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The Hollow’ed Call

by:Siddharth

I was aimlessly walking down a quite pleasant yet quiet road, about a kilometer away from my office to the car park to leave for home. There was almost no noise at all apart from the sound of people whispering onto their mobile phones while on-call or the sound of the odd vehicle that popped up every five minutes. In the midst of this relative silence, I could eavesdrop on the whisper of the man in front of me who was on a call on his mobile phone, and what he said shocked me. My brain and my ears had to reset themselves to even believe the words that man had uttered. 

I quietly scrambled to my car in the car park, as if I heard nothing at all, sat in, and calmly drove off to my house. On the way, I could still feel the echoes of that call and it truly sent shivers down my spine. I just wanted to reach home immediately and have a nap on my bed to just process this information, which I still could not because on the way home, I was nearly getting into crashes with almost every car on the road, almost using the car as a battering ram. With all this emotion, I somehow reach home and immediately pop into my bedroom and crash onto my bed (weird I did not crash on the road).

I tried sleeping for hours and hours by making my room as cold as possible, tightly wrapping myself into my thick rug. But I just could not fall asleep because my brain keeps harking back to the echoes of that phone call that I just heard. My mind was just playing that scene over and over and over again in my head as if it were like a nightmare but I still did not know how to react to it. But my body did now how to react because, with each passing second, my whole body started trembling, my heartbeat spiked to a level it previously had not and I also started palpitating a lot. The anxiety in me just started to spike up and after a point, I had, had enough of the situation and decided to just get up from bed and go into my hall. 

I sat on the couch in my hall with my legs stretched out on the table in front of me. I decided to play the moment in my head for one last time to end this misery within me because I knew I could not do anything to reverse whatsoever happened. 

The man on the phone whispers “Remember Robert from the debacle at Egypt…I couldn’t find him yesterday. But, I did find his wife and son at the address you gave me.” and the other side exclaimed, “So what did you…you even do?” To this, the man first looks around him to notice any suspicious people around him (does not notice Robert behind him) and then proceeds to whisper “So I….I killed them both instead and burnt their bodies to ash”. Meanwhile, the other side of the phone screams with excitement “Wow….that will make Robert lonely and hollow from within. This will finally make him come to us and apologize. Great work!!” and the call was cut. 

That man was right, I was lonely and hollow from within because my family was my everything to me and I just could not imagine a life without them. With no will to proceed and fight on, I just decided to call it quits and went back to sleep. That day felt like a nightmare but also like an opportunity to start a new life, one where I could live it out without any luxuries and comforts I did not need. It changed me as a person and my worldview towards everything. 

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Marie Skłodowska Curie: The woman that defied ‘normal’

By: Johann

Cancer awareness day is recognised every year on November 7 in honor of Marie Curie, who was born on the day. Her story will long be remembered, not only because of the countless breakthroughs on the scientific front but also for the role she played in breaking the stereotype of what a woman can do. Her contribution goes much further than what can be put in words, but in an attempt to pay my tributes, I will try my hardest.

To start her story, we must travel to Warsaw Poland, a time where the nation was in the throes of nationalism and affectation. It was a time of radical change and transitions. Poland was not an independent country and was partitioned by Austria, Russia, and Prussia. To a young Marie Curie, whose family came from the poorest sections of society, the nation seemed to be a prisoner in chains. As she grew, so did the nationalist movement. Like her parents, she was a patriot and held the same pro-polish sentiments, which were in part, responsible for the family’s financial woes.  At 24, she left for Paris, as the University of Warsaw did not accept women. Since women and academic work were frowned upon in Poland, she fell behind, due to which she went out in search of actual laboratory experience. As fate would have it, she met Pierre Curie. Together, they opened up the world of science and changed its face. In 1911, she received the Nobel prize in chemistry, becoming the first person to do so.

On the occasion of Cancer awareness day, her scientific work takes on an even greater significance. As knowledge on radioactivity grew, radiotherapy was introduced as a possible means to cure cancer and is used in nearly 40% of all successful cancer treatments today. In World war I, she famously donated her Nobel prizes to raise funds to diagnose soldiers. However, being unaware of the harmful effects of radiation on herself, often kept Radium in her pockets or in a desk drawer. In line with her life, even her death has standardised several safety procedures that continue to save lives. The next time you hear of a person being treated for cancer, your mind will return to the amazing woman who made it all possible.

In the societal sphere, she broke down barriers, both in Poland and around the world. Peers were forced to stand up and take notice of her work. The Polish government was made to rue the fact that none of her scientific accomplishments could be affiliated with them. Without being the torchbearer, Curie was like the smoke that rises before the fire. Without her contribution, it could well have set back women’s movements a couple of decades.

Perhaps what makes her so appealing and intriguing to the young scientist is the simple romanticism that surrounded her like a halo. Her work was often conducted in wooden sheds, under skylight roofs, with her soulmate. It is the very fabric of what an aspiring scientist’s dreams are made of. It is this level of Utopian fanaticism that carves a niche in the mind of everyone that knows her story. Even the fact that she named Polonium in honor of her homeland and her work with radioactive elements caused her lifelong health issues can’t help but stick in your mind. People can see themselves in the person that was bundled up in the freezing attic in Paris, skipping sleep and meals to study. There are real movie protagonist vibes that one cannot help but feel empowered by.

In her story, there is renowned hope and belief that the grind eventually does cut it. And long after she has parted ways with her mortal self, her legacy continues to live on and inspire. Marie Curie is everything a student who is starting out dreams to be. And for all her contributions to Physics and Chemistry, while she was alive, there is a sense of irony that she cannot witness how her grit and dedication are saving lives all around the world. Finally, and perhaps most importantly (if there wasn’t enough already), there will never be a number for the number of lives of women she has changed just by being that hard worker who never gave up.

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Puppet Strings

by:Janani

Content Warning: Attempted Suicide, Domestic abuse, Gore, Death of a child

Part 1:

It was a rather gloomy day. 

The sun was out, but almost entirely hidden within a nest of stormy grey clouds that was slowly spreading through the expanse of the dull sky. 

Only the faintest dredges of light peeked out, colored with an expected tint of bleakness. It wasn’t dark enough to be mistaken for nighttime, but it certainly couldn’t be perceived as the height of the afternoon, contrary to what the clocks said.

It was more like twilight. An odd time between day and night- where things could sometimes feel surreal. 

Although the sky made it seem as though it would rain at any moment, the staleness of the atmosphere said otherwise. The air was so dry that it felt as though the slightest spark would ignite it. Gusts of hot air swept through, ruffling branches, and displacing hundreds of autumn leaves. 

One such leaf drifted along, descending in a staggered motion, before gently landing on a tangled mess of blonde hair.

A woman walked along the broad path leading to the public park. With one arm, she pushed a stroller, and with the other, fixed her tousled blonde hairdo, carelessly brushing away that single leaf.

