Crossroads

The late afternoon breeze is caressing the tips of the grasses grown all over our lawn. Nobody took care of it anymore. Earlier it was a nice garden with full of trees of different kind of fruits and plants of flowers like lily, marigold, rose, zinnia, carnation etc.. My favorite white lilies would spread its sweet and pleasant perfume every evening. Now it is only weeds and grass. The grasses are looking like gold streaks reflecting the sunlight. I always loved this time of the day. After a sultry hot afternoon it is such a bliss outside. When we were much younger we played in the playground opposite to our house at this hour everyday. We couldn’t wait for the sun to mellow down. We played till it was not dark enough to stop.

The playgrounds remain empty these days. No one plays anymore. The boundary walls around our house are in ruins and the remaining parts remind me of yellow decaying teeth of an old person. Dark green moss covered the most parts of the houses in our neighborhood. Trees and plants reclaimed their spaces on this side of the earth.

I am watching some flitting yellow and white butterflies above the wild-sage (Lantana Camara) bushes from our porch. Nani (grandmother) is sitting on her  chair nearby. We don’t speak much ever since the war got over, specially about the war. Many of the inhabitants left the town right after the war reached our town. Now it is very quiet here. I like this solitude very much. The chirping of different birds makes me feel intoxicated with tranquility. Human left, nature took over. But I miss my friends. I haven’t seen them for years.

I was about to sit down on the stairs when I heard some giggling and rattling of bicycles. Two girls about my age passed by our lawn and entered Khalet chacha’s plot. If not for the ruins of the walls no one can really tell these are properties of two different families who even followed different religions. That was same for this entire neighborhood. No one could ever tell who belongs to which religion if they didn’t know them personally.

I felt I knew one of the girls who is wearing a bottle green skirt. The other one is wearing a white frock with floral print. They both looked like foreigners with brunette hair. Even though they looked like nice girls I didn’t like them intruding. Sinister ideas crept up in my mind. After the war I discovered I have acquired the power to be invisible whenever I wanted to. I made up my mind and approached the girls slowly. I know if I am not careful they can hear my footsteps and see the trails on the grass.

Before I could cross the decrepit boundary walls they suddenly started running towards my direction playfully leaving their cycles behind. That made it easier for me. They can’t see me for sure. I just want to scare them and have some fun.

I grabbed some pebbles and started throwing at them one by one without hurting anyone. I was being careful about that. Both of them were startled and looked around. But they couldn’t see anyone, of course. As they turned back and started going back to their cycles I threw some more pebbles. They landed in front of  them. They turned towards me now and looked visibly alarmed.

The girl in green skirt who seemed familiar pointed towards me at the grass and said : “Hey look, something is there. Do you see the grass is flattened by some pressure there? How weird!” The girl in floral frock looked nervous and replied : “Let’s go back. Whatever it is, is not very friendly.”

I tried to stay very still. Even though they can’t see me they could still see the grass. That made me uncomfortable . The one with green skirt said again : “I can sense someone there.” And then shouted : “Who are you? Why are you throwing stones at us?”

I held my breath and tried not to move. This made me feel unsatisfied. They were supposed to feel scared and run away. What fun is there otherwise! I again tried to remember very hard where did see this girl before. Soon I realized they are going back to their cycles again. I thought that making some noise might frighten them. So I started jumping and running behind them. The grass has grown to knee length. So all the jumping and running created a lot of chaos. That did the work. The girl in floral frock started running dragging her friend along with her. It felt ecstatic. I ran after them feeling more enthusiastic.

The girls ran fast and reached Khelat chacha’s house which has only two walls of a L-shaped corridor left. Rest of the house had collapsed. Both the ends of the corridor were open. They entered from the nearest one. I followed them. Soon they reached the corner and turned left to the passage and ran faster towards the other end. I stopped at the middle to laugh to my heart’s content. It was so hilarious. These girls will never come back here for sure.

But was I wrong?! Suddenly I saw the girl in green skirt came running from the end we entered. Her right hand was stretched in front and before I could understand what was going on her hand touched mine. She grabbed my arm with both of her hands and won’t let me go. She started screaming : “I told you someone is here.” Her friend also came after. Now it was my turn to feel scared. I tried to free myself from her grip but in vain. She seemed very strong. Failing to do so I seized her throat. She seized mine. While we both were choking we looked at each other. I was no more invisible to her or her friend. The other girl stood there without taking any part in it.

As her beautiful white face turned pale some memories came rushing back to me. I remembered her now. She was lying next to me after 3 suicide bombers attacked the town’s book fair killing hundreds 10 years back. I even vaguely remembered being inside some book stall browsing some books beside her before the blast. Very few were lucky enough to survive that deadly explosion. I realized now we girls were not among those lucky ones.

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