Fiction Drama Sad

So many nights, I’ve wandered here.

Shadows engulf me, brush my skin with dips and dimples they do not possess. As the darkness enfolds me, so too do I embrace it back, welcome its gentle caress, sink into these loving waves. Far from the truths of living day and of harsh light, brash reality recedes, becomes a distant moan, only one among many ditties sung for those who walk invisible under the sun. 

In this darkness, there’s the glee of pretense. There’s the dance of shadows, the dance with death. Here, I’m one with the world, a world that accepts me and acknowledges the deep, terrible crevasses in my soul, where pain has gouged its mark, just as the harrowing, relentless tide leaves its mark on the rocks by the sea. 

I sigh. My arms are heavy, yet a curious lightness fills me. Hunger gnaws at my insides, but I pay it no heed. It is strange, how accustomed the body can become to its many unreasonable demands, when the mind is seeped in dull washes of gray. 

It was not always like this. Once, there was hope. Lying, betraying hope, with its burst of sparkles, like the sun’s rays glinting off an uproarious river. Hope that promised life beyond the disease that had begun to ravage my body, steadily spreading its insidious fingers into my being. Hope that held my family close to me, clinging to my slowly fading existence. It lied to them too. I watched, helpless, as they slowly ran out of hope, and then, patience. I watched, with despair, as their love turned to resentment, as their desire to spend their time with me burned out. I watched as failed hope drove them out of the house and from my side, so that they may walk in the sunny brightness of day, leave behind their worries and misery in the dark confines of our home and my room.

I remember a time when I feared this darkness, despised its dark corners and wisps of billowing stealth. Neither joy nor sorrow could penetrate their imperturbable curtains of gray and black steel. The darkness was aloof, infinite as the universe, as it ushered in endless nights of terrible pain.

Now, She is beautiful. A guest in my house, yet I live in hers. Lady Night.

I wander in the mysterious corridors of my room; here a passage beckons me onwards into a world of heroic deeds and slayed monsters, and there- there’s a portal to a breathless adventure, where I am whisked away through space on the wings of a beast in the skies, and we travel from one world to another. No pain follows me here, no- and no pitiful trials, diminished body, bereft souls or exhausted hopes. I trip and traipse through moonlit gardens of rose blooms and purple lilies of the night. My friends, the trees, stand guard over me, as I dance like a child, spin under their swaying branches, and look to one more day spent in their company...


Leila woke with a start. She stared up at the swaying shadows on the ceiling, even as her sister’s snores sounded loud in the room. The incongruous sound brought, oddly, a rugged comfort to her. Especially after the nightmare that had jolted her out of her waking sleep. She listened, and tried to calm her breathing. When her insides continued to squirm with anxiety, she let out a sharp sigh and snapped out of bed. With the light from her phone to guide her, she made her way to the kitchen and put the kettle on. 

While she waited, her head fell to her hands. She stood as still as a statue, and it was this bent and forlorn figure that her father found when he walked hesitantly into the room.

‘Leila?’ He slowly came further into the room. She should’ve been startled, but sleepless nights were common now in their once bright home. He reached for the light, but she called out sharply, ‘No, don’t!’

Her father froze, then dropped his hand before fumbling awkwardly to the little pantry table. The silence hung heavy on them till the kettle’s shrill whistle broke through it, like a train charging into an isolated station. Leila pulled herself from her unquiet thoughts, and busied herself with making tea. The warmth of the ceramic cups brought a brief and insignificant comfort to her as she carried them to her waiting father.

‘How’s she?’ Her quiet whisper sounded loud in the hush of darkness that closed in on them. The very walls seem to wait, suspended, for a reply that had been heard as many more times as that question had been asked in these rooms.

Her father sighed, and rubbed tiredly at his eyes. By some sudden trick of the muted gray light in the room, he looked young and ancient all at once. She realized dimly that his eyes had aged terribly. They now looked out on the world with an air of defeated resignation, yet mixed with a strange acceptance that jarred with his otherwise youthful appearance. 

‘She’s awake, she’s not.’ He stopped, seemed to consider his words. ‘She... she should look lost. But she doesn’t, though she is lost. To me.’

Leila stared at him over the rim of her cup. Her father never spoke about his struggles, belonging irrevocably to the tight upper-lip school of thought that was an all too frequent hallmark of his generation. But perhaps, it was the effect of the night. The darkness seemed to invite secrets and repressed feelings to be brought out to roam freely, ironically, into the light.

Her father was now gazing, rather wistfully, out into the silent garden. ‘It’s beautiful out there, isn’t it? She loves the trees.’ He remarked conversationally, again surprising her.

The trees swayed, and a branch wandered into their view of the garden. The stark outline of its shape, its lines colliding sharply against the curving form of its leaves, stood out to Leila for one brief moment, before a resounding crash from upstairs brought them both hastily to their feet.

‘Tara?’ Her father panicked, calling out to his wife desperately as he took the stairs two at a time.

Leila’s sister was already in the doorway of their parents’ room, and her silhouette struck a deep chord of fear in Leila. Her father brushed past, his eyes only for his flailing wife, whose eyes started at him while her body seized uncontrollably.

He was all business now. The two sisters watched helplessly as he pulled out one out of a dozen syringes from the bedside closet, and quickly injected it into the IV drip that had become inseparable from their mother’s body. While waiting for the medication to work, he glanced distractedly about the room. The bedside lamp lay on its side on the dark floor.

Leila silently turned up the lights, immediately hating their yellow glare. It seemed to intrude on their private grief, a hostile and unwelcome witness to their painful, pitiful misery.

‘Turn it off, Leila. She might wake.’ Leila turned the lights off.

And then somehow, by some strange mutual understanding, they all stayed, after a long time, in that dark somber room. Inconsequential whispers, wonderful in their meaning and comfort, echoed in that room that they’d once feared and hated. The very space seemed to expand as they spoke unreservedly to each other, and their grief ebbed and melted as they stayed up and talked, well into the night. 

The first rays of dawn fell on an exhausted family that had fallen asleep in chairs or curled on the bed, clustered closely about a woman they loved dearly.

It was to their faces that she woke up. Her daughter’s arm lay heavy on hers, but she would have never dreamt of moving it. Instead, she weakly held on, drawing warmth and much needed connection from that simple, foolishly overlooked touch. 

Her softened gaze turned to her husband’s tired face as he lay back in his chair, and then to her elder daughter. She’d missed them terribly, she thought with a knowing pang. It had hurt to miss them. More even than her body had hurt. She’d been in denial, and the nights had cushioned her from that truth. Pretend all she will, nothing compared to this. Waking up to them, just for another day.

The pink sky seemed to watch benignly as a gentle glow suffused her. Perhaps, she had been too precipitate. Perhaps, she could hope again. 

After all, the kind of hope mattered almost as much as hope itself. A long life with her family may be denied her, but she could still hold on to these precious moments with them. She watched as the light played hide-and-seek with the shadows on their faces, touching them with a caressing finger that the darkness seemed to welcome. Watching their dance, she was suddenly reminded of white horses on green, wavy meadows, of their proud prance as they charged uninhibited around and around, like carnival carrousels. 

She and her family could still travel some paths together, though it may only be from the seclusion of her room.

When her family woke, they were struck by the sweet, peaceful smile on her face, rid off all its doubt and suffering.

May 07, 2021 15:26

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