An Attic of Dark Secrets


Childhood is a trap, a sweet golden cage of naivety and innocence. Only when we grow up and grasp the real meanings of things do we realize that that certain innocence has melted away to give way to a real, harsh world.

Nina had just learned the same. She had been too naive to believe the stories woven by the elders of the society to hide some bitter truths. For instance, they blamed skin rashes to a deadly plant. But Nina was no more a child. She had learned a few months ago that by mixing together the dead bodies of fire ants and grounded red pepper with the blood of a victim in a bowl, one could cause someone to burn with a red rash so severe that the victim may itch himself to death.

Magic hidden beneath the veil of fate was all too familiar to Nina now. She was all ears for any such incident in their village and in the neighboring villages for she had had a terrible loss now, the loss of life. In her very presence, her aunt had struggled against some invisible claws piercing her throat, squeezing all the life from her. She had gasped for a few more breaths but the very air lounging in her throat choked her and became her last breath itself. And then, she had come down with a thud. Nina, frozen with shock had memorized her last expression, a look of agony and anguish. Her features, twisted in fear and pain, her eyes, vacant and empty and her body, limp.

Now she walked up the rickety stairs in the attic, wincing every time the wood groaned under her weight. Her curiosity couldn’t take it any longer. She had to know what was behind the door that stood before her. It had taken her quite a while to realize that the truth of her aunt’s death could be buried somewhere near, so near as in her own attic. With the last strand of courage she had, Nina finally turned the knob.

A small room greeted her, stuffed with the stench of darkness and chemicals. Few rays of moonlight leaked through the ventilator, throwing suffice light to show an old wooden table placed at the center. Behind which was a rack of flasks holding various liquids in dull, rustic looking colors. Colors tired of dripping with magic, tired of shielding such poisonous liquids within the ambit of their shades.

She immediately lifted the candle to the table. The rough surface held a voodoo doll in its center. A voodoo doll with a metal ring around its neck and small dried flowers encircling the dark object’s body, which was a sufficient explanation for her aunt’s death. This attic, the attic under which lay her room, was the ground of blood and slaughter.

She stood there shocked to the core. Her heartbeat, a loud pounding in her ears and tears slowly started stinging her eyes. Sometime soon, she realized she was holding her breath, which she exhaled with a loud sigh. She had to live with this secret etched deep down in her bones. True, some things are better hidden. Because sometimes we’re helpless and hopeless, for how could she rebel her own mother murdering in cold blood Nina’s aunt, her very own sister.

-Masooma Memon