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Awakened One Night (Excerpt)







CHAPTER ONE

When she woke up from what appeared to be a deep slumber, the first thing she noticed was that, she was not only wet, but covered in mud. She coughed twice before looking up at the dark sky. Heavy drops fell on her face, washing away the dirt and she closed her eyes as she felt the cold.
She got up slowly and breathed heavily only to realize that she couldn’t see anything ahead of her. She looked down at herself and saw that she was wearing a light denim jacket and dark slacks that barely provided any warmth to her shivering body. Nevertheless, she buttoned up and put her arms around her chest. Where was she? What was she doing here?
She started to walk and noticed a dark shape ahead of her. As she made her way to it she wondered why she was here all alone. She laid her arms straight ahead so that she could feel the structure before her. As her hands touched, she felt the coolness of the metal. She looked up at it and saw that it was a gate or a rather large fence. Her fingers curled around the metal and tugged at it, only to find it jammed.
She breathed heavily again and pushed with all her force, but all her efforts seemed futile as the gate creaked and did nothing more. She stopped pushing and gazed overhead. Perhaps she could scale it? She put her foot on the metal bar and started to climb. This was easier than she had anticipated. Once on top, she turned herself to the other side and jumped. Her knees buckled and she stumbled, almost falling headfirst.
The road ahead of her was dark and a few streetlights flickered ominously but showed her a path nonetheless. She started walking slowly and cautiously. It was too quiet-almost deafeningly so- and the rain showed no signs of letting up. She saw a light and walked towards it, wondering if it was perhaps someone who could help her. Just then, she heard a loud blare. She covered her ears and gasped as a car veered off and almost hit a tree.
“Get off the road!” a man yelled through the window. “What are you, stupid? You almost killed me!”
Throughout his tirade, she found she could do nothing else but stare blankly at him. She was about to open her mouth and ask for help, when he drove off, leaving her a little more disoriented than before. What had just happened? She stood silently for awhile and stared at the back of the car before turning around. She should go now, but where?
Before she knew what was happening, her feet started to move and she found herself unable to stop. It was as if her legs knew her destination even before her brain could comprehend. A few minutes later, she found herself near a row of houses. People lived there, her mind said and she wondered if one of these houses belonged to her. But her legs hadn’t stopped and she went on with whatever was going on. It seemed easier somehow to not make the decision herself, but have the decision made for her instead. The streets seemed familiar, but she still hadn’t felt that sense of belonging that one probably felt when they were near something close to them.
Her heart would tell her the destination that so far only her legs knew about. The street ended and she came to a deserted lot. Had she missed her house? Did she have a house here? As she walked, she gazed upward and saw that the rain drops were coming down much slower now. The clouds were starting to part and she saw a patch of dark sky dotted with twinkling stars. She put her hand to her head. She couldn’t seem to think straight, yet she knew what the stars and clouds were. How did she know all this? She let out a small gasp as she realized she couldn’t remember if she had a name.
Suddenly, her legs stopped and she opened her eyes to find herself standing across a large house. She stared at it. Did she feel like she belonged there? Perhaps. She looked through the downstairs window and saw a lone lamp light. She walked towards it and once she reached the window, put her hand on the cool glass.
She swallowed, only to find out that her mouth and throat was dry. She put her face closer at the window and peered. Someone was there. A girl-sitting on a couch- was crying. She was wiping her tears with a tissue as she looked at what appeared to be a frame in her hands.
Silently, she tore herself from the scene before her and walked towards the door. She saw a switch next to it, but she ignored it. She found the metal ring around the door more fascinating and put her hand on it. She picked it up with her finger and dropped it. It made a soft thudding noise as it hit the door and she repeated the action.
Inside, she heard a scuffle of feet and a dull crash as something hit the floor. She heard hurried footsteps near the door, a pause and footsteps again as they moved away from the door.
“Who is it?” the girl called out softly. “Kara? Is that you?”
She turned around to see the girl peering at her through the side window and almost jumped. Someone was talking to her. Did she know this girl? Was she called Kara?
Just then she heard a metal chain being pulled across the door and a click of the door knob as the door opened slightly to the extent of the metal chain.
“Kara…is that really you?” the girl said and she detected a hint of dread in her voice.
She opened her mouth and pushed her hair away from her face with her hand.
“Oh my God! Oh God!” the girl gasped. “It’s you! You came!”
The door closed for a few seconds before it was opened wider and the girl hurriedly came towards her. “You came! It worked! It really worked!”
“Do…do I know you?” she managed in a whisper.
The girl looked at her strangely. “Yes!” she said. “I’m your sister.”


