‘The Family Inside Her Head’ by Megha Rao

Short Story ID- 6/2015

A beauty sleeps in the open brown box

Its legs outstretched like sunbathing under

The angry summer sun.

It sings to me, its eyes closed

“I am the corpse of a woman who loved.”

The woman who loved an evil man

And lost her life with her heart.

The pale white skin on its wrists

Glares at me, now red and bloody.

They tried to wipe it clean and dry

They tried to hide her sorrow.

Hands over its chest, it howls in pain

And I alone can hear it sing in vain

About the stories it spins in its skull

Stories of that man once loved.

It said

“My love, in my dreams you’ll always be mine

There is no escaping now.”

Singing, singing, funeral tunes

Singing in search of new beaus

Death shan’t be so terrible, it said

“If you will come and join me.”

A beauty sleeps in the open brown box

But now it isn’t open anymore

They place a lid over it, and cry

I watch as the coffin passes by

Goodbye, goodbye.

A beauty sleeps in the open brown box

Her eyes closed, her heart closed.


They all lived in the attic like one big family.

Addiction. Insecurity. Masochism. Depression. And Madness. One big family.

Addiction was the youngest. She’d just begun her work on Alia. Depression and Masochism were twins. They’d been born together, side by side, wrapped in the same putrid smelling bundle of hate. Ugly, ugly babies.

Insecurity had been there right from the start. Ever since she’d lost all her friends after the incident. She had creeped inside the cracks of her head like molten lava, burning her logic, her self respect and dignity. Madness was an invisible daughter. She was a rebel. She went out and came in as she pleased. Sometimes she was there with the others, and sometimes she wasn’t. And just when Alia began to wonder if she had disappeared, she came back. Oh, she always did.

They were chaddi buddies. She would never leave her. Till death did them part.

And death was the future of all things.

They didn’t have a father. Just a mother. She was called Past.

Past was the ideal mother. She took care of her children and raised them dutifully. Not a single daughter ever felt left out. And they never left either.

Alia walked down the stairs. Ilamathi and Arun were sitting in the living room, watching television. Near the veranda, Karthik was sitting cross-legged, reading the newspaper.

Karthik and the newspaper.

His little cover up for being stupid. He gave her a little frown. The frown clearly stated one thing: You’re just back from the asylum, so behave. Don’t upset Ilamathi and Arun.

Addiction hid behind her like a shadow. She said she was never coming back.

Insecurity threw her tongue out at him. You think you’re the better child?

Madness wanted to claw his face out. Because she hated him.

They all did. Every single person in the family. Inside her head.

Gnawing. Biting. Struggling to be free.

Hate held hostages.

Alia walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge. The milk was cold and she was used to drinking from the carton, but that wasn’t right. It was uncivilized.

She was uncivilized. So was insecurity.

Insecurity cringed. No, I’m not.

“Can you walk with me to school today?” Nalini asked her, tugging at her skirt.

Nalini, the girl with the pale face.

Nalini, the ugly child.

Nalini, the hypocrite and tattle tale.

Oh, how she hated Nalini ever since she’d been born.

Nalini was their daughter. Arun and Ilamathi doted on her like she was the only child in the whole world.

She wasn’t precocious,  she was pretentious.

Stupid bitch.

She was in the eighth grade and she thought the world about herself. She hated her family and she hated Alia. But in this house, everyone wore masks. Everyone had smiles plastered onto their faces.

One face, two faces, three faces.

Five faces and a motherly figure stared at her blankly. Past came running into her head. Don’t forget.

Don’t forget, she said.

They were the reason.

Arun and Ilamathi exchanged looks. Alia tried to brighten up. She counted till ten so she wouldn’t look like a deserted graveyard anymore.

It took a certain amount of talent to fake happiness.

The fake smile took baby steps towards her face.

“I can do this, Aunty. You can trust me.” Cut your smile.

Ilamathi looked at Arun. Arun nodded, but it was a stiff nod.


Alia smiled at Nalini and took her school bag. “Got your tiffin box?” Another fake smile.

Nalini nodded. “Got it.”

The Chennai roads were so familiar to her. The summer heat and the small shops on the roadsides. She’d missed this place so badly. Nostalgia swept over her like a fury. She breathed in the Chennai air.

It had been such a long time.

She knew she was a North Indian. But at heart, she was a pure Chennai girl. All the way to the core.