To be honest, calling her hair blonde was an exaggeration. Once her hair might have been called golden yellow in its sheen, but now it seems to have lost all its luster, just a few shades away from gray. 

Like her lifeless hair, her countenance was wan and pale. Her cheeks were gaunt- not starved, but certainly unhealthy.  

She had all the makings of a beautiful woman but lacked the expected appearance. 

The frailty of her very being seemed unnatural and all too sudden. It wasn’t a slow withering, but one that had clearly struck fast.

A few other women idled in the park, similarly accompanied by strollers and fussing toddlers, despite it being a dismal day. The needs of the children didn’t make an exception even for bad weather it seemed. The kids ran around the grassy fields, climbed up the slides, or were roughhoused in the sandpits. 

The women had all gathered together on the benches, chatting away, but keeping a watchful eye. 

Until the blonde woman strode in, the park had actually been quite lively. 

But the moment that distinct, washed-out figure walked in, pushing the rusting pink stroller, an atmosphere of gloom settled among them. 

The children continued playing, unperturbed, and so blissfully unaware, but their mothers were almost silent- warily watching the blonde woman.

Aside from the shrieks and laughter of kids, it was too quiet- that was- until the hushed whispers started. 

Looks of pity, glances of contempt, gazes of disgust.

The blonde woman kept walking, as though she could not see nor hear any of it. 

They avoided her, knowing better from past experience- and she- ignored them in turn.

 It was a rule that they implicitly followed.

Stay away from Barbara

All of them adhered to this, without question- until today. 

Linda was the shiny-eyed, nosy brunette that had just moved into lot No.2 in the neighborhood a few days ago. 

She was young, attractive, and nothing but an eyesore to most of the housewives that lived along Piccadilly Street. When she had appeared, there was an almost unsaid agreement to cast her out, before she even had a chance to join.

 It wasn’t Linda’s fault really- she hadn’t done anything drastic or flamboyant to earn this sort of ire from her fellow neighbours. 

Anywhere else, Linda surely would have been well-liked and popular, certain to be invited to all the potlucks and dinner parties. 

But this particular neighbourhood was overly wary and had formed an inner circle that practically no one could breach. Not even starry-eyed Linda.

They had instantly deemed her as “no good”, “untrustworthy”, and “sneaky”.

So Linda had spent a few unfortunately lonely days right after moving into Piccadilly Street. 

As a normally extroverted and social person, she wasn’t sure how much longer she’d be able to tolerate isolation like this.

When she saw the lone blonde woman, pushing her stroller through- she ran to go and greet her, hoping to make at least one friend.

And since she was isolated from the start, she would obviously be unaware of the rule to stay away from Barbara. 

Linda grabbed her son- a pasty 6-year-old boy on the heavier side- and dragged him with her.

She approached the stroller, a bright smile already on her face, but a slight hint of desperation in her eyes.

Her tone was enthusiastic- almost exaggeratedly so, as she loudly announced; “Hi there! I just moved in! I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting y’all yet!”.

She thrust forth her son and moved his limp arm in a waving fashion. 

“This here is Robbie! Say hello!”

Robbie reluctantly mumbled something that could just barely pass as a “Hello”, but it was enough to satisfy Linda.

“And I’m Linda! Now who’s this?”, she chuckled, peering into the stroller, without even waiting for the blonde woman to respond.

In an instant, her face paled. 

 Every drop of blood drained away and left no color in her horrified expression. Her mouth gaped open, moving up and down like a dying fish gasping for air. But there was no sound coming from her, for no words could describe the shock she felt at that moment.

In the stroller, was what seemed to be the figure of a child, at first glance. It was small and dressed in young girl’s clothing. 

The thing inside the stroller had clearly once been a life-like doll. It had porcelain-looking limbs, and glassy eyes- no-eye.

Half of the doll’s face was burnt beyond repair. Part of its head had caved in, and the glass eye melted- the colour within fused to the ruined “skin”, turning it a sickly blue. 

The rest of the melted material dripped down the ruined side of the face, and while cooling down, made gruesome streaks of skin coloured ridges all along the “cheeks” of the doll. The blonde hair on its head was partially burnt, and unbearably filthy, matted with all sorts of dirt and dust.

The limbs were in far better condition but it was still ghastly to look at. There were crude, black stitches running along the entire length of the left arm and legs, and around the circumference of the right. The limbs were all splayed oddly, as though they had been torn apart, and then hastily stitched back together.

Now that Linda had realized that the thing inside was a doll and not a real child, she calmed down considerably.  The lifelike resemblance it had was terrifying, but in the end; it was just a doll.

But there was still a trace of horror in her face, as she wondered why anyone would keep a half-burnt doll in place of a child in the stroller.

Just when it seemed as though her strangled cries of shock and disgust would crawl out of her throat, another woman that had been watching this exchange, yanked her back. She shot a warning look at Linda, and faced Barbara, with a nod.

“It’s nice to see you out, Barbara. I’m sure Annie…”, she hesitates, dropping her eyes to the stroller, before continuing with a forced grin. 

“I’m sure Annie enjoys these walks in the park”

Barbara didn’t react for a moment, as though she was in a daze and hadn’t heard anything. Then she smiled gently in acknowledgment and walked away.

When Barbara was well out of earshot, the other woman gathered around the still stunned Linda. 

“Get a grip”, hissed one woman. “That’s why you don’t poke your nose around here like some snoop.”

She was a tall, rather broad woman, with a face that looked permanently stern. A scowl hung on her thin lips, as she looked disapprovingly at Linda.

“W-What was that?”

An older, gentle-looking lady with greying hair looked at her with pity. She was one of the few wives that opposed the decision to ignore Linda, but unfortunately, she also wasn’t the type to go against the voice of the majority.

“You’ve only just moved here, so you don’t know what happened at No.9 a few months back. “

“No. 9? That big old house at the end of the street?”

Piccadilly Street had 17 houses. The street was shaped like a severely compressed semi-circle. There were 8 houses on the arms of the semi-circle, and one house in the center- Lot No.9.

It was considered quite a well-to-do neighbourhood, with most of its residents belonging to the upper-middle class. The houses were large and luxurious, but the best of them all was No.9. 

“The family that lives there- the Averys….”, the older woman paused, unsure how to continue.

The stern-looking woman finished for her.

“Their only child recently died in an accident.”

Linda gasped, her eyes growing wide. 

“How awful! What kind of accident?”

“We don’t know. They wouldn’t say.”

“But get this- the funeral was closed casket! Whatever it was, it wasn’t pretty-”

“An accident? I say bullshit. We all know it was murder. The kind of business Roger Avery is in- it’s impossible for him not to have any enemies”

“Hush now, Martha-”, scolded the older woman. 

“You know what I’m saying is true. We’ve all seen the kind of unsavoury characters going and coming from that house”, spat Martha. “It was only a matter of time before something happened. I’ve been saying from the start that the Averys were no good, and now, look what happened-

“Enough Martha”, the older woman snapped. 

