The Student Publishing House of Townsend Harris High School

The Starling Press

The Student Publishing House of Townsend Harris High School

The Starling Press

The Student Publishing House of Townsend Harris High School

The Starling Press

About
February 13, 2024
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February 12, 2024

A Journey in Monochrome

Artwork+by+Maryam+Muhit
Artwork by Maryam Muhit

The moment I heard “Hello?” at the other end of the line, I frantically started screaming. “HELP! I THINK I DESPERATELY NEED YOUR HELP!” I implored, my voice trembling with anxiety. Of course, my sister, Zara, can never recognize voices, so after a beat of silence, I add, “It’s me, you idiot. Maisha,” Another second goes by. Sometimes I fantasize about rewiring her brain. 

“Oh…” I slap my forehead. Zara’s voice brimmed with curiosity. “What do you need help with? Are you doing drugs? Did you sneak out of our window? What is this number anyway?” 

I slap my forehead again. My newly gray skin will turn red at this rate of slapping. I’ll keep that in mind. “Is that what you think of me? I have a life, unlike you.” I retorted.

“What? You have some nerve, you’re the-”

It amazes me how we can still bicker even in this moment of chaos. 

“Okay, shut up!” I contemplate my decision to call her. “I’m stuck in this weird place, everything is black and white and-” 

“Oh my god, did you get kidnapped? Are you in a super modern house or something? How did I not wake up? Can you-”

I roll my eyes. “No, I don’t think I was kidnapped because I’m black and white too,”

“What? What does that even mean?” Zara asks.

“I don’t know. I’m practically one of those people in old movies,” 

“Ohh…”

I slap my forehead again. Unfortunately. 

“I have no idea what’s going on, and so-”

“So you called me? Wow, you really do love me,” 

My hand stops in the air when I just roll my eyes. 

“Okay, fine. Now help,”

“This is so weird. Okay, umm, look around. Where could you even be?”

I spin in a slow circle, taking in every detail. I almost strangled myself with the twisted cord of the old telephone. “It looks like a bedroom, maybe of a little girl. There’s a basket filled with dolls,” 

“Okay, and there isn’t a way out?” 

“Well, there’s a door, obviously, and a comically large window. It’s pretty dark, and I can’t even see street lights, so I must be super high up. There aren’t any stars though,” 

“Maybe you’re in a giant skyscraper. Light pollution can be terrible. Can you open the window?”

My fingertips slide alongside the crevice between the glass and the wall. “No, it’s sealed shut. It’s just a giant pane of glass,” 

“What about the door? Don’t tell me you didn’t try that,”

I sigh. 

“But, I don’t know what’s out there. What if-” 

“Just go,” 

“Fine,” 

I walk towards the door with the old planks creaking beneath me. This entire thing feels straight out of a horror movie. I keep expecting to see a monster jump out at me, and not the ones from Monsters Inc. My hand twitches at the touch of the cold doorknob. I open it relatively quickly and feel a slight breeze of air. I stick my head out the door, facing just a typical hallway. Except for the fact that there are no stairs. Where am I? 

“Hello? Maisha? Hellooo?”

“Oh. Yeah. There’s just a hallway,”

“Okay, find the front door and get outside and-”

“There aren’t any stairs,” 

“What?” 

“I don’t know if I’m floating or what,”

“Well, what does the hallway have?”

I step out to see the hallway properly. My eyes fall on a door on the opposite wall and two potted plants in the corner. “There’s another door and some plants,” The cord from the phone tightens. “There are pictures everywhere, but only on one wall,”

I noticed the pictures when I turned around to go back into the bedroom. The frames were all the same and relatively ordinary, but the pictures in them were, well, weird. As I approached them, my curiosity piqued. They looked like photos taken of actual painted portraits. The Mona Lisa seemed to make an appearance. The people in them looked nothing alike, with no connection among them. Would I be next on the wall? 

“That’s weird,” Zara yawns. 