Chennai was one of those cities you just fell in love with. And so she had.

They never should have taken her away. They never should have taken her to rehab.

“Aliakutty,” Varghese Maash called out, and she turned towards him. Varghese Maash had moved all the way from Trivandrum to put up his own business in Chennai. He had his own sari shop in Vadapalani and Tambaram.

He was leaning against the wall, his red hat on his head, the red hat he always wore, with a cigarette in his hand. He lit the match in front of her.

Chennai was being very insensitive towards her.

Addiction froze. I want that.

I want that, she said. Can you give me that cigarette? Just a puff, I swear. Nothing else.

Nothing else. Just two puffs.

Or three, if you allow it.

But only if you allow it.

Alia cleared her mind. Forget it. Not when Nalini is around.

She turned to the familiar face standing in front of her. It felt so good to see Maash again.

And this time, he looked older.

“Maashe, I just came back yesterday from rehab.” It sounded so casual in her ears.

“Ariyaam. Sugaano koche?”

Nalini looked at her watch and tapped her foot. Alia knew it was getting late, but she hadn’t spoken to Maash in ages. “I’m good. Healing.”

He gave a stiff nod. “We were all praying for you.”

“I know.” She smiled. “That’s why I’m okay now.”

“Pinne,” he said. “What vishesham di koche? Everything fine at home?”

She nodded. “Picture perfect.”

Madness stifled her laughter.

Her mother scolded her. But she was smiling sardonically too. Such a joke.

“Good, good…” Maash said distractedly. “So what did you do there? In that asylum?”

“Curing vattu,” she said, giggling. “Ellaarkkum ullathalle. Everyone has it in some way or the other. Insanity.”

And at that moment, madness winked at her mother. So true. So. Very. True.

“Now move along, it’s getting late for Nalinikutty.”

Nalini heaved a sigh of relief and yanked Alia’s hand. Alia didn’t want to go, but she said her goodbyes to Maash and left.They crossed the road quickly and walked towards the main gate. “I need to start college,” Alia mused, looking at the young women with duffel bags and designer clothes. That life looked so distant, so awkward and abnormal.

It wasn’t meant for her.

But she was here to start over. Insecurity rolled over and sighed. What if she was never going to get into college because she’d gone to rehab?

They were always going to judge her.

Depression burst into tears.

“The same old place?” Nalini asked, eyebrows raised. Alia stiffened. Nalini was really getting on her nerves.

Insecurity scoffed. You think I can’t after what happened?

“No, not Stella again,” she mused. “I want to start fresh. By now my friends would have graduated.”

“You don’t have any friends.”

Nalini, the ugly bitch.

One day, she would have to shut up.

“Usha is here,” Alia said, annoyed. “You can go with her.”

Nalini walked away silently, and Alia turned. She almost bumped into someone. Almost.





“Kiran!” she shrieked.

He was the boy she’d fallen in love with over the summer. Her first love. They’d been going out until Arun and Ilamathi had sent her away. And then they’d lost all contact.

“Alia,” he said happily. She’d never seen such beautiful brown eyes in her entire life. They looked like deep pools of rich chocolate. She just wanted to drown in them.

“Why didn’t you ever text back?”

She smiled. So he had texted her, had he now? That was a good sign. “I didn’t have a phone. I didn’t text anyone in rehab.”

He hugged her quickly. It wasn’t awkward at all. She felt like she belonged there. Right there, in his hug. He’d held his arms open for her, and she just wanted to disappear in there and not think about anything at all.

She snuggled closer to him. “I’ve missed you.”

“So have I…but I thought…”

She raised her head. “You thought?”

“That it was over between us.”

“Is it?” Dum-dum. He’d said over.

Madness raised an eyebrow.

Insecurity started crying again. I’m not pretty anymore.

Depression pushed them away. Popcorn in her hands, she took the front row for the first show. This is going to be interesting. This is my kind of thing.

Kiran looked away sheepishly. “I’m not sure anymore.”

She smiled. That’s right. Fake it.

“Let me guess. You moved on and have a girlfriend now.”

“The first, no. Second, maybe…” He shuffled his feet. “But, God, I’ve missed you.” He leaned in closer, but she pushed him away. “I’m sure you two are happy together. What’s her name?”


“Nice,” she said blandly. Nice.


Nice. Nice.

Not nice.

He blinked nervously. Trying to change the topic, he said, “Everyone’s been talking about you coming home.”