CHAPTER TWO


“I don’t know…” she said.
“How could you not remember me?” the girl was saying and clasped her hand on her mouth. She turned back to look around. “Okay come in, but be very quiet.” She said. “Mom is going to freak out!”
She stepped inside the room and took a deep breath. It was nice and warm inside and something inside did tell her that she belonged here.
“Oh great! You’re making a mess!” the girl whispered. “Wipe your shoes on the mat outside.”
She stared at her for a few seconds and followed her as she gestured her towards a mat outside.
“Now clean your shoes.” The girl instructed and she followed her feet forwards and backwards exactly like she motioned.
After a few seconds, the girl grabbed her arm and pulled her inside. “Be extremely quiet.” She warned and took her to the couch she had seen her sitting on. She saw a picture of another girl in the frame and she picked it up. Why was she crying while looking at a picture?
“Okay, sit here!” the girl said. “No don’t!”
She looked at the girl and wondered what she was supposed to do.
“You’re really dirty, you need to take a bath.” She said and took her arm and made her follow her upstairs towards what appeared to be a bathroom.
“Luckily Mom is a really tight sleeper. Nothing could wake her up- not even an earth quake!”
“What’s an earth quake?” she asked.
“You really don’t know?” the girl asked while filling up the tub with water. She poured something from a plastic bottle into the water and dried her hands with a towel. “This is your favorite -Peaches and Cream.”
She turned around to see the very same girl she had seen in the picture gazing at her through an even larger picture. “Who is that?”
The girl raised her eyebrows. “That’s you and this is a mirror.” She said and stared at her. “I’m so glad you’re back.”
As the girl put her arms around her, she couldn’t help but stare at her reflection. She looked exactly like the girl in the picture, yet her face was smeared with dirt and something seemed to be crawling on her neck.
“Eww!” the girl shrieked. “Maggots! You really have to take a bath right now.”
She stared at the tub filled with foam and looked back at her. Her mind seemed to whirl as she stared at her and then back at the girl. She knew what she was supposed to do, but somewhere in her head, the answer was buried under a lot of questions.
“Okay!” the girl said. “You need to take off your clothes and get into that while I go and lay out your new clothes. After you’re done…”she headed towards one end of the tub. “Tug at this chain and turn on this knob here. I think you better use a shampoo too. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find your favorite shampoo in the shops, but you can use mine for tonight. The shopkeeper said the stock would be coming later this week.”
She looked at the girl while she chatted and found she could understand some of the things she was saying. As soon as she had left and closed the door, she started removing her clothes. She stepped into the tub and found it warm and inviting. She started to lie down, and realized at the last moment that it wasn’t a safe thing to do. The subtle fragrance of the soaps invigorated her and her mind seemed to clear out the wisps of utter confusion.
Suddenly, she found herself able to remember how to take a bath. She picked up the brush lying next to the plastic bottles, and started to scrub herself. She was filthy! Her skin was layered with dirt and it took all her energy to scrub it away. She got up and unplugged the drain, so she could take a shower and wash her hair.
“Are you done?” the girl whispered from outside. “Use a towel to wrap yourself.”
She turned off the knob and pulled the towel off the bar. She wrapped it around herself and got out to open the door.
“Great, now follow me.” The girl said and pulled her towards a room. “Get dressed while I find a hair dryer.”
She walked towards a bed and picked up an oversized T-shirt. The T-shirt was blue and had white flowers printed on them. “Carnations.” She said.
“Yeah, your favorite flowers.” The girl said distractedly.
“You’re my sister!”
The girl pulled up an object and turned to face her. “I knew this would happen.” She said and walked towards her. “You don’t remember my name, do you?”
When she shook her head, the girl looked even more disappointed. “I’m Leena and you’re Kara.”
“Kara!” she said out loud. “It does seem familiar. But why couldn’t I remember that?”
Leena locked the door and looked at her hesitatingly. “You’re not going to like what I’m about to tell you.”


