She never left

That night was like every other I had spent since the fateful event, painful, dark, with no sense of hope left but only the wish to become a part of the starry, cloudless sky. “Take the pills,” my therapist had said,” It’ll ease the pain,” she had said. She was wrong. It only pushed me into a dreamless sleep, such that I woke up with a feeling much worse the next day. I discontinued her, but didn’t stop the pills. No, they didn’t ease the pain. But a dosage little higher than the recommended meant I would have a shorter life. I wanted it to go slow. Slow and painful, despite my reasons to visit the therapist in the first place.
So that night was no different, except that I drank a little too much, and dozed off without taking the pills. After two years of dreamless sleep, my subconscious was finally awake at night.
The sun shown brightly, too bright to my taste. There was a seemingly endless expanse of clear water in front of me, and I stood on the bank barefooted. I was waiting for something, but I didn’t know what it was supposed to be.
It wasn’ t until then that I noticed the stretch of white fog in front of me. It was moving, backing away into the background as if to make way for something.
when my line of sight finally cleared, I could see the other side, and the woman standing there… Was she standing? She was floating a feet above the ground, with her back towards me. Her long, black hair flowed in the wind. She wore a white, sleeveless gown, her skin wore a healthy glow. I didn’t need for her to turn around to know who she was. She was Danny… my Danny… Did I still deserve to call her mine? Even in the dream I could feel my heart sink. was this real? Was I dead? As much as I wanted that to be true, I knew it wasn’t. This was just a dream.
She turned to face me, and I knew it wasn’t the sun that was glowing. She looked at me, her blue eyes searching my sunken ones. “It’s been so long, but I finally found you,” she smiled, and my heart skipped a beat. It’s one thing to look at that smile in the faded, still pictures of her, and a completely different feeling to see it in real. There was no space for the pain anymore… pain… what was that pain about…?
“You aren’t real…” my voice choked. I could feel myself welling up, but I wasn’t ashamed of it. “You died in my arms,.. on the road that day… I drove you to your death,” I was reminding myself of the pain, “we fought, and you ran out of shop.., and…” I couldn’t continue. But she smiled, reason enough for this to be a dream.
She floated towards me, and I almost felt like running away. I didn’t want to hurt her again, in any way. But I couldn’t move, and she approached me with a smile.
Her warm, soft hand touched my cheek. “You have been blaming yourself in vain for too long.” She sighed sadly as she looked into my eyes. I touched her hand, and it felt as real as the guilt in me. It wasn’t possible but she was here, I was sure of it.
“I’m so sorry,” I cried for the first time in months., “I’m so sorry… I shouldn’t have… I’m so sorry Danny…” Danny cupped my face in her hands “Shh… It’s okay Jared, it wasn’t your fault… it was just time. It had to happen.”
“No… but…”
“Shh… listen to me now…”
I tried to speak but she stopped me.
“It wasn’t your fault. It was meant to be. Don’t let that pointless guilt ruin your life. Let it go… let me go…”
“What.. do you mean… let you go?”
She smiled sadly. “I couldn’t leave you in this state. So torn, so broken because of something fate did. You didn’t deserve it,  you still don’t. So I had to find you, to tell you it’s okay. ..I’m happy. .. “
“But you’re. ..”
“I know,  but is it really the end of it all?”
I didn’t have an answer to that.
“I’m happy,  but I can’t move on unless you do. I could never leave you like this.  You have to let me go if you want me to be truly happy. “
“But it was my fault. ..”
“No.  It was the fault of the person who drove his car through a red signal.  It was my fault that I didn’t notice the approaching car.  It was never your fault. “
“But we fought…”
“I fought…”
“No you…” But she was right. “But I should have stopped you. ..”
“You did try to. ..”
“I should’ve tried harder. “
She laughed,  “Now you’re just being pathetic. “
I fell silent only to hear her laugh.
“You have to let me go, “ she said again. 
She did look real,  and she did look happy. 
“Will it really make you happy? “
Her smile was peaceful,  “Yes. “
I observed every inch of her beautiful face,  and after years of pain,  I smiled.  “I let you go. “
“And you promise to move on? “
“Yes,” I promised her,  and I meant it.  She needed this.
The peace in her smile remained as she kissed my forehead,  taking away all the pain that had been bundled inside me for months.
“Bye Jared,” she whispered, as if we were departing for the night, and for the final time, I replied, “Bye Sweetheart.”
I woke up the next morning feeling fresh, and healthy. My heart felt light. I still missed her, but I meant the promise I had made. I would move on.