She shrugged. She didn’t like this change of topic, but he’d initiated it. Men with girlfriends thought they could boss everyone around just like they did their girlfriends. “The doctors didn’t tell me until yesterday.”

Kiran shrugged. “You know how fast news spreads in this place. People need something to do other than watch the grass grow.”

She smiled. “How have you been?”

“Good. And you?”


“You’re okay now?”

“I think so.”

“You’ve changed?”

There was an awkward silence. “Buy me some fags?”

He grinned. “I was scared rehab had turned you into little miss goody two shoes.”

“I’m up for a smoke. But not everyday. I’m not addicted to cocaine or ecstasy or anything anymore.”

Addiction sighed. She thought she was needed, but now she was in doubt. Her mother tried consoling her.

Past: Don’t worry. As long as I’m alive, nothing will happen to you.

Addiction: She’s trying to get rid of me.

Past: We’ll make sure she doesn’t.

Kiran laughed. “But you haven’t quit smoking.”

“I will. Slowly.”

He nodded towards Saligram. They walked in unison, without a word.


I am a boomerang.

Throw me away and I still come back

Fling me past timeless horizons

Yet I am awake for a return.

An uprising.

This time, it is I

Who can make you run away

Because I can write my stories

And in my fables you are forever bound

There is no escape.

In my tales you’ll always be mine

Mine, mine, all mine.

Haven’t I told you I am a greedy woman

Your little party animal?

Haven’t you heard the sound of my anklet

Against my bloody legs

Sticking onto the raw white flesh

And marking the walls of shame

You left me, darling.

Love of my life, you can’t escape

Because I am a boomerang

And I will be back, I will always be back

To watch you go down on your knees

As I come crashing into you

I am a very unique boomerang, you see

Throw me away, and I come faster than the wind

And this time I am heavier.

Heavier with the pain of loss

Heavier with blood lust


You left me, didn’t you?

Look up at the sky, look up and pray

Here comes the boomerang, calling your name.


“Deepa aunty told me she saw you with Kiran today,” Ilamathi said as she walked into the house. She was in the kitchen, preparing dinner.

What’s for dinner? Masochism asked, rolling her eyes. Maybe she would starve herself again.

Insecurity shuddered. What if she asks me to cook? I can’t cook! And she’s asking about Kiran.

What do I say?

“I was,” Alia said, guarded.

Ilamathi came out of the kitchen. “That boy again! He’s reason enough for you to go crying back to rehab again!”

Alia shook her head. “I just ran into him. That’s all. He’s got a girlfriend now. Sumitha. And I know better than to get into a relationship when I’m still healing.”

Ilamathi dropped the spoon in her hand and hugged her.

Well, that was fast.

“My baby. You’ve become so mature now.” She kissed her. “Of course, you were, even on the day you left. You never told anyone about it.”


The reason for the other family living inside her.

Madness did a double take. Push her away. It’s all her fault!

Depression pushed her away. Don’t ever touch me again. Your family has cost me my sanity.

Alia smiled. “I love you too.” Fake it, fake it, the daughters sang in unison. Past shushed them and listened carefully.

Ilamathi smiled. “That’s my girl. So strong.”

The children hid behind their mother. Past made a face at her and walked right back into the lobes of her scarred brain.

Alia walked back up the stairs and into her room. Why was she doing this to herself? Because she had no other go.

She was just so tired of fighting.

Now she didn’t know if she would point the gun at herself or at others.

She didn’t have the fight left in her.

She hugged the pillow to herself and breathed in. They’d told her how important breaths were. How important little heartbeats were. More important than feeling high on alcohol. More important than wanting to fly while jumping off a building.

Other girls read Fifty Shades of Grey. She read fifty ways of suicide.

Depression embraced her like a long lost friend. If you let me in, we can be very close.

There was a knock on the door.

She stiffened as the long oily haired half man stood in front of her, his huge hands in his pockets. Karthik Kumar.

Karthik Kumar.

Nalini Kumar.

The two children of Arun and Ilamathi. Both terrible, terrible people.

She felt sick already.

Past did a few flips in her brain. Memory jumped out.

His hands were on her.

On her over and over.


“Amma is calling you for dinner,” he said in a gruff tone. Did he remember it too?

“I don’t eat dinner anymore,” she said, not meeting his gaze. “Only on Saturdays and Sundays.”

