A spine chilling breeze swept into the living room when Berry opened the door. As far back as she could remember, Januaries had always been odd in this place. Then again, what did she know about January? She had never even left the house! But from what she had seen on television, this place looked different from other places during winters.
Even with the fat blankets of glistening white weighing down the black branches, in this place, life thrived among death. In winters, lands in other cold parts of the world would be covered in smooth snow outspread for miles with creamy clouds adrift in the still skies. But here, pink, yellow, orange and green, all impossible colours would pop out of the white every year and create the most magical of winter landscapes.
Berry put a foot out and felt the soft, fluffy snow melt under the warmth of her skin. She put her other feet out and stood completely on the thick snow on the porch. The cold winter air chilled the living room as she stared out absentmindedly.
Her feet began to throb and grow numb as Jack Frost started nipping at the edge of her toes. Every waft of wind that touched her cheeks, felt like icicles piercing into her skin.
She was sick. That she knew. And there was no cure.
It was an illness of Maya’s heart that was affecting Berry. She raised her arms in front of her face and looked through her fingers. Yes, the disease was spreading… she was disappearing.
From what she could predict, it could take from a few hours to a couple of days for her to completely vanish. This curse took shape a few months back when she noticed that one of her nails had vanished. She panicked and spoke to her only friend, Maya.
“Maya… I think I am disappearing…” Berry had told her.
“Hmm, is that so? You’ll be fine.” Maya didn’t seem to care much.
As days passed, it was no longer just a nail that was losing colour. Berry realised that she was going to completely vanish from the face of this earth and it was because of Maya.
Berry closed the door of the house behind her and started walking in the snow, towards the forest. She could feel her skin tighten around her bones as the cold air froze the blood in her veins. But she couldn’t care less. If she was going to melt away, then she might as well do so at a better spot.
She sighed and watched the misty fog escape her dry mouth. Every time she inhaled, she felt out-of-breath. Every time she exhaled, she felt warm breath on her lips and her nose watered.
Maya’s childhood memories swirled back in her mind; playback footage of how life had been when Maya was younger and still cared for her. Life was simpler and full of joy.
When Maya was still innocent, she could smile without a reason, laugh without a joke, rejoice without a cause. Back then, Maya could be a little mean and a little selfish without inviting the disapproving glances of her friends and family. Maya could be the person that she wanted to be; a hero, a teacher, a writer, a singer… a dreamer.
Then, there was that time when Maya used to be afraid of small, dark places. One day, while playing hide and seek, Maya hid in a place that scared her to the point that she couldn’t move. That is when she created Berry, an imaginary friend who would stay with Maya forever. But as their friendship grew, Berry grew more real, more human. From an imaginary friend… she transformed into a Tulpa, a very real Tulpa. Maya was thrilled to have Berry as her friend, but whenever she talked about Berry in public, people would tell her to ‘grow up’.
It never used to affect Maya before, but then, she started growing up. They made her grow up by pushing their definition of ‘rights’ down Maya’s throat and weeding out their version of ‘wrongs’ from her heart. For them, Berry was a ‘wrong’ in Maya’s world.
The more Maya listened to them, the weaker Berry felt. And now it had reached the point where Berry knew that she was no longer needed because Maya believed that Berry should not exist.
One cannot exist if one is not needed by someone else… Berry thought. As unfair as it seems, she told herself, it is how this world works.
She remembered the last winter when she and Maya had spent all their evenings reading books in front of the orange flame, in the living room. She remembered the sound of the fire crackling and the sweet smell of cocoa drifting from the kitchen. She remembered how Maya would cuddle up in her favourite fuzzy blanket and make funny faces at her. It filled her senses with a cloud of comfort that had been missing for the past few months.
A soft trickle sounded from one side of the forest. A thin stream of clear ice water burbled along the river bed, sloshing over rocks and under low hanging branches. Berry approached the stream and stood near a huge rock, eying the bubbles of water that formed under smaller pebbles on the edge of the river.
It’s the beauty and tragedy of loving humans. In their world, love is selfish. As long as you serve a purpose, you exist. The moment your services are no longer needed… you shall cease to exist… Berry sighed. She felt sad, but not bitter. Maya may not love her anymore, but she loved Maya. She wasn’t sad about disappearing. What bothered her was that she would no longer be able to stay beside Maya, watch her grow up, see her laughing face. I wish I could be human, too… she thought.
Berry started walking further away from the house.
As she walked along the river, following the direction of the stream, the scenery brightened as if being adjusted on the viewfinder of a DSLR. She looked up and saw the clouds part, making way for the sunlight to reflect off of the blue water. The light from the stream bounced back into Berry’s eyes. It was white and pure, like the snow around her which was also glowing.
And this is when Berry remembered God.
On more than one occasion, Maya had talked about God. She believed that God cared for all, even for entities like Berry. Right now, the scenery around Berry looked unreal, making her think that it was holy.
Maybe, this is God. Berry wondered in awe.
The nascent rays could be a promise from heaven. A promise that even the darkest nights will open up to a brighter day.
Berry realised that what she truly hoped for in these final moments wasn’t the boon to become human and live with Maya. She hoped for a new tomorrow for this world; a better tomorrow for Maya; a fairer tomorrow for herself. In that moment she also felt certain that this hope of hers would definitely come true.
Berry felt her heart lift higher, lighter.
She stopped walking and looked back. She could no longer see the house and neither could she see any marks on the snow. Her last footprint was more than twenty steps back.
She looked down and saw white snow. Her legs were gone. She looked up and saw the blue sky. Not a single cloud in view. Berry closed her eyes. Goodbye Maya…
And just like that, Berry was gone. Another Tulpa, another imaginary friend, erased from the world and the memory of the one who created them. But such is life, transient at its kindest.