I took an hour long, hot water bath, put on my best clothes, and stepped out of the house. I had made all plans for the day: I would get a Choco Mocha and a double cheese burger to go, take a stroll in the park, visit the kennel where Danny used to work and visit the dogs she so loved. I was in high spirits.
The New York roads were as busy as ever, as if nothing had changed through the night. People bustled around to continue with their busy lives. I loved the crowd now. The rush took my mind off things, and I loved being under the open sky after ages.
But little had I known that my high spirits would soon be dampened when someone ran into me at full speed, causing my breakfast and coffee to decorate the pavement.
“Sorry,” the perpetrator rushed past me as she called out, not stopping to look behind even once. But I did look at her… not her, but her long black hair flowing in the morning breeze. I could never forget that hair.
In the time I took to come back to my senses, she had vanished into the crowd.
“No…” I gasped and dashed forward, my eyes frantically searching for her in the sea of unsuspecting people. When I finally found her, she had already jumped into a bus that had started to speed up. I ran after the bus, desperately calling out her name. But the bus didn’t stop. A taxi stopped just at that moment, and I pushed aside the lady who had stopped it and got into the seat, asking the driver to follow the bus as i did. He obediently did as asked.
I still hadn’t seen her face, but I was sure it was her. When we finally came to the stop, I hastily handed him the money, and without waiting for the change, ran after her. It wasn’t long before I caught up. I placed my hand on her shoulder, “Danny…?” I called hopefully. The woman turned, her striking blue eyes questioning me, “Sorry?”
She was Danny, I was right. “Danny! You’re. ..”
“Sorry…?”
I was confused. Didn’t she recognise her name? My eyes fell upon the tag on her baggage that read “Marian Derrington, Reporter”
I looked at her carefully. Yes, she almost looked like Danny, but she wasn’t.  Now that I saw clearly, she was different.
As the realisation washed over me, my heart seemed to drop. “Sorry…I thought you were someone….” I stammered and ran away from there.
I had broken my promise. I hadn’t moved on. I had just run after a stranger despite knowing she couldn’t possibly be Danny. When i finally stopped running, I closed my eyes, “I’m so sorry Danny… I’m so sorry…” but it didn’t feel like she was mad at me. Or was she gone?
I walked my way to the park. I didn’t feel hungry anymore. I sat on the park bench, looking around at people of all ages enjoying their Sunday afternoon . They looked happy, and it eased my heart to some extent. It was going to take me a good amount of time to move on, but I wasn’t going to stop trying. I had promised.
“Can I join you?” someone asked from behind me. I turned to look, and I felt the familiar drop in my spirits as had happened that morning. It was the woman who had a striking resemblance to my Danny, Marian. She smiled kindly. Despite all my emotions,  I nodded.
She sat down, and there was silence. “I’m sorry for this morning, I thought you were someone else,” I finally spoke, but didn’t look at her. She laughed lightly, “I destroyed your breakfast, I should be the one apologising. Yours was still a genuine mistake.”
“Hmm,” I still didn’t turn to look at her. It was painful.
We kept silent for another few minutes. “Who was she?” Marian asked.
I debated whether to answer her or not. When nothing came to my mind , I decided to act as if I didn’t get her question, “Who was who?”
“Danny,” she said. It felt like she was waiting for me to get offended, but I didn’t feel like it.
“My girlfriend.”
“You thought I was her.”
“Yes, my mistake. You both look completely different.”
“Where is she now?” she sounded uncertain about how to state the question.
“Lost her two years ago,” I sighed, still avoiding to look at her. That should’ve been her hint. She should have left. She was indulging too much. But I couldn’t get myself to say it out loud.
“Does she really look like me?” she asked enthusiastically. I looked at her, expecting myself to get annoyed, instead finding myself taking out my wallet to show her Danny.
“Whoa… she looks so much like…” she stopped mid sentence and handed me back my wallet, “Sorry.”
“Why did you follow me?” I asked her finally, the thing I should’ve done before this whole conversation. I had the feeling she didn’t casually stroll in.
She pointed behind her, “I work there. It was lunch break, and… well I noticed you… and you seemed so sure that I was Danny, I thought I should definitely find more about my doppelganger,” she chirped.
“Well you’re two years too late,” I said plainly as I pulled my gaze away from her.
She didn’t reply. From the corner of my eye, I noticed her nod. She looked into her watch, “Find you next time? My lunch breaks over…” she said as she stood up.
“Bye,” I didn’t look at her, and she left, leaving me with a sinking feeling. But I knew this was different. I left, somehow knowing I was going to come back here the next day, at the same time. I turned to look at her go, her long black hair waving in the soft breeze, and couldn’t help but smile. Maybe Danny hadn’t really left me.

