NYCWP Student Voices: Arlina Monira

Wrapped in shadows

by Arlina Monira

7th Grade at P.S./M.S. 194

The moon shone, revealing its beauty through the clouds that trapped the glow like doors, capturing the shimmering light. Isabella leaned against the wall of her bay window, lost inside of a world of which only she knew of. It was raining. The water landed on the flat, smooth surface of the window, slipping as if losing its grip. Isabella stared at the sliding water droplets lifelessly. It was quiet. It often was. Her image of her world was corrupted when the bell for dinner was rung. The orphanage mother walked into each and every room to make sure all the children were preparing to go down for dinner. Isabella gently walked to her side of the washroom and began to wash her face and hands in a soothing and gentle manner. After drying herself off, she walked down a narrow stairway into the grand dinner hall that had a long table set for each of the 60 kids who stayed at the orphanage. Each chair at the table was personalized for the person it was for, making each chair different and special. On the table was turkey, mashed potatoes, stew, and one slice of transparent green Jell-O on a plate for each of the children. Isabella walked to her significant seat at the table that was decorated in small, artificial flowers and vines, and picked at the food before she ate very little of the food on the table. She use to sit between her two best friends; Tom and Hazel. Tom had been like a brother to her since she first arrived. But, she also found him very attractive, with his light brown hair that swayed above his big, green eyes. Hazel was also like a sibling to her. Many in the orphanage think of her as the craziest and strangest one in the orphanage. She is able to do many things to an object without any sort of contact with it. Just a few months ago, she had thrown a cup off the side off the side of the table without even touching it, which amazed both Tom and Isabella. But just over a month ago, Hazel was taken to high school for talented people like her. Now all that Isabella had was Tom. After dinner was over, Isabella and Tom talked and joked around with each other until it was time to return to their dorms for a night’s rest. Talking with Tom was the only part of the day, besides sitting by her peaceful window and entering her own world, that she enjoyed and wished would never end. Talking with him created a comforting feeling that always found a way to soothe her, no matter what mood she was in. he had ways that no one would know of that would help cure the smile on her face. But when it came to an end, she returned to being gloomy and lost. She let out a sigh of sadness before sitting on her bed and wrapping the blanket around her like a cocoon. She soon got lost in her imaginary world once again. A world where she had parents, lived in a wealthy home with Tom by her side. It was a world she knew would never become reality. All she could do was imagine herself living happily . With this world in her mind, she awoke with a slight smile  reflected from her dream, but the smile barely lasted. She got dressed and had just sat down to comb her tangled, brown hair that fell to her waist, when shouts came from downstairs. Isabella’s eyes widened, and as a natural instinct, she ran and hid deep within her closet. After what felt like an eternity, she came out of her hiding spot and went downstairs to examine what had been done. She stepped one foot at a time, slowly creeping down the narrow staircase. She came down to see what looked like a battlefield. Blood and most of the kids lay on the ground with emotionless expressions. Isabella’s heart started to thud loudly in her chest. It hurt to swallow. Her eyes stung of tears.

“Hello? Is anyone still here? Please answer me. I’m scared.” she cried.

A gentle rustle came from a curtain. Out came Tom and 3 other children. Isabella’s heart nearly jumped from her chest. She ran to Tom and cried. She could feel his gentle and comforting hand hug her back. She felt safe and secure. Finally breaking apart, she stared at his tear stained cheeks and brushed his hair from his eyes.

“I was so scared that…” she began, but got cut off when Tom hugged her.

“Shhh… it didn’t happen. It’s going to be ok.” He said.

“What are we going to do? Almost everyone is dead….” she trailed off, thinking about all that she went through with all the people at the orphanage, though she was greatly thankful Tom and the other had made it out as well.

“It looks like robbers got in and killed them to get supplies and the money the orphanage used for getting supplies.” Tom stated.

“where should we go? I have no idea what it looks like beyond these walls” Isabella feared.

The other children looked at her and nodded, agreeing. The fear she had before slowly crept back. They had no way of communicating with people outside. The Mother always kept the doors locked, wherever the doors were. Her office was hidden within secret rooms that none of the kids or the house cleaners knew of. The office was not only very well hidden, it also contained the only source of communication with the outside. Mother kept all the phones and computers inside her office, safe with locks and codes.

