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A Bittersweet Winter Night

I pulled out a wad of change, and tried to assemble it as the shopkeeper patiently waited.

There weren’t a lot of people inside the little store, but more than a few lingered outside. I didn’t know why they preferred to be out in the cold, rather than in the cafeteria that stood adjacent to the store, but I suppose winter winds hold an attraction to people who’ve survived in the blistering heat, as was the case of Lahori summers.

As I finally managed to piece together the mostly tattered notes – a product of spending too much at the cafeteria – the old man began to swiftly pack them into a shopping bag.

It was odd how the seasons brought about their own change in people; a jolly conversationalist turned silent, with a shawl wrapped around his little, round body, he quietly handed over the items. I muttered my gratitude and headed back out.

The fog descended down on us, swirling as it came into contact with the wind. It was a magnificent sight; the bright lights turned hazy by the winter night, everything holding a surreal, outlandish quality. I half expected wild creatures to manifest some otherworldly magic on the obscure streets and lush greenery, their flutes and strings in hand, awakening the slumbering spirits of nature to life. Nothing held an exact shape, the boundaries blurring, making my fantasy seem all too real.

Forcing myself to snap out of the impossible daydream I had concocted for myself, I began to unwillingly walk back home. It was difficult to bear down on my legs when all I wanted was to stop and stare with my mouth agape at the sight before me.

Fumbling a little with the keys, and almost dropping my things in the process, I managed to walk inside. Thoroughly glad for the maddening urge to clean this morning, I quickly discarded my overcoat and scarf, switching into pajamas and house slippers. The room was impeccable, everything arranged precisely as I wanted it, not a single thing out of place.

I climbed into the bed with my portable computer in hand, happy to finally have some time to myself. It had been a long day, and with a slight headache I’d been happy to be rid of the otherwise wonderful company, and into the comfort of my quiet little house.

Eagerly tearing into the packaging of my treats, I began munching on a bar of Snickers. Instantly, I knew something was wrong. It tasted…wrong. Like someone had altered the chemical composition of the chocolate. I swallowed it down with some effort and decided to lay off the nutty bar. Instead of just stopping there I moved on to the next thing, a vanilla cupcake. It was light and would do me good after a day of being unable to eat much, so I opened that too.

There was something inherently wrong about that cupcake. I couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening, so I reached for the bottle of water on the nightstand, and drank deeply from it. I gave the vanilla cupcake another try, but to no avail.

Trying my hand at something else, I ripped open a Galaxy bar. Those things were heavenly with these luxurious, velvety tastes, and were meant for every situation.

I become cognizant of something amiss even as the smell of the bar hit me; it nauseated me to the extent that I put it down without even tasting it. My stomach churned with acid, a whirlpool forming amid the movement. I didn’t know what was happening, and I didn’t like it, not one bit.

Read More:

A Bittersweet Winter Night (Part II)

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