ANGRY (part 11)

I was very pissed off at Radhika for having revealed my secret. Even though in some corner of my brain I had the feeling that I was wrong, I convinced myself that it was definitely just a hope and nothing else.

Ramya observed me as I stayed home all day. This was very unlike her, but I realized it might be because this time she knew the reason. I had the urge to go out to Alisha, but I suppressed it.

That night I couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t because I was sad, or that I wasn’t tired enough to doze off. It was because I was angry; angry that God didn’t want me to be happy, that he wanted me to be alone for the rest of my miserable life. First Alisha, then Radhika, and then there was no one else left to count except Ramya, and I was partly convinced she was going to go too.

I struggled to keep my tears from flowing. If I started sobbing, Ramya was sure to wake up.

I sneaked out of the room. It was two in the night, and what I was going to do didn’t seem like a very good idea. But I wanted to talk to someone… anyone.

I wore my slippers and walked out of the house in my night suit. I kept walking away from my house until I felt it was far enough. Then I sat down on the grass alongside the road. The only things alive around me were the bats, and the flickering streetlights. That was more than enough company I could ask for.

I started sobbing. There were no houses around me, so it was unlikely that my sobs could gather attention.  What surprised me right now was that, even in so much distress, I was concerned about others’ peace.

Tears didn’t flow out, only curses did. Was I meant to live alone and die alone? Being mocked at by everyone, with no scope of respect? Why me?

I cursed under my breath until I was panting, and out of words.

However badly I believed the words I had spoken, I couldn’t help but sigh with relief when I felt someone behind me. The presence was strong, like Alisha. But it wasn’t her. This was probably a man. It must have been because of the pent up rage being released from my body, that by back felt uncomfortably hot. I shifted a bit to try and cool it, but it was of no use.

“That much anger is not good for health,” he said.

“Then what am I supposed to do? Accept my loneliness?”

“You aren’t lonely. You have your family.”

“If everything were solved just by family, I wouldn’t be sitting here, would I?”

“Well it was completely your choice to leave home in the middle of the night. It is not safe here.”

“Are you here to solve my problem or increase it?”

“I am here to calm you down.”

“Oh yeah? Well you are doing a great job!” I snapped.

“What is it that you are so worried about?” his tone was surprisingly calm.

“Haven’t you been listening?”

“I want to hear it from you,” he said.