Isabella looked around her and examined the faces of the kids that survived that showed little hope and sadness. Isabella figured that something had to be done so that the office could be found. If they had no hope, at least she would.

“First thing, we need to find Mother’s hidden office, no matter how hard this may seem. All of our resources are in that room.” Isabella stated firmly.

Everyone nodded in agreement. The first step had been found; find the office and acquire the keys and phone, as well as the phone number for the police station. It was time to put the plan to action.

Once their plan had been made, the remaining kids ate their meal in pure sorrow and anguish. The shock and sadness that weighed down Isabella’s heart was replaced with anger and dismay. The kids introduced each other. There was Kim, an intelligent young girl, with deep brown, short hair and black eyes. There was also Jayden, funny, yet knew when to be serious and how to solve any problem. His long, pale blonde hair was messy and reached his neck. And of course, there was Maddie, probably the cruelest one of all the kids at the orphanage. She was terrifying, with a half-shaved head of deep purple and red highlighted hair. Her tall figure didn’t help make her any less scary. Her large, threatening, mismatched brown and grey eyes could give anyone nightmares.

After dinner, they agreed, there was no way they could sleep in the same house with over 50 dead bodies, so the search for the office began. They started the search starting in the bottom floor of the 3-story building. Though 3 stories didn’t seem that difficult, each floor had over 15 rooms. The second and third floors were the rooms made for the kids. The basement was for food storage and cleaning supplies. Isabella, Tom, Maddie, Kim and Jayden all took the time to inspect each and every room and the floors and walls of all of the rooms. They pushed every wall and inspected almost every tile. It was exhausting work, but neither had made any progress.

“AHHHHH!” a shriek came from the second floor.

They all ran out of the rooms they were in and stared at each other wide-eyed. Isabella looked at all the people that were there: Kim, Jayden, and Tom. Where was Maddie?

“Maddie?” Isabella cried out.

They all ran up the staircase to find the limp body of Maddie lying on the dark, wooden floor. Isabella stared at all of their reactions, which were faces of true horror. They all called to her and shook her, but her eyes stayed heavily closed. Kim ran away from the group and got a cup of water, which they sprinkled on her sleeping face. She woke up and stared at them all in shock.

“We heard a scream and ran up and found you on the ground. What happened?” Tom said.

“I was looking for the office, when out of nowhere, something pulled my hair and when I turned around, there was nothing there. But once I turned back, I saw Mothers face, and she told me to stay away or she’d make me” Maddie recalled.

They all stared at her awkwardly, not knowing how to comfort her or whether to believe her or not.

“Where exactly were you when this incident happened?” Isabella asked quietly.

“I think I was over there…” Maddie pointed at the end of a long, dark hallway lit with a small number of vintage candles that were attached to the wall.

Isabella was the first to get up and walk to the end of the hallway. The rest slowly followed, with Maddie trailing behind the furthest. Isabella took a candle out of the holder on the wall and used it in a torch like manner. Her breath, along with the others, could be heard echoing. Once she had reached the end of the hallway, she stared blankly at the wall in front of her. She tilted her head slightly. She held out the torch for Tom to take, which he did.  Then, with a great shove, she ran into the wall. The wall gave way easily, and Isabella came crashing onto the floor. The others were now running to see what had happened. When Isabella looked up, she saw a dark, haunting room. She quickly got up and looked around herself. It was definitely an office. They immediately got to work investigating the office, but found nothing but rotted papers and cabinets of webs and bugs. One thing was clear, there couldn’t have been anyone in this office in many years. The cobwebs were as thick as curtains, almost suffocating them. Every cabinet was either empty or held an entire population of bugs and spiders. Any notebooks that were found were too delicate to be opened. Isabella kept on searching. There has to be something, she thought. She stopped to stare at a portrait of an old man, probably in his late fifties. She closely examined the painting. Out of the corner of the room, something caught her eye. In a dead plant box in the far corner of the room, something glistened. Isabella slowly walked to the plant box, and peered inside. There was a golden badge, shining.

