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TW/CW: This story contains references to suicide, self-harm, sexual harassment, death, and trauma.

They found Aiyana lying in a pool of blood, cold as ice; both her wrists slashed with what seemed like a blunt knife lying on the floor beside her body. The scar marks all around her thighs appeared as fresh as ever. That’s all her mother, Anu, saw before her head started reeling and she dropped on the floor with a thump.

The autopsy suggested it to be an indisputable case of suicide. It wasn’t the blood loss that had killed Aiyana; she overdosed on a bunch of sleeping pills. The self-harm was done after taking the pills, as a desperate attempt to seal the deal. Aiyana was only sixteen. Her family couldn’t comprehend what might have pushed her to such an extreme. She didn’t even leave behind a note.

Anu cried for the first few weeks. But there are only so many tears the eyes can shed. The tears dried up soon enough and after that, Anu stared blankly out the window. One day, she went to Aiyana’s room. She organized the cupboard full of clothes that smelled damp, straightened up the disarrayed bed, and started cleaning the mess of a desk. She found Aiyana’s black diary. She never dared to touch it before, since her daughter would throw a temper tantrum if anyone did. Anu thought she might as well read it now; not that anyone would mind.

The diary was full of scribblings—little doodles, half-complete writings, torn-out pages, poems, and many indecipherable pages struck out repeatedly with a pen. Anu glanced over at a few of them.

Entry #16

I was nine. We were on a trip. I was in the hotel playing hide and seek in the corridor with two friends. A hotel staff member was cleaning an empty room. He was very nice and friendly to the three of us. I thought he was our friend, too.

When it was my turn to hide, I hid in that room that the man was cleaning. But the moment I entered that room alone, he grabbed me from behind, threw me on the bed, and pinned me down. My voice was stuck in my throat. I was struggling, silently. Before he could proceed, my friends approached that room, searching for me. As he heard their footsteps, the man sprang to his feet and let go of me. I ran like my life depended on it.

I was traumatized for days. But I didn't tell anyone; not even mother. I didn't fully understand what had happened. So I remained silent.

The next time it happened, I was twelve. My mom had appointed a personal yoga trainer for both of us. He also did massages and facials. That guy was too sweet to be true. But I didn't know the difference between truth and facade back then. He said I could use a facial. I agreed enthusiastically as I had never done it before. My mom agreed as well.

He went from my face to my neck and from my neck to my chest. He went down and down. And all I did was lie perfectly still, pretending that nothing was happening. I just hoped the nightmare would end soon. Later, I heard that he had done the same thing to my cousin, and she had spoken out. That’s when he stopped coming to our house.

But I didn't speak out; she did. All I did was sit by the window and stare blankly at the sky, holding my tears back. When my mom asked me if he had touched me like that, I denied it. I didn’t want to face it. So I remained silent.

"Why?” I ask myself. But I don’t have an answer. Maybe I was frozen with trauma. I wanted to believe it was all a lie. I was too scared to smile for months. I constantly asked, "why me?" I am not one to talk about my feelings—is that why I didn’t protest? Maybe I was too young to know what it all meant. Or maybe I was too old to expect that no one would blame me. I don’t know what it was. Maybe all of those reasons or maybe none of it.

All I know is that I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed of my silence. I feel ashamed that I wasn't strong enough. Who knows how many more girls like me were touched by those men because I remained silent.

Entry #40

How easy it would be if we didn't feel

They could be vile and mean

They could put me in a guillotine

But I would smile and say “it’s not a big deal”

How easy it would be if we didn't feel

People could break my heart

The world could tear me apart

But I wouldn't even need to heal

How easy it would be if we didn't care

People could die

Innocents could be strung up high

But no one would shed a tear

How easy it would be if we didn't care

I could drown in the hate

I could be crushed under the weight

But I would still live and breathe air

Anu couldn’t bear to read anymore. The tears came pouring. Her vision was blurry. She left the room in a rush, gasping for air. As she flung herself on her bed, she couldn’t even let out a whimper because of the ever-growing knot in her throat.


In a parallel universe

Anu rushed into the room when she heard an ear-splitting wail. She found her daughter crippled on the floor, shaking convulsively. She was covered in sweat. Anu opened the windows, pulled Aiyana onto her lap, rubbed her back, and poured out a glass of water. Aiyana emptied the glass as if she had been parched for months. Anu kept catechizing Aiyana, but in vain. No matter what she asked, Aiyana would only say, “I didn’t do it, mom. I stopped it.”

After comforting her for a while, Anu put her to bed. She slept that night, and the day after that, and for many nights and days thereafter. It was like she hadn't slept in ages. But Anu had no peace. She needed an answer. One day, when Aiyana was not at home, Anu decided to find out the answer for herself. She started snooping around her daughter’s belongings to get a clue as to what might have happened. That’s when she came across a black diary in one of the drawers.

Normally, Aiyana would throw a fit if Anu even went near that diary. But the situation was dire and Anu couldn’t bear being kept in the dark any longer. So she started fishing for clues. She went through a few of the decipherable pieces among tons of scribblings.

Entry #26

Today, Angshu tried to kiss me. But I shrank away. My body started shivering, and I ran for the hills. The flashbacks have started up again. I don't like being touched; not by men. I like him so much, but I can't bear it when he gets too close. I feel suffocated as if my lungs are going to burst. My heart races just like that day when I ran for my life when I was nine. And when I can't do that, I just freeze like that time when I was twelve.

It's strange how I feel both guilty and traumatized. I was the victim, but I still feel like I did something wrong. I didn't fight back hard enough. I didn't let the world know from rooftops as I should have. But would that have made any difference? Or would I just be seen with eyes of scrutiny? I would bet it's the latter. So was it self-preservation to remain silent? I don't know.

All I know is a kid shouldn't have to bear the burden of changing the world. I shouldn't have been responsible for protesting and seeking justice when it was my age to play with toys and build sandcastles. Maybe I was silent, out of shock. Shocked that the world couldn't keep me safe.

Entry #44

There is an ugly part of me

A part I wish wasn't there

A part which formed when I was scared

A part which formed when I felt like no one cared

A part which formed when I was compared

A part which formed when I was broken but never repaired

This part of me I talk about,

Was slowly carved into my bones with time

Was written in my blood when I cut myself during a climb

Was making its home in my mind every time I said I was 'fine'

Was becoming a part of my constitution each time I waited in line

Time didn't change much

The climb never ended

I was only feeling worse

When the wait seemed eternal

I cried out loud

I admitted I wasn't proud

I gasped for air and dropped dead

I just didn't realize it was all in my head

I didn't know that no one else could see

No one, none but me

I didn't know that people didn't want to deal with my issues

So I wiped my tears and threw away the tissues

That’s when that part of me formed,

Beauty was replaced by a hideous darkness

Softness turned into an impeccable hardness

I tried a lot of things but it wouldn’t go away

I understood that it was here to stay

There is an ugly part of me

A part I wish wasn't there

Well, but it is here

So what can I do?

I guess I'll have to live with my demons

Live like every part of me is true

Anu’s eyes welled up. But it wasn’t sadness. It seemed her daughter had darker demons than she could ever imagine. But she was glad that Aiyana knew how to fight them. It's just like what she had said—"I stopped it."


This Night Owl Original has been authored by Sreejani, She is a writer and a student of Comparative Literature based in Kolkata, trying her best to make the most out of life while writing about what moves her. She hopes that whatever she writes, can help one feel something, no matter where they are situated on the map of the world.


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