was there, so I looked up into the mirror. All three cubicles behind me were empty. I bent to wash my face, and again I felt it. It had been so many days since I had last spoken to Alisha, so I thought that maybe it was her. My longing to see her again was so strong that I tried to sense her with my eyes closed. I still can’t tell whether it was a good decision or a bad one.
Just behind me where I felt that presence, I could see three shadowy people. Their silhouettes seemed like there was a man, a slightly shorter woman, and a kid about the same height as me. The only things distinguishable of their faces were their blood red sparkling eyes and their white sparkling smirk. Even though they weren’t so scary, there was an odd sense of terror arising in my heart. I had dashed out of the room sweating. After that incident, every time I went into the washroom, I felt those people, and every time I had closed my eyes, they were there- staring at me and smirking for no reason. It felt like a scene from a horror movie, which kept repeating itself.
The image of those three silhouettes had engraved into my mind’s slate. I couldn’t sleep at nights, fearing they might have followed me home. Though my mother hadn’t noticed it, Ramya had unmistakably realised that something was up my mind. She had tried asking me, but she never got her answer.
Alisha was nowhere to be seen. A more appropriate way of saying this was that, given the present situation, I wasn’t willing to communicate with her or with any of the others. I stopped going out to play on the pretext of the upcoming examinations, but I knew I had to invent a more convincing reason before the examinations ended. It was hard to find a moment where I could stand alone and cry my heart out.
With my mind filled with so many things, I couldn’t even concentrate on my studies. I was wishing for the Superpower to come to my rescue, to give me one miracle and get me out of this situation. But every day, the situation only got worse.
When the exams started, my head felt like it wanted to burst. Me distress was unbearable. I somehow managed to complete all my exams without breaking down, but when they did get over, I wasn’t sure if I should be happy or sad. I decided to stop worrying about what my family thought and do what was best for me, stay at home.
A fortnight had passed, and there was no improvement in my condition. One morning, I woke up weak and burning with fever. While all others wished for me to become well again, I wanted this fever to stay with me for a longer time. It felt like all the negative emotions that had been occupying my being had just started escaping. I was glad.
The fever had given me time to think, to reconsider my views and to reason with them. Eventually I agreed to the fact that they could not harm me, and with that thought, the fever left my body. When I went back to school again, I felt better.
“Are you even going to tell me what has been going on with you?” Radhika complained, and she had every right to do so. So, I told her about the shadows. She listened silently, and remained quiet even after I had finished. Scared that I might have triggered a wrong idea in her, I cut in through her silence, “Look now, it’s alright. I am over that incident and I am not going to go into it anymore.” “I have nothing to say in this matter. Let’s not talk about it,” and with that, she closed the conversation.
Those shadowy people never left the washroom, but the only difference now was that I was more confident than before.
Two days later:
Uncle was finally arriving. His train was going to reach the station in the morning, an hour before my school starts. I accompanied my father to the railway station, to be able to meet Uncle before I started school for the day.
Uncle Jay, a lean but muscular man of thirty, is the loveliest uncle one can ever have in their life. I adored him. He was swift, smart, and knowledgeable about so many interesting facts of the world. Most of all, he loved children, and I was his favourite child. As soon as my eyes found him amongst the not so important people coming down the carriage, I sprinted towards him. He lifted me up and hugged me tight, and then put me down gently.
“How is everyone?” Uncle addressed Dad once he had caught up with us. “Everybody is well. This little kid here,” dad pointed at me- “has just recovered from fever.” I chuckled. Uncle smiled at me, and then all three of us walked out to the car.
“How is your school going?” he asked casually. We were on our way to my school to drop me. Many thoughts raced my mind in that moment, but I was quick enough to mask it, “It is all fine. Though I may have spoiled this time’s exams,” I sighed. “The fever, yes that happens,” uncle said. But father had to correct him, “The fever came after the exams. I think it was because of the fear about the exams. She must have known that she hadn’t studied well this time.” I lowered my head, and the thoughts went by again. When I looked up, I realised that uncle had been observing me. He smiled again, though this time, it didn’t seem to have any apparent meaning.
“Chocolates!” I remembered. Uncle laughed, “I will keep your share safe from your sister’s eyes until you come back.” I gave him my all teeth smile.
I waved him bye while I stepped down the car when we reached school. I was earlier than usual, in fact earlier than anyone in the school was. I took my time on my way up to my classroom.
I sat down on my bench and took out the question papers. A few moments later, I realiZed that I wasn’t the only person up so early. Somewhere in the corner of the classroom, invisible eyes were watching me. And this time I didn’t need to close my eyes to know that it was Alisha.
Even though it was most assuredly Alisha, something was clearly wrong about her. My back started heating up uncomfortably.


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