Story Contest 2020 #2 Highly Commended »

Highly Commended Story - Reborn

“Reborn” by Ritika Hermosa Kalia, Bal Bharati Public School, Noida, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2020.

Ritika Hermosa Kalia is a high school student. Since the age of 7, she has enjoyed writing short stories. She is an active member of the theatre team at school and is on the school’s volleyball team. She has a passion for music and art and loves to bake. Ritika desires to be a successful lawyer someday and an independent, happy woman who loves the life she has created for herself. She hopes to publish this short story, Reborn, as a complete book series for all those young people out there who need an escape from the real world every now and then.


I opened my eyes and breathed in my surroundings. I couldn't see a glimmer of light yet but I knew where I was. The smell of sweet tender roses and pungent lavender engulfed me like I knew it would. I knew I was laying on a bed of them. I could almost taste the sweet cherries and peaches.

“Illuminare” I whispered and in the blink of an eye, everything came alive again. There are no artificial lights in this place. The call of light was directed at the stars and the two moons in the sky. Now they shone as bright as the passion for this land within my heart. I like to call this place Evadere. I learnt that word in my Latin class at school. It means escape. I like to believe this wonderland is my escape from the real world. The one that is filled to the brim with suffering, pain, sadness and despair. Over here, there's no black smoke in the sky, no dirty sidewalk. No hunger, no sickness. If you ever stumble upon this place as I did, you will never wish to walk away from it.

I let myself out of my state of trance and greeted my surroundings once again. As if greeting me in return, the trees, bushes and flowers rustled in unity. I grinned and walked around the garden, picking up the bright little woven basket from its usual spot next to the mahogany bench by the stone staircase. In unison, a mesmerizing flock of bluebirds, robins and sparrows came to give me company. We all floated around together collecting peaches, cherries, raspberries and apples. Once we finished gathering an abundant amount of food, we walked up the steep stone stairs with my little flock trailing right behind me, my soft flowy white dress caressing every rough gray step.

“Furry? Are you there?” I called out at the scene that greeted me. I tried to spot the chubby Angora cat from the vast garden of yellow and white dahlias but she was just so good at playing hide and go seek. We had this untold agreement since the day we first met that I’d have to find her before we could go feast on all the tasty treats in my basket. My mouth watered. I craved the sweet juicy fruits and berries. Time to get this game over with then. The birds perched on different spots of the garden in silence. They knew they were not allowed to help me. I placed the basket on the ground and began to slowly pace around running my fingers through the soft petals. I whipped my head around on hearing a rustle in the right corner of the garden. Furry’s peculiar violet eyes shone from where she was hiding between the bushes. “I found you Furry!” I giggled with joy and the cat sauntered out rolling her eyes at me. “How many times do I have to tell you, my name is not Furry.” She snarled while licking her paws, rolling her tongue on the last word. “My name is Tallulah. Stop calling me this quotidian feline name.” I shook my head slightly at the adorable yet regal creature that stood about five feet below me. “Well, you know I love your name but you never did tell me your name until the third day we encountered each other. Plus, Furry really does suit you, don’t you think?” I ruffled her fur, adoring the gleaming silver crescent on her forehead. Furry never told me where she got that from but I did know she wasn’t your ordinary kitty litter and yarn balls sort of cat.

I stood up and beckoned her to follow me. She turned back to the bushes for a moment and out came floating what I knew was what she liked to call ‘Tallulah’s magical rose and honey potion’. It was probably just rose syrup and honey but Tallulah did have a knack for being over the top. Picking up the basket from where I left it, we went down the stairs to the larger portion of the garden. We walked to the majestic bronze gazebo and just as always, on stepping inside, the gazebo came to life. Music played like it was sent from heaven. We laid down the white picnic cloth and assembled all our food on it. Furry poured her ethereal concoction that always left me feeling happy and soothed. She didn’t really use her paws. She had amazing powers and could pour a glass of it while sitting idle. Furry even poured some in the birdbath for the birds.

We sat there enjoying our little feast together, all our senses being lulled to a state of calm by the food, music and the beautiful garden that we claimed as ours. ‘I’m going to miss this once I wake up, even though I know I’ll return.” However, for some reason, I felt like this wouldn't be the case this time. Even the birds and Furry, my truest friends, stared at me with an unexplainable affection in their eyes. I reached out for my glass and stood up to walk around. Furry and the birds walked with me and we all said nothing. A sad kind of happiness floated among us. Like we were mourning yet celebrating. I looked up and brushed my golden brown curls aside. It was almost sunrise and I knew I had to go. As I neared the rusted iron gate that would bring me out of Evadere, a chrysanthemum fell into my glass. Looking around, I saw it was raining chrysanthemums. I looked at Furry but she didn’t match my surprise. She smiled at me and I noticed her eyes were moist. And then, as if my confusion at everything else wasn’t enough, the iron gate incinerated and its ash turned into a gleaming white gate while beautiful daffodils crept around it.

“Isabelle?” Furry called out my name. “You don’t have to go back anymore.” She didn’t say more than that but I understood what she meant. The illness finally took over me. I could stay here. With Furry. With the birds. It made me feel a bittersweet kind of happiness. “It’s okay Furry. There’s no better place to be than here.” Furry gave me a soft smile, “Come on Isabelle, I’ll show you the rest of the garden now that you can see the white gate. I think you’re going to like who we meet over there.”

And with that, our little family walked into a new world. And I had forgotten all the hurt, suffering and sadness that would’ve met be beyond the now-gone iron gate.

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