I sighed and started again, “I lost the only person I thought was close to me, all because she couldn’t keep a damn secret about the other… person… She screwed up everything… maybe solved… Argh I don’t know,” and I stopped speaking.

“Why are you so sure that it was she who had revealed your secret?”

“I’m not talking to you with the expectation to hear the same as others have been telling me,” I snorted.

“Then what do you want me to say?”

I didn’t know the answer to that question. What did I want, really?

“Do you want me to say that it really was Radhika?”

“Who else would it be?”

“Many others.”

“Ha, ya right,” I snapped. I didn’t like being this rude, but it felt like the only thing I could do.

“If you think, you might know too… for instance, there were other people who saw you doing all those stuff,” he explained.

I thought for a moment. Sure, there were people who had noticed me when I played my game, Radhika had told me so.

The feeling that I might be wrong was irritating me. I asked, “And what about this one?”

I think he understood what I meant, because he answered, “Don’t you think there might be people like your uncle and your sister, watching over you without your knowledge?”

Well, there was that possibility. I looked in his direction, obviously knowing that I couldn’t see him, but just for something to do.

“You should go back home now. I think your sister might wake up in a few minutes. You wouldn’t want to be caught sneaking out of the house this late,” he said after a few moments of silence.

I didn’t say anything else, and silently walked back home.

I probably didn’t feel better than before, but at least I wasn’t feeling weak. As I lay awake, my sister woke up to go to the washroom. She hadn’t noticed my eyes open as she came back to bed. I didn’t realise when I fell asleep.

SECRETS REVEALED (part 10)

