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Editor's Choice

2019/6/10 in Faridabad, India

An Empty Room

Story - told by Hritik Dutta

The room of a child. Warm yellow sunlight from the window illuminates toys scattered across the floor. There are pillows thrown all over the room even though there is a bed in the corner. The bedsheets have almost completely fallen on the floor. On the table beside the bed is a toy airplane with the name “Ritchie” written on it.

Slowly the plane starts floating as if it was picked up. It glides through the air, bouncing slightly.
The voice of a child is heard, “Whoosh...”
Then a woman’s voice, “Whoosh...”
The plane ascends and descends gracefully as it flies over all the other toys on the floor.

But something happens. The plane slows down and tilts downwards.
“Oh no…” says the child, “Mayday, mayday.”
The plane falls faster and faster towards the ground.
“Aaaa… Pilot Ritchie! Save us.”
The child says in a deep voice, “Okay I will save you now. Safety jets engage… Bhwooshhhh…”
The plane decelerates and tilts upwards. It lands on the floor.
“Yayyy,” the woman says, “You saved us, Ritchie!”
The child laughs.
 
“Come on. It’s time to clean the room.”
“One more game?”
“No. You promised this was the last one.”
“Please...”
After a small pause, “Last one?”
“Yes!” the excitement in the child’s voice is evident.
The woman chuckles, “Okay...”
“Whoosh...”
Their voices gradually die out.
Silence.
 
*****
 
As the sunlight gets brighter, it shows a tidier room. The toys are overflowing from a box under the bed which looks properly made this time.
 
The door opens. Two sets of footsteps are heard entering the room.
“… and then she was telling us a poem.”
“Really! Which poem?”
The airplane is picked up again, “I don’t remember the name.”
“What was it about?”
The airplane floats around in the air.
“It was about some boy named Johnny and his father”
The woman laughs and asks, “You remember the poem?”
“Yes, I know.”
“Johny Johny…”
“Yes Mama”, the child laughs.
The woman chuckles, “It’s papa.”
“But you’re singing that part.”
 
“Of course... Anyways change and come downstairs. We’ll go out for a movie today. Okay?”, the woman’s voice moves towards the door.
“Okay!”, the child sounds excited.
The door closes.
 
*****
 
Gradually the light from the window turns orange. The box of toys is nowhere to be seen now. The only toy in the room is the airplane kept on the table.
The door creaks open. The sound of tired footsteps is heard, moving towards the bed. As soon as they reach it, there is a loud thump. The bed slightly creaks with the weight of someone.
 
A sigh is heard.
“How was school?” the woman’s voice from the door.
“It was okay.” the crackled voice of a teenager.
“Nothing interesting?”
“Nah...” the voice seems uninterested.
The bed creaks with the weight of another person.
“Is something wrong?” the woman sounds concerned.
“No… I need some sleep.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, mom. Just let me sleep.”
“Okay...”
Some weight lifts off the bed. Gently footsteps recede back to the door.
“If you need anything, I’ll be downstairs.” her voice is heard as the door opens.
“Hmm...”
The door closes.
 
*****
 
The light from the window paints the whole room in orange. There are suitcases and bags in the room. The toy box is at the far corner of the room. The airplane is kept on top of other toys.
 
“Be careful around new people.”
“Hmm…”
“Don’t get involved in any--”
“Mom… I know. I’m only going to college.” the teenager reassures the woman “I’m not moving out permanently.”
“Yeah… Keep in touch, okay?”
“I will...”
“Have you packed everything?”
“Yes.”
“Not gonna take this?”, the model airplane lifts from the box.
“Nah. I’ll be flying real planes now. I don’t need toys anymore.”
“Okay...” the woman chuckles
“Bye mom!”, footsteps are heard rushing towards the door. The luggage follows them.
“Wait I’m coming too.”, the voice sounds happy.
Two sets of footsteps exit the room.
Silence again.
 
There is an eerie stillness in the room. After some time, the door opens. Steadily some footsteps approach the toy airplane. It gets picked up.
The footsteps proceed to the bed. The bed gently creaks.
 
The soft sniveling of a woman is the only sound in the room now.
 
*****
 
The room looks clean now. Everything is orderly placed. The bed neatly made. The airplane is kept on the table.
 
The phone sitting beside the airplane rings. The call is received.
“Mom I got a job!” a heavy voice can be heard from the phone.
“Really?”, an elderly woman’s voice replies.
“Yes!”
“That’s great! I knew you would do it.” the elderly voice is elated, “I’m really happy for you Ritchie.”
“Thanks, mom…”
 
There is an awkward pause.
 
“But…”, a slight nervousness can be heard in his voice.
“But what?”
“I won’t be coming back... I’ll have to stay here.”
“Oh.” the shakiness of the voice becomes more apparent as the excitement decreases.
“Yeah… I will make some arrangements for you. I’ll keep sending you money.”
“That isn’t necessary”, the old voice sounds a little hopeful. “Just keep in touch. If you need anything, I'll always be by the phone.”
“Yes, mom…”
 
*****
 
The purple light from the window is barely able to light up the room now. The airplane can be seen floating over the bed.
A shrill and shaky voice says, “Whoosh…”.
The airplane moves back and forth.
“Whoosh…” the voice repeats and chuckles.
 
The phone on the table is picked up. Very steadily, a number is dialed on the phone. The call keeps ringing. Suddenly the ringing stops.
“Hello?”, the voice says, excited and nervous. The call goes to voicemail.
The phone gets placed back on the bed.
 
*****
 
The light slowly disappears. The room only has a faint bluish glow. Everything looks dusty. The room is eerily quiet.
 
The phone rings, breaking the silence. It keeps on ringing. No one picks up. Slowly the bluish glow disappears and the room is engulfed in darkness. The phone keeps on ringing.

I wrote this story for a Online Summer Writing Competition last year.

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