Martha glared, but she didn’t say anymore. The rest of the wives shuffled uncomfortably, waiting for the older woman to continue.

“Ever since then, Barbara….she’s lost her mind. That doll you saw in the stroller, it belonged to her daughter, you see.”

“Oh!”, blinked Linda. “But then why…..”

“She keeps insisting Annie’s spirit is in the doll, and treats it like her daughter. Mad, I tell you. I’m surprised her husband hasn’t just thrown her into some looney bin yet.”

“I hear Roger actually goes along with her! My husband told me how he treats that doll like Annie, and not just to appease his crazy wife.”

“Now now. We shouldn’t be so harsh on them. The kind of loss they’ve faced….it’s unimaginable.”

The older woman faced Linda, with a solemn expression.

“That’s why it’s best that we just stay away. Whatever happened in that house- it’s none of our business. Understand?”

Linda nodded solemnly, She did understand. 

She was never going to make any friends here, was she?


Part 2:

The day that Annie died, Barbara felt her entire world crumbling down. Her grief was unimaginable, and she cried inconsolably.

Her darling daughter, her only child after 15 years of marriage- dead in her crib. 

At first, they had no clue who had done it and how it happened. Who would want to hurt such a precious young child?

But the most horrifying thing was the state of her corpse when they found her.

Strangled with a thin string that cut through her throat, half decapitating her. 

Later, the investigators found the man that was responsible. A former employee of Roger

bitter about being fired, and decided to take revenge. Not even the death penalty would be enough to appease the anger Barbara felt. But the man was only sentenced to 20 years in jail. He had denied the claims to the very end- despite being the only possible suspect. They even found thousands of dollars of cash and jewelry on him, stolen from Roger’s safe.

 A thief and a murderer.

In the end, he had died in his cell within 2 weeks, stabbed viciously in the neck about a dozen times. Hurting children was considered the lowest crime, even among those in prison. 

Yet she still felt hollow and unappeased when she thought of that horrific day. 

It was the nanny that had discovered her daughter’s body first. She had fainted on the spot.

Not only was the crib drenched with blood, it had also splattered onto the pink wallpaper behind. There were dozens of stuffed toys in the crib that were dyed crimson. Including one large, beautiful doll.

It was a family heirloom that had belonged to Barbara’s grandmother. It was the size of a 4 year old child- almost the same size as Annie- and it resembled her in every way. The doll wasn’t so lifelike at first, but as a birthday gift to Annie, Roger had commissioned a doll-maker to remodel it in their daughter’s likeness. It was originally a puppet, but later they decided to simply tuck away the strings and turn it into a proper doll.

It was her favorite toy, and she carried it everywhere. Sometimes, they would joke that they had two daughters- Annie and her doll.

That doll was covered in Annie’s blood.

Barbara could no longer look at that doll, or enter the nursery, without feeling an incredible sense of loss and depression.

Annie’s room was cleaned, and then preserved perfectly- as though she was still alive, and nothing was wrong.The only difference was that the doll was kept on a shelf, instead of Annie’s crib.

And that was where all of their problems started. Or, their greatest blessing.

Sometimes they weren’t sure which.


Roger blamed her for their daughter’s death.

He didn’t say it, but Barbara could feel it in his gaze, in his every move. 

Why weren’t you watching Annie? How could you let a strange man break into the house? Where were you when our daughter’s neck was being mangled?

Barbara blamed herself too. When their daughter was being murdered, where was she?

Having tea at the neighbour’s house and bragging about a new diamond necklace Roger bought for her.

By the time she got back, her daughter’s body was already cold, and eyes lifeless. 

Never again would she see her smile, hear her call for “Mommy”, or watch her grow older.

She was gone.

There were times when Barbara considered going to the other side with her daughter. It would be a simple task- but when it actually came to it, she found her resolve wavering.

That didn’t stop her from attempting though.

One such time, when she felt especially despaired, she went into that nursery room that she had feared and avoided for weeks. It was the place that her daughter had died. And it would be the place where she died as well. 

Somehow that thought comforted her. It made her feel as though she would be closer to her daughter- at least in death.

A long white cloth was bundled in her trembling arms, and she slowly began to tie it into a noose.

She shook uncontrollably, her expression on the verge of tears- but none fell. 

Perhaps she simply had none left to shed.

Just when she prepared to put her head through that loop- she spotted something on the crib.

The crib that had always been empty after her daughter’s death.

And yet- a dreamlike vision was there. A scene that she had imagined countless times, only to wake up to disappointment and even more sorrow.

It was Annie. 

Sitting in her crib, and staring at her. Looking at the noose in her hands, as though she knew what her mother was about to do.

Barbara dropped the noose, and blinked, wondering if she had already died and reunited with her daughter. Her vision cleared, and she looked once more. 

It wasn’t Annie.

It was the doll. The damn doll that looked so much like her daughter that Barbara couldn’t bear to look at it. The doll that was covered in her daughter’s blood.

The doll…. that she was sure she had kept on the highest shelf of the nursery, as far away from the crib as possible.

And yet it was there, sitting in that crib. 

Barbara began to think of something- so ludicrous, so far-fetched, so foolish that anyone who heard her would deem her insane.

Even the normal Barbara would never even consider such a preposterous possibility.

This wasn’t the normal Barbara though.

This was a woman driven almost half mad from grief. 

And like a dying flower that had gained a few drops of water, the feeling that she once believed died in her heart bloomed once more.

Hope. 

It was a wonderful thing, but it could also be the gateway to insanity

To hope and hope, until you can no longer hear the truth. No longer face the truth- and be wrapped in your own lies. When you can no longer tell what’s real, and what was merely a fantasy. 

The smallest bit of hope had entered her heart, invading her soul, until she was filled with dark delusion.

Barbara walked to the crib, a soft smile forming- not unlike the loving ones she had given her daughter.

She picked up the doll, and cradled it gently.

“Annie…… I knew you wouldn’t leave mommy.”


Part 3:

Roger Avery knew it wasn’t his wife’s fault that their daughter died.

He knew that better than anyone. 

Even after he had a family, he chose to stay in his line of business. 

The man that had killed his daughter held a grudge against him. Roger had ruined his life and family, so he decided to return the same. 

He was the one that had created the monster that would go on to kill his daughter. Made him lose his job, his home, all his money- and eventually his family. 

His daughter was dead because of him. 

But he just couldn’t accept that fact. 

He chose to blame Barbara because he couldn’t handle the guilt- take the culpability of being responsible for such a horrible thing.

It was almost funny. 

He had done innumerous wretched things throughout his life, that he had never felt remorse or guilt for. 

But this? 

This he couldn’t take. 

So like the coward he never thought he was, he turned all the blame onto his wife.

But even doing that had him wallowing in a stinking bog of guilt- that he could never wash away.

He dreaded breakfast with his wife every morning. 