The fact that the two most favourite members of my family knew everything about what was going on with me, came with an odd combination of shock and relief. “How the hell did you know!?” I asked and kept waiting for an answer, realizing soon enough that the question hadn’t yet left my lips. I repeated the question aloud.
“Well,” uncle started, “someone informed us that you were getting involved with not so right people.” “Radhika…” I mumbled as I rubbed my temples. Ramya chuckled, “It is so not her.” I turned to look at her with a questioning look, but she decided against acknowledging it.
Uncle interrupted, “Whoever that could have been, when we came to know about it, I sent Ramya to keep an eye on you.” I turned to my sister again. She scolded, “What? Concentrate on uncle for now and let me nibble at my finger,” though she was only just observing me.
I thought aloud, “So Alisha was right when she said that Di was there that evening.” “Ah, so she told you her name,” Uncle smiled. “You should have seen her when she was fussing about how Alisha couldn’t visit our house,” Ramya laughed. I realized then: if she already knew what Alisha was, then I really must have made a fool of myself. “Do mom and dad know?”I asked her. “Nah they don’t,” Ramya waved her hand once.
I shook my head. “So how is all this related to Alisha?”
“The negative spirit has been feeding off of you and you have been letting it… or in better words, inviting it to do so,” uncle said.
I raised my eyebrows. “Alisha isn’t bad,” I almost protested.
“What do you know about her?”
“Just that she is… good… and helps me a lot when I am in need,” I shrugged, trying not to sound like that wasn’t a good enough answer.
“And why do you think you need a spirit to do that?”
“Umm… because… humans can’t understand…?”
“You know you are almost insulting Radhika here…”
“No I am not… I mean, Radhika can’t be with me all day, but Alisha can…” I was interrupted by my Ramya, “Obviously not when you are home.”
I turned to her, “How do you know that?”
“I create a shield every night around the house. Negative energy can in no way enter it… I made sure of that… and if Alisha isn’t negative, then that shield shouldn’t be blocking her… seriously, can’t you feel the drain?” she asked impatiently.
“How can you be sure that thing blocks only negative?” I was desperate to prove their theory wrong.
It was a relief when Ramya didn’t answer and gave an exasperated sigh. But uncle jumped in again, “The person who informed us about you knew Alisha when she was a human…” “She could have lied..” I protested again.
There was no sign of anger or annoyance on his face. He answered calmly- “You know, you aren’t the only one in the family who has this ability. Ramya has it, and I too. For starters, it is not good to mess around with things you don’t know yet. As for Alisha, I want you to stop talking to her as soon as possible. Now would be a good time.”
“You don’t know what it feels like being me. I have been feeling so lonely with all those people treating me like nothing, and she came as a relief. I am not going to send her away just because some freak told you that she is bad. She can’t be evil when she gave me so much happiness,” and I turned to Ramya, “and for your information, she doesn’t drain me.” I was almost shouting now. It was like this sudden outburst of energy all to prove myself right. Ramya didn’t say anything. She pulled me up and took me to the bedroom. She stationed me in front of the mirror. “Do you see yourself?” she asked. I wasn’t looking any different. The she pulled out her mobile phone and put the screen right in front of my eyes, just beside my view of the mirror. “Look.” She ordered. That picture was one she had taken a few months back, the day we shifted to our house. I noticed now. Back then I was healthy, my face had this healthy glow and my eyes looked happy. Right now, as I looked at myself in the mirror, it looked like I must have lost a lot of weight. There were dark circles around my eyes, and my face had lost all the healthy glow. It was more like I just had skin wrapped around my bones. I kept staring at the mirror. This had to be unreal.
“Got anything else to say?” Ramya asked. Uncle entered the room. “You only never knew how it was draining you. Your parents thought it was probably because of the tension of the exams then and after the fever, they thought it was the after effect of the illness.”
I turned to look at them, “But I don’t want to let go of her. She keeps me happy,” I was almost mumbling. Uncle knelt, “You know this isn’t the only way to keep happy.”
“I don’t happen to know any other way,” I didn’t want to cry, but my will didn’t matter.
“You could stand up against those who harm you instead of using mental tricks on them,” he said. Now that bit, only Radhika could have told him. “Alisha doesn’t complain against me,” I said slowly. Ramya said, “I promise you, it isn’t Radhika.”
I shook my head. There was no one else who could have known.
After a few moments of silence, uncle stood up. “It’s getting late. You people should be home by now. Wash those tears Alia, if you don’t want to be questioned about this whole business.” “What?” I asked. Ramya answered, “You think you could be believable while faking this?”
Uncle dropped us home. I was too tired to change to my night suit. I dropped on my bed and fell asleep almost immediately.
The next morning:
When I entered the class, Radhika smiled as usual, but for some reason, I couldn’t. I pretended as if I hadn’t noticed it and sat beside her, all the time feeling awkward doing so. I tried to act as normal as possible and thought I succeeded in doing so, until break came and she asked me what was wrong with me.
“How could you tell uncle about Alisha? I know you don’t like her, but please quit complaining.”
“What are we talking about again?”
“You told uncle about Alisha. They have known about it all along… and the brain game, stuff? What were you thinking, telling them about it!”
“They know?”
“Hey, don’t pretend anymore,” I warned her.
“No, wait. Did they tell you that I told them?”
“Of course they wouldn’t… but how hard is it to figure that out? Especially with Di specifying that it wasn’t you,” I shrugged.
“Did it occur to you that maybe it really wasn’t I who told them?”
“Oh, yeah? So maybe Alisha told them about herself, eh?”
“Look, I don’t know who it could have been, but it definitely isn’t me.”
“Yeah, right..” I snapped.
“Now don’t you take that tone with me,” she tried not to raise her voice.
“You know what? I don’t wanna talk to you anymore,” and without another word, I left her side and went to sit elsewhere.
We didn’t talk for the rest of the day.

When you wonder why you feel frustrated with your life, try comparing how you see yourself add what the reality is turning out to be. You will get your answer.

