White Prison – Short Story #3

She had never woken up at this hour before. Maybe she did, but that time of her life has long passed and she can’t remember it. They gave her pills every night so she wouldn’t wake up at this hour, so she wouldn’t ever be alone with no one to watch over her every move. This time she didn’t swallow the pills like she used to every night. She put the glass of water to her lips, but didn’t gulp the tasteless, bland liquid down. She had been here for so long she doubted they even thought that she could try something like that. They don’t know a thing about her. How can they say they’re healing her when they don’t know what’s wrong with her in the first place? The room is so white. She always hated this color. White is peaceful. White is quiet. White is everything she isn’t. The world outside is black. That’s where she should be. That’s where she blends in. There are locks and cameras everywhere. She can never get out, unless she heals. Maybe she is and she doesn’t know what it feels like. Surely she is better now that they keep her alive on wires and little pills in orange bottles. There is a fruit bowl on the bedside table. It’s doing a painfully bad job to hide the huge stack of reports and wires. Ironically, the fruits here taste disgusting. This feels like old times, when she was reckless and crazy. She rebelled without a cause, without a reason. Well, that’s what they all thought. There were reasons; she would tell if they asked. If they asked. She stayed out late just so that they would worry about her. She shut her door all the time because she wanted them to open it and ask her what’s wrong. She cried all day so that they would wipe her tears. “We’re doing this because we love you,” they had said when they left her here. Love can’t be that oblivious. Sitting up, she picked up the glass of water next to her, emptied it on her bed and smashed it on the floor. A lady came in, and shook her head on seeing the mess. “Bad dreams, sorry.” The lady scooped her up and dumped her on the sofa as she stripped off the sheets from the bed and ran out to get new ones. She returned with a dustpan. She fixed the bed and cleaned up the glass from the floor. Soon, the room was like it was before, and she left. She should’ve noticed. She should’ve done her job. She should’ve turned around and seen how the little girl’s hands were still clutched around a particularly sharp piece of glass.

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Disaster Magnet – Short Story #2

“Crash!”

I look up from my cooking, terrified. I hate the sound of breaking glass. It reminds me of the car crash I was a part of when I was twelve, where I lost my sister right in front of my eyes. I shake that memory away; not wanting to make my day any worse.

“I’m so sorry!” came a distant high- pitched squeal, followed by nervous, shuffling footsteps.

“What is it this time?” I ask, with a tinge of irritation in my voice, while continuing to stir the chicken soup. I’m used to this. My sixteen year old daughter, Kiara, is aptly nicknamed the ‘disaster- magnet’, given her ability to attract mishaps everywhere she went.

“Your blue mosaic flower vase, I’m so sorry. I was listening to music and my hand just whirled and…” babbled Kiara listlessly. She was a wonderful daughter, no doubt, but sometimes, her carelessness made everyone in the house angry.

“Can’t you go a day without messing something up, Kiara? Why is it so difficult for you to stay out of my way? You know very well that I’m not feeling well today. What was the need to dance around the house? You’re sixteen now, not six. It’s time you start acting like one.” I spurted, angrily. I was on the edge these days. Tomorrow was the day when, thirty years ago, the dreaded car incident took place. Everything I did reminded me of my sister.

I missed her. I missed her more than anyone will ever understand. I hoped Kiara would get it, the fact that her mother needed to be taken extra- seriously for a few days. But then, why would she? She didn’t have a sibling. She didn’t know what it felt like.

“I said I’m sorry, ma. I didn’t do it on purpose and you know it. I know you’re a little shaken up right now, given the date, and I want to see you happy.”

I sighed. She was a sweet girl, much like me in my teenage days. The same spark in her eyes, the same innocent face and the ability to love too easy.

“Just, stay out of my way today, alright? Go to the mall and buy some clothes for yourself. Watch a movie.” I was being selfish, I knew, but I wanted the house to myself today. I believe I deserved it.

