She was standing near the large, open window, looking at the grass field outside the house. The long strands of grass danced to the rhythm of the wind. A smile spread across her lips.
“There you are Lily, at the window again!” came her mother’s voice from behind.
She turned to look at her face, beautiful as always.
“Ma, can’t I go outside and play in the field?” Lily asked.
“No dear…we have a big house. Why can’t you play inside?” she asked brushing Lily’s hair aside.
“But, it’s more beautiful than our house”, Lily frowned.
“Come on now, be a good girl and start eating your food”, replied the other.
She left the door side and came running towards her mother. She took a spoon of oatmeal. She swallowed it and ran towards the door, touched the knob and came back for another spoon for it was her habit. She came back from the bedroom door and cried “I don’t want anymore…” looking at the spoonful of oatmeal her mother had in her hand.
“This is the last darling”, she said pleadingly.
“Okay…I will eat it but I want to touch the doorknob of that door”, replied Lily, pointing to a door painted black at the end of the house.
Her mother put the spoon back in the bowl and said coldly, “Not that one!”, and went to the kitchen, closing the door behind her. Lily stood there, shocked, though it was not the first time that her mother had behaved in such a way while talking about that door. She never allowed Lily to even go near that door and it has never been opened.
The next day Lily was standing near the window as she always does, looking outside at the field, with the rays of the sun falling on her face when her mother called her name.
“Lily! Time for Breakfast”, she said, holding the bowl in her hand.
Lily came running to her mother who gave her a hug.
“Now, shall we start?” asked her mother, holding a spoon full of oatmeal in her hand. Lily giggled and ran to a door near her, touched the knob, came back and swallowed the spoonful. Then she ran to the kitchen door and touched the knob of that door, and ran back to her mother to get another spoon.
“When will you stop this running and start eating sitting in one place?” asked her mother as she saw Lily running to the main door to touch it.
“I…don’t…know…” sang Lily as she came back from the main door. Her mother shook her head in disbelief and gave her another spoon. She quickly gulped it and ran to the bedroom door which was far down the hallway.
“Don’t touch that door!”, the voice from the drawing-room warned Lily. She was not sure whether it actually stopped her from touching it, or actually made her want to do it. Not until that day. That day she wanted to touch the knob at least, if not turn it.
“Lily…!” her mother called her.
Her hand shook as it reached for the knob. It was only about an inch away.
“Lily…!” her mother called again.
She heard her footsteps in the distance. As she turned to see, her hand touched the knob. She gasped and took a few steps back and stared at the black door. The knob turned and the door opened slowly, with a creak. Lily immediately broke into a sweat and ran away calling for her mother. She came to the drawing-room where her mother sat. But, she couldn’t find her now. “Mom…!”, she cried out. There was no reply. “Mom…!”, she called again. There was no answer. Tears began to roll down her cheeks. She ran to the window and looked out. The sun was slowly coming down. She remembered noticing the time when she woke up and it was just 8 in the morning then. As she was looking now, the sun went down and it all became dark. Lily couldn’t see a thing. She looked around and saw a small light in the distance. She slowly walked towards it. She walked very slowly for she feared she might fall down stumbled by some furniture. But, to her surprise, nothing came in her path. As she got closer, she found that the source of the light was a lantern which she has never seen in the house. As she took it in her hands, the light from it became brighter. With the help of the light, she looked around again. Lily found herself in the drawing-room of her house but all the furniture that was there before was now gone. As she lifted the lantern up, she saw a huge, life-size painting of a woman. But as she was short, she couldn’t see the face in the painting. So, she jumped up, again and again, and at last, she got a glimpse of her face. It was her mother’s! Only then it struck her mind that it was the dress that she was wearing that morning. Lily stood there, confused, not knowing what to do. As she lowered the lantern, she heard a creaking sound – the creaking sound of the door she heard only a few minutes before. She raised the lantern and walked down the hallway, towards the door.
The door was fully open but there was nothing on the other side. It was all dark. Lily hesitated for a moment, then, with a determination strode out.
For about an hour or so, Lily continued her brisk walk, but soon she became tired, not just physically but also mentally as she found nothing other than the darkness. She stopped to take a look around. All she could find was darkness and nothing else. She couldn’t even find her own house anymore. She broke into tears.
Lily cried and cried and cried. She didn’t know for how long. She cried till she became tired of it. Then slowly she rose, took the lantern in her hand and continued her walk. She was limping her way when she heard a creaking sound. Her face lit up.
“At least I can get to my home back now!” she thought.
She ran towards the direction from where the sound came. And finally, she was stopped by the door she collided with. Happily, she pushed it aside and went in. With the light from her lantern, she looked around as she walked down the hallway. There was nothing – no things or furniture. She reached the drawing-room and tired of walking and running for a long time, she just collapsed down on the floor and started crying again.
“Mom…Where are you…? I just want to see you again…”
There was no answer. She lifted her lantern to see her at least in that portrait. But, as the light slowly crept on the portrait, she realized it was not her mother’s. It was just like the one she saw before, but the person in it was different. Even the dress was not the same. She slowly walked back, turned and ran down the hallway towards the black door. She pushed it open and ran out. As the door slowly creaked back, Lily ran into the darkness and was engulfed by the black.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
I dedicate this story to my sister-in-law Kruthika.