STUCK

Lalita was walking alone on the narrow road. The road was bordered by thickets and the sky bore an eerie night shade. The yellowish, round moon looked upon her with a kind of haughtiness. It silently watched her as she made her way through the darkness filled with occasional damps. It was a cloudless night.
The thicket seemed to narrow the road with every step she took, but surprisingly, it never closed upon her. She tried to recall what had brought her to this situation.
She had been having a peaceful talk with her ex-husband Ajit- well, apparently peaceful. He had been negotiating an amount- the amount he was planning to take from her. Why? Because she had been his bank. He was just about plotting to kill his goose that gave golden eggs- the reason why she had to leave him. They didn’t have children, so there were no liabilities binding the two. And now he wanted to fill his pocket to spend the rest of his life peacefully.
Her only fault was that she lowered her defences when the deal was finalized and agreed to have a drink of the champagne he had brought with him. Half a glass, and she knew that something was in her drink. She had fainted dreading the consequences.
When she woke up, she was in the back seat of his car. He had probably parked in some dark place, she couldn’t understand his strategy. A light pain played through her temples as she sat up pressing them. Her eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness. Someone was sitting on the driver’s seat. But something wasn’t right, he was perfectly still, his head placed awkwardly on his left shoulder. “Ajit…?” She whispered to him. When he didn’t respond, her heart started racing. She addressed him a few more times. Then she tried to shake him. One violent shake and he dropped onto the adjacent seat facing up. His mouth was open in an ‘O’ and his eyes were open in horror, watching blankly at the ceiling of the car. Blood trails were drawn on the sides of his forehead, coming down from the hair.
Lalita screamed in horror as she tried backing more into the seat she was sitting on. She struggled a few times to open the door, and when it did, she dashed out, not really noticing where she was going. She had already run a long way from the car when she paused to catch her breath. It was then that she actually saw where she was standing- in the middle of a dark, deserted road, bordered with a thicket of trees on either side. She turned around to look at the place from where she had started, but the darkness had engulfed it. It was cold, very cold out here… Too cold for a mid summer night. What was this place anyway? Not a peck of it seemed any familiar to her. This was probably where Ajit was planning to kill and bury her, make her vanish from the face of earth. Now he was dead himself. The circumstances of his death were mysterious. Moreover, she didn’t want to think of the haunting face while surrounded by such a creepy atmosphere.
There was too much silence around her- neither the chirping of crickets, nor the hoots of owls, not even the screeches of bats. The only sounds ringing were that of her slippers on the tar road and her tense breathing.
She wrapped her arms around herself and shook a little at the chill. Her only hope was the morning, which now seemed a long way.
The silence closed upon her ears, but she never stopped walking. It had to lead somewhere… And then there was this scream, a long drawn scream that rent the air, giving her goose bumps. She stopped. The scream lasted a few seconds. Even as its sound faded away, the echo rang. It seemed to have come from a long way behind her, but she also wasn’t sure if it was coming from ahead of her, probably because of the echo disrupting her senses. She felt like running, but now she was too exhausted.
The scream died away as soon as it had come. She was surrounded by silence once more.
She was terribly sleepy by now. Her eyelids started drooping and she stumbled, but balanced herself and walked normally for few distance, only to repeat the process. She finally gave up. She desperately needed her sleep. She sat down on the road facing the road ahead. No one was going to come her way.
She tried lying down flat on her back. Her back felt uncomfortable without a pillow. So she turned to her side, facing the road again. It wasn’t long before she drifted into sleep.
The sound of someone rushing towards her woke her up. She looked for a while, but there was no one. The sound had died away with no sign of the source. She could have closed her eyes and gone back to sleep- that was probably her mind playing games. But she sat up. She had to walk. The sun and its rays were still absent.
She started walking ahead and did so for quite a distance. Suddenly, bright lights blinded her. The car was rushing towards her. Even upto five meters from her, the car hadn’t slowed down. She frantically tried to move away from the path, but her legs had fixated to the ground. She waved her hands in front of her while she screamed, “No! Wait!”
The driver maybe noticed her just then, and probably panicked, because the car started swaying. It didn’t hit her, but went like that to a length past her until it finally crashed into a tree.
If the driver lived, he could help her. And so, when finally her legs started moving, she turned around to walk towards the car in a fast pace. Not very long after that, a familiar scream pierced through the air. Lalita had started running by now. As she neared the crashed car, she noticed that the back door of the car on the other side was open.
She went over to the driver’s seat. The driver had fallen onto the adjacent seat. She went to the other side of the car ignoring the open door and peeked into window of the seat beside the driver’s. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she stared in shock at the familiar face. It was Ajit.
Someone was sitting on the back seat that she hadn’t noticed earlier. Her heart shuddered but she walked over to the open door of the back seat.
Her mind went blank as she stared at the familiar face, her own face, her eyes and mouth open in horror. And what awed her most was the fact that it was she who had caused her own death.