“No wonder you’ve become so lean, chellam,” he said lecherously, his eyes moving up and down her body.

Madness screamed. I saved your ass!

“I’m not eating.”

“Vaa. Don’t upset Amma and Appa.”

“If Aunty and Uncle are upset, it’s because of you.”

His eyes narrowed. “Do you want me to rape you again?”

Madness possessed her.

So he did remember. And he didn’t repent it.

Past sat fuming on her throne. Ungrateful wuss.

His hands were on her.

Over and over.


His hands were on her.

Over and over.

Over and over.

Over and over.


Alia got up from her bed and slapped him. Madness smirked. You deserved that.

“You deserve to be in jail!” she shrieked. “But thanks to me and my stupid silence, I’m the one who had to go to jail.”

“Asylum,” he corrected, grinning.

“It’s worse than jail.”

He tried to grab her hand, and she screamed. “Aunty!”

Ilamathi came running up the stairs. She was holding the tip of her sari in her hand. When she saw Karthik, she froze. And then she slapped him. “I told you never to go near her room! What are you doing here? Do you want her to go telling the whole town?”

Alia took a step back. Ilamathi glared at her. “Of course, if you ever do, you know we won’t spare you.”

She remained silent. Madness was still screaming, but quietly.

The quiet ones had the loudest screams.

She stormed back into her room and flung the door shut. Sobbing, she banged the wall with her fists.

She hated them.

She hated him.

She hated his family.

She hated the world.

Madness giggled. Past patted her back. Very good. She was growing up to be a very healthy young lady.

But the important part was, she was growing up.

Madness was growing up.


I am back in a town where I don’t belong

I tried playing hopscotch with the children once

Down town.

But even now, they laugh at me

Even now they make fun of the way I speak

And you know I have always hated it

The bullying.

Now my friends here ring me up

And I’m sitting by the phone, with a million texts

Hello, how are you?

Where are you?  Let’s meet up.

But I tried playing hopscotch with you, and you laughed.

Wasn’t I once just a kid like you?

With my doll house collection and ballerina shoes

And you laughed at me.

Your stupid giggles.

Your stupid stares.

You laughed at me, but now you want to be friends

I just want to be left alone

To watch the empty hopscotch and be my own scotch hopper

One, two, three. Four, five, six.

And if I fall on the pavement, I don’t care.

If my new dress gets all muddy, I don’t care.

Nobody shall laugh anymore into the silence

Because this time I play alone.


She heard Arun walk in. The door slammed shut. A few voices. Raised voices.

Somebody was coming up.

A knock on the door.

Knock, knock. Who’s there?

A family inside her head. The mother was standing outside. She could hear her screams trapped in that angry knock.

“Alia?” Arun called. He was angry. “Alia, what have I told you about locked doors? Don’t lock the door.”

Insecurity giggled. They think you’re trying to kill yourself.

She got up slowly and unlatched. The door creaked open. Arun, Ilamathu and Nalini were standing outside.

Nalini, the ugly bitch. What was she doing there?

“Come down for a while.”

Depression shook her head. The other children walked past her.

Alia followed them out of her room. Come down, they’d said.

I tried playing hopscotch with the children once.

But where were they taking her?

This time, I play alone.

“Sit,” Arun ordered. She lowered herself onto the hard sofa. Ilamathi sat opposite to her, assessing her cautiously.

“Are you okay? He won’t disturb you again,” Arun said.

“We promise. Please just try to forget it, ma.” Ilamathi smiled a little.

Madness shook her head again. Past shook her head too, like her daughter. The other children shook their head. Everybody was shaking their heads now. No. No. No.

Alia nodded.



I sit here, stupid.

Mama, Papa, and a cutter.

Group photograph.

Mama, Papa, and the ghost of a girl

Who used to be a better me.

Click, click.


Two years from now

It will be just a memory.

I will be just a memory.

Now I sit here, useless

Mama, Papa, and a problem child

The camera breaks

The lens is red

Click, click


One line, two lines, all running


Somewhere under my lifeline

I have sweaty palms.

And these scratches are just designs

They are designer wear.

Nobody else can do this art

With its lively crimson perfection.


It captures in Sepia.

It captures in Polaroid.

It captures in black and white.

I like to watch my blood turn different colours

I like to see a little life.

Mama, Papa, and a psychopath 

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Mama and Papa.

And the family picture comes out pretty

And the smiles are shore to sea

Smiling, laughing

All those who laugh aren’t happy.

