The Modern Lives of the Forgotten
“The Modern Lives of the Forgotten” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Dan Ashraf, Kuwait International English School, Kuwait.
The Modern Lives of the Forgotten
Thud. "ughh, not again." I lazily got up with a groan. Another morning and yet again, I fell out of my bed. Life never gets easy does it? I thought as I walked towards the bathroom. My horrid reflection greeted me, 'sometimes I wonder if I'm a zombie or just a random teenager that the universe always targets. ‘I chuckled at my weird thoughts. After my boring routine of torturing myself is done, I walked back out to my closet … and that’s when the door busts open, "ADRIAN, GET THE HELL OUT OF MY ROOM" I yelled, to which he laughs. ”Why is the little princess always so … miserable?”, "I'm so called 'MISERABLE' because I always see your face in the morning. And what did you just call me? "I shot back at him, "oh, you're lucky to see this beauty in the morning. Besides, my mom always has to wake ME up, so why not you? "he questioned whilst leaning on the doorframe. "Because you sleep like a pig, that’s why. And we have the same mother, IDIOT”. I grabbed my pillow and aimed, "now, GET. OUT. OF. MY. ROOM!” and the pillow went flying. He managed to quickly shut the door, and run. If you haven’t guessed by now, Adrian is my annoying older brother. He ALWAYS has to annoy me each and every morning. He considered it as his 'duty'. I sighed and hastily got dressed. I slide down the railing, "oh Louisa, would you stop acting like a boy? Can't you just walk down the stairs like a normal human being?” A voice boomed. Ladies and gentlemen, meet my mother. She always thinks I act like boys, but what she doesn’t get, is that I'm just a 16 year old teenager. Let me define that for you: Teenager : noun : funny sized children sent from hell to wreak havoc . The number 1 enemy of adults. plus – "Did you hear me Louisa ?”, mother snapped . I grin at her, "nope" she sighed, Adrian laughed . see? I told you, it’s a routine .
"AAAAAAAAGGGHHHHH!!! LOU ! ", a figure slammed into me, engulfing me in a nice, warm, bear hug. We start laughing un-controllably. Here is my life long, partner in crime, bubbly friend, Emily Whites. Standing behind her, laughing his heart out is my other friend, Connor Moore. Me and Emily have been friends for … um, I can't even remember. We met Connor by coincidence in 5th grade. Connor was chasing his younger sister, Ella, while being chased himself by his older brother at the park. It so happened that Connor slipped and fell into the mud near us, thereby, taking us along with him. It was a crazy day, but from that day onwards, we were the inseparable three. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t the three little pigs” called a familiar voice. I turned around, “well, well, well. If it isn’t miss glittery shoes Melissa”. I shot, words dripping poison. She laughed her evil laugh, “oh, so the little peasant talks back now? Interesting”. Her gang laughed. Emily stepped up, "I swear to GOD Melissa, if you don’t shut your STUPID mouth right now I – "I cut her off, " that’s enough Em, were getting out of here" I say with a glare, walking off. The bell rings, Connor snarls at Melissa (scaring her) and follows suit .
We walked into Mrs. Pam's class, She was our English teacher. I have always enjoyed her lessons, but not today. I took a seat at the back-left corner of the class and slipped into my own world.
My own world is basically my book of stories. I always write what I think and feel and turn them into magical characters and stories. But it do not always provide me happiness. I started writing stories since my dad left. I always felt chained, alone. I battled some kind of depression when I was younger, but you can say I just got used to his disappearance. I battled through it alone, because I can't be the 'weak ' one, always crying over spilled milk. Anyway, the class seemed to pass by quicker than normal, and I heard the bell ring. Before I can pack my book away I was whisked away by Connor and Emily yelling about some kind of ruckus going on outside. We all spill out into the front yard and find two senior boys presumably fighting. The crowd went wild with every punch, even when neither was hit. It's funny how this scenario actually happened in one of my stories. Then it hit me, “THE BOOK! “I yelled, only to be heard by no one. I sprint back toward the building. I cannot let anyone read this book. No one has ever read it. They're going to think I'm silly! I took the following corner and turn left, past the science labs. I stopped short, in the hallway where our English room is. 'Too late ' was all I can think of at the time, for in front of me, stood Mrs. Pam, reading my book.
Her head lifted up in my direction, she broke into a smile. “Oh my Louisa! This is amazing! Why haven’t I seen this earlier? “she said. My legs started moving toward her, and the book was now in my hands. “I was hoping no one would read that Mrs. Pam, but I guess not. I'll be leaving now. Thank you for keeping the book safe for me." I announced hurriedly before turning my back and attempted leaving. Key word : attempted. Mrs. Pam rose to her feet, “Louisa Summers, you stop right there." she said sternly. I gulped. ‘Two more steps and I'm out of here! Come on Louisa, MOVE! ‘, my mind yelled at me, but of course, I turned around. “I assume you are aware of the talent show were holding tomorrow “, she started. “Yes …?” I answered. 'please universe, if you're there, if you're listening, PLEASE, I BEG YOU, don’t let her say what I think she's going to say' I prayed. “I would like you to sign up! “She requested happily. ‘Okay, that’s it. I hate you, I hate me, I hate my life. OFCOARS you didn’t listen! ', I Mentally threw a fit. “Read my stories in front of everyone? No thanks Mrs. Pam, I would rather stay in the shadows. “I answer while quickly turning around. “Say what you wish Louisa, but this wonderful talent of yours shall not go unnoticed. I loved your stories, especially 'the modern lives of the forgotten‘. You have time until tomorrow to decide, I will still call your name as the final act. I believe you will choose wisely." she called out. And with that , I left .