Sitting at that table, where one spot was so painfully empty, with Barbara no longer looking him in the eye.

No longer humming in the kitchen as she cooked, no longer kissing him on the cheek when she served his eggs-fried- just the way he liked it.

But one morning, he heard humming. The radio was on, and he could smell fried eggs.

His heart pounded, and he rushed to the dining room, wondering if this had all been some sick nightmare that he was finally waking from- or a dream that he could live in forever.

Either way, he would be fine. He would be fine, as long as he could go back to those days when everything was perfect.

He opened the door, to see Barbara looking more lively than she had in weeks, and standing at the stove, flipping a large omelette.

She glanced at him entering, and smiled widely- a smile that he had almost forgotten about.

His eyes drifted to the table, where he could see a tuft of blond hair from the side of one of the chairs.

His heart soared, and he rushed inside, to gain a full view of the scene.

Could it be? Could it really be??

In an instant, his hopes came crashing down.

It was a doll. Sitting in the place of their daughter. 

A doll. That had made him believe everything that had happened was nothing more than a horrible nightmare.

A doll. That had a full plate of food in front of it. 

All while his wife was going on as though there was nothing unusual about it.

Something in him snapped, and he roared; ”BARBARA! What the hell do you think you’re playing at??”

He swept the dishes off the table, and tried to hurl a chair at the wall, to somehow unleash the anger he was feeling. 

The fury coursing through him was palpable and his veins throbbed with that rage.

In a matter of a minute he had gone from the height of bliss, back to an abyss of agony.

The dishes clattered on the ground, the porcelain plates shattering while all the food on them was now nothing but waste.

Barbara flinched, blankly looking at the mess her husband had just made for a few seconds. 

The eggs continued frying on the stove, making sizzling noises that were drowned out from the sounds of porcelain shattering.

 Then, a sense of indignation overwhelmed her.

“What am I playing at??? You just broke 10 of my best dishes! What the hell are you so mad about?? Are you drunk??”, she screamed back, matching his volume.

“AM I DRUNK? I SHOULD BE ASKING IF YOU’RE DRUNK! WHY IS THAT THING THERE?”

“WHAT THING??”

“THAT THING!”,  he shouted, aggressively pointing at the doll.

“YOU MEAN YOUR DAUGHTER! ? ANNIE! NOW STOP YELLING IN FRONT OF HER!”

Roger prepared to bellow back, but those words made him pause.

“Annie?? What in the world are you talking about? Annie’s dead!”

Barbara gasped, cupping her mouth in outrage. She took a step back, and almost stumbled as she raised an accusing finger.

“Don’t you dare say something like that! How dare you?”

Roger’s anger slowly morphed into confusion, as his eyes followed the place where Barbara’s finger was pointing.

“She’s right there! She’s right there! She’s sitting right there! Our daughter! Your daughter! How can you say something like that?”

He froze, seeing his wife’s enraged glare, while streams of tears flowed down. She was holding the doll.  Realization began to dawn upon him, and his dread magnified. 

“She’s not dead Roger, she’s right here.”, she weakly cried, clutching the doll closer to her heart, unable to part from it.

Roger defeatedly slumped down onto the chair he had just tried to fling into the wall. His anger had completely vanished, only to be replaced by an even greater despair.

He didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry- so he just did both, and it came out as a deranged sob.

He thought he had already experienced the worst when his daughter died.

Now his wife had gone mad as well.


After that fight, Barbara pointedly ignored him for the next few days. 

That was for the better, because seeing her treat that doll like their daughter sickened him greatly, but there was nothing he felt like he could say.

Maybe it was the guilt speaking- the guilt that whispered in him, that it was his fault his wife had been driven to insanity.

He decided that if keeping that doll around her made his wife happy he’d just let her be. Ignore her, as long as she doesn’t try to involve him in that ridiculous business.

But very quickly, he took back those thoughts.

He had a particularly infuriating day at work. A bottle of alcohol swayed in his trembling arms as he stumbled home. 

His mood was terrible and his anger was on the verge of ignition. 

When he came home- seeing his wife play house with that doll- it was the last straw. 

How dare Barbara look so happy? When he was perpetually upset?

Before, at least they were both miserable but now it was just him. Haunted by his failure while his wife had already moved on.

He couldn’t tolerate it. He hated it. And he was going to change it.

Roger Avery had never been a good person after all. 

Barbara was carefully tucking the doll into a crib, mussing its hair and murmuring soothing words. Her face was serene, and a smile hung on her lips.

The sight was slightly nostalgic but it infuriated him to no end.

He slammed the nursery door with his fist, to let her know he was home. 

She jumped in surprise, hissing for him to keep quiet, and gestured for him to wait outside.

Wait outside? In his own home? 

He barged in and yanked the doll out of its crib. 

“ROGER!” 

She desperately scrabbled for the doll, but he held it out of her reach. In frustration she beat his chest and raked her nails across his face. 

He roared in pain and kicked her to the side.

She went flying and crashed onto the crib, whimpering pain as she huddled into herself.

Now that Barbara was out of his way, he looked at the doll in his hands and muttered unintelligible curses.

“Stupid doll….stupid b*tch…crazy….” 

He grabbed a porcelain coloured limb and pulled. With a horrific tearing noise, one arm came flying off. 

The anguished scream of his wife fell on deaf ears, as only his own vented pleasure coursed through him. 

Like a switch had been flipped, he methodically tore off the other limbs, and then proceeded to throw the doll on the ground and bash it with his foot.

At some point, Barbara had crawled to him and was holding onto his leg, begging him to stop. She tried to shield the doll, but he pushed her away, grabbed the limbless monstrosity and marched out of the room.

His eyes wandered around the house, as he tried to figure out what he should do next, until his gaze landed on the fireplace burning dimly in the living room.

Barbara had run out of the nursery following him, and she also noticed where his line of sight was focused.

Her heart dropped.

“Roger no… Roger- Roger please….it’s Annie! Your daughter- please-“

A low, wretched laugh escaped his lips. 

“Wake up Barbara. Our daughter is dead.“

And with that, he threw the doll in the fireplace.



Part 4:

By the time he sobered up, he found himself in their guest bedroom. Clothes sprawled haphazardly, and a few empty bottles of wine on the side.  A dim light shone through 

A splitting headache assaulted him, as memories of the evening played in his mind. He had the conscience to feel a sense of shame and guilt, but an ego that would prevent him from ever admitting it. 

He stumbled into the living room, unbearably thirsty. 

Barbara was nowhere to be seen- probably holed up in their bedroom, still upset about their spat.

He would make it up to her later anyway. Maybe some new jewelry, or taking her to the countryside for a few days.

As he poured himself a glass of water, he couldn’t help but notice how quiet and dark it was. 

Then he realized it was because the fireplace was out- and with it, that comforting crackling and warm glow missing.

He decided he didn’t feel like sleeping anyway, so he made his way to the dark hearth, and grabbed the lighter sticks.

