Bed n’ Breakfast


Albina Arjuman (कtha)

Albina is a scientist and comes from a biomedical research environment. She has recently taken to fiction writing to explore the possibility of spreading awareness about day-to-day, socio-cultural, mental health related issues. One of her first speculative fiction pieces, Strange Encounters, was recently published in State of Matter magazine. She is presently working on a slice-of-life fiction novel.

Gosh! I don’t know why I’m so forgetful.
If it’s not the switches I leave turned on, it’s the cushions I mix up.
Last week, I dozed off on the couch watching a movie
but woke up to find myself sleeping in the balcony.
Mind tricks.

I know someone who’s bought an actual axe and a lightsaber
just in case the virus mutates to T-form and we wake up to zombie neighbours.
We already know the only way to handle a zombie, don’t we?
Off with the head!

Conjurors? Premonitors? Seers? Or cautionaries?
Travellers.
I wonder which time dimension these storytellers came from.

As a child, I believed walls to be cross-dimensional gateways.
I was scared of putting my feet on the floor, ‘cause my brother always told me,
Hands from under the bed will grab little Anna’s legs.
Driven wild by imagination, even Dante’s banished souls reached out to pull me into the hellhole through the pages.
I noticed that hell too resides in the underworld dimension.
This constant thinking is my problem.

There’s an atmospheric change.
It’s got to be this global warming everyone talks about,
’cause all that I see appears to be in darker shades.
Flawless. Like vogue air-brushing.
Everything smells musty too like there’s a mold infestation,
but really there isn’t any. Really, I’ve looked.
It’s cold mostly so I never forget to put my cerulean sweater on.

These walls have looked no different since my 13th birthday but they feel much taller.
Barricading or thwarting, I can’t decide.
It’s mostly a low-frequency rumble here: a bit too quiet at times.
Better than the beeping ambulances last year I suppose.

Where are my parents?
All I can recall is watching my brother move out a while ago, without saying goodbye.
He stopped acknowledging my presence since that day.

But it’s the new faces in this house that bother me.
They arrive in batches as if this were a Bed n’ Breakfast
but leave soon after I nudge them to stop sleeping in my bed.

Yesterday that boy in basketball shorts turned as pale as his t-shirt when I showed him the used butter knife he had left on the breakfast slab the previous night.
Just plain old lack of chivalry.

I am not a whiner to not share my space or time with anyone,
but I don’t like spectators while I’m naked.
Why do they barge in unannounced while I’m in the middle of my four-time daily bathing routine to get this festering black muck off my body?
An allergy. That’s my diagnosis,
‘cause I can only get a doctor sprinting out of the door every time I talk about it.

But I think it’s my strength that seems to be deteriorating each day.
I can’t eat anything ‘cause I’m not hungry at all.
Come to think of it, it’s actually my memory that seems to have faded since the day my parents left to see the doctor after they caught the flu.

Aunt April called that day and told me that Nonna couldn’t make it through the flu.
I wonder why she would lie to me blatantly, ‘cause Nonna is the only one who visits me every now and then, although she’s too old you know.
Can’t see anything, doesn’t say anything.

My brother too left coughing blood that day.
Said he’d be back after consulting the doctor.

He did tell me not to look under the bed and I remember trying my best not to
and I don’t really remember why,
but I think I did.