by Smrithi Senthilnathan
The rain fell in quick sheets, huge torrents of water filling all the crevices and potholes and engulfing the roads. The girl hurried along the street, taking care not to fall into any ditches, and constantly checking behind her, as if she expected someone to jump out at her. She clutched some envelopes in her hand and tried to shove them under her shirt to prevent them from getting soaked, but the material was too thin. Nevertheless, she tried the best she could.
The sky gleamed extra bright that night but the world was draped with a curtain of darkness. The girl felt the darkness both outside and inside her. It tickled at her skin, slowly entering through passages and prodding at her soul. The darkness grew with every step and soon the girl felt like it would encompass her completely and lay her out on the road, an empty body with neither heart nor soul. The darkness seemed to be lenient though and did not consume her. Rather, it nudged her and seemed to be helping her in her mission to reach home.
There was still a long way the girl had to go. At every narrow alley, at every turn, in front of every closed store, she checked thrice before moving ahead. She knew of the dangers travelling alone at night possessed and she did not want to be caught unaware. She wished for some pedestrians or stores with bright lights but alas, it was the darkest night of the year and all the stores had packed up and closed hours ago.
The girl recalled two weeks ago, when her brother showed up at midnight, covered in soot. Life was so easy for boys; they didn’t have to look behind them every two seconds to see if they were being followed. For the first time in her life, the girl wished she were a boy. If only so that she could reach home safely.
A shadow, outlined by moonlight, struck the girl. She whipped around but she saw nothing. She quickened her pace and prayed to all the gods she knew to protect her from the vicious hands of those who preyed on innocent children.
The girl wondered how many other girls were alone and out in the rain that night. She wished she could wrap her arms around all of them and protect them from the evils of the world but it was only wishful thinking.
Finally, the girl came to her street. Her house was the only one to still have its lights on. She couldn’t see properly in the rain but he thought she saw a police car. The shadow behind her kept vanishing and surfacing again. After looking both ways, the girl practically ran to her house.
Back home, she gave the letters she had been carrying to her grandfather and dodged questions from her mother. She was just grateful to be home.
The girl once again wondered about others, and hoped that they had gotten home too. Deep down in her heart though, she knew that at least one poor girl must have been sacrificed by the world to appease those vicious and greedy souls. And the girl wept for that poor, innocent soul who would never ever see the light of the sun again.