Mayank was lost in thought when Avni slid a plate of honey glazed pancakes in front of him. Last night was the goriest of them all. He saw her walking around the house with knives. She even stabbed herself in the leg a few times. What scared him the most was her nonchalance to the pain that must have followed! It was almost like her body wasn’t feeling anything anymore. 

He took the plate and bit into one of the cherries with no courage to glance over his shoulder. He just peeped through the edges of his eyes to know that she was, indeed, smiling one of her brightest smiles. 

In a way, that was a relief. Had long since he last saw her happy. 

He grinned to himself and took a bite of the pancake and then turned to her. 

But… she… her smile was painfully wide… eerie… She looked annoyed. Her eyes seemed bigger and darker… like she was having one of those fits right in the morning. 

Before Mayank could have done something, he felt a strange fire building up in his throat; choking him down to his guts. He wasn’t breathing easy, just about enough to stay alive! It felt like someone wanted him to go through the labors of death, without ever falling into its arms. 

Mayank rushed to the kitchen for a glass of water. Nothing helped.

Water. Honey. Nothing. 

He had no options left but just to let the fire eat him up. He turned around to find Avni standing there, right behind him; her pupils had now grown large enough to eat up all the whites in her eyes and make them look like a black hole. A strange, creepy black hole which will seduce you enough to yearn for a trip down to its edge, yet will scare you enough to wish doom upon yourself just to escape its sorcery. 

“Don’t you love me, Mayank?”

Mayank tried to speak, but his words died in his mouth. His tongue had been a grave to his emotions lately… that day was no exception.

She repeated, 

“Don’t you love me?”

Another attempt to speak; succumbed to the fire! 

She placed a hand on his cheek, brushing some tears away, looking right into his eyes. 

Her voice cracked as if she was at the edge of tears. 

“You know, Mayank! I know you don’t love me. But I love you…”

She leaned forward, diving deeper into his eyes, “… And I always will.”

Her palm started to grow hotter… and hotter… and hotter… and soon, his cheek started burning just as bad as his throat. 

She dug her nails into his cheek… deeper… deeper… until she reached the bone. 

There was blood all over the floor. 

Alas! He couldn’t even weep to that!

“I wake up to nightmares these days!”

“Nightmares?”

“Yeah! Random flashes of pinching white light come charging at me until I fall out of breath and wake up gasping!”

“Hmm… Screwed!”

“Is it?”

“Yeah!” Mayank shrugged. 

“How much?”

“You are acting so weird, Avni!”

She was… Indeed, acting weird. Mayank felt like he was waking up to a stranger every day. Her eyes had a strange fire in them. The flames were cold… cold enough to turn your existence into ashes. 

In the middle of some odd nights, Avni would wake up to frightening fits of rage, throw stuff around the room, break lamps, pull the curtains down… only to fall to the ground and cry for hours. 

When this first happened, a month ago, it scared the wits out of Mayank. A conversation with Avni, and he immediately knew that she had no idea about the entire event. He searched online, read texts only to draw and settle for vague conclusions at the end.

Soon, the horror faded away, and everything got back to normal. Avni didn’t have any of those attacks for weeks until she gave into another one of those last night.

Screaming. Wailing. Tearing up. She fumbled around the room; all of this, while Mayank pretended to be in the deepest of his sleep, his hand pressed against his lips to keep him from yelling out her name. If that man would ever be asked about the terror of oblivion, he will talk about that night. Nothing kills people more than love anyway!

Unlike last time, Avni never got up from the floor. Everything went quiet… so quiet that he could hear her wheeze under her breath. His heartbeat was high, too high for comfort! Silence rang in his ears. 

Another night of stinging torment. Another night of hushed tears. He was exhausted!

That rugged and withered wooden door…it stood in front of me as it greeted my somber mask… A mask, my soul wore with pride.

My hand reached out for the door knob and rested at it for a while.

I stared at my hand….with eyes hollow enough to engulf the world around me.

Paying my due respects to the time I wasted for this inane ritual, I tightened my grip and opened the door…. closing my eyes, for…I expected to meet a sharp and piercing glare.

But… Rather…I was welcomed by ostracizing darkness.

I stepped inside the room, unknown to the world that lay ahead.

My fear would have paid the merchants well… The room lit up, as bright as a jovial day… as soon as I stepped in.

I was in the middle of a sea of books… both, bulky and thin.

Yes… It was a library… except, this one wasn’t preaching me some modern science. They called it, “The library of life”.

A book called me out. It was the frailest of them all… Its cover was as dark as nothing.

I pulled it out. The cover refused to share an essence to the wisdom ahead, hence… tempting me to dive into the book.

I followed suit, out of grave curiosity.

A cruel flash of light fell on my eyes, forcing me to turn my face away.

The mystic gleam, soon, faded away… and, I… I dared to look at the only page.

It was, but, a mirror.

Engraved at the top, was a sentence that must always echo in my head…

“For once, you may challenge the facts, but the wise don’t question ordeal.”

That was the greatest book of them all.

It compelled me to read myself.