And this group photograph

Will be hung up and pointed at some day

Ask who the sad little girl

Who killed herself a week later was

And you will find her name.

And you will find my name.


“He threatened to rape me again.”

It sounded wrong to her own ears.

Again, Past said angrily.

Tried, Insecurity pointed out optimistically. He probably didn’t want to.

Rape, Depression repeated sadly.

Kiran was sitting beside her, stiff and cold. He looked furious. “Why don’t you go to the police? Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

They were smoking up inside his car. He’d parked it near the beach. Risky, but she knew they wouldn’t get caught. They’d done this before.

“Roll properly, macha.”

“Give.” He looked at her seriously. “Why are you covering up for them?”

“Why do you think they sent me to an asylum? Because I was mad?”

Madness giggled like a little school girl. Of course not.

“They wanted to shut you up.”

“In case I went around screaming rape, they could conveniently point out that I was mentally unsound.”

“But if he rapes you…”

Insecurity sighed. I don’t look good enough for rape or sex anymore. My entire body has been violated.

By Karthik.

By my own self inflicted wounds.

By invisible scars.

Past smiled like a loving mother. I am never going to leave you, sweet darling.

Kiran cupped her face and kissed her forehead. Alia shuddered, but managed to smile.

Masochism jumped out of nowhere and decided to talk for her. “Come home tonight. They’re all going out for an old school meet.”

“Karthik and Nalini?”

“They have to go too. The entire family.”

Kiran nodded and kissed her lips.

She felt butterflies in her stomach. Dead butterflies. Black and dusty and flying. Their broken wings moving all over and settling down in a dark pit.

The family inside her head got ready for tonight.

Tonight, Madness said, linking her lips in excitement. The others did the same.



Kiran knocked on the door at exactly six.

But the murder happened at seven.

The murder.

None of the family members could stop the murder from happening. Alia never should have invited Kiran home. Because they weren’t alone.

It wasn’t just her and the family. Somebody else had been there too.


Madness looked at her mother. A whodunnit story?

Past shook her head. All of my daughters were just witnesses. So was I.

It was him.

Everything had been going great until the doorbell rang. The doorbell rang, and Alia opened the door.

Alia should never have opened the door.

It was Karthik.

Alia gaped at the six foot tall figure in front of her. “I thought you left with Uncle and Aunty?”

“No. I hate parties.”

And then she was scared.

He swung the door open and she moved aside. He was drunk. The whiskey bottle in his hand was empty, and he reeked of it. Her eyes widened.

Brace yourselves! Past screamed.

Kiran, who had been using the shower, walked out of the bathroom with a towel around his torso.

Karthik froze.

He looked at Kiran first, and then his gaze moved to Alia. Both of them looked guilty as anything. Alia bit her lower lip, wondering how her so called foster brother was going to react.

Madness erupted into tears again.

“So this has been happening while everyone was away,” he said in a solemn tone. He walked towards her, and she took a step back. Suddenly, he launched himself on her and she screamed. He pulled her hair and dragged her towards the living room.

“You bitch! You can put out for him, but not for me?”

Madness wailed louder. But nobody heard her.

“Leave her alone!” Kiran yelled, and hit Karthik on his shoulder. Karthik lost his balance.

Anger flashed in his eyes. He punched Kiran and threw him on to the floor. Kiran yelped in pain.

“Don’t hurt him!”

Don’t hurt him! All five daughters screamed.

Don’t hurt him! Their mother repeated.

Karthik scoffed. “It’s human instinct. We’re all predators.”

“Shut up!”

“If we can eat, sleep, and fuck like other animals, we can kill too. It’s in our blood.”

Masochism snickered. He said blood. I like blood. My blood.

“No!” Alia begged. She was crying in a corner, terrified out of her wits.

Before Kiran could get up, Karthik rushed to the kitchen and grabbed a knife.

Alia screamed again. “Karthik, don’t!”

Kiran shut his eyes. Alia didn’t.

She saw the blood.

Red, red blood.

Madness screamed. It was the loudest scream she had ever heard. And then she fainted.

Karthik had killed Kiran.


Time drains me like a leech

Love drinks me up like a vampire

You do, say I do

With a ring made out of coffin boxes

Two fanged bride groom

And blood soaked tuxedoSo, so handsome

I could melt in my white dress

Made of ghost skin

Ghoul soul

Come pull me out of it

My Gothic love.


