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The heavily sculpted door, on its own accord, swung into the apparent emptiness. She stared into the resonating darkness which was augmented by the uncanny hollow feeling she felt inside her. The desolate mansion reeked of damp. She breathed in the air and shuddered; both due to the cold and the deserted enormity of the place. She walked into the nothingness, as if it was her destiny to be there. Or was it?
The cold marble floor could as well have been ice; she was too tired and her feet were too numb to decide upon such trivial details. She had to strain her eyes to observe the large hallway in which she had walked into. All that could be seen was the high, mist-covered windows on the far end on either side of the hallway. The path ahead was faintly lit by the light which strained through these windows. The ceiling was either too high to be seen or non-existent. The intricately carved pillars supporting the hallway, on either side of the aisle she was walking on, suggested to her a delusive perception of a distant recognition to a long forgotten memory. The endless walk seemed to sap away the remaining energy she was left with. It must have been at least five minutes since she had entered the creaking gate leading to the mansion. Or was it an hour? All she knew that she had to find what she needed to find.
It was not her decision to come to this God-forsaken place. It was thrust upon her. She did not know if she would see her loved ones ever again. She was brave, she knew. But was she brave enough for this? She could clearly remember the heated argument she had had with her mother. Tears welled up at the thought of it. What if it was her last conversation with her Mum? She immediately wiped her tears and mustered up the courage to go on. The mission on hand was the most important thing now. It was the success of this mission that decided everything that was to follow.
The appearance of the stairway brought her back to the present scenario. The stairs were steeper than any she had seen before. It was wide enough for ten people to walk side-by-side. The ornate wrought iron railings on either side were covered in dust. The resplendence which the stairway should have brought to the ambience of the place was severely mitigated by the lack of light. She began to climb, dreading at the toll it would take on her weak body, while she hummed an old song her elder sister had taught her a long time ago. She didn’t remember the words anymore. All she remembered was that it was about a young girl who did something very brave. The strange thing about a distant memory: its journey to oblivion starts from its most important facet. At the end, disconnected concoction of inconsequential flashbacks is all that remains. And during each of these systematic deletion processes that our remarkable brain carries out, we evolve into new individuals with a changed perspective of life. She stopped humming because she was heaving for breath now. Also, the strangling silence, that had become an important characteristic of the place, was less eerie than the strange echoes produced due to her humming. She could see the end of the stairway now. “Five more to go.”
The climb was more excruciating than she had expected it to be. And yet it had to be done; for now she could see how the narrow alley connected the stairway to a solitary door. The door was much smaller than the previous one she had encountered and unlike the entrance to the mansion, this door was more like a makeshift separator between the alley and whatever lay beyond. However, what attracted her to the door was the faint light that emanated from the narrow gap below the door, which left a silken silhouette over the sickeningly white floor.
She wanted to undo all of it. All the things that had happened one after the other and finally culminated to this: she was walking towards the door. There was nothing she could do now. There was nothing she could have done then. The recent events had brought tremendous pain to her and her loved ones; for all those people, for whom she was the centre of the universe. And yet, now she could undo it. This journey was the end of it all: the start of a new beginning. There was hope in this dismal wilderness, for it was a road to a better life. Now, more than ever, she cherished life for all it is worth. The warmth in her body was stronger than the mirthless cold outside; no amount of darkness could drown the fierce fire of life!
She remembered that day, all those years ago, when she had fallen down in the garden and had nastily bruised her knee. Daddy had come running as soon as he heard his little girl sobbing in pain. He had carried her inside, into her room and washed the wound with an antiseptic. “It stings!” she had moaned. Daddy had told her reassuringly: “I know dear. It’s because the pain does not want to go. It doesn’t want to heal. The longer you think about it the longer it will it stay.”
“Can’t you make it go?”
Dad had smiled and said: “I wish I could, I really do. But only you can make it go. Pain lasts as long as you want it to.”
She knew what those cryptic words meant now. Pain remains with you as long as you say that you’re in pain. Like the whims of a stubborn child, your sufferings demand your attention. And it ceases to exist when you convince yourself that you don’t feel the pain anymore.
This was exactly what she was doing now, for she was drowning in fatigue. She was walking towards her destined door which seemed to be moving away from her every second. She could not say for sure because logic prevailed against the notion. It could be that her mind was playing games with her.
“A Game; that’s what this life is. A contest against an unknown force constantly trying to lay down impediments for the weak to yield.”
She knew she won’t yield, for she had reached the curious door she had set out to reach such a long time ago. This was her door to unshackled existence; her chance to get away from all of the pain and suffering. She pushed at it as hard as her strength would allow her to. It creaked but did not budge. Was it meant to end like this? She went back a few steps and slammed into the door. The effort was in vain.
The acute pain that stabbed against her right shoulder blade crippled her. She could feel the erstwhile relentless fire of life diminishing to a flicker now. Laying her head against the door she cried in agony while the nasty echoes mocked at her frailty. And then she heard the faint noise from the other side. The periodic high pitched noise vaguely resembled the pips of a radio. The pain seemed to weigh on her consciousness to such as extent that she began to feel that the pips were in sync with her pounding heart. She knew that this would be her final attempt. For one last time she charged at the door and slammed at it.
A number of things happened at the same time: The door gave in; the momentum with which she had crashed into it carried her a good five feet forward into the room which resembled an attic; she crashed into the floor on her head. She would’ve have screeched in pain but she had lost her voice. It took all her strength to look up to what lay ahead. The blinding light which caused her to flinch was emitted by an incandescent lamp hanging down from the ceiling to a flimsy stool. On the stool stood a solitary radio.
The pips emanating from the radio were now replaced by a high pitched static which seemed to drown the incomprehensible, muffled voices. She tried to reach out to the stool. She had to! How could she give up now? The radio lay just a feet away. And yet, she seemed spent. Suddenly, she heard a deafening explosion which sent a jolt down the entire room….
“We’re losing her! Get the defibrillator now!” The entire operation theatre was suddenly in a frenzy, as the periodic pips from the monitor was replaced by a constant high pitched sound. “Clear!” The motionless girl, who was lying in the centre of the manic group of doctors on a convertible bed, gave a jolt. The oxygen mask and the wide varieties of pipes connected to her body, made her altogether unrecognizable.
“Blood pressure’s falling!”
“Clear!” Another jolt. There was no relief from the constant high pitched sound which vaguely resembled the static from a radio.