He leaned in to light the fireplace, but there was a dark figure lying inside it. Startled, he leapt back.

As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he realized it was the doll he had torn apart. Covered in soot, and melted into some limbless monstrosity.

He wanted to heave a sigh of relief seeing that it was just a doll, but something about it made him uneasy.

The longer he stared at the melted face- no matter how damaged it was- the more troubled he felt.

It really did resemble Annie. It really really did.

To the extent that he couldn’t bear seeing the doll like that- as though it was actually his daughter.

Suddenly, he started to understand why Barbara went mad.

Without knowing what he was doing, he gingerly extended his hand onto the damaged doll, and picked it up.

He held it close to his heart- like how he had held Annie.

And in that moment- he thought he heard a voice he’d never hear again.

A word he’d never hear again. From someone who he thought was lost forever.

“Papa…….”

That same dark hope had entered his heart, invading his soul.

He cradled the doll close to his heart, and cried; “Annie…. Papa is sorry”


Epilogue

A black and white tape plays on a tiny screen placed on the dashboard of a yellow cadillac. Inside the car, are two men. One of them is smoking a cigar, while the other shuffled nervously in his seat, fiddling with the tapes. 

“Hurry it up will ya?”, called out the gruff looking man. “Pastor Green gave us 2 hours, and here you are, taking all day.”

The anxious young man nodded, fast forwarding the tape, until he stopped abruptly, with a click. He heaves a sigh of relief, leaning into his seat after he checked the date on the corner.

 “June 12th. That’s the day.”

The footage flickers and blurs, before focusing on the scene that it captured. It was in a nursery. Within a crib, was a 3 year old child- dressed in fine clothing, and sporting wonderfully curly hair. 

Next to the child was an assortment of toys- from stuffed bears, to toy locomotives.

However, the one that stood out the most, was a beautiful, life-like doll, made in the image of the child. There were also strings hanging from its back,but safely gathered and tucked into its dress- so as to not get tangled.

“Is that a puppet or a doll?”

“Shut yer mouth. Just watch closely- this is important evidence.”

The child seemed to have noticed the bundle of strings extending from the back of her toy, and curiously tugged at it. In her childish carelessness, a few of the strings snapped, and broke free.

The child continued tugging, but seeing that no more of the strings were coming undone, she lost interest and turned away, opting to play with some other toys.

As the child’s back was turned away from the doll- it moved. It was slight- barely noticeable, but it moved. As though it were just getting used to its own motility, the arms of the doll shook slightly. The unraveled strings on its back slowly raised up and it moved momentarily.

“Did you see that?? It’s- it’s moving-”

“I did. Looks like it’s exactly what Pastor Green suspected.”

Before the young man could say anything more, there was a strangled cry from the screen.

The doll lunged at the child, and wrapped the string around its throat. Within minutes, Annie’s face turned from red, to blue then purple. The string was sharp, and started to cut clean through her throat.

Annie died choking, and drowning in her blood. 

A few seconds later, the doll went back to its original position,as though nothing had happened.

A disheveled man walked in- the one that had been charged for the murder of Annie. He was carrying a bag filled with jewelry, and noticed Annie lying motionless in the crib, covered in blood.

He screamed, and his screaming brought the maid running in. 

The young man paled, seeing that gruesome scene. He started to open the car door, before the gruff man yanked him back by the collar.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Telling that couple inside! Those two- they think that doll’s their daughter! That some man killed their daughter- when it’s that thing inside-”

The young man looked like he was going to be sick. 

“They’re treating that thing that killed their child as their own. It made them think it’s their child-oh god-”, he gagged and heaved, while the other man rolled his eyes, not even bothering to recoil in disgust.

“There’s no way in hell I’m gonna let ya do that.”

The young man looked like he had been slapped across the face.

“Why??? We have to tell them- They can’t go on like this-”

“We don’t hafta do anything. Listen here, and you listen well. The sort of malevolent spirit that’s haunting that doll- it’s not something you wanna to mess with. It’s the clever type you see- and trust me- there’s nothing more terrible to deal with than a spirit that knows exactly how to ruin you.”

“B-but-”

The older man made a shhhh sound, and continued. 

“That thing got an innocent man convicted for murder. That thing convinced Roger and Barbara Avery that it’s their daughter- an’ for whatever reason- it’s perfectly satisfied playing house. It’s contained.”

He looked towards the house, glancing through the window to see Barbara rocking the doll in her arms, and he sighed.

“The Avery’s are happy. If we go and tell them what that thing actually is- it’ll ruin them even more. Everyone wins- if we let this go. The Avery’s think their daughter is with them, the doll won’t be haunting anyone else for a while, and us? We get ta avoid being hunted and tortured by that thing, as long as we simply leave it be.”

“But- it’s still not right.. Our job is to get rid of it… And Pastor Green-”

“You- You got married recently right? I heard yer wife’s expecting.”, the older man asked. The younger man nodded, not sure where he was going with this sudden subject change.

“How would you like it if we try to go an’ exorcise that thing, only for it to fail, and it gets mad? And when it comes for revenge do ya know what it would do?”

He shook his head.

“It would burrow it’s way into yer wife’s womb, kill yer unborn child, and take its place. Is that what you want to happen? To put yer family at risk?”

Seeing how clammy and frightened the young man looked now, the older man let out a sympathetic chuckle.

“I’ve been in this business fer a long time- and there are some times when we just shouldn’t interfere. Ya hear me?”

Finally, the young man nodded in agreement.

“Good. Now, we need to tell Pastor Green that nothing’s amiss okay? That it’s just a regular murder case. You know what to do right?”

Slowly, the younger man raised a trembling hand towards the screen, where the half-decapitated image of Annie’s head lingered, while the doll crawled around the crib, playing with the corpse. 

He paused the footage, and took out the tape, to crush with his bare hands. 

“Atta boy. Now let’s go.”

As they drove away, he chucked the fragments of the tape into a lake they passed up, watching as those pieces sank into the murky depths.

No one would ever know.

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SHER LOCKED

by:Akhil

A man, widely known for his extraordinary prowess in the field of forensic science and logical reasoning, and also known to be quite arrogant and selfless, is none other than one of the greatest detectives in the world. Mr. Sherlock Holmes. It breaks my heart to inform you that he is a fictional character. But as I delved into the world of the detective, I found that he was not actually a character from a book, but present to us in the form of the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who created Mr. Holmes. It is with great ingenuity that this man invented such a masterpiece, and the world will always be grateful to him for this creation.

Mr. Holmes made his first appearance in the novel, A Study in Scarlet, in 1887. He became particularly popular when a series of short stories, including A Scandal in Bohemia, was released in The Strand Magazine in 1891. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle went on to write an entirety of four novels and 56 short stories on Sherlock and his adventures.