And like a child I smile

Acid lips curled upwards

Dusty moths fluttering in my belly

Hollow, like skeleton ribs

And a cobweb in my lashes

Pulling them up and down

Like curtains.

And I’m so terribly afraid

You might disappear away

Like leprechaun gold

My Gothic love.

You are my treasure chest

That the pirates have hidden away

And by hook or by crook

And by all hooked crooked means

I shall have you

I shall make you mine

You are mine, mine, mine

My Gothic love.


He was dead. Kiran was dead.

Ilamathi and Arun came home at nine. By then, the blood had dried up. Karthik had gone and locked himself up in his room.

Ilamathi and Arun called the police. And with them, Kiran’s girlfriend had come along too. Sumitha.

The young girl ran towards her and pushed her. Her face was swimming in tears. “You! I told him to stay away from you! But he wanted to help you. Now look where that’s landed him!”

Alia wept.  The entire family inside her head wept.

Insecurity nuzzled closer to her. You should have left him alone. His girlfriend is so pretty. They belong together, but you let him come back to you.

Masochism stared at the knife that lay on the floor. They were having their own silent conversation. They’d always been friends.

Depression shook her head. It was all her fault.

Alia glared at Ilamathi and Arun. “Even now you try to save him!”

Ilamathi wailed loudly, and Arun put an arm around her shoulder. They were the ones who had called the police.

Doctor Shankar was with them. The doctor from the asylum.

Alia’s eyes widened. “No! Not again!”

She pointed at the locked door. “It’s him! He is the reason for everything! Don’t take me away!”

“Him who?” The policeman asked curiously.

“Karthik!” she bellowed.

Ilamathi sobbed. “What’s wrong with you? You sent our son to jail five years ago after he raped you! He’s still locked up inside there!”

Alia froze. She turned towards the locked door.

“We’ve kept his room locked ever since we found out you were coming home!” Ilamathi couldn’t stop crying. “We wanted to make it up to you. We wanted you to forget everything.”

“Then who killed…Kiran?” Alia whispered.

Madness giggled.

Like a school girl.

Masochism kissed the knife in her hand.

Very good. All the family members were behaving.

Past held her daughters together and smiled lovingly.

They were growing up to be beautiful young ladies.


Mr Teddy Bear,

You are a poker face and cotton heart.

I am staring into your lifeless eyes

Wondering what little girls see in you.

How can you be so loved

You useless inanimate thing

When I can’t?


O Mr Teddy Bear,

My brain is tick-tocking

But I am the headless corpse woman

And my mind is a lonely cottage house

Won’t you come in for a while?

Little girls, they call you ted, teddy, boo.

But I can do without you

I have quite a few imaginary friends.

La De do doo.


Mr Teddy Bear, did you just block out

The noise inside my lonely mind?


Lucky you.


Lucky you, they play with you

They keep you by their sides and tell you

That you’re loved. Lucky, lucky you.

Why are you so quiet?

I’m talking to you, don’t you know?

I suppose you’re ignoring me.

Oh well.

You’re just like the rest of them.

Judgemental little guy

So goodbye.


Hello, Mr Snowman

My imaginary friend of Winter

I hear you are back again.

He said, “Come away, my wild thing:

My pale, wild bride of ice.”

Together we built a castle of snow

Together we made a party of the cold

Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!

He said, “Winter is the new voice.”

My Mr Snowman

Dark skeleton in the closet

My mother told me never to speak to you.

But when Winter comes, so do you

Your carrot nose and lustful eyes

And I fly into embrace, into those arms.

Giggle. You’re cold.

But did I tell you I love the cold?

Mr Snowman:

Our enemy is the sun, the light

We are but creatures of the night

We fought the heat, we fought it hard

And melted man you are

When Summer comes for war

But you don’t die.

You don’t die, you resurrect

Like ghosts from graves

And werewolves at full moons

You come back to me.

Hello, Mr Snowman

My imaginary friend of Winter

Shall we have a snowball fight?

Or shall we make a snow angel?

I’ll be your angel

You can be my devil

Well, you have always been evil

My evil, evil snowman.

He said, “Come away, my wild thing,

Let’s make love on frozen ground

And I became forever bound

Bound to cold white love.

Cold. White. Pure.

Pure as a dove eyed deer

Pure as the scarf you wear.

