Written By Riva Agarwal (Grade 9)
Tamara’s laugh echoed through the cinema hall. She and I were the only ones except for another couple a few seats down from us, brave enough to come to watch “A Quiet Place” at this hour of the night. I clutched her arms tightly and squeezed my eyes shut at the gruesome scene. I was surely going to stay up all night. But of course, nothing scared the fearless Tam.
The movie got over after what felt like ages, and I finally heaved a sigh of relief and opened my eyes, as my muscles relaxed. I rolled my eyes playfully at Tam, saying “We are never doing this again.” “Of course, we are! Did you see yourself back there? You made the horror movie seem like a comedy one for me.” We laughed and made our way to the ice cream shop as we exited the movie hall. But I suddenly felt queasy. As if some string inside of me had been pulled. Hard. But I ignored it.
We finished the ice cream within mere seconds and laughed at our speed. And then, Tam came closer. She brushed her finger on my lip, removing some ice cream. She didn’t mean it playfully. We both knew what she was trying to do. I pulled her closer till we were mere inches away. I could feel her breath on me. And then, just as we were about to close the gap between us, Tam dropped to the ground. A pool of crimson red blood flowed around her, her face flushed, pale. My breath caught in my throat, as bile rushed up my stomach. My heart was pounding, and adrenaline crackled through my body. The earth stopped rotating. The sound of the people at the mall drained out, time froze. I was stuck in a state of trance.
No, no this did not make sense. Tam can’t die, not out of the blue. How could she drop dead when we were just about to have the most magical moment of our life? What happened?
I felt like I was drowning in a well of my own thoughts and no one could save me.
“Duck!” someone shouted and pushed me hard. I was riled out of my thoughts. “Do you want to get shot? Run! What are you staring at go, go, go, save yourself!” a disfigured face shouted and sprinted away. My vision was blurring, I felt sick.
“Skye? Skye?” a shrill voice that I recognized tore through my ears. It was Tam’s. I started stumbling backwards. “Y- you just got shot!” I forced the words out of my mouth, tears running down my cheeks. “How- how are you standing and talking to me? You’re dead! Dead!” I shouted, my face burning with fear. “Skye, what?” it sounded so much like Tam, whatever it was. Tam just died; I was imagining her before me. “Skye, I’m- I’m sorry I thought you wanted me to kiss you. It’s okay if you are not ready,” “No!” I screamed, refusing to believe her. “Where is Tamara? Who shot her? Why? We were- we were in the middle of the mall!” everything I was thinking left my lips in a panicked voice. I started shaking. Hard. The world seemed to close around me, the space getting smaller and smaller. I couldn’t breathe. Fear wrapped around me, encasing my limbs in stone. I felt like I was going to die too. Not by being shot. But because of myself.
“Hey, look at me,” Tam said, taking my face into her hands. She wiped the tears from my face using the back of her sleeve. It felt so… real. As if she really was Tam. “Breathe. Look at me.” She commanded. And looking into her eyes that made me obey her. I maintained eye contact. I inhaled, and exhaled till my lungs filled with air, and my heartbeat slowed. “Come. Let’s take you home.” She said, standing up and offering me her hand. I took her hand in mine and got up. I was thrown off balance by everything, but I regained my stability. I could walk on my own, but Tam insisted I kept my hands entwined with hers.
We got in the car. She bought her head close to me till her forehead was resting on mine. I should feel uneasy, I should run away, this isn’t Tamara, Tamara is dead. But something about this girl who resembled her made me stay; I didn’t even flinch. “Skye. It’s me. Tamara. Look me in my eyes, you know it’s me. I’m not dead, I am right here. With you, in front of you like I always have been. Tell me you believe me.” Her voice was so calming, it soothed my soul, just like the Tam I knew did. “I- but I saw you die, Tam. How are you here?” “Skye, darling I know you forget. I know you forget it each time it happens. We thought you were ready to go out again. Death and gore weren’t a good idea at all. Skye, I love you and I am so, so sorry. Your hallucinations took over again. Remember? The hallucinations you started getting few months back following your mother’s death. But the hallucination is over, I’m alive, I’m okay, and you’re okay. It was not real.”
Memories flooded my mind. Everyone is okay. I imagined it. My illness always spoilt everything. I closed my eyes and thought about the disappointment I was to everyone in my life. But Tam never saw me that way, she always treated me like there was nothing wrong with me.
I opened my eyes, ready to hug Tam, but what I saw before me, turned my blood to ice. I was not in the car; Tam’s forehead was not pressed against mine. I was back in the mall. She was sprawled across the blood- stained floor. Her eyes were wide open, staring into nothing. A man was standing before me, trying to get my attention- a man in uniform.
Oh my god. Tam had died, and I do hallucinate. But the part I was imagining, was for a change a good part, the part I so badly wanted. The reality was the part I dreaded most. I lost my mother six months ago, the person I loved most in the world. And now I lost the only person I had left.
Life lost its meaning. Everyone close to me was now dead. This officer couldn’t save Tam when the mall shooting happened. What good was he? And so, I sprinted. I sprinted out of the mall, with the officer running behind me, and jumped into the heavy traffic right before he could stop me.
Featured Image Courtesy – NBC News