By: Aruna Subramanian
“Wake up Sweety! You don’t want to be late for school, do you?” her mother called out from downstairs. Alia was awake but didn’t get up from the bed. She was looking at the ceiling and wondering if something is wrong with the fan in her room. She reluctantly got up and tidied up her bed as her mother always says that’s the best way to start a productive day. She didn’t have a clue what is meant by being productive but still she listened to her mom. She entered the bathroom, took out her brush, held it under the water for a few seconds, and squeezed a little amount of toothpaste. As she was about to start brushing, she noticed her reflection in the mirror. The wall behind her appeared far away in the mirror. She turned around to touch the wall and found it as it used to be.
“Alia. Hurry up! Do you want me to come in there?” her mother’s voice echoed through the walls. Alia pushed her thoughts and got ready quickly. She hurried downstairs with her school bag and sat in her usual place in the dining table. Her mother was busy packing lunch boxes for the day. Mornings in Alia’s house are no different to any households these days, as the inmates rush over to get into their respective outside world. Yet, Alia’s mother made it a rule for everyone to have breakfast and dinner together so that they spend good quality time every day.
Alia’s mom placed the breakfast plates in the dining table and her dad joined them too all dressed up for the day.
“Thanks honey. I need to hurry up. I will be back early in the evening and help you with dinner. Rohan is joining us tonight, right?”
“Yes, sure. That will be great.”
“Ok then. Have a great day both of you!” Alia’s dad left to office.
“Alia! You haven’t eaten yet. What are you looking at?”
“Mom! My plate appears to be smaller and the toast too.”
“Oh silly! It’s just the same as ours. Finish it quick and get ready!”
Alia quietly finished her breakfast and started towards the door. As she was about to step out, she turned and asked, “Will Rohan be staying with us?”.
“Yes Alia, he will be here for the weekend. Are you excited to meet your cousin?”
“Maybe.” Alia muttered as she headed out.
Alia waited for the school bus at her driveway. She felt a slight pain near her forehead and was trying to fight it off. The school bus arrived, and the driver honked to get her attention. Alia was startled at the blaring sound. She quietly boarded the bus. Her day at school started normally. She had aced her math test as it’s her favorite subject. Whereas it’s a different story in the art class. She was clumsy and could not get the drawing right. To make things worse, she felt the light pink appeared brighter on her paper and the blue sky appeared grey. She felt her head is getting heavy. She managed to get through the entire day at school.
Alia usually spends her evenings in the park near her home after returning from school. The park is full of daisies, poppies and peonies. She likes to watch the butterflies and their bright colors. She sometimes tries to catch them and wonder how tiny they appear in her palm. Her favorite part of the park is the swing. She likes to swing faster and threw her legs on the air as if to fly. This is her favorite time of the day. She stays in the park until sunset and then heads home. Today was no different. Besides, she wished she could play in the park as long as she could.
However, as it was getting dark, she knew that she can’t stay out here anymore and returned. As she entered her home, she could hear her parents in the kitchen chatting. She went towards them nonchalantly. Her mom noticed, “Alia! Dear, freshen up and join us for dinner.”
“Mom! I don’t feel well. Can I skip dinner, please? I wish to get some sleep.”
“Oh, dear! I guess you got tired from all the running around in the park. But you can’t go to sleep on an empty stomach. Have some warm milk at least.”
“Sure mom. “ Alia finished the glass of milk and headed to her room.
In a short while, the doorbell rang. It was Rohan, their nephew, a college student. Alia’s parents were happy to have him for the weekend and Rohan seemed to feel the same. He noticed Alia was not around and enquired. He seemed a bit disappointed. Yet, he maintained his composure and appeared unaffected. Later, they had dinner together. When Rohan and Alia’s dad chose to watch TV and catch up, Alia’s mom cleaned up and went upstairs to check on Alia. Alia was sleeping soundly on her bed with the lights on. Her mom tucked her in and tiptoed out of the room, switching the lights off and closing the door behind her.
Later in the midnight…
Alia was sweating profusely in her bed. Her breathing was hard. Her heartbeat felt like drumming and heavy pounding. It was so loud that her head started aching very bad. She curled up in her bed like a ball. As she scanned across the room, she felt the room was closing in on her. She covered herself with the blanket and tried to get rid of all the noises. Just then, she heard the distinct click of the doorknob. The door opened and a giant dark shadow filled her room.