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SONALI PUPU MUKHERJEE.

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 6/10/2014 |






AN ENGLISH SHORT STORY THE ROOM





She was alone. She felt lonely and wished she could conjure up a companion. Anybody would do. A small brother. A sister or a cousin , may be. A toddler sibling.An elder sister at least? Though she was a bit skeptic about this. She didn’t like being bullied, or bossed around, you see. She has been growing up alone for quite a while, and that gave her certain liberty too. But if no other choice was given , she would bear the presence of a grumbly elder sister even. This silent room gets to be too much.

The room with four white washed wall. There was windows in every wall. Ventilators with decorated grills as covers made floral designs high up on the walls. Sun light entered in patterns through these. Shadows and light made different shapes as the day went by. Sun changed position. Shadows changed from floral patterns to elongated India map, and ultimately merged with melancholy evening darkness.

There was a case full of books. A reading table with drawers, and a chair. Another cupboard full of her own school books and copies. A beautiful tall mirror of venetian glass.

And there was this room.

A small room with a window ,just opposite to her window on the eastern wall . The windows were parallel to each other, across the narrow lane in front of this girl’s house. That small room was empty. Dark and empty. Maybe it was a store house. May be a godown.

One day as the girl stood at her window and wished and wished for a companion, this window opposite to her came alight. The wooden window panes opened outward. White half curtains fluttered on strings. A light glowed inside, making a cozy picture.

The girl waited with baited breath. Is there anybody in? Anyone of her age? Anybody she can talk to?

She dreamt .When feeling sad, sick or plain miserable, she dreamt of a friend in that room with the facing window. When she was happy to see the warm sunshine . When she felt something deep stirring inside her while looking at the gray-blue monsoon clouds. When she felt so good while reading a good book. Even when she heard good music. Anything. She felt like her heart would burst if she can’t share all these with someone of her age. She dreamt there was a friend in that room. Gentle, and interested to share her thoughts.

Then came the nightmares. A stranger who knocked as a friend and came in her room. The face changed as the door clicked shut. It was “the twilight zone”of Spielberg movies. It was the face of a snarling monster. One that twisted and hissed and asked her to strip. Ferocious growls with pushes and ripping of dresses. She tried to run out of the room, but could not reach the door. “why me?” she thought. “why me?”

The fevered nightmare stopped as her parents came back. She was relieved. But scared for the next day. What if the nightmare came again? She studied and grew . But life was never the same. Whenever she wanted to have a sweet dream it ended in a nightmare.

Time rolled on. Dreams came and went away in waves.

There was sounds of gun fire. The room crumbled. Her parents ‘voices came from far away. Then stopped.

It was a dark silence. Suffocating with dust. Crushing with heavy debris. Frightening with bone crunching pain. Then came voices. Alien. Rough. Foul. Groping hands. Hurting. Making her feel like screaming. She was filled with repulsion. Nauseated, bile squelching up her throat. But she scraped and squeezed along the jagged tunnel. Sharpness poking and grazing her skin. Lungs filling with burning fumes and dust.

It seemed to go on and on. Making her sick with claustrophobia. This never- ending tunnel with strangers’ foreign voices outside.

It was a lifetime till she could come outside.

Then there was only emptiness. No room. No home. No light.

But no dream either.

She was relieved.

Now she knew.

If you do not dream you do not have nightmares too.

Only peace, quietness, serenity.

An empty landscape, yes.

But there is nothing scary about emptiness either.


She went outside. Walking over ruins.

She went across the lane to that room opposite.

There was nothing inside. There has never been. It was all her imagination.

She did not want any companion any more.

She did not want the sound of talking.

She was peaceful with silence.

With her empty space.

She was happy to be alone.

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