Hello, Mr Snowman

My imaginary friend of Winter

I hear you are back again.

Come back to me again.


“Seems he tried to kiss her,” the policeman told Doctor Shankar.

“She suffers from trauma. She can’t handle being touched.”

“She freaked out.”

“She’s a rape victim.”

Alia listened. Alia and the rest of the people in the attic. Her family wouldn’t let her go.


I winked at a monster once

His horns were long, his beard was rough.

But his hands could touch, and they touched everywhere

And once he was done, he cooked me for dinner.

O, I winked at a monster once

At sixteen, when I was a pretty little rebel

I tell you, I was just young and lonely

But the monster ate me up.

I am become defiled and wretched

I am become an ugly sorceress

Not suicide, not black magic can save me now

And yet I want my monster back.

But he will not come.

O, he will not come, the bastard

Even when I cut my heart out

And hand it to him on a silver patter

He will not come.

I winked at a monster once

And he lured me into his coven

Like a vampire, he drank me dry

And I became his meat.

“Come,” he said, and we met

In my head where he always hid

And I went to feed him my love

The love my mother never gave.

The love my father never gave

The love this world never gave.

O how I want my monster back.

And now I am eighty, and he lives

In my head, and he hasn’t aged

The only one who never left

The monster in my head.


She’d never planned on being an orphan. Alia Aggarwal. But then the Kumar family had taken her in. Ilamathi and Arun had been such good parents to her.

But Karthik had been a bad brother.

The brother who raped her, Past pointed out stubbornly. Madness was taller and fatter than the other daughters now. She’d grown up pretty fast. Especially in the last couple of days.

The night it happened, Arun and Ilamathi hadn’t been home.

Something inside her snapped that day.

The family had decided to take up the attic.

Doctor Shankar knocked on the door. It was already open, but he was a good man with good courtesy. He was holding a plate of rice in his hands.

The family was hungry. Especially Madness.

“What’s that in your hands?” Doctor Shankar asked politely.

A notebook.

“A poetry collection.”


She nodded, staring into vacant space.

She handed it over to him. Keep it. I don’t need it anymore.

He flipped it open and read a few. “You write really well.”

“Thank you.”

“Any other talents you’ve got there?”

She smiled. But only because Madness was smiling too.

Madness smiled all the time. She was a happy girl.

“Yes. Go out and I will show you.”

He looked suspicious, but he left the room. She took out the bottle from her bag.

She was going to kill all of them.

They all lived in the attic like one big family.

Now they were going to die there like one.

One big family.

Years later…

Karthik came home to an empty house after getting bail.

His family had vacated and they hadn’t left behind an address.

He stayed there until he turned eighty-three.

He died an old man.

Ilamathi and Arun had left Chennai for good. Nobody knew where they were, but their daughter, Nalini, received post cards once in a while, and her fees were always paid on time.

Nalini went to London and got a Masters Degree in Psychiatry. People back home said it was very ironic.

Kiran’s grave is still tended to by Sumitha. She never got married.

Doctor Shankar gave Alia’s poems to one of his friends who worked for a well known publishing house. It brought Alia posthumous fame and even a few awards from literary critics. They termed her collection confessional poetry.

The last one in the collection wasn’t depressing. It was as if the girl who had a family inside her head was still alive. It went like this and haunted everyone who read it.


The things that kill me

Are the reason why I resurrect.

The smoke that tries to suffocate

Is the air I want to breathe.

I am a phoenix.

And from the ash

I step out, young and bold

Young and bold.

I have a flag in my left wing

And a trumpet in my right.

I shan’t blow it

But you shall know

I am not one to back down.

And they cut my wings

And drown my flesh

But I stitch them back

And fly higher.

Everything that drowns me

Makes me want to fly.

I’m no evil spirit

But I can be.

I can be.

I am a very clever shape shifter.

I can be them.

I can be you.

Yet I am just a Phoenix

The things that burn me

Burn along.

And when the fire dies

When the enemy cries

I come out of the funeral pyre

No stain. No pain.

Because as a human they hurt me

As an animal they killed me

Now I have nothing left to lose

But myself


And that is why I’m a Phoenix

Because when I die I still come back


Alive and awakened


Alive and immortal.

Megha RaoAuthor’s Bio: Megha Rao is a second year UG student. She published her first novel, Alice: The Netherworld in 2012 and its sequel, Alice: The Inferno Conspiracy in 2014.

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