‘Lost Innocence’ by Areeba Amjad

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The fire in the distance flickered ominously as shadows lingered on the wall. Ali peered again into the darkness but saw nothing; he rubbed his eyes but nothing was visible.

 

Heart beating fast, hair on end and adrenaline rushing through his entire body, Ali tried to collect himself.

 

“But how am I ever going to ignore that piano playing in the background?” Ali murmured softly.

 

The music stopped as soon as he uttered those words – all the more reason to question his entire belief system at the moment. What was happening? And where had that sound originated from? More importantly however, why had it stopped all of a sudden, right when he had said that sentence?

 

Imagine being in that position though: all alone in a dark room with a red and orange flame burning in the distance, but as you try to walk towards it, no distance seems to be covered. Shadows outlined on walls (that again seem to be unreachable) simply swirling around as if they were contents of a broth, slowly unfolding and detaching from each other. The horror was almost palpable,; for Ali it certainly was.

 

He could feel it as his body tingled to the extremities with the passing of chilly breezes; he could hear it with the soft, classical playing of a piano; he could smell it in the pungent odors; he could definitely see it in the darkness surrounding him.

 

As if it wasn’t enough, there was a woman up there, all clad in white clothing.

 

Where had she come from? Ali was now very on edge. His entire mind seemed to be running wild as he could not comprehend what was happening to him or how he had ended up in this mess.

 

The woman. The WOMAN.

 

The woman in white seemed almost luminescent, emitting light into the cold and dark. Ali tried to keep his distance, but she seemed to be beckoning to him. For a moment he almost inched closer to her because of the warmth she exuded in the chilly area; the fire itself seemed to serve no purpose but to burn bright.

 

Everything was very strange – Ali couldn’t make anything out of the situation. His heart was beating as fast as the fire crackled. He glanced back at the ghost-like woman and locked eyes: a deathly blue stare met him that almost seemed to be warning him….

 

All of a sudden his position changed as his body slammed straight into a soft, springy material. At first he couldn’t understand what had happened, but then he was relieved as he opened his eyes and saw the ceiling fan.

 

He broke into a million sweats at once.

 

—–

 

It was a few days later now, and Ali was attending Chemistry (and as usual, the words washing over his head like a misty breeze), when the first of many reiterations were to come.

 

“And next we’ll discover how Permanent Dipole – Permanent Dipole or P.D-P.D interaction works in polar…”

 

Obviously the voice soon faded out, but another odd observation jolted him back to focus; he heard the piano playing again, this time slightly louder than before. Ali got up with a start and froze, straining his ears to figure out the direction of the noise. It seemed to be coming from out of the classroom – he ran straight out the door.

 

“Ali! Where…?”

 

He ran before anyone could stop him. He ran across the hallway, down the stairs, and into the school grounds, only to hear the same loudness of music playing. This meant he wasn’t getting any closer or farther from the source. His heart began to beat fast once more as he tried to pinch himself as an attempt to figure out reality. It was all a waste.

 

In an agonizing scream, as he grabbed a handful of his hair, he fell to ground, unconscious.

 

He knew what he was getting into before it even began: the darkness prevailed all around. The shadows seemed to be more outlined than before and the fire burned a slightly more blood red too.

 

He wandered around in the abyss before realizing that the temperature had fallen down a little bit – his body was quivering in the cold. Regardless, Ali decided to look around and find a way out.

 

As his feet crunched some autumn leaves on the ground, he felt a rigid, firm grip on his shoulder from the back. His pupils dilated and he made an effort to scream, but his voice failed him at that instant. His body shook as he felt razor sharp nails dug deep into his shoulder blades and he knew the end was to come. With a horrified gasp (which was all he could manage) he turned around to see what looked like a human form, but with an ear cut right off. The blood was still leaking from where the ear had been chopped off and Ali couldn’t bear it, nor the expression on the face of the injured man, with widened eyes and a gaping mouth as if also trying to scream.

 

Ali wrangled himself free and tried to run away again, only to end up head first onto the ground, losing his consciousness once more. His last sight was the white ghost –like woman who seemed to be fading away to grey….

 

—–

 

The next day Ali was back on his feet and (thankfully) the Chemistry teacher had not reported the odd event. All the better for Ali as, because it was a Friday, Ali had to attend a proper party for the first time. Despite it being an 18th birthday party, Ali knew it would be good because of all the popular kids attending the event.

 

Now Ali wasn’t the type of guy who would normally do any of this, but recently his interests had been changing as his character and morals were slowly deteriorating.

 

The party, held in a huge mansion owned by one of the kids, was the experience of a lifetime for Ali: as soon as he entered the marquee erected for the party, Ali met a billion puffs of smoke down his windpipe and hit him straight in the lungs like a dash of poison running through his blood stream. He met with the birthday kid, but unable to bear the smoke, decided to go for a round of a table tennis game instead.

