She looked around her. She was trapped in a cramped room with walls almost in her face. She could barely move around the room leave alone attempt to flee. She looked up in despair, only to be met with a ceiling so low that it looked like it needed her support to stay up. Her heartbeat quickened as she realised she was breathing heavy. Her chest visibly rose and fell as her lungs tried to take in the air they needed. Panting, she sat down on a tiny bed, the sole piece of furniture in the room, the only thing she could see in the room other than the walls. She didnt know how long it would be before someone let her out of here. She didnt even know if she would make it alive. She surrendered to the situation, not fighting with it. She just wanted it to end. She just wanted to hang in there till someone took her out of this.
“I have to open this window. There is someone trapped inside. This seems the quickest way to save her. If only the window would budge. It’s jammed. I could break the glass but she could get hurt by the shards. Shucks, this is not a room, it is literally a cell. As if it was intended for confinement. Let me push this lever harder. Open damn it, open. I have been doing this for an hour now. Is there some other way to get her out? God, I need a break.”
She felt dizzy. As if the blood had stopped feeding her brain. She gingerly lay down on the bed, afraid of hurting herself. She knew she had to save every ounce of her energy from now on. She couldnt waste it all away. Eventually, someone would save her. But she needed to keep herself alive till then. Her eyes began to close. She sensed it and began talking to herself. That was the only way to feel alive, to stay alive. But, what was she to tell herself? She tried wording her situation in an attempt to keep her rooted in reality. She felt limp. Powerless. Helpless. She wondered what her life had come to.
“Poor girl. Must be struggling in there. How claustrophobic it would feel to be inside such a room. How long can humans survive in such situations? Freak, what am I talking. She doesnt need my sympathy. Or my analysis. She needs my practical help. I have to get up now and give it one more try. Budge you stupid window. You can act all stubborn, but I am worse. If you think I’ll give up easily, you are mistaken. I am going to save her, come what. And you shall see. Ha. Take this. And this. I can do this all day. You have to give way sometime.”
She began slipping into the cloudlike world of confusion and peace. She wondered if this is why people thought those who died went to the sky. She did feel like she was flying. She was nearing the end of her reserves. She didnt bother fighting now. All she wanted was to die. Therein lay peace, therein lay no pain. It was as much an acceptance as expectance. Somewhere at the back of her mind, she kept a tiny flicker of hope alive. Just maybe someone would save her now and she could still make it. If not then death was still beautiful.
“I am exhausted now. Is this window going to open? Maybe I was wrong to put all my energy onto the window lever. Maybe I could have broken down the wall. No, she would have got buried under the bricks. Hell, why am I wasting my energy thinking. I have come this far. The lever has moved half way. Just a little more and I will get past this rusted part. Come on. Come on. I cant give up when I am this close. Cant give up now. Focus. Aaaargh.. Aaaaaaahhh..”
She felt a cool breeze of air hit her face. It shocked her for a second. She had been willing this to happen for so long that her mind refused to understand whether this was her wish or for real. As fresh air began to seep in slowly into the damp, stagnant room, she began to see clearer. This was for real. She could feel this air, even touch it. She felt like collapsing on the bed out of relief. The wait was over. With great difficulty she mustered the strength to walk upto the window and crawl out of it. A blast of fresh air hit her, almost knocking her off. She laughed as tears sprung to her eyes.
“Phew. That was some challenge. A close shave. She looks like she wouldnt have lasted another second. Am so glad she is ok. I didnt realise she was depending so much on me. There was no one around. I would have been consumed in guilt had I been unable to save her. Feels proud to see her on her feet, safe and alive. She needs to rebuild herself. She is pretty shaken up. But am sure someone of her calibre can pull that off easily. Must have been tough to keep the hope alive in there. If I had shown half the determination she did, maybe I could have cracked the lever earlier. I wonder if I could have tried some other means of saving her, something that would’ve worked sooner, so that she didnt have to suffer for so long. Well, I did manage to save her in the end. And she hung in there till then. Thats all that matters. My job’s done. Time to move on.”
She made baby attempts to look at the sky above. The brightness of the day excited her, but hurt her eyes that had become accustomed to the close-walled darkness. She stepped out of that comfort zone and pushed herself to enjoy the day. She thought of the person who had rescued her. She wanted to imbibe the same zeal, the carefree attitude, the confidence to take things on and win over them. She had to shed the habit of inhaling measuredly, of saving her energy. The ordeal was over. It was time to breathe freely again, to enjoy life again. A life saved was a life lived twice.
Aadrika walked up the hill to the small cottage atop it. A blend of elegance and strength, Aadrika looked like a mountain tree, with delicate sensitive branches and firm determined roots, with green succulent leaves and a dry weather-hardened trunk, divine in her form of kissing the sky and speaking to the Lord above. She had undertaken this arduous journey to revisit the small room beside the cottage. She had once got trapped in this room. Caught unaware, she had initially got scared. The scare had then transcended into resilience and then faith. Her hands delicately ran on the window sill before deciding to touch the lever on the window. She slowly turned it, surprised at how easily it turned. She pushed it open and stood on her toes to peep into the room, careful not to fall inside. “How did the lever turn so smoothly? Last time around, it was so rusted and jammed that I had to whack it over and over again. Took all the strength I had to wrench it open. Did someone oil it now? Or has it loosened since?”, she wondered. She looked at the lever and smiled to herself, proud of not giving up till the stubborn lever gave way. She could have never come out of the room had she not opened the window. “How long did I last in there?” she tried to recall. Her fingers left the lever and held onto the sill as she took a good look inside the room. What met her eyes shocked her. She was nearly face to face with the opposite wall. Adventurously she reached out to see if she could touch the other side. Her hand had only just come upto her chest level when it refused to stretch out. This was scary. “How could anyone stay here for so long. Did I really do that? Somehow it didnt seem so gory back then. But now that I am standing out here, it hurts my senses to imagine the torture”. She shut the window and turned her back to it. Maybe she had spent days in there, but now she couldnt stand it even for a minute. Not because she had gone through it, but because she now saw someone else going through it. It was this very sensitivity that had motivated her to save herself, to push the lever with all her might. But now that she wasnt the victim anymore, it hurt her bad to visualise someone sufferring. With her back to the window, her hand still lingered on the lever for a while longer. She recalled the inspiration, the will it had taken to move it then. The very thought of that strain scared her now. She felt pained to imagine the torment she must have suffered through, how close her body must have been to giving up. She shuddered and let go of the lever. Several moments passed as she stood still. With a sudden surge, she turned and smashed her hand into the glass. The window shattered into the room, little glass pieces scattering helplessly, suffocating before falling motionless. Aadrika looked at her hand. A tiny shard had pricked her on the side of her palm. She felt the sting as she pulled it out. Blood began to ooze in a valiant attempt to recreate the pain she had gone through then. She threw the shard on the ground outside the room and walked away. A walk filled with a deep-set rage at the agony she was unaware she had endured and a vow to not let anyone go through it again. The shards in the room lay dead as if in remembrance of those who got trapped inside. And the one shard with her blood at its tip lay orphaned in the open.