CHAPTER THREE

Just then someone knocked on the door. Kara took a step back and looked at Leena whose eyes had widened.
“Leena?” a woman’s voice called. “Are you still awake?”
“It’s Mom!” Leena whispered to her. She pulled her arm and led her in front of another door. She opened it and pushed her inside. “Don’t make a sound, okay? Just trust me.”
“But…”Kara started to say, but the door had already closed. She stared at it blankly and blinked. Where was she? She turned around to see hundreds of clothes hung all around her.
“Mom.” She heard Leena say. “Everything okay?”
“I heard a noise. Why are you still awake?”
Kara sat down on the floor and found that it was covered in soft carpet. She was tired and wanted to go back to sleep, but she wondered why Leena looked as if she was hiding something. And why couldn’t she meet her own Mom?
“I couldn’t sleep.” Leena said. “And then I just remembered that I didn’t study for a test.”
“Leena, that’s very irresponsible of you.”
“I know and I’m sorry but I have to study now.” Leena said.
“Fine. But you’re going to be so tired tomorrow.”
“I’ll drink loads of coffee.”
Kara hugged her knees closer and wondered when Leena was going to let her out. Something about being here seemed to frighten her.
“I’m going back to sleep. I’ll deal with all this in the morning.”
“Goodnight, Mom!” Leena chirped.
“And why is the bathroom light on?” her mother asked.
“I’ll switch it off right away.” Leena said. “Go back to sleep.”
Kara swallowed when she finally heard the door being closed. She heard Leena sigh loudly after which she finally opened the door.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I was scared.” Kara replied and quickly got up.
“Oh! I forgot!” Leena said slapping her forehead.
Kara narrowed her eyes and looked at her.
“You’re claustrophobic.”
“I don’t understand.”
Leena led her to her bed and made her lie down. “I’ll explain everything tomorrow. Just go to sleep and if you do wake up before me, just stay in this room and be very quiet.” She bent down and kissed her forehead gently before drawing the duvet over her.
“I really did miss you a lot.” She whispered and Kara saw her eyes moistening. “So please, just trust me okay?”
Kara nodded and wondered what her sister was up to. Why was she finding it so difficult to remember her? She saw Leena walking out of the room and turned away. Her mind seemed weary and the room seemed strange yet familiar to her. She looked out the window and saw the sky starting to lighten. Her eyes drooped and she felt herself drowning in the darkness.