“I’m really not in the mood to go out today, ma. Can’t I just stay in my room? I promise I’ll be really quiet. I won’t disturb you, not even in the slightest. Please?” Kiara never refuses the mall. Why would she do so today of all days? I could feel my temper rising.

“Don’t argue with me. When I say leave, you leave. You understand that, or not? You wanted to help me, didn’t you? This is how you help me. You leave me alone. Just for a day. Is that too much to ask? You deserve to be called something much worse than disaster magnet.”

I regretted the words the moment they came out of my mouth. Seeing hurt in Kiara’s eyes is something I can never handle. Reluctantly, she left the room. Minutes later, the door slammed. Suddenly, my heart caught up in panic. Something made me want to stop her, tell her to come back inside. I knew I was going paranoid, but for the first time I felt mother’s instinct take over. I picked up my phone and dialed her, but cut the call quickly. I didn’t want to explain to her why I wanted her back so suddenly. I couldn’t let little things bother me. I shrugged it away and focused on my cooking. Soon, I was absorbed and lost track of time.

I jumped suddenly as my phone rang. What time is it? It’s been three hours. Kiara should have been back by now. I rushed to answer my cell phone.

“Where are you?!” my husband’s panicky voice greeted me on the other line. That was so like him, not even bothering about greetings and jumping straight to the point.

“I’m at home, where else would I be?” I replied, my irritation growing. Something seemed amiss.

“Oh thank heavens. I’m relieved to hear this.”

“Why, what happened?” I wanted Kiara back home. My gut told me she has to be here with me, right now. Where was she?

“You don’t know? There were a couple of bomb explosions in our city, near the house. I don’t know much, but it’s all over the news.” My heart stopped. I couldn’t breathe. Explosions were common in our city, but somehow I felt this one meant something. Nothing ever goes right during this time of the year.

“I… I’ll check it out and talk to you… in a while. Bye.” I managed a shaky reply, and put down my phone. Kiara. I needed to find Kiara. My mind whirled with just one thought, her. I found the TV remote and switched it on, my head spinning. I heard the news anchor with bated breath.

“…the bigger of the two blasts has taken place at Shopper’s Paradise mall. The security has no idea how the bomb got in, and the damages are fatal. Unrecognizable bodies are being dragged out at an alarming rate; the whole city is currently in a state of turmoil…”

I felt myself sink to the floor. This can’t be happening. Finding my keys and purse, I rushed out to my car, leaving the door wide open. My hands felt weirdly steady as I whirred past all the traffic signals, passing cars and trying to get myself to not start bawling. I was responsible for this.

Turmoil would be an understatement, given the condition of the shopping mall. Smoke was everywhere. Police vans and ambulances whirred past, people crying and running around, trying to recognize something in the pile of blood and ash. A little kid stood in the midst of it all, crying and clutching his mother’s purse with all his might. A frantic old woman rushed about, yelling her loved one’s name in a native language. Everything was a mess.

I rushed out of the car and started looking. I didn’t know where to start, what to look for or who to talk to. I started crying as I ran about. It was over. I had lost her too. How can I go home, after this? How will I face everyone? Even worse, how will I face myself?

In the chaos of it all, I hadn’t noticed my phone ringing. It was Kiara’s number. Maybe someone had found her phone nearby.

“Uh… huh… hello?” I felt myself bracing for the blow.

“Ma. Where are you? I saw your missed call, and rushed home. Ma? The house was wide open and the TV was blaring something about bomb blasts at the mall. You haven’t gone to pick me up or something, have you? I’m scared. Please say something. Ma?”

I cried harder. I was on my knees now, clutching the pavement with one hand, my battered phone with the other. All my energy had drained out. All I wanted was for this to have never happened.

“I love you, Kiara. I’m coming home.”

A Sad Wedding of a Happy Couple – Short Story #1

Here I am, sitting alone, at a sad wedding of a happy couple. This wedding looks almost perfect, the beautiful process of two happy individuals tying the knot. Two happy individuals in love. There is not one possible thing wrong here. The families adore each other, money is spent lavishly, and both bride and groom have secure, happy jobs. Both have a home they share. Both have a car each, of the highest possible value. Both are happy. They are getting married. They are a happy couple, in love. Then why is this a sad wedding?

