Story Contest 2020 #2 Results »

Senior 2nd Prize Winning Story - Flames And The Phoenix

“Flames And The Phoenix” by Aashna Gupta, Sanskriti School, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, India, is the Second Prize winning story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2020.

Aashna Gupta is currently 15 years old and studies in Sanskriti School, New Delhi. An avid reader, some of her favorite books include To Kill A Mockingbird and The Kite Runner, the latter having inspired this story. She is also a science enthusiast and particularly enjoys physics. She firmly believes in feminism and aspires to work for it in the future. In her free time, she plays guitar and listens to music. She has been writing since she was 8 and she hopes to bring about a change in society via her writing.

Flames And The Phoenix

Mind spinning with anticipation but deeply burdened with the knowledge that there is nothing that I can do, I resort to repeatedly tracing the scar on my wrist, seeking comfort, familiarity, hope, that everything will work out for me, that I may have been dealt rough cards but I have long since learnt to shuffle the deck in my favour. I took a deep breath and tipped back the uncomfortable hospital chair, a habit I could never quite get rid of even if I wanted to and one that has probably warranted more trips to the local medical centre than I care to count.

I looked to my right to see Ellie sprawled out on a similar chair, sleeping like the dead. I winced internally at my poorly timed joke. I didn’t realize how long I had been staring at her, completely zoned out (and definitely not thinking of how both of us seemed to retain our childhood idiosyncrasies where chairs are concerned), when she jerked awake, blinked at me owlishly, muttered something about a boat and her pet octopus (which, what?) and fell back asleep. I suppressed a genuine albeit tired smile.

As exhausted as I was, my unwillingness to give into sweet, sweet slumber and my annoyingly stubborn attitude kept me awake, extremely uneager to come to face with the nightmares that were sure to haunt me. I will not- could not- sleep, not until after the mocking bulb over the doors of the operation theatre turned off.

Gosh, I thought, this is harder on this side of the operation theatre. Still rubbing my scar, I allowed myself to wallow and bask in the memories of times gone. Growing up as reckless as I could be without giving my dear mother a heart attack (though I think her lack of cardiac problems speaks more about her calming personality than my semi-worried diablerie), I was no stranger to injuries and resultant scars. My nose was still crooked, from when a five year old me ended up opening the refrigerator door a tad too enthusiastically and ended up smacking himself in the face. And breaking it. And the sole of my left foot definitely had a scar from when I stepped on a pair of scissors and they had buried into my skin so smoothly it was eerily fascinating to my twelve year old self (“I don’t care if I’m not supposed to walk on your worktable Ellie, you shouldn’t leave them out!”).

“They’re kind of like a map to your life, aren’t they?” murmured a sleep laden voice, startling me. I hummed in agreement, noticing her observing my wrist through hooded eyes.

“Not a particularly desirable map, is it?”

A beat.

“It brought you here.”

And it was the absolute honesty shining in her eyes and the touch of sincerity lacing her voice that made my throat clog up, made it hard to argue, because I had strayed one too many times but now I was finally here.

“Oh, Elizabeth, sometimes I forget how wise you are”, I whispered, trying to lift the mood just a little bit, reaching over to playfully ruffle her hair, only to be met by a ‘ I’m not an Elizabeth, you heathen, it’s Ellie.’

And just like that, we settled into that familiar rhythm of teasing and baiting and loving again, that it was so easy to think of the time when I didn’t have that, when I pushed it away.

I’m not particularly proud of those memories, because it had been hard again and I hadn’t been able to take it, to cope with it. Instead I had chosen to hurt myself and in the process, hurt them. My courageous mother and my darling sister. The fact that despite innumerable arguments and punishments, they were all I had and I could lose half my world within the next few hours and Oh God, it was difficult to breathe again and I could feel myself slipping and I couldn’t feel my fingers-

It was then that a hand, calloused and soft grabbed mine squeezed it, grounding me, calming me. We sat there for what felt akin to minutes, hours, days, Ellie reassuring me that she was right there and me squeezing back for all it was worth.

“We got through that. It didn’t seem possible at that time. Remember? You said that everything was so messed up you were scared you’ll never be the same again.”

She let the silence stretch on for a few moments.

“It was true, what you said. You’ll never be the same again. You’re a different person from who you were. For better or for worse, that’s for you to decide. But we got through that and we’ll get through this. Because that’s what we do.”

Her tone was impossibly soft, laden with a gentleness only someone who had known her as long as I had could detect. But her words were sharp, cutting.

And for the first time since I first occupied that way too uncomfortable chair in this way too tiny waiting room, I felt myself thinking that maybe, just maybe, we’ll get through this too because that’s what we do.

We survive.


Was this article useful? What should we do to improve your experience? Share your valued feedback and suggestions! Help us to serve you better. Donate Now!

« Back to Story Contest 2020 #2 Results