I BURST OUT (part-9)

Before I could address her, my classmates started filing in. Rahul was unusually quiet. He wasn’t depressed or sad or anything. He was just behaving as normally as everybody else. It felt odd, but I ignored. I would care about it when his ignorance gets to me. Right now, I am in paradise.

Once the room was crowded, I couldn’t feel her anymore. I smiled as Radhika entered, ready to give her the news of uncle’s arrival.

That evening:

I went to visit Alisha. Her voice was stronger this time, though her image was always that of a girl wearing a pink frock. I didn’t tell her about those three figures in the washroom, but I had a tiny doubt that she already knew about it.

“Your uncle came?” she asked. “Yeah, I guess you must have seen him. He is a wonderful man,” I chirped. “He won’t be staying here,” she said. “Why wouldn’t he? He always stays at our house when he visits,” I said. She said something after that, but my mind was too filled to receive anything, so we dropped the topic.

When I went back home, I realized that uncle’s luggage was still in the hall room. “Why wouldn’t you stay here?” I asked before anyone would tell me anything about it. Every one of my family members looked at me, puzzled. Then it struck me, how should I have possibly known about it? So I corrected myself, “I thought you wouldn’t be staying ‘cause I see that your luggage is still out.” That convinced my family. Then my mother said, “You were right though. Your uncle won’t be staying here this time. He wants to take an apartment elsewhere because he ‘thinks’ that it would be inconvenient for us to keep him,” and she looked at him, annoyed. “It is nothing like that Lalita. I will be staying here for longer. Moreover, this apartment that I am going to will be nearer to the client’s place,” Uncle insisted, still trying to convince mother. “I don’t understand,” I announced.

Ramya took me into the room, saying, “Will tell you later.”

Finally, it was decided that uncle would stay at his apartment in the duration of his stay. I was curious about uncle’s place, so Ramya and I decided we would visit him the coming Sunday.

Having gotten over the terror of those three shadows, I continued visiting Alisha for the days that followed.

I was very excited when Sunday came.

Uncle picked us up at four in the evening. We bought some food from a restaurant and went straight to his house. It was a very small apartment on the top floor of the building.

“… and it was funny because both of us kept quiet so as not to scare the other,” I completed narrating an incident and started laughing. Uncle and Ramya laughed with me. I was feeling light-headed. We had been talking all evening, and our talks never ended even when we started dining. “I guess it would spook you out largely when you encounter a real one,” uncle chuckled as he put a spoonful of rice into his mouth. I thought of Alisha, she was real after all. “Hmm,” I said as I stared at the food on my plate. “Are you full?” Ramya asked, so that she could have more of it if I was done. “No,” I laughed, “I am very hungry, and this is very tasty, and I am not going to share any with you,” and mocked. Uncle laughed again, and not just him, even my sister. I really was planning to eat the whole lot. My stomach had just turned into a black hole. “If you get any stomach problems, your mum is going to tear me apart,” uncle warned. “Nah she won’t. I will tell her that you weren’t powerful enough to stop me,” I winked. “Ah, she can easily catch that lie,” uncle laughed again.