Although Sherlock is a man of great mind and skill, his efforts in solving cases would have been shortcoming without the help and support of his close companion, Dr.John H.Watson. Dr.Watson was an assistant surgeon in the British army before he was sent back to England, where he met Sherlock. They had agreed to share lodgings with each other due to financial issues. His intrigue towards the cases that Holmes worked on lead him to many adventures with Holmes and formed a close bond between the two.

It’s not known to many, but Sherlock Holmes was formerly killed off in a battle against his archnemesis, Professor James Moriarty, in “The Final Problem” in 1893. After much protest and pressure from the public, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was forced to resurrect his famous protagonist in another story in 1903. Sherlock Holmes went on to dominate the scene of literature until 1927. From then on, there have been various adaptations of the detective in theatre, television, cinema, books, and even games. The most famous of these was the television series, Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch playing the lead as the detective, and the movie series, Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr. starring as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson.

Sherlock Holmes has continued to captivate readers generation after generation, and I believe that he will not stop doing so. I sign off by quoting Dr.John H.Watson, “My god Holmes!! You never do cease to amaze me!”. If you haven’t read any books on Sherlock, I suggest that you take a crack at one and I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

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The Thrilling Touchdown

by:Aasika

On the bustling dawn of June 24, 1982, the magnificent British airways flight 9 bearing 247 lives set off for its long journey piercing through several time zones from Heathrow, London to Auckland, New Zealand. Akin any other day, as the flight picked its customary route devoid of menace to Auckland, it was expected to perform halts at Bombay, Madras, Kuala Lumpur, Perth, Melbourne to unload and load passengers before finally arriving in Auckland.

Moments after the plane landed in Kuala Lumpur, the aircraft fuelers barged into the runway and emptied 100 tons of fuel into its tank and the weary flight crew was relieved by the consummate captain Eric Moody, the avid first officer Roger Greaves, and a new cabin crew before it took off again to resume to Auckland. The passengers were experiencing a smooth flight and relishing the cozy inflight services. After ensuring that the midnight sky is lucid and the weather conditions are pleasant, Eric showed himself out of the cockpit to spend a penny.

The captain’s run to the comfort room was intruded on when the first officer called him out. Sensing the seriousness in Roger’s tone, Eric strode towards the cockpit. On his way back, the first red flag arose. Eric espied patterns of fumes escaping the ventilation duct. Given that the crew members were permitted to smoke in the plane until the late 1980s, the captain initially disregarded the smoke. Seconds later, the intensity of the smoke made it challenging for the captain to ignore it like a cigar corollary. The pilot slid the cockpit door open, still perplexed from trying to discover the source of the smoke.

As Eric entered the cockpit, he was hustled out of his thoughts as he witnessed the concerned first officer’s fixated look on the windshield of the plane which was now being ambushed by flashes of light. The captain calmed the perturbed first officer by explaining that the flashes are a resultant of the “Elmo’s fire” phenomenon which is caused by the thunder clouds producing static electricity and dismisses the arisen second red flag as well. When the metal surface of an aircraft comes in contact with the static electricity created by the thunder clouds, Elmo’s fire phenomenon occurs.

The pilots then cautiously checked the radar in anticipation of spotting the thunder cloud liable for this but to their astonishment, no such cloud was found anywhere around the airplane’s vicinity. This added up to the captain’s perplexity as now he hasn’t the faintest notion of what causes the light flashes. After exchanging glances of bafflement and letting out sighs of exasperation, the duo took a beat to process whatever had happened till now but certainly, they were not mentally prepared to process the series of events that’s about to transpire in the next few minutes.

The plane was approaching Jakarta and it was 8:40 PM in Jakarta now, and the amount of smoke entering the cabin was swiftly increasing. This issue started to create fret and panic among the passengers. The temperature in the cabin began augmenting exponentially and the people in the plane started sweating profusely and experienced breathing discomforts. Furthermore, the passengers seated beside the window witnessed weird sparks in the wings. All of this happened in a span of two minutes only and put the cabin in complete chaos and the attendants attempted their best to comfort the passengers.

At 8:42 PM, the captain received an alert call from the first engineer officer who stated that the plane’s fourth engine was on fire and instructed to shut it down immediately. Only now did the captain fathom the predicament their flight is in. It was 8:43 PM and the captain received another warning call stating that their second engine had failed as well. Taken aback by the instantaneous turn of events, before he could even have a moment to loosen up and clear his head, he received a couple more warning calls stating that the airplane’s first and third engine had failed as well.

Several thousand feet above the ground, the flight was now levitating with no functioning engines, or, the flight was now gradually falling. The first officer quickly garnered the facts, did the math, and eventually concluded that the plane can fly for another 23 minutes and that it is capable of covering only 168 kilometers more and the pilots hoped to find an airport to land in that range. The Jakarta airport happened to be the closest.

The captain contacted the Jakarta airport immediately and explained the criticality of their situation. The air traffic controllers meticulously listened and also enlightened him that currently, they were hovering over the Java Island area which is comprised of a multitude of mountains, and insinuated that they fly at least 11,500 ft above sea level to prevent collisions and reach the airport. Haplessly, the current rate of descent which the plane is undergoing makes it improbable to fly the plane at the required altitude and make the cut.  

The pilots looked around in hopes to sight an acreage to safely land the plane and the Indian Ocean turns out to be their only option. The pilots geared up to perform the intentional water touchdown right after the captain performed one more futile attempt to restart their engines. Even though the captain’s landing announcement rendered momentary solace for the passengers, their apprehension returned when they saw the flight’s engines on fire through the windows.

Individual apprehension transformed into mass hysteria in the cabin and the passengers were having a hard time pulling themselves together. Families snuggled together, the parents protectively embraced their children, youngsters supportively held the arms of their paramours, the elderly faithfully chanted prayers and the others in utter despair started writing for their loved ones.

Just when the passengers were dwelling in the presumption that their circumstance couldn’t deteriorate any further, the cabin started depressurizing and the lights in the cabin started flickering. Next, the oxygen level in the cabin instantly dropped and commenced another commotion as the passengers jostled to grab themselves an oxygen mask. However, the depressurization formed in the cabin was so high that not even the masks could avail the asphyxiation experienced by the members in the plane.

Acknowledging the jeopardy caused by the depressurization, the captain performs a nosedive by motioning the plane perpendicularly down and descends to an altitude of 13,500 ft now. Only now did the oxygen level in the cabin normalize and the passengers in the plane were able to breathe properly. Around 8:56 PM, the captain made one last attempt to start the fourth engine and to his surprise, the fourth engine started and miraculously so did the other three engines.

The captain’s ecstasy at that moment was inexplicable. At the current low-end altitude at which the plane was flying, the mountains were still a peril. So, the captain deftly lifted the plane to a decent sea level to elude the mountains. Minutes after the lift, Elmo’s fire phenomenon recurred and the second engine failed again. Not desiring the other obnoxious series of events to repeat and before the other three engines could fail, he steered back the plane to a lower altitude of 12,000 ft. 