“Guys! I think I found something!” Isabella cried in delight.

The others ran over to her and huddled around as Tom lifted the badge gently. He turned it over and squinted, trying to read what it was. He let out a deep sigh.

“it’s too small for me to read it, and too unclear” he explained.

Isabella watched as Tom passed it around for them to see. After everyone had seen it, Maddie put it in the pocket of her jeans. They carried on their with investigation. After a few hours, they were all too tired to carry on, so they took a break to eat and wash up. Isabella decided they all needed a small nap, since they hadn’t slept in over 24 hours. Since each dorm had three beds, they grouped up. Kim, Jayden and Maddie were one group, and Tom and Isabella were another. They pushed the beds closer together, but still left a few feet apart.  Isabella stared at the ceiling, thinking about what her life had become. She glanced over to Tom, expecting to see him sleeping. Instead, he glanced back at her.

“You can’t sleep either huh?” Tom asked.

Isabella shook her head.

“I can’t imagine how I’m supposed to sleep with all that’s going on” she explained.

Tom let out a soft chuckle.

“What’s so funny?”  

“You are way too stressed right now”

“How can you not be?”

Tom let out a loud sigh.

“I know this may be hard for you, since this is your first time in an ordeal this scary. I know exactly how you feel, you know, with my hectic childhood and all, but you need to stay calm and cautious.”

Isabella then remembered that Tom had been through events similar to these before. He had been orphaned because his parents had been killed, leaving Tom behind. They were murdered before him, and all he could do was hide and try to erase these horrific memories from his mind. He was found by the police the next morning, shivering from fear, his face stained in tears, or so Mother had told him.

“I’ll give it a try, though it’s easier for you to say.” Isabella said.

Tom shook his head. “Excuses” he joked.

They went on like this for a few minutes until Isabella could hear Tom’s soft snores. She smiled to herself.  Isabella didn’t like the feeling of sleeping in a bed that was not hers. She stayed too tense and could not make herself relax enough to fall asleep. She got out of bed and went into the hall and into her old dorm, and sat down beside the window and watched the gloomy, cloudy sky like she used to do. Then, she slowly fell asleep. She woke with having her shoulders being violently shook by Tom. She could hear him calling her name loudly.

“Isabella!”

“What?” she asked with a hint of annoyance.

She slowly opened her eyes and looked at him. He looked relieved, but also a little angry.

“What did I do?” Isabella asked.

“N-Nothing. I just thought.. nevermind.” Tom stuttered.  

“You were worried about me, weren’t you?” Isabella said with a smirk.

“It’s not funny okay?” Tom remarked.

“If it makes you happy,” she said before throwing her arms around him. Tom hugged back and  let out a loud and shaky sigh.

“Ew. Do you two always have to have a mushy reunion. Can we just carry on with the plan?” Maddie complained.

Isabella smiled, and they continued searching for Mother’s office, since the one they had found yesterday couldn’t have been hers. They continued looking on the 2nd floor until they found something that would help the investigation. Nothing really stood out to them. Isabella walked slowly down one side of the hall, running her hand against the wall. She stared at the chipped and dry walls, as if mesmerized. She stopped when the wall felt different, somehow more clean and used. She looked at her fingers, which were covered in dust and pieces of chipped, dry paint. Isabella felt around where the walls were different,  pushing every place possible until she came upon a small slit close to the floor. She pushed around the slit, and the wall moved back and forth like a small door.Using her fingers, which were covered in dust and chipped paint at the moment, she went higher and higher and found that the door was actually quite large. Isabella gave the large door a hard push, which made the door swing and fall, creating many dust clouds. When the dust cleared, she stared at what had been revealed. There was a chute stained with crimson markings and many scratches. The smell was noxious and caused her a very bad headache.

“Guys! I found something really weird!” she called.

They were quickly by her side and examining the chute, as well as holding their noses. No one dared to even touch the markings, so going down the chute was out of the question. After closer examination, they uncovered scratch marks and deep cuts on the rusted metal. Kim took a small sample of the crimson markings on a cloth and took it to her room, which contained a science kit with a microscope. After putting the cloth under the lens, she let out a shriek.

