It was dark outside as Alice peered out the window. It was black like the dark liquid inside her ink bottle. She pulled her curtains and retreated back into the safety of her home. All her friends had left her and gone into the dark.

She had heard stories about how people came back changed. They were “older” but worn out. They talked about their experiences in the dark — how they braved many struggles and came back home victorious like the heroes in stories.

But she knew these people were not the ones who had left originally. Alice didn’t want to change. She wanted everything to stay the same. But there was something about the darkness outside that called to her. In her deepest sleep she felt the tug, to go outside and to see what was there. She would stay up at night wondering how her friends were able to leave so effortlessly.

One day one of her friends returned. She was much taller and her clothes had changed. Her stare was deep and she spoke with Alice animatedly. Her friend talked about seeing different places. She spoke of mountains that cracked through the sky and of water bodies that stretched to the horizon, called oceans; how it was difficult to breathe at the top of the mountain and how the slow moving water would gently massage your feet as you would stand in the ocean.

She said the darkness was actually a test of courage, to keep the weak inside. She talked about a new type of creature called boys and that there was something called marriage. Her friend had gotten married to a boy. Her friend was planning to step out into the darkness again.

Alice’s friend’s stories tipped the balance in her brain between fear and curiosity. She too wanted to see what a boy was and to feel the ocean on her feet. Finally after days of debating with herself, she decided to go out of the house.

As Alice stepped closer to the door, she heard sounds from outside. Even though she had stood in this position many a times earlier, her intent seemed to make the sounds clearer. There were people laughing, crying and expressing all the other spectrum of emotions like a rainbow. Though Alice was warm, she felt a chill wind across the skin of her face.

Her left hand closed around the knob of the door and she felt a tingle. It wasn’t a sinister feeling like she had expected but it was a seductive one. She knew she couldn’t turn back now. Her hands moved on their own, as if guided by an unseen power. She opened the door and the darkness seem to swallow her. It didn’t want her to set foot outside. There was an immense pressure suffocating her as if she was on top of a mountain.

A new fear gripped her and the irony was not lost on Alice. As long as she could remember, she was afraid of stepping out and now she was afraid she won’t be able to set her second foot outside. These conflicting sensations made Alice pause in her step. She had done what she was afraid of doing but now she wasn’t able to take the final step.

But at that moment a hand appeared out of the darkness. She couldn’t see the rest of the body which appeared to be hidden underneath a dark curtain. It beckoned to her, almost shining in the blackness.

Alice knew that if she didn’t grab hold of the hand, she won’t be able to take her final step. As she reached out, the hand grabbed her wrist and pulled her into the darkness.

As Alice’s body left the house, the door closed slowly with a finality.

This is a guest post by Shreyan Goswami.

Shreyan is a senior software developer at Honeywell. In his free time, he enjoys reading and sometimes writing. He likes tea and spicy food (not at the same time!). Apart from books, he loves playing video games and watching anime.

To discuss about books, video games and anime, you can reach out to him at his email [email protected] or contact him on Discord (Shreyan#8233).

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