After tackling several other hindrances, the flight finally approached the Jakarta airport. The fact that Elmo’s fire obfuscated the windshield and the landing wheels weren’t functioning perfectly didn’t make their landing any easier but the pilot succeeded in making a not-so-smooth yet safe touchdown. Thrilled by the successful landing the crew members let out sighs of relief and giggles of happiness and the passengers safely exited the plane with no major injuries.

Later, the investigators came up with plausible theories to explain the weird behavior of the aircraft. The airplane happened to have flown right over the Mount Galuggung Volcano. The ashes from this Volcano had formed a cloud at that particular altitude in the atmosphere where the plane was flying. Since the ashes were dry, the layer was invisible on the radar and the pilots were ignorant of the existent threat. The ashes of this Volcano, when it encompassed the aircraft, was liable for all the factors from Elmo’s fire to the engine failures. 

This route to Auckland was shut down for a while after this incident. A couple of days later, after a Singapore airlines flight encountered the same issue while flying over java island, this route has been permanently banned and an alternative has been provided for the pilots to fly.

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Bound By Darkness

by:Joshua

T’was the eve of Halloween, the sky was covered with clouds, blocking out the crescent moon. The trees had shed all their leaves, standing bare against the cold wind. The yellow streetlights had cast their gaze around the silent street, leaving the shadows of the autumn trees to look like hands emerging from the depths of hades, waiting for an opportunity to drag you with them. The clouds began to rumble and the wind wailed like a banshee. At that moment, the sky split as lightning tore across it. Devilish thunder accompanied the lightning just seconds later. 

Damien who was asleep in his bed, jerked awake as the thunder rumbled in the night sky. His heart, pounding so hard he could feel the pulse in his throat. He sat upright in a cold sweat and reached for the bottle on his nightstand. As he quenched his thirst, his phone began vibrating viciously. It was his girlfriend Anna calling him. They had been dating for a while now but had known each other since they were children. As the light from the phone hit his eyes, he squinted. The darkness had not yet left his eyes. He picked up the phone and her soothing voice calmed him down instantaneously. She asked him if he had left home yet. They had planned to roam around together on Halloween eve, as it would be one of the few chances they would get to spend together before they left for college in the summer. He replied with his rough but gentle voice, “Sorry, I fell asleep. I’ll be there to pick you up in 10 minutes”. He told her he loved her and got up to get dressed. 

He placed his feet onto the cold floor and stood up. The wood underneath creaked eerily. The rains had turned the entire house into a creaking wonderland and the sound always made him uncomfortable. Switching on the lamp by the corner, he stood in front of the dusky framed mirror and fixed his dark brown hair. His purple eyes gleamed through the dull light the lamp gave off. He put on a pair of torn jeans and wore the T-shirt that Anna had given him for his birthday. Leaving the room, he pulled his leather jacket off the back of the door and snuck out of the creaking house, and made his way towards Anna’s house. She lived few blocks away, in a small and dingy-looking house. It was just her and her dad. 

Damien walked to her front door and before he could knock, she had opened the door and flung herself into his arms. The cold weather made his warmth more prominent and comfortable. He was happy to see her. He looked into her blue-ish green eyes and saw her soul. Her golden-brown hair fell back as she looked up to see his face, revealing her captivating smile. She was everything he was not. She was clumsy and always had a smile on her face, even through the tough times. Her laugh was beautiful and she danced her worries away, like a graceful swan surrounded by a multitude of lotuses. But alas, this would be the last time he felt her happiness, for the night ahead was not going to be a pleasant one.

They began to walk down the street towards the lake, where they always sat down and stared at the sky while talking about nothing and everything. The cold wind pushed them closer to each other. The wind had an uncomfortable feel to it, like as if it had a presence of its own. The yellow-lit streetlight had begun to flicker and slowly take a reddish hue. The feeling of being watched only grew more intense as time passed. Carved pumpkins, that were placed outside the doors of the many houses on the street began to turn towards our young couple. The carvings on the pumpkins lit up as if they were on fire but they weren’t burning. Damien held Anna’s hand firmly and they started running towards his house. The ominous presence seemed to follow them or rather, it never left them. 

The thing about Damien was that he always felt out of place. Like every other teenager, he felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with him. Every Halloween, he felt like there was something inside him. No, he knew there was something that was trying to come outside and every year, the presence only grew stronger. He would call Anna up and listen to her melodious voice, which calmed him down to a point where his fears could no longer reach him…

As they ran for his house, the blood-red lights went off. The darkness of the night had surrounded them and all the pumpkins were facing them. One by one, all the pumpkins simmered down. Damien knew that this time, nothing was going to stop the presence, it overpowered him…

It took over his will while Anna took few steps back in fear… She could hear whispers around her, like an enchantment, slowly growing louder and louder until it was unbearable. She fell to the ground, holding her hands against her ears to keep them from bursting.

The whispers suddenly stopped, Damien started walking towards her and picked her up, and waited until she could steady herself. The crescent moon began to peek through the clouds, shining onto our couple. Damien moved his hand upwards slowly like he was making for her cheek but at that moment, he stabbed her through the chest, his hand emerging from her back, with her beating heart in his palm. Anna was losing her strength and as the moonlight fell on Damien’s face, she looked into his eyes, but they weren’t purple anymore. It was as if there had never been any eyes in there, empty, hollow… 

Damien pulled his hand out of her writhing body and watched her fall onto the ground. Her heart was still in his palm. Blood spurted out of the slowly beating heart and onto his clothes. The T-shirt she had gifted him, was now covered in her blood. Her now lifeless body started going pale as she bled out all over the moon-lit street. Her golden-brown hair, covered with her blood now had a crimson glow. Even though it was Anna who died, it was Damien who lost his heart… The clouds began to cover the night sky, hiding the crescent witness. The street lights began to glow yellow again. The presence had left him, all alone… Seeing what he had done he broke down into tears and wailed loudly. His pain was immeasurable. At that moment, the sky split as lightning tore across it and Damien woke up in his bed in a cold sweat. He looked at his hands and found no blood. He was relieved that it was all a dream and went back to sleep but… his shadow moved across the wall and onto the ceiling, covering it in its darkness and staring at Damien with a devilish grin…

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Pronounsville

by:Tharun

There once lived a people, in a quaint little town. Called by the name Pronounsville, on no map could the place be found. The people couldn’t care less about, because neither was anyone moving in and nor anyone moving out.

Every facility here was common for all, be it the gym, the school, or the newly opened mall. The people of Pronounsville were an interesting lot. “Our is the mechanic, sturdy and tall.”, shouted out Them, spouse to It and chairperson at the Pronounsville Town Hall.

“Nothing in this town is owned, yet nothing is free ”, is the motto every Provillian follows to the T. Everyone looks out for Eachother, partially because Eachother makes Everyone’s heartbeat with glee. “Please do not mistake us for communists!”, peeped out Who, trying a hand at comedy.