“What happened?” Jayden asked.

“The marks, they aren’t paint or anything like that…” she stuttered.

“Then what are they?” Tom asked.

“its… its human blood DNA…” she trailed off.

Isabella’s eyes widened and her mouth let out a small scream. She had uncovered a chute stained with human blood and DNA? She felt sick and nauseous just thinking about what it could be used for.

“Let’s do an experiment and throw meat down and see what happens” Jayden stated.

They all agreed to this. After getting the raw meat which was going to be cooked for their dinner, they slid it down the chute. On the other side, machinery could be heard rumbling and squeaking. Then, a sound similar to that of a drill was heard. They slowly turned their heads to face one another, showing faces full of panic and dread. If human bodies had been thrown into the chute, what would happen… Isabella’s mind wandered around that question until she forced herself to stop. Her eyes had started to tear up and her chest heaved. She ran down the stairs and into her room. She sat on the bed and buried her tear stained face in her dirty hands. After a short while, she heard footsteps come towards her, and an arm rest around her neck and pull her into a tight hug.

“I know you’re scared, and I am too. But if we don’t get over our fears and accomplish our goals, we could be stuck here forever.” Tom said.

Isabella took her hands away and looked at Tom and saw his expression, which showed he really did mean everything he had just said. Tom and Isabella walked back to the others.

“Guys, we need to keep searching for the office. It may help clarify what exactly the chute was used for.” Isabella said.

The group of survivors continued looking in the old office once again, though the results had made them think of this building differently. No longer was it just a plain, old orphanage used to house unwanted and homeless children. Now it had become a parallel to a scene in a horror movie. Isabella had seen many movies in her time here. The discovery of the chute had just turned her comforting home into a nightmare that she and the others needed to escape now more than before. Though she tried hard, the images of the crimson markings would not leave her mind. Her swift hands worked on almost every part of the room, desperate to find something. She ran both her hands along the wall, then abruptly stopped. She balled her hands into fists and pressed them up against the wall. I need to find something – anything. I need to help my friends escape. We need to get out of here. Something. Anything. The same words rang throughout her mind, now faster as she continued searching, but still gentle to not break any clues she may find that could possibly help them all awaken from this nightmare. She went faster and faster each time the words were repeated in her head, until she noticed she was being too forceful. Pausing and taking deep breaths, Isabella slowly shifted her head and allowed her eyes to wonder and survey the others.

Tom stood behind the old desk, opening and closing different compartments, and occasionally looking through some of the papers that looked safe to pick up. Maddie stood in the far right corner, examining the bookshelf for floor plans or some sort of journal that could explain who had owned this office. Kim could be seen with her, cautiously flipping the pages of multiple books and examining the words and letters, carefully analysing every sentence in her head. Jayden, though, was still in a corner of the room, his back facing the others. Isabella slowly crept over to Tom.

“Don’t you notice how strange Jayden is acting?” Isabella asked him.

“Compared to what happened to us, I would consider anything normal at this point.” Tom replied, earning a nudge from Isabella. He looked over at Jayden. His back was still facing them, but now he was shaking slightly. His arms were outstretched, cradling something in his arms. Isabella turned to see the confused and worried face of Tom. He put down the papers he had in his hands and cautiously walked over to where Jayden was kneeled on the ground. As he came from behind, he could barely make out some sort of paper, old and decayed, tightly gripped in Jayden’s gimmy and quivering hands.     

“Jayden? You okay there?” Tom asked in a soothing and calm voice.