The food was getting cold. “Chat after you finish,” uncle said as he stood up with his empty plate. “Yeah yeah,” Ramya mumbled through a mouth full of rice. She didn’t want to be the last one to complete. I, on the other hand, didn’t mind being the last one. While I was still skimming of the remains from the packet, she announced, “I am done! Kitchen sink, here I come,” and dashed off into the kitchen. I smiled as I chewed.

I looked up at the fan, it was moving in the same speed as before. But I kept staring at it until I was completely sure. Then I looked at the window. It had been kept open since evening. I shifted on my seat, and my appetite vanished all of a sudden. I was feeling very uncomfortable. I tried eating the last bit but it felt like I could allow no more into my mouth. I frowned. “Puh! This is when I hate my stomach,” I complained to myself, slapping my tummy. I could hear the sound of plates. Ramya was probably helping uncle. I hated wasting the food, but at this point, finding the source of discomfort was very crucial. It was really getting to me. I touched my temple with my free hand in frustration. My head was aching slightly. Oh yeah, it was the effect of excessive eating. Maybe I was sleepy. I closed my eyes.

It turned out I wasn’t alone in the room. I froze. I could feel a pair of eyes watching me from the direction of the window. I turned to look at it, but there was no one. I turned back and looked thoughtfully at my plate. Should I try seeing again? No answer came to me, so I took it as affirmation. I closed and looked. It was ‘someone’ with piercing eyes under dishevelled hair. My uncle’s words rang through my mind-“… I guess it would spook you out largely when you encounter a real one.” She wasn’t nice, no. I was sure about that. But the way she looked at me, she felt dangerous. Nothing came in my mind as I kept looking at her in my mind for quite some time. The world had become silent instantly as I was mesmerised by her. Something stirred in me, and I knew what was coming. I hoped she was just an image from my brain, and at that very moment, she grinned.

With no second thought, I dashed towards the door. I struggled and finally succeeded in opening it. Once that, I started running downstairs without another look behind my back. I wasn’t going to stop ever. I would keep running and running. I could hear someone calling me from upstairs when I was almost out of the building, but I never turned to look. My mind was blank.

It was probably uncle. After that, I guess it was Ramya. I wasn’t sure, but I kept running. People stared at me, not sure whether to stop me or let go. I wanted someone to stop me, and wondered why no one was. But I never slowed down.

It wasn’t until someone caught me from behind and I struggled in his arms for a while that I finally calmed down. It was uncle. I didn’t look at him or my sister who caught up with us and started asking something. I panted, and without warning, burst into tears.

 “I don’t want to be here… I don’t want to be here…” I kept moaning until uncle finally agreed to take me home. But I didn’t want to go home either. It meant being closer to Alisha, and the thought was already freaking me out. “Either it is home, or upstairs,” uncle said sternly.

Maybe she was gone. Maybe I could go back. Maybe she was there because I was all alone. After a lot of struggle internally, I agreed to go back into the apartment. I convinced myself, now was the time some elder should know about this whole business.

“Why did you run like that? What happened?” Uncle asked once we were all settled in the hall. She was nowhere to be seen, and I was relieved.

“I think I am mad,” I said slowly. I wasn’t joking or lying. I was almost sure about that by now.

“No one is getting mad here unless you tell us what is going on,” Ramya said firmly. Her sentence didn’t make sense but I decided against correcting her.

“I can feel ghosts,” I had finally mustered enough courage to let that out. Everyone was silent for a strained moment, until uncle broke the silence, “I was waiting for you to say that.”

I looked up at him. He wasn’t annoyed, puzzled or troubled. He looked calm, the same way he had been when in the car. “Better late than never,” Ramya smiled. I looked at her, shocked. It seemed both of them knew about it all along. I needed lot of explanations before starting with expressing my problems.

UNWANTED VISITORS (Part- 8)

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.