But just as every happy story has to come to a close, the people of Pronounsville were leading down a rocky road. Out of nowhere, Us, the gatekeeper of the town heard a knock on the door. “Can I get your name to alert the chairperson?”, asked Us with an unassuming force. “The name is I. That’d do the job I suppose.”

“Pronounsville is a place unknown to most and visited by none”, said a puzzled Them, trying to put together one and one. “We have our own means and sources to get the job done.” We? “Yes of course! It’s not just I who’s come. Along with I are Me and Myself, and we’re here to have some fun.”

“The town’s motto is quite nice and sweet. But if I were, to be honest, this motto has become slightly obsolete.” For the first time ever, the Provillians were outraged and fuming with heat. “Please do not get offended, by all of this nothing personal do we mean. With Me in town, I (and) Myself will spruce things up and get Provillians back on their own two feet!” 

As naive as they come, Provillians entrusted the trio to complete the task. With no one to object and no one to ask, Me, Myself, and I tore the town apart. Now nothing was common and nothing was shared, “mine is mine and yours is yours” was the new motto to chant.

Soon enough Pronounsville fell out of rhyme.

I was oblivious.

Nothing mattered to Me.

There wasn’t anyone but Myself to blame. In the process of playing with Prounsville’s future, I had forgotten the name of the game.

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Till death did us part.

by:Sumana

There didn’t pass a day you weren’t on my mind

There wasn’t an act that didn’t turn my thoughts to you

There didn’t exist a time you didn’t reside in my heart

There is not alive another soul like you

I can’t imagine a life without you

.

.

Yet here we are, 

On opposite sides of a fine, fine line

Nothing new, nothing amiss

Only this once, the line is an abyss

.

.

You dance with death

Whilst I stare from across a chasm

Living a lie

Knowing you court death

How could you leave me

To fend all alone

I know not how to live

Without you by my side

You brought out the worst in me

And you brought out the best

Yet there you are 

Caught in death’s tempest

There is no one else like you

No one I respect as I did you

Another quip, just one other taunt

Anything, anything to get you back

.

.

Whom will I thank for all that you have done?

Who will fill this void you have left?

Whom will I challenge, whom will I fight?

Whom will I grind to dust in my wake?

.

.

There was love in this enmity we shared

There was meaning in our story of hate

There was purpose in our every war

There was elation in our rivalry

.

.

There doesn’t pass a day you aren’t on my mind

There isn’t an act that doesn’t turn my thoughts to you

There doesn’t exist a time you don’t reside in my heart

There is not alive another soul like you

I can’t imagine my life without you.

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His Absence

by:Panthalassa

His eyes spoke more than his mouth, 

I don’t know whether it was my thoughts, 

My reflection, in those eyes

Or that was his own?

I don’t know if he loved me the most?

But I know, I know for sure, that I loved him the most!

.

.

There’s more flesh & blood walking same foot with me, 

Closer beings around me I care about but

But his Absence seems a lot to be filled by these all.

.

.

And know that dear I will wait for you in each life, I swear!

I am not sure I will recognize you or not, 

I am not sure you will remember our connection or not, 

I am not sure you will come to me or not, 

But I am sure that I need you to come. 

.

.

I called you ‘handsome’, I meant that with all my 5 senses;

You are still the best boy I ever laid my eyes on !

.

.

You were the most graceful of any of your loyal kind,

.

.

I believed that you will die along minutes, hours, days & years with 

My fading memories but I was wrong, 

True! My memories are fading like it always does

But your absence is living by consuming mine inside,

.

.

It’s making me hollow !

.

.

But I am waiting, I am waiting for your love to fill me from inside

Cell by cell, feeling by feeling, it will;

.

.

I hope it does.

.

.

Because I know my love for you is stronger than your absence, 

Stronger than the absence of your touch, 

Stronger than your irritation for me, 

Stronger than your protectiveness for your food !

.

.

It is the strongest force in the universe!

It’s infinity times stronger than the strong nuclear force !

.

.

But my lord, that damn painful fact stands true 

that I MISS YOU!

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The Stoic overflow

by: Prajjwal

Dinner table conversations at home are often unpleasant. It significantly revolves around how incompetent or inexperienced I am compared to other people of my age. I realized I wasn’t worthy enough to be a boy of my age.

Back in school, I was asked to man up whenever I went to seek help during distressing times. I learned that I should pretend to be fine when I am hurt, deep within.

One day I was shamed for not winning at a competition. I had to digest the fact that defeat was never an option in my life.

There are instances when I preferred to remain silent after listening to triggering statements or derogatory opinions. All credits to my conflict phobia.

Finally, I learned to tune myself with the norms and rules of society so that I could fit in and get some kind of validation for my existence, and this was when stoicism entered like a dreaded monster, extending its bloody hands to cover my mouth and cloud my emotions.

According to Greek philosophy, stoicism refers to the teachings or the ethics designed to lead a happy, virtuous, and wise life. It is regarded as a powerful tool for those in pursuit of perseverance, self-discipline, and master, or in simpler terms, it taught people to be free from any kind of passion, and unmoved by grief or joy. History’s great minds believed in stoicism and sought them out. 

Even though the core idea of stoicism is lucid and relevant, the modern version of it seems hyper-polluted. 

Society’s paradigm is quite a complex subject. As you grow up, you are expected to be the ideal man or woman who is capable of handling responsibilities without any flaws and mold into perfect shapes and sizes to please the people around us. And, this is where the misappropriation begins. You tend to suppress your agonies and hardships without any display of emotions, just so that you can avoid getting called ‘the fussy one’ and when you fail or break down, you silence yourself with phrases like Do not give up, Keep calm and move on when in reality, it just starts to snowball and multiply your miseries. 

The societal norms which define the dichotomy between genders have posed an unspeakable threat to the modern world. At places where patriarchy reigns, you can find a crisis of affection, especially in males. They have no female companionships except for the ones at their home, thereby tricking boys to signal their masculinity. They tend to follow the same rituals for generations unless cooped.

I too am emotionally sterile at times. I constantly worry about the visceral way I cringe when I talk on video calls. I waste my time significantly in “What others might think about me?”, unaware that this very notion has the potential to cripple my existence one day. No wonder, Gen-Z has mistaken the word depression for sadness, failing to realize the existence of a thin line between both. There are days when I feel that I missed a great number of opportunities to express myself, cry, voice out my opinions, vent out my feelings. Maybe I was just afraid of grief, which might make me look weak in front of other people.

It is exhausting to keep up to the expectations of people around us, especially at times when you are grappling with your internal self.  It is worthless to bottle up your emotions and choke yourself with unforeseen consequences. We as humans have the power to express our inner self, vent out our opinions. It has a cathartic effect.

Stoicism is brutal. It is capable of taking a toll on one’s mental health. You may opt for silence, but the echoes inside will remain and thrive, to haunt you forever.