When Jayden neither looked up or showed any sign of reaction, Tom slowly outstretched his arm and placed a hand on Jaden’s shoulder. This caused Jayden to jump, hitting Tom and making him stumble backwards in the process. Isabella ran over to the boys and assisted Tom, then looked at Jayden with concerned and confused eyes. Jayden slowly looked at them over his left shoulder, but quickly turned his head back and seemed to put whatever was in his hands under his shirt, though Isabella was the only one who saw this. Tom was cleaning off his dirty pants, which Isabella saw no point of trying to clean now. It was now brown instead of the light blue linen color it was before. Then, she looked down at her own dress. She couldn’t see much, but the amount of it she saw was enough to tell her it was beyond dirty. She saw the shirt portion of the dress. The light pink and white designs were buried under layers of dirt, tears, food, and dust. Isabella shrugged off the feeling of being dirty and went back to work. Her large amber eyes scanned the entire room, searching for a spot that would help her not feel as useless as she was now. Jayden had went back to work in the top left corner of the office. Tom was still behind the desk. Maddie was now huddled over something Kim held out to her. Isabella saw an empty area across from where Tom was standing.

Isabella walked to the left corner closest to the door. The was a full-length mirror in front of where she stood. For the first time in weeks, she looked at what she had become. Her arms were delicate and thin, so thin it seemed that they would break. Her face had become pale. The lack of sleep had caused darkness to set under her eyes. The soft brown hair that fell to her waist was now a tangled mess of brown and black. Her skin had grime and dirt stained to it everywhere on her body.’ What have I become?’ she asked herself as she reached out and touched the cold surface of the mirror. At first, the cold shocked her. Then, she began getting more fond of the cold, and let her entire hand press against the soothing yet cold surface of the mirror. Isabella let out a sigh and removed her hand. her handprint had been left behind. A handprint of dirt and dust. She leaned her back against the cold surface of the mirror and slid down. once she felt the floor, she sat still and let the back of her head also experience this feeling of calmness. She stood up and walked to Tom. She stood in front of the desk while Tom stood behind. She stared at the once soft rug, which was now hard and filled with dust. She walked over to it and sat down, not minding the dust since it was too late to fear for it now. She let her hands feel the area around where she sat, feeling the fuzz of the carpet between her fingers.Her fingers moved faster upon the carpet, until she hit something on the tip of her fingers. Though it would have hurt less if she wasn’t moving her fingers about so fast. The pain caused her to quickly pull her hand back and cradle it with her other arm. Isabella reached out to the spot again, slowly with an outstretched and shaking arm. Her hand met the carpet, as well as a hard bump under it. No matter how hard she stared at the carpet, the spot was not visible.

“Tom! There’s something over here!” Isabella called out.

Tom rushed over to her side. She took his hand and guided it to the bump in the carpet. After letting go of his hand, he gripped on tightly to the hidden object. He got up and helped pull Isabella up after.

“Let’s move the rug.” Tom said to Isabella.

She nodded. Together, they heaved the carpet off of the floor, walked over the corner, and gently placed it down. Isabella glanced at where the carpet had been. The wood was much more new and looked fresher than the rest. In the middle was a large brass ring of some sort. Isabella and Tom walked over to the ring, both pulling a side of the cold metal. The ring lifted the floor up with a loud groan. Isabella released the ring, her knuckles white, and ran to the opened compartment. The room filled with a musty, old smell. Isabella’s nose wrinkled at the stench. She waved her hand infront of her face to ward off the smell, then peered inside. In the compartment was a book with a cover of old, dusty brown leather. The book also shared the space with a white feather tied to the top of a small bottle of black ink with a piece of frayed twine. There was also a pair of glasses with a black frame and a device Isabella had never seen before. At the sight of this mystery object, Isabella tipped her head to the side, trying to uncover the mystery of the contraption.

“It’s about time we found something. How’d you figure out there was something under a carpet?”   Maddie questioned Isabella.

“I was feeling the carpet and-” she was cut off by Maddie.

“Feeling a rug? Who in their right mind feels a rug, especially one that probably hasn’t been cleaned for who knows how long?”

Isabella shrugged in response. Maddie rolled her different colored eyes and folded her arms on her chest.

“While we’re busy breaking a sweat trying to save our lives, you were ‘feeling a rug’, but guess who got the most done. You! How is that even possible?” Maddie said in Isabella’s face.

“It’s not her fault she know’s where to look” Tom responded, trying to defend Isabella.

“Guys, we need to focus!” Kim said in a raised voice, trying to break apart the fight going on between her only friends.  

 

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