She opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. She traced the all-too-familiar cracks on the ceiling with her eyes and follow them until it ended somewhere in the middle. She saw the cobwebs on all four corners where the ceiling met the four walls, and tried to remember whether there was always only four. She heard the familiar scuttle of bugs as they moved at a frenzied pace from one end of the room to another, and once again, was glad that her mattress was too high for the insects to bother trying to climb up. But then again, there were always the problem of bed bugs. She could easily see all four walls just by looking straight ahead, and could almost memorise every little defect on the walls.
She lay very still, listening intently, to what lay beyond the door. She heard a trio of voices, two familiar, one unfamiliar, and a sudden burst of laughter. She cocked her head towards the door, her attention caught by that sound. It was still so new to her, she had learnt of its existence only two days ago, and had only heard it on the magic box. That was how she came to knew of such things. S
Soon, there came a muffled bang of the door, and she leapt up. This was what she had been waiting for. Quietly, she tip-toed across the linoleum, scaring a few bugs away in the process, and turned the brass knob. Still cautious, she poked her head out and scanned the area. All clear. She was always careful, she did not dare think of the consequences if she was discovered. Her feet met the cold and clean surface of marble, and she quickly wiped her feet, not wanting to leave behind dirty tracks. She made her way to the main room and stood in front of a hard, black box, with a blank screen.
There the magic box was.
She found out about the magic box many months ago, it was the first time she dared step out of her room and she came across this peculiar object. It wasn’t like anything she had ever seen, of course, mostly everything in the room was alien to her, but she felt the most curious about it. There was a big black button, and the box came alive the moment she pressed it. It almost scared her half to death, but she was mesmerized by the moving images and all the colours that were shown on the box. All kinds of fascinating things were shown on the magic box, and for hours she would stand there and just watch, listen, and learn. It was from the magic box that she began to learn things, words, objects, colours, everything. From her little world inside her room, where all she knew of was the grey walls, the white ceiling, the bareness of it all, suddenly, she was thrown into a new world filled with so much surprises and pleasant things that she began to realised what she had been missing. All through a simple, black box. Just like magic.
Now as she watched, an image appeared on the screen. There was a man, a woman, and a small human. A voice from the box called it a ‘child’. She tilted her head; the ‘child’ was the same size as her. Did that mean she was called a child? She continued watching, as the man and woman both placed their arms around the child and squeezed gently. Her eyes widened, expecting a cry from the child or shouts from the man and woman, but all she heard was the voice explaining that they were ‘hugging’, and that ‘hugging’ was the way they expressed their ‘love’ for the child.
She tried to remember Adam and Jane ‘hugging’ her, their names only known to her through listening from her room, but she could not. The only times they actually came that close to her it caused her pain, and she did not like it. But apparently hugging was not supposed to hurt.
She turned her focus on the child. She stared at its features, its eyes, nose, and mouth. They resembled the man and woman, and she wondered if all children looked like their Adam and Jane. She memorized the child’s features and turned to find a mirror. She remembered it from a few days ago, when she first learned about it. She saw it hanging on a wall, and she quickly hurried to it. She stood in front, and as her eyes adjusted to the image before her, she compared.
Her eyes were small, too small. More like slits than the oval shaped ones the child had. Her nose, was not straight like the child’s, but crooked, shaped like the letter ‘S’, instead. Her mouth, did not match the child’s, but was rather tilted at the corner, so her whole mouth looked odd. She examined her face, and mentally compared it to the child. It was almost completely different. She frowned. The magic box was always right, but could it have made a mistake this time? She shook her head. Nonsense, the magic box was always right, she was just wrong. Her face was a mistake, according to the magic box, and she wondered how to fix it.
But then a thought struck her. The child in the box looked like the man and woman, and they were both hugging it, they both loved it. She did not look like Adam or Jane, and they both never hugged her, never showed her what was called ‘love’. Maybe it was because she did not look like the child in the magic box. Maybe that is why they do not love her.
Suddenly upset, she wanted desperately to escape. She felt trapped, and she could not breathe. She had to get out of this place. She spotted the window, low enough for her to reach, and wide enough for her to fit through. She walked towards it, and tried to get herself up. But her arms were too weak. She never carried anything, and they looked like sticks. She tried multiple times to heave herself up, and finally, with all her strength, she managed to get herself up on the window and out.
She was awe-struck at what lay outside. It was just like a magic box only much, much bigger. She saw a grey path to her right and decided to follow it. She walked along it, her attention shifting from one thing to the next, her eyes wide and glassy, her mouth in a crooked grin, she saw actual trees, bigger than the magic box ever showed, houses, so much bigger from the outside than in, and real birds, up in the sky, flying. It must feel nice, flying. She frowned at her speed. She was going too slowly. She was afraid Adam and Jane would catch her. She remembered the magic box showed her a man ‘running’. It looked easy enough, and he was going very fast. So she decided to try.
Quickening her steps, she lost balance and stumbled, but tried again. She moved her feet faster, and faster, feeling the rough surface beneath her feet and was amazed by it. She felt slightly awkward, her body jerking too much for comfort, but she was ‘running’, and she was going faster and that was all that mattered. She ran, feeling the wind for the first time, closed her eyes, and tried to capture that feeling and keep it with her all the time.
Her feet came into contact with something hard, her whole body tilted, and suddenly, she was flying.
Everything was speeding past her and for a moment, she understood what if felt like to be a bird.
She felt free.
But then the ground loomed before her, and she collided with the ground in one hard motion. She tumbled, and came to an abrupt stop. Heart pounding, she breathed heavily and her mind tried to catch up with what happened and what was happening. She felt something warm trickle down her head and legs, and then she felt pain.
It wasn’t like she had ever experienced before. The pain was excruciating, and she could not help but open her mouth and scream. She had to release the pain she felt in her body and so she kept screaming.
Doors were flung open, and people were streaming out of their homes, wondering what was making that awful sound. As it was dark, flashlights were switched on, and beams of light flickered in a haphazard manner, everyone trying to find the source of all that screaming. Someone found something, and he gave a shout. People started gathering around her, but she could hardly concentrate on that when the pain was all she could think of. A concerned face crouched in front of her. But, unable to see, he lifted his arm, and she was flooded in light.
A woman screamed.
Slowly, they backed off, backed into the safety of their homes from that grotesque girl, covered in blood, screaming as she lay in the middle of the road. They were terrified. Her face was disfigured, a birth-defect that brought shame and embarrassment to her parents, causing them to hide her at home where her existance was to be kept a secret. Her limbs were thin and weak from the lack of space to move around and exercise, causing them to buckle and fail when exerted suddenly.
She lay on the cold, hard surface, all alone now. Her screams had reduced to chest-heaving sobs, and as she lay there in the middle of the night, she wondered if somehow, she was better of trapped.