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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #761761
Asha got more than she bargained for when her parents died.

Seven-year old Asha exclaimed with joy as her friends formed a ring around her and sang “Happy Birthday to you” as loudly as possible. Her eyes twinkled as she looked at her doting father, who saw her smile and waved his hand from where he stood – behind the children.

“Look, Mama,” she cried as she pulled her mother to her side. “Aren’t they just fantastic?”

“Yes, indeed, Asha, they are the best friends anyone could have wished for!” said Snehlata, Asha’s mother.

I am going to start school again tomorrow, and that’s going to be fun. I hope HE doesn’t come to school. I am so scared of him. I think my parents are just Super!

The festivities came to an end as the children finished eating the candies and wafers, picked up their “return – gifts” and screaming “Thank-you”s and “Good-Night”s, went away one by one with their parents.

Asha was already looking very tired. Snehlata picked her up in her arms and carried her effortlessly into the toilet.

“Finish with this while I prepare to put you in bed, okay darling?” she told her, as Asha went into the toilet and squatted on the seat.

“Mama, shall we open the gifts now?” Asha asked from within.

She looks so tired, I think. But I am sure she won’t refuse me this simple request. Will she?

The deed done, Asha emerged out and hugged her mother. Suresh, Asha’s father, who had gone out to leave a couple of Asha’s friends to their homes, came in just then.

“Hey Sweetie, how’s my laddu today?” he asked her as he kissed Snehlata on her cheek, and then took Asha into his embrace. “Did you enjoy the party?”

“Yes, Papa! It was glorious! Let’s sit and open the gifts now!” said Asha. She was so happy and excited, she could hardly believe it. This was the first birthday she had had a party for!

For once, I think I am the luckiest girl alive in the whole world!

And then someone shook her.

“Wake up, you twerp! Come on, you! Get up!” A very familiar and loud male voice.

Why is he shouting? Where are my papa and mama? I was just about to open the first gift when … when this voice!

She suddenly opened her eyes. She was in a dark room. The paint on the ceiling was peeling and a wet patch on it showed the place from where water dripped on to the cot where she lay. She could feel other children next to her. Ramu lay on her right while Beenamol and Micky were to her left. All the three were also just waking up. She began to cry.

I lost papa and mama that day when they both went away to God forever. I shall never know how they died. They did not even show me their faces one last time. The only sentence she had overheard was: “It was a ter … ter ... terso … no, terrorist bomb that took them both! They were blasted into the sky. Poor Sneh, her face has been …”

No one had taken her to see her dead parents, and then Shyamu uncle had brought her here. When she was first brought here, she felt happy because there had been so many children like her. But Sir was horrible. He beat them, flogged them, and gave them meals which were so … so terrible and watery.

Why am I here with these children? Why do they all look so … scared? Why are they so silent? Why do their eyes look so … blank? Why won’t they talk to me?

She was still being shaken. “Wake up, you miserable lump!”

She looked at Sir. He had an unshaven face, with large, curly moustaches. He was fat, smelled dirty and had an almost bald head.

Old enough to be my grandfather. But not half as loving. He too died so many years ago. I have no living family.

Sir screamed again at her, spittle flying from between his betel-leaf stained lips.

“Okay sir, I am getting up!” she told him, as she got up, all nervous.

“And come to my room as soon as you have used the toilet. Understand?”

“I … yes sir,” mumbled Asha.

Each morning, one or the other child was asked to go to Sir’s room “after using the toilet.” When the child joined them, he/she often had a bruise or two on his/her face. Janvi, the girl who went in yesterday, walked unsteadily and had a bruise up her left thigh.

She just cried and cried but never told me how she got hurt there and why she walked in such a manner.

Asha finished her toilet. She knew Sir was going to hurt her.

Maybe he’ll punish me for my bad behaviour. Maybe he will hit me with his stick. Maybe he will shout at me. Let me get it over with now, before he comes back and beats me in front of all the other children.

She walked up to Sir’s door and knocked.

“Come in,” growled the voice from within.

She opened the door timidly and went in.

© Dr. Taher Kagalwala

Word Count: 865
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