It’s the end of the school day, and I was waiting for Adrian to finish up so that we can walk home. I was leaning against the schools brick wall when little misssunshine approached me (note the sarcasm), “Louisa, Fancy seeing you here, all alone? “Melissa said with a plastic smile.” I have no time for your non sense now Melissa. Try ruining my life sometime else. “I retorted. Melissa was about to say something when an older version of her came up behind her. “Melissa, can you go to the car while I have a little talk with your friend here?” she said. Melissa walked away, but not without her famous hair flip of course. I turned to her mother. “Mrs. Perkins " I said. "Louisa summers." she said back. 'How in the world did she – ' , " Hear me out." she started. I gave a firm nod. “I know that Melissa has been kind of a bug lately. Truth is, she isn’t that emotion-less monster she appears to be. Sometimes I walk past her bedroom and hear her weeping. People walked out on her too. Just give her time. Believe me, your love and kindness is the only thing keeping you from turning into her. Don’t let the people who walked out on you make you lose sight of the people that are right there." she finished off. She gave me a sad smile and left. I don’t know what happened, but her words hit me deep.
Back home, Mrs. Perkins words never left my thoughts. I was sitting on my bed with a GIGANTIC pile of junk food and snacks before me. Don’t underestimate the word 'gigantic' because you don’t even want to know how many chocolate bars I was wolfing down. I just lost it. Waterfalls of salty tears were making their way down my face. I hated my life, I hated what was happening to me, I hated that my mother has to take care of us alone, I hate that Adrian feels that he needs to take care of me. And what is worse? I hate that I can't tell anyone about it. Another chocolate bar wrapper is thrown to the ground. What am I doing to myself? Eating my feelings away? Building a fort out of millions of wrappers? I don’t even know anymore. My door creaked open and Emily and Connor steped into view. Their eyes went wide as soon as they saw the amount of food I have. ‘Oh no, they're going to think I'm a freak now. Who in the world eats all of this? 'Connor spoke up first, "Dude, you're having a feast without us? "He exclaimed. Em chimed in next "Connor, you call that a feast? pah-lease, I ate way more than that" She said jumping onto my bed. Connor did so too, “Oh, you're on !", and with that, my food is gone. Before I knew it, we were all in heaps of laughter. I looked at their smiling faces and thought of everyone. I smiled too, ' I was never alone, was I? ‘I think as I look up at the starry night.
After Em and Connor left, I kept thinking about the talent show. What if other people were like me? What if they feel that they are alone? How can I change that? ‘Universe, this is the last time I'm asking, PLEASE help me … ' I sigh, What was I even thinking ? I'm always forgotten … Wait! , "The modern lives of the forgotten " ! I look over to the familiar book lying on my desk and knew, my mind was set .
Ringggggg, ringgggg … " LOUISA ! SCHOOL ! " . I woke up with a start. It took me a few seconds to establish that, " IM LATE ! ". I quickly rushed to put my sneakers on with the voice of Adrian's laughs in my ear. I've been awake all night finishing up my story. I don’t know if the audience are going to like it or not, but I don’t care. I am very proud of my little creation .
I busted through the halls, trying not to come tumbling down , but it all failed, for as soon as I steped foot into class, I fell face first. The class exploded into laughter. Mrs. Pam helped me up, laughing herself too, " Louisa ! Are you hurt ? And what in the world happened to you ? You look a mess ! ". I'm on my own two feet, I took a glimpse of myself in her small mirror, and my, what a horror I saw! My hair was shooting in directions I didn’t even think were possible! The class was LITERALY raging laughter, it sounds like 20,000 monkeys were trapped in the same room, all in distress. I can feel the heat rise to my face, no doubt I was as red as a tomato. I walked to the back of the class and remain silent till the bell rings.