Weddings are not only about the two people involved and their close family. Weddings are about the people involved. The people who gather and witness this (supposedly) joyful event. That is what I am sitting here and noticing. Most of the guests here are sad. Most of the guests here, relatives or friends, are morbid. The reason is not the wedding. The reason is their own lives. Their highly intricate, complicated, web- like lives which stop them from enjoying the present. It stops them from sharing the joy of the newly- weds, something they gathered here to do in the first place.

There is a long lost friend of the groom here, standing timidly at the side, and throwing furtive glances at the gate. He was waiting. Waiting for their third friend to show up, the girl of his dreams. Someone he had loved ever since the three had bunked classes to eat samosas in tenth grade. He had never told her. He never had the guts. But today, after downing a couple drinks, he finally thought he was ready. His eyes bright up when he sees a familiar car pull up. He brushes his sherwani and takes deep breaths. She gets out of the car, looking as beautiful and radiant as the sun after a disdainful winter. The very next second his eyes lose spark. Hand in hand with her lover, the beautiful girl enters the wedding hall.

She enters the wedding hall, throwing happy glances at everyone she knew. A photographer asks her to pose for a picture, and she looks at the man next to her timidly, and he replies with a shrug. They smile for the camera. They don’t mean it. They are both anxious. They were once in love, everything had seemed perfect. Somehow, after a few months, things seemed strained. None had time for the other. None were making an effort to keep this relationship from spiraling down. They had decided to attend this wedding together, just to avoid unwanted questions and to feel a little alive again. “I’m off to the drinks bar,” he told her, wanting to leave her side as soon as he could. “Sure,” did she even have a say in this anymore?

“Anything, just anything strong,” collecting his drink, his poison for the night, he leaned against a low wall and took the first sip. He could feel himself slipping away instantly, the familiar and welcome burn of cheap alcohol stinging his throat. He calmed down and looked around. “Lucky, happy people,” he sighed. Why was he a total mess? He was slipping away from everything gradually, and he could do nothing to stop it. His phone rings, and his insides turn colder than the ice in his drink. He rushes to throw away the rest of the drink, and runs like a maniac towards his car. “Not today, just not today,” he seethes under his breath. He drives maniacally to the hospital, runs to the familiar room, and looks at his cancer- stricken mother. She looked even weaker than she ever has. He didn’t know what to do. Everything he earned went to her treatment. Still there was no improvement. He wished for a human contact. He wished for his family, all of whom had left them when she got admitted. Thinking back, he realized how he hadn’t informed anyone. He should have told his sister, who was probably dancing at the wedding, oblivious to her mother’s disdainful state. She had disowned them as soon as she got to know about the cancer, why would she care now?

The next song rolled around, and her legs were giving way. She had danced too much. She was tired, but she couldn’t stop. Stopping means going back to her husband, who would probably return all her smiles with a scowl. His constant jittering and pestering about the home loan and their son’s school fees got on her nerves. She just wanted a day away from it all. She wanted her mother to pat her hair and tell her how she should face all this. Ever since she had told her she won’t be able to help pay her medical bills, her mother had refused to stay in contact. She wanted to help, but she was helpless. Paying for her chemotherapy meant taking another loan. Her husband had given her an ultimatum: one more loan and he would apply for a divorce. Where would she go, if that happened? She couldn’t possibly keep up with that. Her brother refused to help her. Her brother, an alcohol addict, was lucky. He had a perfect love life, something she aimed to have herself. His love was the envy of all in college and school life. She was what every girl strived to be and who every guy strived to be with. One of the groom’s closest friends had been in love with her since tenth grade.

The bride and the groom sit majestically at the podium, looking around at the happy faces of all the people they love. This was their day. The most important day of their life. They were so happy, nothing was out of place.

Love, after all, makes you oblivious.