Orchi Saha‘s short story: A visitor at night

Rita woke up to a miniature plastic hand to her face and a soft chime of laughter. A low groan escaped her lips as she blindly reached for her phone and pried an eye open.

‘It’s too early to be up’, her body told her and the bright letters reading 3:27 A.M., agreed. She’d had a long week and a longer Saturday night and planned to sleep till late the next day – or today now, she supposed.

She rolled over and attempted to go back to sleep, but the plastic hand was back, this time followed by a little huff.

Giving up on further sleep, for the moment, Rita squinted her eyes open to look up at the wan face of the girl standing beside her bed. The pallid face broke out in a grin as it turned around and went to sit in front of the small couch set up in the corner of the room.

It was a stormy night. The heavy drapes covering the windows muted the sounds of the howling wind and pouring rain outside. The room was dark, and the furniture cast deeper shadows into the gloom. The only source of illumination was the dim light spilling from the cracks of the door which led to the hallway – and the faint glow emanating from the girl sitting beside it.

Rita heaved a sigh as she sat up.

Nani, I’m really tired tonight” she said, rubbing a hand over her eyes.

Nani looked up from the floor where she had gathered the half dozen dolls that usually sat neatly on the various shelves and pieces of furniture lining the room. Her nose scrunched up a little and her eyes were glassy as she said in a hoarse voice, “You’re getting too old to spend time with your Nani, aren’t you? It’s fine I get it.”

“It’s not like that, Nani, I’ve just had a long week.” Rita said tiredly as she got up for bed. Sleep was a lost cause anyway. “Don’t get upset.”

“I didn’t get to talk at all for the whole week while you were away on that stupid trip” Nani said childishly.

Rita was sure this wasn’t entirely true. Sure, Nani couldn’t talk to people, but there was nothing stopping her from talking at people. Rita had once watched Nani talk at Dad for an hour straight about the movie he’d been watching earlier, complete with elaborate hand gestures and dramatic voices.

“It’s fine. I get it. I’ll just leave you, then. You won’t see me here ever again!” Nani said dramatically as she swept up to her feet.

“I wasn’t supposed to see you ever again for the last twelve years”, Rita thought. It was an odd day indeed for seven-year-old Rita as she just didn’t get why everyone was upset about Nani leaving when Nani had just become a seven-year-old like her and started hanging out in her bedroom instead of her old room.

Nani, wait. I do want to hear about that time you and Nana went to Andaman” Rita said stopping Nani before she disappeared who-knows-where.

Nani’s face lit up in a smile again and the faint glow coming from her person seemed to brighten too.

Even in life, Nani had been something of a chatterbox, and regaled Rita with stories about the places she travelled to and had adventures in with Nana.

“Well, you know,” Nani said as she lowered herself to the floor once more, “Nana and I had that trip planned for the longest time…” Nani’s voice pattered off into nostalgia as she picked up two of the dolls and started recounting her tale with an earnest doll show.

Rita sat down beside her and laughed along with doll Nana. Ghost though she was, no one had quite the story telling skills as her Nani, in her humble opinion. She could always take a nice long nap after breakfast. It was Sunday after all!

Nani – Grandmother

Nana – Grandfather

Orchi is an engineer and she loves to read. She believes that every language has its own unique story that cannot be replicated by any other language in the world.

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