18-THE FORGOTTEN GIRL
It was dark , just like always.
How long has it been ? 8 months or 10 or 1 or none? She thought. She was tied up again , at her hands and legs . Her mouth was gagged , and her stomach was rumbling . But she knew she deserved this ...after all , I killed him. Shiba thought.
2 years ago roughly , she remembered she was taken by force by that bloody Hector to the Phoenix palace . That place had been hell for her. And that hooded woman...Shiba shivered at the thought of her. First she found Shiba in one of the lost tribal villages near the Mauryan kingdom, she didn’t even remember the name of the tribe . She had never seen her parents , so she was an orphan by birth , stealing bread and milk , which was of course stale and foul , but still she ate it . At times she was caught stealing , she was bloodied by the cudgel and left to rot . Her life had been miserable , but then the hooded woman came and took Shiba in .
The woman was like an angel for her , but only from the outside . She remembered and feared the memory of how she had cut her pinky fingers from each leg and put it in a pendant and was forced to wear it . The woman used to cut her , beat her bloody , and sometimes love her too...lunatic. Was what she was ...freak.
Fed up of everything , she ran and ran , finally free of her grasp and that’s when Aarav had saved her. Her knight in silver armour . Saved her and treated her like a princess . He loved her that was true.
But Shiba knew that Aarav thought of her like a little sister. But not Shiba , she loved him , more than anyone on this earth , even more than herself . She would gladly do anything for him , anything.
But then her dreams were shattered when Hector abducted her from her heaven , from her moon and stars and took her back to the monster in the form of the woman . For a year she suffered there , but Hector was gentle towards her . And so was the Phoenix king ...in his own way . Shiba knew he was a monster at another level , much much worse of a monster than the woman ever was .
King of the Phoenix had brainwashed her. And gladly she fell for it...
‘He killed you’re father , and raped you’re mother till she had no life left in her . Aarav is a wolf in a sheep’s skin...’ Day after day , he spoke to her and told her lies , lies and only lies. In the beginning she yelled at him and never believed , but later as the lies reached a level where she couldn’t bear it , she accepted it.
What would a 12 year old girl do? She thought . She fell for it , she fell for everything he fed her .
The phoenix king had known that Aarav would come to her , to protect her and take her to safety , and that is what he was waiting for . To kill the true king and the real saviour of world. After she accepted his lies , her life became easy . It was no longer miserable , she was treated like a princess , who would one day become a queen .
So the day finally came , she never understood why and where Hector had been taking her , but she simply followed him . And that’s when she saw him again .
Acting all kind and almighty .. She had thought when she saw Aarav on the bridge of the door of split. He fought bravely , and successfully killed her only friend , Hector . But she didn’t feel one bit of remorse on seeing Hector’s dead body , not one bit .
That’s what I had become...Shiba thought.
Her anger amplified when she saw Aarav kiss Reva , and flirt around with her .
I should have been the one kissing him ...I should be the only person who can feel those gentle and soft lips... She was thinking back then. If he’s won’t come to me , then I won’t let him go to anyone.
That’s what she was thinking when she jumped . Shiba knew he’d dive in to save her , it was a win-win situation for her. If he failed and died along with her , she would love to die with Aarav by her side . And if he lived somehow and saved her, then he would go back to loving her , as a sister or not , doesn’t actually matter . What mattered to her was whether he loved her not. But then ,just when he pulled her , her pendant was hurting so bad , her head hurt , and before she knew, Aarav’s own sword was in his chest .
She felt guilt , not because he died , but for the reason that he died such an easy death. But when he smiled as he fell and said ,
‘ Don’t blame her...she’s innocent...’
That’s when the guilt and remorse hit , that’s when she realized what a monster she was and how wrong she had been about him. All he ever did was help , and she killed him.
The following months had been a blur for her , Reva and her clanmates had taken her to the Mauryan palace where she was barely treated as a prisoner. She was well fed , she had clean clothes and she had the Mauryan queen herself to talk to .
Shiba always thought she wasn’t getting the right punishment a murderer should be given , she felt like a guest , whose only restriction was to never leave the palace . But her guilt was so heavy , she never even left her room .
How could she? How could she face the bright sunlight that reminded her of Aarav?
And then something happened and the queen stopped coming to her room , for 2 days she waited , and the door was knocked again , she opened it happily , just to find the lady guards who had come to take her down to the crypts. She asked them what had happened , she was slapped once in the face , and one of them told her that the queen was killed and the Mauryan kingdom had fallen .
That’s when the real torture began , she was thrown in a dark cell in the crypt , and gagged to the mouth , tied at her wrists and legs , and was left to rot like rag doll , with food once a day , and no hint of sunshine at all. Her cell was stinking now , and maybe , the guards had forgotten to slide the plate of 2 stale and rock-hard rotis with nothing more than a fistful of chilli powder and a spoon of oil in it , but she was clever enough to keep stock. Once the same had happened , and she had cried for food till her throat went dry . So from that day , she started storing 1/4th of every roti she got. And now she had close to four rotis as a stock to save her from dying.
Of course it was hard to eat , but what was she to do? Sometimes she felt to never eat and starve to death ,but then again if she died , Aarav’s death would go to waste. She had to live , atleast for the one-sided , almost possessive sort of a love she had for him.
But today , the guards never came to untie her and because of that , she couldn’t eat unless she was free. So she tried and tried till her wrists felt on the verge of breaking . For another day she lied there, helpless and hungry , on the verge of death.
The ropes were strong as cuffs , or even more , because how much ever she tried , she remained tied. Then all of a sudden her blood boiled , and the guilt that she had stored turned into self anger , and she tried for the last time before giving up.
She yelled as she couldn’t feel her hand anymore , but as she was gagged , it came out as a muffle . She cried and cried , and yelled , but no one came to help. Biting her tongue , she easily slid her other hand out and pressed it hard on the limp hand . For hours she sat that way , first pressing her broken hand as hard as she could with her hand . Then she pressed it between her knees , the force reduced the pain for a moment , just to increase it ten-fold when left free. Her appetite was gone , and that was replaced by pain now . But somehow , sleep finally took over , and maybe after hours she woke up , just to find her pain reduced a bit , but her hand was swollen now and it looked greenish.
But she swallowed the pain to make way for the food . Her teeth hurt when she ate the rock-hard-rotis , but anyhow she had to live. For god knows how many hours she was lying there , crying for help and yelling . Her throat was dry , her body on the brink of death.
She felt like these were the last moments of her life , so she started recalling the good old days . How she used to go out with Aarav to buy the chocolate ice-cream, pizza , cakes and sweets . Her mouth watered at the thought of food , so she thought about happy moments that did not include food.
Like how Megha and Reva used to braid her hair , Mayank would roam around the town with Shiba sitting on his shoulders , Pranay would crack lame jokes and try to make her laugh , which she would , so that he shouldn’t feel down . She even remembered how she used to sneak in Aarav’s room just to watch him sleep . Most of the time he had restless sleeps , so she would end up caressing his forehead , or his hair . Once or twice she felt the urge to feel his lips on hers , but she somehow felt like betraying Reva , so she held back.
Her breathing had slowed down , so had her heartbeat , it had almost stopped . She closed her eyes , and saw a light in front of her eyes.
This is it...seeing a light means death is close...
Just as the final moments of her life were about to end , she heard the latch of the cage open. Then she heard a familiar voice...
“Shiba! Hold on! Just a bit longer....please!”
“Aarav.” was what she said in the lowest of the low whispers.