‘Deep breaths, deep breaths', It was now time for the talent show. Kids ran up and down the stage, and the crowd applauses every now and then. Time passes by, and I feel like running away. Melissa stepped up to the stage. She started singing . All eyes flicker up to her. She looked beautiful. To my astonishment, she sings ' rise up ' by Andra Ray. huh , maybe she is a fighter after all. The last few beats of the song fades away, and the crowd applauses. Mrs. . Pam makes her way up the stage, " and now for the final act … " . ' here goes nothing ' , "… Louisa Summers ! ". My feet dragged me upstage. All eyes are on me. ' gosh , I never knew there would be so many people here … ' , I ran back to the stairs , only to find Mrs. Pam with her arms folded across her chest . The crowd watches. I go back to the mic, " well I guess there is no going out of this one. ", The crowd laughs . 'it's now or never Louisa. speak now or forever hold your silence. ' I began , " I have always been one to wonder about our lives. The way we talk, the way we speak, the people we meet, and the memories we make. No matter how much I wonder, I still don’t know if some people are just plain bad, or if there is still good left in them. I wonder how people could be stone cold, yet cry themselves to sleep each and every single night. We were all children once, so pure and innocent. Where has all of them gone? When the children would have dreams as big as the whole wide world, or look forward to waking up, or filling their lives with color and laughter. As the days went by, their dreams seemingly ceased to exist. Instead of thinking about superheroes and smiles, they wonder how they are going to make it through the next day, how they are going to face their bullies. People are stuck – trapped inside their heads with their taunting thoughts. How they are the ' ugly ' ones, the ' stupid ' ones, the ones that aren’t worth it, or the ones that have no reason to exist.
Life has become a common daily struggle, where people learn to hate, or look forward to destroying each other, and witness hot, burning tears of misery. People struggle to find the light in the midst of darkness… even when it’s burning daylight. Wars have become ‘normal’, spreading like plague everywhere, and tearing families apart. Children have to leave their families - their guardians - the only ones they feel safe and secure with. We have all become a target of society , even in the safety of our own homes.
Kids went from wanting to be doctors, lawyers, engineers or someone successful, to simply wanting to be ' dead'. It has become a new normal to lock yourselves up in a dark room, in an equally dark corner, crying your hearts out. It has even come down to people with something as challenging as cancer thinking 'is it even worth it ? Living to see another day? ' .
'Sticks and stones may break my bones’. I have always thought this to be a funny saying, seeing that it has become so rare to see someone that would actually fight for a change. People have become so pathetic, that they need to see each other suffer so that they can satisfy their needs. What has this twisted world come to? Poor children are forced to grow up so fast, to forget that they even have a childhood; to totally forget its meaning and what it feels like. You just don’t know from where or when the next stab is coming from, or when life is once again, going to fail you. There is no more trust, no more love. We have simply been forgotten, this has become our modern lives.
Too many people have been diagnosed with depression, severe PTSD and schizophrenia, to the point where people fail to feel ' shocked ' or notice that it is not ordinary. Suicidal rates are going up by the second, and no one is doing anything about it, not even lifting a finger. When have people lost their voices? Their strength? Their hope? When have we become so weak that we can't even fight for what we believe in ? What is life without love? And why do we feel that our lives are not even our own? We face people every single day saying that we are fine when we just want to scream out loud. But you know what ? No, I am NOT fine. I don’t like the way the world is working , I don’t like the injustice, and I don’t like that I am just standing there, frozen, hands and tongue tied just because I am scared of judgment. But I am not scared anymore, I want to make a change – I want to BE the change. I want to show people that there is indeed a light, there is an end to the tunnel. There will always be someone there, guiding them, protecting them, even when it feels like their world is going down in flames. No more feeling like you just want to disappear , or wanting to be swallowed up by a hole 8 feet deep beneath the ground, never to be found again. I want them to know that these shadows do NOT exist, I want them to know that they have the power to demolish these demons for good. I want them to know that they have all the support they need. I want to find a way to break their chain, to set them free. I want them to find their wings, their voice, their courage, and I want them to surface and face the world with all that they have and scream at the top of their lungs ' I AM WORTH IT ' , ' I AM FREE' . I want the innocence back, I want people to love again, to feel; to feel something that is true. I want them to survive, and to make it through together. I want them to know that they are not alone, yet alone forgotten. They never have been, and never will be. " I was in tears . And so were the audience. Everyone stood up, loudly applauding . The crowd went wild. I can't believe this ! I did it ! I got my message across ! I ran down the stage and found myself in the warm arms of Mrs. Pams, " I'm So proud of you Louisa, you don’t even know " she said warmly. I can't help but smile. I rushed into the crowd. I love all the attention and all, but I'm not done yet . " MELISSA! WAIT UP ! " I yell. Blondie locks turns around. Something in her has changed ; her beautiful blue eyes aren’t so sad anymore, they actually softened … she found hope . To my surprise, she gave me a hug. " I told you Melissa , you're not a bad person " I say with a soft smile. She's crying , " I remember. Back in 5th grade, when I started all the bullying, you told me , ' why are you doing this ? You are not a bad person '. I never forgot Louisa, I just … got lost. " I smiled, " you could have talked to me, you still could. I'll always be there to listen. " I announced . Melissa grinned, " I know, but maybe later. Go be with your friends , they want to talk to you " .
And this was the best night of my life, the night where I actually felt free. I knew I found a new hope, and others did too. The truth is, it was never lost, just hidden. Without all the darkness and all the bad, the good would not exist. Without love we would not live, and there, lies the beauty of the world…