Like every day Shyam was preparing to sleep. He was a doting father to his 6 months old baby boy. He looked at the little guy, content. The baby's mom and his wife, Sunetra was not well that night. She had already fallen asleep. Shyam took a look at the clock, nearly midnight. He would need to hit the sack now, else it would be difficult to wake up in the morning.
He quietly took the blanket and helped himself be comfortable on the bed. It was nice weather that night, he thought. Sleep should just be a matter of time.
And indeed, that was the case. In a matter of a few minutes, his eyelids felt heavy as he was lost in deep sleep.
Not sure how long he slept. But suddenly he heard some kind of sound and he woke up. Instinctively he looked where his son was, but oh, he was not there! In place of him, there was a doll sleeping, lifeless, a toy! He quickly rubbed his eyes, pinched himself! This cannot be true. Where is the baby? He got up, looked everywhere. But he could not find anything else apart from the doll that lay where his son should have been!
He tried calling his wife, the baby's mom, but for some reason, his voice felt choked. Also, his feet felt frozen. He could not move!
Then he heard something, he had not anticipated. Someone was crying in the room, a baby, but where? He looked around. And then he saw it! A cute little girl, around 5 years old, who looked just like him.
"What was my fault, papa?"
For a moment Shyam was dumbstruck.
"What? Who are you? How did you come here?"
"Papa, you forgot? I am your daughter, papa."
"Shut up! I have no daughter. I just have a son. Hell! I can't find him now. But how did you enter here?"
"You have forgotten papa? You killed me on this very day!"
Now, this got Shyam thinking. But of course, he hadn't killed anyone. But then something struck him.
"You are right papa. I am your unborn daughter. I wanted to come to you, make you and mom happy. I promise I would have been a good girl, papa. But you did not even give me a chance?"
"Shut up! I did what I felt was right. You are not true. You are an illusion. Go away, I say."
The little girl started crying.
"Papa, please don't do this to me. Don't you feel pity? Had I been alive, in a few day's time, I would be celebrating my birthday. Maybe you did not like me, though I don't know why. But what was my sisters' fault?"
"What? Your sisters?"
From the dark corner of the room, three more figures emerged. Three little ones. Each one equally cute, Shyam thought for a moment. But then he recovered quickly.
"Papa, see these are my sisters. You killed them too! They ask me every day and I cannot answer. So, I ask you, papa, please. Please tell us."
"I... I did not kill any of you. No. I... I just got the unborn fetus aborted. That's not a crime! I wanted a boy. That's all."
"Why? Why, papa? Did you have no trust in what we could have achieved? And..."
"Shut up! I don't need your advice. I know what I have done and why."
The girls started sobbing inconsolably.
Meanwhile, Shyam kept looking at the bed, just in case, he could see his boy. Unfortunately, he could not wake up his wife, for some reason.
"Don't wake up mom. She is not well tonight. Oh, she loved us so much. Every time you killed us, she cried her heart out. Her heart was broken into a million pieces. But she never had the guts to tell you what she wanted. Since her childhood, she had been taught one thing - to obey her husband."
"Oh! Okay! So now tell me what happened to my boy! You don't have a hand in this, do you?"
"We love our brother. And we have come to take him and make him part of us."
"Yes, before coming, we have spoken to the Gods and they have approved. Mom will also be with us soon. But she needs to pay the price for not raising her voice against your atrocities. Once she does that and does the penance, she will also be freed and will be a part of our family."
Shyam finally broke down.
"Please! I beg of you, my daughters. Please don't do this to me. I love my family. I love all of you too."
The little girls had tears in their eyes.
"Really, papa? You really love us?"
"Yes, dears! I am sorry for whatever I did. I know I should not have done it. But please release my son."
"We haven't taken him, papa. It's just the Gods doing whatever you see. But tell us, do you really love us?"
"Yes, my dears!"
"Will you hug us once? Please?"
"Yes, my dears."
The little girls came running down to their papa and hugged him together.
Shyam was too overwhelmed. All of these children could have been his, had he not got their fetuses aborted immediately after knowing they were girls!
Unbeknownst to himself, for some reason, tears trickled down his eyes. It felt like a beautiful dream as the cute little girls hugged and kissed him.
But then he heard a loud cry.
Oh! His son!
He quickly looked at the bed and the doll had been miraculously replaced by his son again who was crying. His mom woke up and started feeding the baby, but she did not notice the girls or Shyam standing. Or maybe she could not see?
The girls now stood at a distance and smiled weakly at Shyam.
"Thank you, papa. We needed this. Don't worry, nothing will happen to our brother, we were just messing with you. Mom will be fine too..."
They had tears in their eyes as they said it.
"My dears, how can I have you back in my life? I really want you back. Please..."
"Papa, you have said this. That is enough. We have to go. Maybe in the next life... Bye, papa! Bye forever!"
"No, wait.. please don't go. Please..."
Shyam cried out loud as he felt a sudden jerk to his body. His wife was trying to wake him up.
"What happened to you? Why are you sweating so much and crying? Did you see a nightmare?"
Shyam opened his eyes and at first glanced at the baby sleeping peacefully by his side, his son. Then he looked around the room. No one else there. The morning light had seeped in by now.
"What happened? Say something Shyam!"
He got up and hugged his wife.
"I am sorry Sunetra... I am sorry."
And broke down...