June 17, 2024, 3:28 pm

(Arisha Ariyana,9th grade student,Capstone School,Gulshan, Dhaka)

2023-11-21 13:01:25 BdST

A Hidden Realm

Aiden chased the pair of shadowy silhouettes. In his distress, he let out a desperate scream and wept, pleading with them not to go. "Mom! Dad!" he called out loudly. They turned back, their gaze devoid of mercy as they stared at him. He dropped to his knees. “Don’t go!” The shadowy figures fixed their gaze on Aiden. "You are pitiful!" they shouted. "You were never worthy of our affection." The figures, with the one who appeared to be the father, shouted. "Wait, please, don't leave! I can change, I can be better!" Aiden screamed, but it was already too late. The dark figures had already dissolved into nothingness.

Aiden's eyes snapped open abruptly. "Senseless dreams," he muttered, as Ace came into his view. "What's going on?" Ace asked with a cheerful tone. His blond hair glistened, as it always did. "More nightmares," Aiden mumbled. Ace took a seat beside Aiden. "Would you mind sharing what it's about?" he inquired in a soothing tone. "You know how my parents constantly made me feel invisible? My mom, well, she did care a bit," he sighed. "But my father, he's the one who took her life," he revealed.

"Killed her? How did it happen?" Ace asked, his eyes filled with horror. Aiden struggled to recollect the gruesome image of his lifeless mother and the vivid memories of his alcoholic father hurling objects at her. Shuddering at the thought, he said, "Never mind that. Let's go have breakfast. Come on." he said, as he got up. "What would you like to have?" Aiden asked, offering a slightly awkward smile. Ace shook his head. "I'm not hungry," he replied. "You always say that!" Aiden retorted in frustration. "No, really, I'm not hungry at all," Ace replied with an awkward smile. Aiden sighed once more and began preparing pancakes for himself.

After breakfast, Aiden began getting ready for school. "Do you have friends at school?" Ace asked him eagerly. "No," Aiden replied bluntly as he fastened his wristwatch. "Why not?" Ace inquired once more. "I don't really connect with people, except for you. The last time I had a friend was back in kindergarten," Aiden explained. "She thought I was a maniac for tearing doll's heads apart," he added with a touch of sadness.
After a moment of silence, Aiden left the apartment and headed to school. He couldn't help but wonder why Ace never went to school, even after he had offered to pay for him. Aiden spent the entire day at school, feeling a profound sense of loneliness, with no one to keep him company. Aiden disliked the fact that he had to go to his part-time job immediately after school. As he headed to work, he couldn't help but think sadly, "I wish Ace would come with me." Even though Ace was always at home, Aiden never viewed him as a lazy slob. Ace held a significant place in Aiden's heart.
Aiden sat at his desk, typing away furiously on his laptop in his office. He sighed now and then, his exhaustion becoming palpable as he worked. He held a strong dislike for his job as a software engineer, constantly yearning to pursue his passion as an artist, a dream that had never materialized. After what felt like an eternity, he finally left his workplace and headed home.

"Ace! I'm home!" Aiden called out with a sense of joy. Ace appeared; his presence as radiant as ever. Aiden had grown accustomed to Ace's shimmering aura, finding it oddly comforting and familiar. "Welcome home," Ace greeted Aiden cheerfully. "You look tired. You should get some rest," he suggested in a caring tone. "You're right," Aiden agreed. He made his way upstairs and flopped onto his bed, sinking into the welcoming embrace of the comfortable pillows. He tossed and turned, beads of sweat forming on his forehead. "Don't leave, please..." he mumbled in his sleep, then suddenly woke up. "Not again," Aiden sighed, clearly affected by the recurring nightmares.

He looked around his room and was startled to find a little girl crying in the corner. "Who are you?" he asked her in a tone of both shock and concern. The girl gazed up at him with tear-filled eyes, her silence speaking volumes. She bore a striking resemblance to his mother, which only intensified his astonishment and concern. Her continued silence prompted Aiden to get up and approach her, attempting to offer comfort and reassurance. He reached out to hug her, but to his horror, the little girl's form crumbled and disintegrated into the ground.

Aiden stumbled back in horror. "What?!" he shouted, frantically searching around to understand where she had vanished. He shuddered and attempted to take a calming breath, but it provided little relief. The experience had deeply unsettled him. "Maybe I'm just imagining things," he mused to himself, mustering the courage to get up and make his way to the living room. As Aiden walked, he spotted Ace. "Good morning," Ace greeted cheerfully, his demeanor contrasting with Aiden's recent unsettling experience. "Morning," Aiden greeted in return, attempting to shake off the lingering unease from his earlier encounter.