****
 “Are you awake?” Leena whispered.
Kara opened her eyes to see her bending over her. She nodded and started to get up.
“Okay, here’s the plan.” Leena said and sat down next to her. “Mom is in the kitchen so that means I can get you out of the back door. I want you to walk till you see a red building.”
“A red building?” Kara asked.
“You do remember your colors right?” Leena asked and then proceeded to show her a book on colors.”
“I do remember…”
“Great!” Leena said and closed the book. “I want you to wait there and talk to absolutely no one.”
“Why can’t I meet Mom? Maybe she can help me remember…”
“Trust me, okay?” Leena said. “I’ll explain to you later. Right now I have to get you out of the house before the exterminators come in. Mom saw the ‘friends’ you brought in last night.”
Leena jumped out of her bed and opened the room where Kara had seen all those clothes.
“It’s the closet.” Kara said, still wondering about Leena’s ‘friends’ comment. What did she mean by that?
“Yes!” Leena said distractedly and pulled out a long jacket and a cap. “Wear this. This should make you inconspicuous for a little while.”
“Why are you hiding me?” Kara asked and took the jacket and cap.
“I’ll explain later.” Leena said slowly and started to pull at her arm again.
“I don’t like being pulled like that.” Kara said.
“You’re disoriented and taking way too long.” Leena said and dragged her down the stairs. They reached near a wooden door and Leena pulled it open. “Now walk through that gate and…do you see that red building over there?”
Kara looked to where her sister was pointing and nodded.
“Stand in front of it and I’ll come pick you up.”
Kara started to walk and gasped when the sunlight touched her skin. It was too bright for her and her eyes were taking their time getting used to the light.
“Here!” Leena said, jogging towards her.
Kara took the pair of sunglasses from her hand and looked at it before finally remembering where they went. Her eyes immediately felt less strained and Kara started to walk again.
When she reached the red building, she stopped and stood uncomfortably. She could see people glancing her way and Kara thrust her hands in the pockets of her jacket. It was cool but not cold and her skin seemed to tingle inside the heavy jacket.
As she looked around, she could find herself finding everything familiar. She had been here before and she had walked around here before. But why couldn’t she remember when? Her mind still seemed jumbled, but standing here in the warm sun made everything feel lucid somehow.
“I’m here!” Leena announced as she rode on her bicycle. “Get on behind me.”
Kara looked at the two wheeler and then back at her. “I don’t think it’s safe.”
“I have an extra helmet somewhere.” Leena said and rummaged through a bag. “Here we go.”
“I don’t want it.” Kara said and stared at the helmet Leena had offered her.
“I’m going to be late for school, come on.”
Kara walked behind her and sat down. “This is uncomfortable.”
“I know, and it’s going to be hard to peddle too, but Mom doesn’t trust me with the car yet.”
Kara closed her eyes as Leena started to peddle slowly.
“If only you had learnt to ride a bike.” Leena said.
“I don’t know how to?”
Leena laughed. “That was way below you.”
“Am I younger than you?” Kara asked and Leena started to laugh again.
“I wish!” Leena said in between chuckles. “No, you’re the elder one.”
“But you’re so…bossy!” Kara thought for a while and nodded. That was the right term.
“You should have seen yourself.” Leena replied and Kara raised her eyebrows.
“Here we are!” Leena announced suddenly.
“I don’t see anything.” Kara said getting down.
“We have to hide you and the perfect place is right here.”
Just then two girls appeared from behind the wall of a vacant lot and gasped loudly.
“Oh my God! I didn’t believe you when you said that.” One of the girls said.
“Come on, let’s take her.” Leena said and the two other girls started to pull her arm towards the vacant lot.
Kara started to pull her arm away. She didn’t like it all when her arm was being pulled.
“Okay put her in here.” Leena said as she opened a door.
Kara looked ahead and saw a yellow bus in front of her with missing tires. “It’s a bus.”
The two other girls looked at each other and then tapped Leena’s shoulder as she made her way inside the bus. “She doesn’t remember anything?”
“It’s coming back to her.” Leena replied and pulled Kara up the stairs. “Take her right at the back.”
“She’s going to freak out when she remembers everything, you know.”
“Mattie, shut up!” Leena said. “Sheila, just help me make Kara sit down over here.”
Kara found herself being pushed in between seats and she winced. “I don’t like this.”
“This isn’t the time to remember you’re claustrophobic!” Mattie said.
“Will you relax?” Leena said and opened her bag. She took out a plastic box and a juice box. “Eat what’s inside this and drink from this…” she pointed at the juice box, “when you’re thirsty.”
“This is so unbelievable.” Sheila said and took out a small blanket from her bag.
Mattie sat down next to her and touched her arm. “She is real.”
Kara pulled her arm away from Mattie’s and stared at Leena. “What am I doing down here?”
“You’re hiding.” Leena said.
“You know…” Sheila said thoughtfully. “We could cut her hair, give her makeup and get her admission in the school. It would be easier to keep an eye on her.”
“Yeah right!” Leena said. “So that whenever she gets her memory back, she could kill me for touching her luxurious locks?”
Kara touched her hair and looked at it. It was clean and long, and she liked the way the strands glimmered in sunlight.
“Well, looks like she’s finally remembering how obsessed she was with her hair.” Mattie said.
“Actually, it won’t work.” Sheila said. “Not with that huge picture of her in the corridors. Someone would eventually notice the resemblance.”
“I wasn’t even considering that.” Leena said and burst out crying. The two girls immediately reached out to console her.
 “You’re a strong girl Leena.” Sheila whispered. “It took a lot of guts to do what you did.”
“I’m so happy she’s here.” Leena blubbered. “I just don’t want to lose her again. I’m such an emotional mess right now.”
“Don’t worry.” Mattie said.  “We won’t tell her.”
“Tell me what?” Kara asked and shifted her legs. She was really starting to feel stiff.
Leena shook her head at Mattie. “Nothing.” She said and wiped her face.
“She is going to remember, you know.” Sheila said. “It’s better that this happens right now, instead of when nobody’s here to keep an eye on her.”
“I think you should tell her.” Mattie said.
Leena sat down and took Kara’s hand. She took a deep breath and bit the inside of her lip. “I can’t tell her.” She said and bowed her head.
“You’re gonna have to tell her that she was murdered.” Mattie blurted and Kara stared at her.
“What?” she whispered.
“Mattie!” Leena said. “What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m sorry.” Mattie said. “I’m just a little freaked out.”
“I was murdered?” Kara asked and she started to feel a dull thud near her heart. It was as if she was close to the answer, yet distant from the truth.


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