 

Even though the game soothed him, Ali could not believe what he had gotten himself into. This was apparently the biggest bash of the year and Ali, the A grade student, was a part of it. As he began to ruminate, his thoughts took him elsewhere as the piano playing was brought back in his mind. Even though the garden (now with tens of people all filled in) had blasting hip-hop music and a LOT of lighted cigarettes all around, Ali could still hear the piano playing a classical tune that hinted to the tunes of Sinatra. As usual, nobody else seemed to hear the piano but him, which seemed to be loud enough for him to hear. It brought chills right to the very core. Ali was frustrated and tried to block out the sound but nothing could stop it. Thinking that all the smoke from the cigarettes and rugs was making him a little dazed, he slowly made his way out of the labyrinthine passage of drugged high school students dancing to the beat of the night, out of the dark marquee for a breather of fresh air.

 

All was silence away from the havoc.

 

Ali breathed a sigh of relief as the piano faded away.

 

But just as he held the cloth of the marquee to go back inside…that’s when he saw her again. She was greyer than ever, her whiteness slowly fading; her blue eyes this time bloodshot red and her hands ice cold as they dropped to Ali’s face.

 

Again no sound came out, but Ali was a deathly pale.

 

He pushed the woman aside, her long, dark, black hair almost hitting his face – and tried to get into the zone with the rest of the ‘students’ enjoying themselves inside.

 

He was going to grab a lit cigarette from the hands of one of the girls as his eyes made a shocking discovery: the bottle of alcohol now discretely being handed around near the table-tennis table and being poured into tall wine glasses. The colorless liquid proved itself to be vodka.

 

He needed to get out of there before it was too late, but his feet were firmly stuck to the grassy ground.  Even before he could move, one of his new friends approached him out of nowhere, handing him a glass of the poisonous liquid. There were cheers all around him as people drunkenly encouraged him on to take a sip, all dancing around to some really heavy deep house beats now.

 

Ali didn’t know why he accepted the glass – albeit with trembling hands – and began to advance it towards his parched lips. At the exact moment that his lips sealed on the rim of glass Ali heard a loud bang.

 

The crowd did not seem deterred at all (as if nothing had distracted them); Ali saw a dark cloud surround the atmosphere.

 

One, two, three, four light bulbs cracked open, leaving Ali jumping.

 

Time again seemed to freeze.

 

The piano keys began playing but this time very horribly and loudly, as if someone was simply sitting on a bunch of them at a time. He looked around but, again, the darkness did not show him anything – until the red flame erupted right in front of him that left him in a gaping expression.

 

What was happening now? Was he dreaming again?

 

But no amount of pinches to his body brought Ali back.

 

“Please not the woman, pleas not….”

 

Before he had even finished the sentence, the grey figure, with (now) wiry and thin hair advanced forwards to Ali. His lip quivered as she spoke from those dull lips for the first time,

“Go back before it’s too late!”

 

Her voice was very raspy, like someone close to death, and her blue eyes seemed to be trying to coerce Ali into something. Her long fingers clutched him by the throat, squeezing him into a dark purple face.

 

—–

 

He didn’t know how long after, but Ali woke up in a hospital with bruises and cuts all over his neck.

 

3:00 a.m.

 

Massaging his neck with his left hand, Ali forced himself upwards form the hospital bed.

 

And there, for the last time, he saw the woman. She was now all wispy and fragile, giggling continuously as her rotting teeth began to show. Her face was almost sunken, revealing the bones underneath. She flung back her head for another large cackle as Ali grabbed a lamp from his bedside table.

 

Before he could harm her with it though, she rose up from the bed in front and, with a quick swoosh, slammed her body against his, only to come out the other side like a ghost. Ali glanced behind and there he saw the woman lying on a broken piano, no more music playing.

 

To the left he saw the fire flickering a VERY bright red, almost ready to engulf him in its wrath.

 

Not remembering whether he had drunk the liquid at the party or not, Ali lost his consciousness once again.

 

As the flame burnt bright and the grey woman completely disappeared from grey to colorless, Ali heard a shrill voice shrieking,

 

“No more sense. Lost innocence.”

And with that he realized the once white woman had left him forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About froebelianwriters

I am an English Language teacher teaching O'Levels Edexcel and CIE A Levels at Froebel's International School, Islamabad. I am also working as a Subject Specialist Literacy consultant for the same school. Writing and reading has always been a passion and I try my utmost to instill these habits and hobbies in my students as well. I can be reached/contacted at fabbas227@hotmail.com or 03365287335 Happy reading!

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