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The Ride

By Naina Tony Paul

She was ten minutes early to the park. She asked her daughter, Kavya, to be seated and went to buy a ticket. It was expensive, ‘But if this would help my little girl, I would happily give away more than this,’ she thought as she gave away everything she had in her wallet in exchange for a ticket. She checked on her daughter, who trembled whenever the man sitting next to her started to shift.

‘Are you okay?’

With a sudden jolt, Kavya’s mind was back to the park. Her mother was in front of her, whose arms were wrapped around her; giving her a warm, comforting hug.

‘Do you want to go back?’

She looked at her mother, whose eyes were filled with worry and hope.

‘No’, she replied. ‘I want to try to overcome my fear.'

This was far from true. The last thing she could do was to conquer her fear. She wished, every day, to escape reality, but telling her mother about this was different; it made her feel guilty.


She turned to see her friends running towards her. She wondered how she still had friends; gone were the days when she could talk to strangers. ‘Mom, this is Kavya', one of the girls piped up. This small greeting felt good, rather than being bombarded with questions, all she had to do was smile and nod her head.

She sat with her friends, choosing to listen to their conversation rather than joining in-

‘You know, we must go to the roller coaster this time.’

‘Yeah! I heard all about it and I also saw some breathtaking pictures. We should go since all of us are, "F-I-N-A-L-L-Y," fourteen!’

Her mom told her that she’d be waiting for her in the lobby. Kavya nodded. But as she walked through the entrance, she felt sick – she did not like places crammed with people.

The rides everyone else enjoyed caused panic to Kavya. She could feel her heart beating faster- a feeling that was way too familiar- each and every jolt reminded her of things she didn’t want to be reminded of. Even though she wanted to avoid getting into most of them, she did not have the heart to tell her friends about it.

They finally reached it; the much-talked-about and eagerly-awaited roller coaster. Her friends excitedly clambered to the entrance when a man stopped them and said that the roller coaster required an extra pass.

Finally, a plausible excuse!

So as her friends paid for their passes, she returned while being jostled by people who ran to the entrance. Not wanting to be alone, she cooked up an excuse and decided to go back to her mother. It was challenging, her heart started to beat faster as she ran. ‘Running won’t help’, she thought, ‘I have to calm down and walk towards the exit.’

She saw her mother’s face as soon as she reached the lobby, and it brought joy and comfort to her mind. Smiling, she went to get some water and returned to see yet another face, its eyes were watchful and the stare pierced through her mind. It was the face of a man, but this one brought something very different from joy—it brought fear.

Memories flooded back in, and all of them appeared to her in flashes. She remembered how everything went wrong that day-

Kavya was waiting for her mom to pick her up from school when a car stopped in front of her and the driver asked her for the way to the nearest hospital. She started to answer when the back door suddenly opened and a hand instantly grabbed her. The next thing she remembered was waking up in a strange room filled with cardboard boxes and a man standing in front of a mirror

Her heart rate paced up, the man slowly turned and walked towards her, his hands were slowly sliding towards his trousers, and he smiled at her; it was not a friendly one, even as a thirteen-year-old, she could sense that something was wrong with him. His eyes were burning with greed, he was a hungry beast, ready to devour his prey. When he came close to her, she pushed him and rushed to the door. The man went ballistic- he grabbed a bat from one of the cardboard boxes and started shouting at her. It was not a real struggle, a fight between a thirteen-year-old girl and a fully grown man with a bat in his hand; the outcome was obvious. She cried out for help but no one came to her aid. He started to beat her with the bat, bruising her hands and legs.

‘My Sharona’ by The Knack suddenly started to play from his pocket, the man stood in front of the door and picked up his incoming call.

‘No, I can handle it’, he reassured the muffled voice on the phone, ‘I want at least half an hour more…You can come after a while…’

While he was talking on the phone, Kavya slowly tiptoed to a cardboard box, shoved her hand inside, and started groping for something she could use. Her hand touched something that felt like a pan. The man realised what she was doing and he rushed towards her. She clasped the handle and hit him on the head with all the strength she could muster. As she saw the man fall to the ground, unconscious, her mind was filled with relief, but she had no time; he could regain consciousness any moment now. It was hard to run, the pain was unbearable but, she had to escape this peculiar building.

She got out of the building, the place was as uncanny as her day. Her bruised limbs and torn uniform garnered attention, everyone was staring at her and she soon drowned in an ocean of questions whose answers were punctuated with heavy gasps, making them hard to decipher. She saw the shadow of a man coming out of the building, and she ran again.

The policeman, who was just finishing his traffic duties, found the frenzied girl running on the main road, and asked her what happened.

Kavya motioned for a notebook and pen and wrote down her address. The policeman took her back home and told her parents to take the incident to the court.

Her parents used all their money to hire a lawyer but later realised that they had no evidence and the man was found innocent. When they met the man outside the court, he swore to find Kavya again and threatened to kill her.

The situation back home was not welcoming either. A lot of people blamed her for what happened. She was told that she was no longer a child and that she had to start dressing ‘appropriately’ (when what she wore during the day of the incident was just her school uniform- a shirt and a pair of trousers). Their family’s pride and reputation mattered more than this innocent girl’s plea.

Nightmares were now a part of her life. It made her feel helpless. She started developing eating disorders and slowly started avoiding talking to friends and family. She felt weak and always thought that something was wrong with her.

Therapy was too expensive to be considered.

Each day passed, with her wishing to not wake up to the next one.

All she wished for was to be a child again…

- A tap, a very small one by her mother, brought her back. A knife- she saw a knife, the man held a knife in his hand. ‘Run’ her mind told her, and clutching her mother’s hand, she ran as fast as she could.

Her mother looked back to see someone, painfully familiar, running towards her.

She let go of her daughter's hand and told her to run away. Somehow, she had to protect her young girl.

She pulled out the bottle of pepper spray she had kept in her bag and tried to spray it on the man. But it was no use, he had already run after her girl. She frantically looked for him.

‘PROTECT HER!’ A voice inside the mother screamed.

‘You could not help her last time, it was your fault for not picking up your daughter. Save Kavya even if it is the last thing you would do.’

She spotted him a couple of yards behind her daughter, preparing to pounce. She ran towards them and pushed her daughter away from him. He tried to escape, but she was quick. She snatched his arm, twisted it, and took out his knife. A slight moment of hesitation. Then- blood.

She had done it; she stabbed him in the throat. Her eyes were gleaming with fear, her mind was burning with realization.

Her heart was calm and steady.

They could hear sirens blaring; someone had called the police.

With a final sigh of relief, she smiled at her petrified daughter and walked with the police, handcuffed but glad that she could protect her girl at last.

By Naina Tony Paul

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