“Sleeping Pills” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Bhorum Kamboj, Mukand Lal Public School, Yamuna Nagar, India.
“Why should you save me? I’m no-one.” He asked, voice hoarse from crying over night, tears glistening under his eyelids, sparkling in the departing moonlight. Too dramatic! He thought it over a million times, she would never come back, he’d believed.
She sighed. “I was the one to let you fall. Did you seriously think I won’t catch you?” She looked into his eyes, yearning to see the boy she adored and his blissful laughs, the boy who once used to be. “Please trust me, Andre. We can fix this together. I can fix you-”
“I’m not broken, Ruth! I’m not Broken.” He backed away, glaring at his once-trustful-friend. After years of hatred and seclusion, if she would offer peace even as silver stars on a gold platter, he wouldn’t accept her apologies. All he had ever wanted was a friend, who would be there for him when he needed it the most, who would stay.
She’d left enough times for him to know, she could never be one.
“One day I am going to become a search and rescue pilot. And I will save many people, hundreds of them. Everyone will be so proud of me, Roo! I will make everybody so happy.” Andre gushed over his new found dream-job.
“No way, Addie! You won’t make past the general ward of a hospital when it comes to sick and dying people. You will vomit over their dead bodies and start crying.” The other ten-year-old laughed, munching on the cereal she was holding. “It will be a mess. You are just not strong enough for it.”
Andre frowned and stole a few bits from a bucket of popcorns lying beside her. “My mum is a nurse, I know better than you. I am strong!”
“You cried after seeing that dead rat, not more than a few days ago. You are such a weakling! I can bet that you will leave the job in a day, given you actually pass for it.” She laughed again, sticking to watching her movie and feeding herself the candies and cereal waiting to be eaten.
“Hey! Don’t laugh at me now,” Andre shouted and stood up. “You also cried when your cat died. I’m not the only one here.”
“That was three years ago Addie!” she giggled a bit at the scene, not paying attention to a very angry Andre stomping out of the room. “Don’t worry though; I’m definitely going to cry when you die.”
He felt like vomiting. And punching the wall hard. And rolling on the floor crying until he’s left alone. Of course he chose the latter.
His back hurt the most, and his chest felt like it was burning. His limbs had long gone numb and it was truly a miracle that he was still conscious and breathing. For a moment he thought he’d gone blind, his throat was dry and sore. Or maybe he’d just died, but he could still hear the various noises indicating everyone was enjoying the show.
He glanced towards the left corner, where Ruth was standing, watching the unfortunate scene unfolds. Definitely not crying. He was sure he wasn’t already dead.
“Don’t you think they’re a bit overdoing it, Nicole? He’s bleeding a lot. They might get expelled.” Ruth whispered to her friend. “Oh c’mon! He totally deserves it. Just chill and enjoy! That knucklehead won’t tell a soul for his dear life.” Nicole snorted, dragging her further towards the middle of the locker room, where Andre was being beaten by half of the football team.
The captain bellowed, punching his already broken jaw. “Don’t you even look at my girlfriend again, rather ask for notes. It’s not anybody else’ fault you weren’t in the class. Don’t. Ever. Look. At. Her.” He screamed, just as he was pulled away. “Come, Isaac. This pea-brain isn’t worth it. He won’t bother me anymore probably.” Nicole pitched in, sprawling all over her boyfriend’s side. She gave Andre a cold look and they strolled away.
His body was aching but somehow he stood up a bit, grabbing Ruth’s forearm. “Roo, I d-didn’t do a-any-thing.” He weakly said.
“Get off me, you spaz.”
“I never said you’re broken, Andre. But what you’re doing makes me believe you are. Stop it! Please.” She reached out to a stumbling Andre, trying to force him to stop running away and listen. “I can only fix you if you want it. We can be friends again!”
“Not broken.” He snorted, and sniffed, then laughed aloud as if it were but a joke. “So you’re saying you won’t leave this time ‘round? Funny!” he turns around before stumbling and falling flat-faced; the sound of an ambulance blaring in some distance is the last thing he heard.
He woke up in a bed, a hospital bed to be precise. The fourth time, in two months; he was so close to being dead. He contemplated leaving, when the door creaked open. “Oh hello, Andre! You’re back?” What a nice greeting!
“Around 15 pills this time, interesting. But why? What happened?” she questioned. “You also had some other drug before that. Drinks, cigarettes, anything? Someone forced you?”
“13. There were 13 left. I wasn’t stoned before that, and you know I don’t get invited to parties or stuff. I barely meet people.” He responded nonchalantly, accustomed to the process.
“She returned Andre. I won the bet. Where’s my prize?” such a bad attempt at lightning the mood.
There was a long pause, before Andre whispered, barely.
“Priscilla, she thinks I’m crazy.”
“Does it even matter? What do you think?” The doctor tried to contradict. “Are you crazy?”
“Me? I would’ve happily died seven weeks ago. She won’t even let me die in peace!” he chuckled. “I never wanted her to return, yet here she is. I don’t want her to be here for me now. It’s too late.”
“Too late to mend it all?” he nodded, then shook his head “no, nothing was broken ever to be mended. It was just an infinite void.”
She looked at him thoughtfully, and added something to her notepad. “Sure, of course. So what are you up to next? What’s on your wish-list?”
“Buy some sleeping pills, and a new lock.”