“I know. I’m gonna open the other door,” I set the phone down on the dresser and headed towards the door. The floors don’t creak as much, but the doorknob is equally cold. I open the door tentatively and see a sink. Then a toilet. And then a shower. The plain walls had nothing to offer but tiles. I look behind the sink and toilet, almost knocking over multiple paper rolls. The cabinets under the sink are painfully bare. I can practically see the spiderwebs coming in. I shut the useless cabinets and walk into the bedroom to pick up the phone. “There’s a bathroom,”

“What? Oh. What if you actually are kidnapped?”

“I’m not,” I can’t start to worry now. 

I glance around the room again and hear a slight, constant noise. I turn to its direction—the window. I run towards it and press my ear onto the glass. It sounds like a faint buzzing. Almost like TV static. I stare behind the enormous piece of glass, trying to see something besides nothing. The darkness of the pitch-black window is blinding white for a split second. The effect lasts longer. My vision clears when I see color. Reds, blues, yellows. Every tone and hue. Every shade and tint I could imagine. The room I’m gaping up in looks exactly like my house. The gray couch with the brown coffee stain on the side. The lamp with paint splattered on it. The rug my mother wove herself, the yarn fraying at the edges. I have to get out of here.

I turn around, frantically looking for something that could break the glass. I put the phone down, ignoring the panicked “hello?”s from Zara on the line. I glance at the empty wall in the hallway when it’s not so empty anymore. There were pictures hung all across the wall, illuminated with light from the window. Or is it a TV? They look like family photos, with me in every single one of them. I run to take one down when my fingers grasp at crumbling paint and drywall. It’s almost like the pictures were projected by the light in the window. I spin around when I see a person staring down at me. My dad. I run back and pound on the glass, my fists doing nothing to the impenetrable screen. His giant eyebrows scrunch together, and then he turns and walks away. My heart sinks. I don’t know what else to do. 

I glance at the hallway when I see another door. The family photos that used to be there faded away. I could see little parts of it in the shape of fists. I pounded the glass repeatedly, revealing the door with every hit. I rushed to the door, almost tripping on the extended phone cord. I grazed the doorknob, just in case it was phony too. Surprisingly, my fingers fell around it. I tried opening it, but it was locked. My five seconds of hope turned into desperation. 

I throw the bedroom apart, looking for something to open the new door. Or break it. I hear the buzz of a disconnected line from the phone. Zara probably ended the call. I look everywhere; drawers, shelves, under the bed. I throw the basket of toys upside down when a wind-up doll falls out. The key in its back wasn’t black, white, or gray. It was a bright and shiny gold. I pulled it out, and there it was, the ticket out of here. The key glowed against the lines on my palms. I sprinted to the door and clicked the lock open. I pushed the door and stepped over the door frame, unbeknownst to the darkness that lay ahead. 

I fell for what seemed like hours. I was stuck in the typical position someone can be in when falling; hands in the air, feet kicked upwards, and hair was strewn over my face. Strands of my hair were stuck onto the sides of my cheeks, almost slipping into the corners of my mouth. Is this what death is? Did I do something wrong? I should’ve looked before I stepped in. I’ll check next time, as Zara would say. If I ever make it out of here. Before long, my body became numb. I lost feeling in my arms and legs. I got so accustomed to the constant falling, that I dozed off. 

A split second later, my eyelids flew open, and I felt myself back in bed. Relief washed over me, but my questions lingered. How did I get out alive? I glanced around the room in utter shock. My puffy blanket was bright blue. The walls around me were light pink. Mauve, even. I looked at my hands, and my skin was brown again. Above all, the three windows on the left wall were orange, with pink, yellow, purple, and blue tinges. I hold my head with the palms of my hands, wondering so many things simultaneously. One question echoed the loudest in my mind. “Where was that place?”



Bio: Hey, I’m Maryam Muhit! Graduating high school in 2027, I love spinning exciting tales that mix real life with fantasy. My short story, “A Journey in Monochrome” is about one misfortune girl who gets stuck in a mysterious and unconventional space. Like everyone at times, she needs a little help from her sister to find a way out. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me reading stories written by amazing authors under a cozy blanket. Get ready for more adventures, because I’m just getting started! 

 

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