"I'm going to see the therapist today," he added, revealing his plan to address the recurring nightmares and unsettling experiences. "Why?" Ace asked, his expression showing confusion. Aiden explained, "I saw a child in the corner of my room, and when I tried to approach her, she vanished." He flinched at the memory. Ace remained silent, observing Aiden as he went to the kitchen to prepare a meal.

Anxious and frightened, Aiden nervously fidgeted with his shirt as he followed the therapist into a dimly lit room. "Take a deep breath and relax," the therapist said in a soothing voice. Aiden hesitated for a moment but then obediently sat down on the comfortable chair, trying to calm his racing thoughts. "I am Mr. Dawn, and you are?" Mr. Dawn introduced himself warmly, extending a welcoming hand to Aiden. "I'm Aiden Blackwood," he stuttered, returning the handshake with a nervous grip. Aiden observed as Mr. Dawn wrote his name down in a notebook, his anxiety slowly easing as the session progressed.

"Calm down, take a deep breath, and hold it for 5 seconds, then exhale slowly," Mr. Dawn suggested, his soothing voice instilling a sense of comfort. Aiden followed the guidance, taking slow, deep breaths to regain composure. "So, Aiden, what's been bothering you?" Mr. Dawn inquired, his dark brown eyes locked onto Aiden's light blue ones with a gentle, understanding gaze. "I keep seeing things," Aiden replied, breaking eye contact as fear washed over him. "Things? What do you see?" Mr. Dawn's face lit up with curiosity, eager to understand the nature of Aiden's experiences. Aiden explained everything to him, including how Ace was his only companion. "Ace?" Mr. Dawn looked at Aiden's nervous face, inquiring about this person who seemed to play a significant role in Aiden's life.

"Are you sure Ace isn't just another product of your imagination?" Mr. Dawn added in a serious tone, probing deeper into Aiden's experiences.

Aiden's eyes widened in shock. "I don't know," he admitted, tears welling up as he felt overwhelmed by the uncertainty surrounding Ace's existence. "You have nobody except Ace?" Mr. Dawn asked, his voice gently bringing Aiden back from his cloudy thoughts. "Nobody," Aiden sobbed, his loneliness and despair becoming painfully evident. "Don't cry, Aiden. Go home and get some rest," Mr. Dawn suggested, offering a compassionate recommendation as their session came to a close. "Oh, and, can you add me to your contacts in case I need to talk again?" Aiden turned back to Mr. Dawn, seeking a lifeline for future support.

At home, Aiden looked around, attempting to find any traces of Ace's existence. "What are you doing?" Ace suddenly asked from behind, surprising him. "I was just..." Aiden began to explain but stopped when he looked behind, too afraid to move a muscle. Ace's narrowed eyes and intense glow sent a shiver down his spine, adding to the unease in the room.

Aiden sighed, recognizing this as an opportunity to finally address the question of Ace's existence. "Are you real?" he blurted out suddenly. Ace's glow softened, and his expression became more serene, as if he had been waiting for this moment. "Real?" Ace chuckled sadly. "Of course not! I'm just another part of your imaginary world," he added with a touch of sorrow. Aiden gazed at Ace in awe, the revelation sinking in.

"Why do you think I never go anywhere? Why do you think I don't have my own family and friends?" Ace asked. It all began to make sense to Aiden now, the realization dawning upon him. Ace extended his hand. "Come with me," he commanded. Aiden took his hand, and as soon as their hands touched, he passed out with a loud thump on the floor.

Aiden was almost blinded by a bright, intense white light. The scene slowly began to come into view, and he found himself in a new and unfamiliar environment. He observed the shimmering flowers swaying in the gentle breeze. "Do you know what this place is?" Ace asked playfully. Aiden gazed at Ace, who for the first time looked and felt utterly real in this enigmatic place. "Where are we?" Aiden asked in a mixture of shock and awe as he gazed at the captivating, floral-designed buildings that surrounded them.

"This is your mind, Aiden," Ace explained with a warm smile. "Your own little world, where you can find anything and anyone you imagine," he added. Aiden's attention was drawn to the same little girl he had seen earlier, now petting an unfamiliar, fluffy creature in the distance. Aiden remained silent, taking in this incredible revelation. "We'll be here together forever, away from the cruel world," Ace cheered, offering Aiden a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

In the real world, Aiden's phone continued to ring, displaying multiple calls from Mr. Dawn, who was growing increasingly concerned about Aiden's well-being. "Poor boy, he must be sleeping right now," Mr. Dawn sighed, unaware that Aiden would never wake from his deep slumber. He had discovered that Aiden had borderline personality disorder and wanted to discuss it with him, but now, it seemed the young man had found solace in his own world.

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