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She was still looking the other way when someone tugged at her arm. The younger girl looked at her hatefully and said, “It’s all your fault.”
Her dream began the way it always did. She was in an endless field with tall grass that stretched on for miles and miles. And she looked around. Searching. Looking for her.
Off in the distance was a dark silhouette, contrasting with the unnatural bright yellow of the sun.
She called out, “Ritu?”
The figure turned and left. Ria ran after it, but the faster she ran, the farther away Ritu seemed.
So occupied was she in running, she barely realized that the surroundings had changed. She stumbled on something and tried to see what it was. A toy train, left outside, in front of an old house that Ria knew all too well.
It was the house she grew up in, the house she never wanted to return to. She tried her best not to think about it when she was awake, but the house was the place where her nightmares tormented her, night after night.
Ria walked to the porch and opened the door. The house had degenerated as there was no one to look after it when Ria left. She walked inside the ancient, musty house until she reached the door to her room. It was a bright baby blue, Ria’s favourite colour. She had fond memories of the afternoon that she and her mother spent together – painting the door and her room.
As Ria approached the room, the door swung open as if welcoming her. Inside, the room was in contrast with the rest of the house. While the house was old and unkempt, Ria’s old room was bright and clean.
It also had people in it. Ria’s mother was there, looking young, as she always would be. And there was Ria herself, a young girl of seven. The girl and her mother were in the middle of a heated fight, one that Ria remembered well.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I really am. I got caught up in work. And I’ll make it up to you, I promise. Okay?” Ria’s mother said.
A sulky Ria replied, “No.”
Her mother asked her, “Alright. Well, what do you want me to do?”
“Nothing. There’s nothing you can do.” Ria said
“I said I was sorry, Ria. And I am sorry I missed your birthday, but you have to understand that it’s hard for me. I need to take care of our house, take care of you and me and that means I have to work hard. Since your father is dead, I have to do everything by myself, and it would make me happier if I had you on my side.” her mom said.
Ria, still not over her fit of anger, replied, “I wish you were dead.”
She didn’t mean to say that. Ria had heard someone say it at school and was repulsed by it. ‘How can anyone say something like that?’ she thought to herself at that time.
And now she said the same thing to her mom. She regretted saying it as soon as the words left her mouth, but there was nothing she could do to erase that.
Her mother’s expression hardened. Instead of saying anything, she left.
Young Ria and old Ria were left alone in the room. The older one looked at the younger one with mixed feelings – pity, anger and sadness, for she knew what would happen next.
After a while, a loud thud could be heard. Both rushed outside to investigate. Awaiting them was the gruesome sight of their mother, who was lying in a pool of blood. She had tripped and fallen down the stairs.
Little Ria stared at that sight, horror-struck but the older one turned away.
She was still looking the other way when someone tugged at her arm. The younger Ria looked at her hatefully and said, “It’s all your fault.”
Ria woke up in a pool of sweat. Her feet were all tangled in her sheets, a result of thrashing about so much. Meanwhile, her face still held the remainders of the tears she shed every time she thought of her last moments with her mother.
Ria lay on her bed for a while but soon realised sleep was futile. She walked over to her living room and propped herself on the sofa. Then, she began hunting for the TV remote. Watching the bright, animated faces of the people in the infomercials was, if not good, a distraction nevertheless. She didn’t find it but then, her eyes fell on her laptop.
Aside from being the star reporter of an extremely reputed newspaper, Ria was also an amateur blogger. She published short stories, generally romantic ones, on her blog.
After not receiving any comment on any of her stories, she stopped expecting them but continued writing. She’d recently begun working on a story about two girls who fell in love in college.
Ria spent the entire evening on the story but was quite conflicted about how to end it. She wanted to end it with one of the girls dying, but that would be uncharacteristic for her. Ria always put in a happy ending,a fairy tale-esque happily ever after, and this would be something out of the ordinary.
But then again, she was writing for herself, her way to try and bring closure to her own ‘tragic’ love story.
She and Ritu had fallen in love with each other, and then Ritu died. Ria had sunk deeper and deeper into depression. She had tried a variety of methods to snap out of it, but all failed.
She wrote about everything she remembered about what had happened. About them falling in love, those happy days when everything was love, life and laughter, the days when she believed nothing bad could ever happen. She wrote about everything right up until the phone call.
When she was invited to join the newspaper she was now working in, an ecstatic Ria called Ritu. This was everything Ria had dreamed of, everything she’d spent her life working toward. There was no answer. And there never would be.
After several weeks of worrying and unfruitful attempts to contact Ritu, Ria received a call from a man one day.
He informed her that Ritu had died and asked her never to call again. A disbelieving Ria tried to hunt for Ritu, but it was like she had vanished off the face of Earth.
It had been three years since that happened, but Ria hadn’t recovered. Then one day, on a whim she began working on this story. She had almost completed it, save for the end.
Ria wanted to, or rather – needed to write exactly what happened, but something was holding her back.
‘It is my story. And besides, no one reads my blog anyway.’ Ria thought.
Decisively she began to type. It wasn’t like she was writing the story, rather it felt like the story poured out of her. She wrote about her anguish, about her pain, about the depression.
The world wasn’t a very welcoming place, certainly not for someone like Ria or Ritu, but her blog was one place she could vent, be herself. In the end, a satisfied Ria, looking over the story, clicked on ‘Publish.’
Ria came home, tired after a long day at work. As she shut the door, she felt like someone was with her, watching. She locked the door carefully, a pit in her stomach.
“Oh, come on Ria,” she said out loud, her tone chiding. “You’re being stupid.”
She decided decisively that a hot shower would probably help her relax. While she was showering, she heard someone pounding loudly on the door of the bathroom. Ria was scared but she knew she’d locked the main door.
‘Who could it be?’ she thought to herself.
With faltering steps, she walked to the living room, but the door was locked, as she clearly remembered. She was standing there, confused, nervous, scared when she heard someone running. And just in time, she turned around to see a white figure dart into her bedroom.
She picked up a baseball bat that she kept in the living room and walked to her bedroom, fear bubbling up in her chest.
“Wh – who’s there?” she called out. There was no reply.
Ria walked into the room, but it was soon obvious that no one else was there. She decided to look under the bed once, as a precautionary measure, but there was no one there either.
As she straightened up, on the bed in front of her, was her laptop, which was most definitely not there before. It was supposed to be on her table in the living room, where she had left it after shutting it down.
But now it was on her bed, switched on and displaying her blog. Her latest update, the story, was on screen.
She scrolled down, down past the story, and to her surprise, someone had commented on it.
The comment read: ‘Ria, I’m alive! Help me! ~Ritu’
Ria stared at the message, shocked. Could it be?
A pair of hands wrapped themselves around Ria’s neck. A deep, cold voice whispered in Ria’s ear. “Oh, don’t worry dear, she’s dead. Of course, she’s dead, just like your mother. You killed them, remember? And now, you are going to join them.”
And the hands began to squeeze…
Picture credits: Still from Netflix’s movie Ghost Stories
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