Roof

Roof

6 mins 4.5K 6 mins 4.5K

She walked on. She was sure that if only she reached the top of that roof, she could fix everything. She didn't know how long she had been walking for. Her throat itched with thirst, her eyes were watering, she could listen to her own laborious breathing. But she couldn't give up; not just yet. She was dressed in black jeans and black tshirt-the only colour she found comfort in. She had her new green sneakers on and even then she had sores on her feet but she couldn't stop. It was the roof, she knew it was the roof.

Sayma was nineteen when the incident happened. It was the month of July. The sky was clouded grey in the arid city of Ajmer but instead of rains, it was unbearably humid. She had been living in this city for about a year and was trying to adjust to the life without the comforts of her home. She knew she had always been a pampered child and that made her resolve to be as tough as anybody can be. It was a Friday. Sayma ignored her ringing phone as she restlessly tossed in her bed, trying hard to concentrate on theory of relativity in her physics book. For a moment she felt distracted and subconsciously guilty for ignoring her oldest friend. Riya and Sayma were inseparable as kids. They lived in same neighbourhood, cycled together to school daily and played together on weekends. It all changed in the sluggish way the relationship dynamics turn sour between two people, without them realising what went wrong. Sayma made a mental note to call R as soon as she gets back to her home town after her last exam. For now she shook her uneasy feeling and went back to fantasising about relativity and time travel.

The next day Sayma left for Jaipur in the late afternoon. It was a two hour drive and by dusk she reached the outskirts of the city and felt a sudden urge to surprise Riya. R had been living alone in a rented room since her father's transfer to a distant desert town. Sayma got down the dilapidated bus and took an auto to R's place. She wondered how beautiful the orange evening sky was. This used to be their favourite time of the day. Sometimes Riya used to paint the numerous shades of sky and Sayma would sit silently and admire. She smiled fondly thinking of innocent olden days as the auto stopped in front of R's house. She rushed inside, skipping the steps and saw the terrace door open. The sky was painted orange, purple, yellow and the canvas reflected it perfectly. Suddenly she was running towards the figure standing on the edge of terrace. She held tight with one hand but it wasn't enough. "Let go" said a low voice and the Colours melted and gelled into black.

The watchman ran towards the two falling shadows on the ground. There were panicked voices and then silence.

She woke up and they told her she was asleep for ten years. She vividly recalled relativity and felt as if she was that twin who got away and did not age. In her head, she was still nineteen. But the world had moved on. She stared blankly at the nurses and the blinding whiteness of the hospital for two days. The doctors asked her few questions like what was her name, when was her birthday, where did she live etc and she thought she responded satisfactorily. She knew everything except how did she end up in the hospital.

On the third day, she saw Riya's father and everything came crushing back. She asked him about Riya, about her own parents and why they didn't come but he just looked at her sadly and sat there crying. Fearing the worst, she wanted to scream. She did scream internally but her face was frozen. There is only so much grief a person can react to; beyond the threshold, there is just persistent numbness. On the fourth day they tried to explain something incomprehensible to her. The doctors told her that her name was Riya. And that she had a friend called Sayma who died ten years ago. She listened quietly in disbelief and then unable to take it any longer, burst out laughing. They thought she was hysterical and injected something in her arm to tranquillise her. As she fell asleep she mumbled "I am Sayma" again and again and again. For the next few days she tried to explain to them her identity but nobody believed her.

She started thinking about a resolution. The only way was to reach that roof. If only she could reach the roof and R's painting and the molten colours in sky. She behaved herself, and did what they expected her to. She tried to become Riya and even called her father "Dad". In a week they discharged her. He brought her clothes and sneakers - Black clothes as requested by her. As he signed her discharge papers, she got up on the pretext of going to the hospital cafeteria and without drawing attention to herself, escaped.

Riya's father panicked. He tried to think of a reason for her to escape. He went with the police to Sayma's old house in the city which her family had sold off after her demise. After coming out of the coma, Riya was confused and for a few days she had thought that she was Sayma. But lately she had shown all signs of progress. He wondered where could she go..he remembered all that she used to mumble.. Ajmer.. relativity..twins.. bus..orange..painting.. roof.. And then it struck him.

She was limping now; fatigue was catching up with her. She felt like she had been walking for past ten years. At last, she saw the building and it's roof. She was ecstatic. She saw a grey figure on top of the roof. Was that Riya painting the dusk? She rushed forward and skipped the steps. The terrace door was open. She heard a distant blaring sound of police vehicle but she was already on the roof.

And there it was- the painting. All the Colors come alive on the white canvas. She looked around searching for Riya. Where was she? Did Riya die ten years ago or did she herself die and is now a ghost of herself? She was bewildered and then the blinding white light came back. She screamed or rather howled like a hound, as she took a step back to the edge. And then she was mid air but someone pulled her back to the roof. "Let go", she heard a low voice say. She collapsed as her father came running towards her. But before she dropped in her father's arms, she saw an apparition disappearing into nothingness..she shivered as she realised it looked a lot like her.


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