We collaborated recently with Hear My Echo (@HearMyEcho_AE) on their writing competition: “This is how the story ends”, in which the ending was written by HME’s team, and the contestants were asked to write their own story plot that would end with the given ending. The result was a number of very creative stories. And the winner selected by the judges is: Amna AlHashemi (@hashemitsu). Congratulations Amna!
Here is the winning story (the italized part at the end is the ending that was given to all contestants):
My hands can’t seem to move fast enough, and my fingers fumble around in my bag for the keys. I can feel my breath catching in my throat, see the edges of my vision fade to black, and hear the blood rushing in my ears. I dig deeper until I finally feel the metal fall into my palm, and I turn the lock as fast as I can manage. With a shove I push the door open, and lean back on it as it closes.
I’m home. I’m safe again.
I feel the tension slowly escape my limbs, and the relief sucks the energy out of me. I sigh and wait for my heart beat to stabilize. This is usually what takes the longest to settle down.
When I think I have enough strength to move again, I pick up the grocery bags and move them to the kitchen. I still think I need to lie down, so I head to my bedroom. I shut the curtains against the dying light of the sun and cover the room in a quiet darkness. I curl up into a ball on my bed.
They say time heals everything. But time is endless, and my heart still beats in dull rhythms. I feel nothing but emptiness and sorrow, and I can’t do anything about it. It’s as if something in me is bleeding from its very core, and I can’t locate the hole to block the leakage.
I can’t remember the last time I spoke to another person. I am merely a lifeless frame now, with no one else in the picture. The fear of the outside world holds me hostage and I simply remain right where I am, with nothing but the past to define me.
I jump awake when I hear the sound of my apartment door clicking open.
“Whoa, it’s dark in here.” I hear someone mumble into the silence. My fear comes back full force, and I freeze.
Someone pushes my bedroom door open. “Is someone in here?”
I can tell now the voice belongs to a female. She finds the light switch and flips it open, blinding me momentarily with the sudden brightness. I cover my face with my hands and try to find my voice to speak.
She gasps when she sees me, and I peek from behind my fingers at her.
“Oh thank God, you’re human!” She laughs and then starts to take in her surroundings. “Oops, I’m sorry, didn’t know someone was still here. If you were thinking of buying this apartment, you’re too late ‘cause I just beat you to it.” She beams proudly at me. I still can’t speak.
“Oh, right! Totally forgot.” She moves forward suddenly and extends her hand towards me. “I’m Sara, by the way.”
Some strange force must have taken over my arm, because I can see my right hand extend towards hers and shake it, but I can’t feel it.
“Aaaand, you are?” She waits patiently for me to answer, a smirk playing along her lips.
“Maria. I’m…Maria.” I mumble. “I think you’ve made a mistake. This apartment is mine, and it’s not for sale.”
She looks genuinely confused now, and she rips out a paper from her bag. She waves it in my face and sits back on her suitcase. “You sure about that, missy? I own this place legally.”
I move slowly towards the side of my bed and open the drawer next to it. I pull out a very similar document to the one she showed me as proof.
She looks back and forth between the paper in my hand and my face. She sits quietly for a moment, then shrugs and says, “Well then, I’ll guess we’ll be roomies.” She smiles widely, and launches into a speech on where she wants to place her stuff.
I should be having a heart attack by now, but Sara doesn’t seem to notice my social anxiety. She just keeps going on about herself and making herself comfortable in my house. I tell her to stop many times but she doesn’t seem to listen, and I eventually give up. I head to bed, expecting to wake up to find my safe haven just the way it is every morning.
It’s probably just a bad dream.
Except, it’s not.
The following days become my worst nightmare.
Sara shakes me awake in the morning, again, and then walks away. I look around, still half-asleep and I think I’m still dreaming. She’s taken over the entire apartment and changed everything.
“Rise and shine, sleepy head! Big day ahead of us, move it move it move it!”
This can’t be happening.
“It’s the weekend.” I mumble to myself and pull the covers over my head.
“Oh, no you didn’t!” Sara moves the curtains aside to let in the morning light. “I’m not just gonna let you rot away in this black hole, we’re goin’ out! Time to seize the day!”
The irritation slowly creeps into my voice, and I feel the rage building. “No.”
Sara doesn’t seem to catch on to my tone, and she simply laughs. “Not a morning person, eh?”
“Look Sara,” I stand and face her. “I don’t know who you are, or what you’re doing here, but you don’t get to just waltz into my life and flip everything upside down. I don’t want to leave my room, I don’t want to hang out with you or anyone else, and I don’t want to be your roommate. Please leave me alone.”
The smile doesn’t fully leave her face, but her eyes turn a more serious shade. “Are you sure about that? Are you happy this way?”
“Yes. Yes, I am.”
Sara looks away from me and scans the room. She nods, and leaves the room.
I’m not sure how long I just stood there, but the real answer was there all along. I just didn’t want to admit it.
No, of course I’m not happy.
I follow Sara out of the room and find her sitting on the couch. She stares at me expectantly, and I hear the words escape my mouth before I think them.
“So, how do you seize the day?” She replies with the biggest smile I’ve seen yet, and surprisingly, I can’t help but mirror her joy.
I think I can trust her.
It was very hard at first, but I managed to go out during the day again. I was physically aware of all the eyes that were on us, especially because of Sara whose energy and charisma is above average. But she never left my side, and she took me everywhere. We had breakfast out by the balcony of a local café, we went shopping and we walked all over the town.
It wasn’t that bad.
Sara pokes my shoulder and frowns. “Why so serious? You missed it, that kid fell flat on his face and-”
“Do you think it’s possible to gain a best friend overnight?” I interrupt Sara. The words seem to flow out of me, the usual filter in my mind seemingly nonexistent.
She waits for a minute before she answers me. “Anything is possible if you want it to be, right?”
We’re sitting on a bench by the park, and I look ahead at a group of schoolgirls playing volleyball. I laugh suddenly, but without humor. “I’m sorry, I just don’t understand. You’re like the exact opposite of who I am, and everything I wish I can become. You’re so full of life, courageous, vibrant…happy. And yet, look at me.”
I can feel Sara looking at me curiously, but I continue to stare ahead.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I can’t help my disappointment at her one-worded response.
“If there’s something you’re waiting to hear from me, then you already know the answer. Look around you, Maria. Do you think these people haven’t gone through hard times? Felt broken hearted? Beyond repair? And yet, look at them now.”
I see the schoolgirls still tossing the ball around, the old couple sitting together beside the water fountain, the toddler giggling in his father’s lap.
“Time doesn’t wait for anyone Maria, no matter how much we wish we can pause it. Don’t give up on yourself, and become everything you want to be. The past will still be there, but there’s an entire future up ahead that you can start over with.”
The tears roll down my face, and Sara simply pats my shoulder.
“You’re ready to live again.”
We head home, and as I walk I already feel like I’m lighter on my feet. Sara opens the door and gestures for me to walk in ahead of her. I turn to thank her, for everything, but I find no one. I look around the room and realize none of Sara’s stuff is around either.
I stand there unable to move, the truth was right in front of me all along but my imagination ran way beyond my wildest dreams. She who helped me through, she who got me so high up in the sky that no matter how far I fell I’ll still land among the stars, and she who made me believe in what I once thought was impossible is just another character I made up. Did I loose my mind, or did life make me fall so hard I can no longer differentiate between what is real and what is nothing but a character of my imagination? Someone created by the chain of words that run through my mind and someone whose picture I drew based on the features I admired the most. How can it be unreal when it made me feel alive? How can it be nothing when it felt like everything?