Weddings are a particularly noisy affair. This one was no different. A large number of guests had congregated at the courtyard that overlooked the huge, well-lit, mansion. They congratulated the bride and groom, admired the decorations, criticized the food arrangements – everything was just the way typical weddings are!
The children were also decked up in the fanciest of attires. However, instead of joining the adults on the dance-floor, they were more interested in playing amongst themselves. The entire house was empty and it became the venue for the game that they were about to play – hide-and-seek. The seeker closed his eyes and began the count from 1 to 100 while the rest of the children ran helter-skelter trying to hide in a place where they would not be easily found.
She ran up the stairs until she reached the third floor that led to a room which opened up to the terrace. She was quite smart for a nine year old – she figured that by the time the seeker reached the last floor of the house, he would have already found her other friends and cousins, and she would be the winner. When she reached the room, it wasn’t empty. Her neighbour’s uncle was sitting there, with a glass of whiskey in his hand.
“What are you doing here, uncle?” she asked.
He explained that he was expecting an important call and, therefore, was in the house so that he would not miss hearing the phone ring. She heard the gleeful screams of a few children on the ground floor. “Quick! I don’t have much time,” she squealed. “I need to hide!” He told her to sit down quietly and make no noise. He, then, turned off the lights and carefully made his way back to the sofa. She had not caught his evil gleam in the darkness nor had she heard him silently bolt the door from inside. It was dark and she could not see a thing. “Don’t be scared,” he whispered. “I am here.” She merely nodded her head and sat still. Suddenly, she felt his hand on her mouth and in a soothing, hushed voice, he said, “Don’t worry. You will enjoy this game – it is called dark room.” Something about his syrupy-sweet voice spooked her but she just sighed in compliance – she loved playing games; after all she was just another child. The other children searched for her in the house but finding the door of the third floor locked, they went down to look for her in other spaces. Her choked voice gave no hint of her presence. As his fingers brushed through her entire body from under her clothes, she experienced shivers. She did not like what was happening but she did not cry for help. She could not. The brutal monster abused her body despite her silent, fervent, prayers begging him to stop.
Even when he, ultimately, stopped, she, still, did not feel the same. Her body continued to ache while her mind was terrorized with fear. He made her swear that she would not tell anyone – this game was their little secret. She nodded in agreement, blinking her eyelids rapidly to stop the tears that were about to trickle down her face. She had not enjoyed this one bit – she had no intention of playing this game with any of her friends.
She trudged down the staircase only to be hounded by some of the children, who, still had been looking for her. “Where were you hiding?” they asked. “You are the winner of this round!” She did not know how to answer them. On seeing her silent and subdued, they merely shrugged their shoulders, “Fine! Don’t tell us if you don’t want to!”
The new seeker began her count. Once again, the children started looking for places to hide themselves. She hid with the other children. This time, she did not want to become the winner of the game. One always has to pay a heavy price for winning – on that fateful day, that was the lesson that she learnt.