Finally the exam is over and the winter vacation has started. Everyone has something in plan. So do Ayon and Zeba. It's been a long time since they visited aunt Sophia. So this year they convinced their father so he would allow them to go. But there's just too much work in the office. He can't take any days off now.

"Please papa. Everybody's going somewhere. We are getting bored already. What will we do for the rest of the month?" Says Zeba.

"Okay okay, I'll tell Shumon to drop you at Sophia's house. But he can't stay with you. He's got much work to do in the office so you'll have to wait for me till I spare time to fetch you." Papa's reply.

"Uncle Shumon! That will be fun." Ayon shouts in joy.

"Agreed! At least we're going!" Zeba says happily.

At that night, before Ayon closes his eyes, he wonders how the holidays are going to be. Then he falls asleep.

The day to go to aunt Sophia's house arrives. Ayon and Zeba head for Rangamati with uncle Shumon. Sophia is their papa's cousin. Ayon and Zeba's mother died in an accident. From after that, Sophia is the nearest one they have who loves them like a mother. So it's obvious that they wanna spend the holidays with her. Shumon is their papa's colleague and very witty. He's very close with the siblings.

They reach the house after a journey of whole 8 hours. It's on one of the hills of Rangamati. The red nature makes this old-fashioned house very beautiful. It's surrounded with red-yellow or evergreen trees. The house is roomy and old-fashioned.

The time they got out of the car, Sophia comes running towards them. She gives them a big hug and asks how they are. Shumon says hi and informs aunt that after an hour, he has to head back for Dhaka. Aunt offered him to have lunch with them before going and turned to the other two,

"How have you been all this time? I was really worried about your exam. How was it? Did it go well? How's your father?" Sophia asks all of them together.

Ayon smiles, "First let's go inside and relax. We have plenty of time for the interrogation."

"Oh sorry. You must be exhausted from your journey! C'mon." Sophia's really embarrassed.

Ayon has been given a single room and aunt said Zeba will be staying with Nature. The room is right beside the cliff. The backyard garden and the hills are all visible from the window.

"Who's this 'Nature' aunt?" Asks surprised Zeba, as the two siblings have always known that aunt doesn't have any children. She isn't even married! Ayon's also surprised.

"Oh didn't I tell you I am adopting a girl? If I didn't, then now you know she's the one. Hey! Why are we standing here? You need to introduce yourselves. C'mon. Right this way." She goes through a long corridor.

She opens a door and turns back to them,

"She doesn't talk much but don't mind." She points at a girl who is sitting beside the window on a chair and is gazing at the hills. Sophia calls her name.

The girl looks at them but she doesn't make any other motion. She has bright brown skin and long dark black hair. Ayon notices profound sorrow in her deep brown eyes. Zeba walks to her and says with a cheerful wide smile,

"Hi. My name's Zeba. I'm your cousin and that guy standing over there is my elder brother. Your name is Nature, right?"

"It's Prokrity. Not Nature." She turns back to the window silently again.

Her voice is so hollow, Zeba somehow understood. She and Ayon look at aunt Sophia. She laughs embarrassedly and says that 'Prokrity' is too hard to say all the time. So she calls her Nature.

"And besides, Nature is the English word for Prokrity. Isn't it?"

"Yeah but," Says Ayon staring at her with mischief in his eyes. "It's not nice to replace someone's name you know, auntie!" Sophia laughs in the same way as before.

Zeba puts her luggage in a corner and says that she's very tired. Ayon's also tired. Sophia tells them both to take a wash and then come to the dining room for an early supper and leaves. Ayon has left already. Sophia comes back immediately and tells Prokrity to come along. Prokrity follows her without making a sound. Then Zeba enters the bathroom.

10 o' clock at night. Everybody has had their meal and Shumon has left a long time ago. Zeba and Ayon are sitting in the sitting room with aunt Sophia. Prokrity is sitting in a corner paying no interest in what they are talking about. Zeba feels a little odd. She asks Sophia,

"Aunt, why is she always so gloomy? She acts like she's deaf! She doesn't talk to us, neither does she listen to what we are saying."

"Yeah. Tell us. What happened so tragic?" Ayon also want to know.

Then Sophia tells them with tears in her eyes.

Prokrity used to live with her parents just nearby. But they passed away in an accident about a year ago. Her uncle then became her guardian. She was becoming lively again but then one night a few weeks later the house was caught on fire no one knows how. It burnt down and her uncle died in that incident. Sophia then decided to take her in. But ever since then Prokrity has never gone back to her previous self.

Ayon and Zeba feel very sad about Prokrity. They know how it feels to loose the ones who are most close to you. Sophia wipes off her tears and brings a smile on her face, and says that it's really late at night and they should go to bed. She calls out to Prokrity and of course, she calls her Nature. Then she sends everyone to bed and heads towards her room.

Very late at that night, some sound makes Zeba wake up. She looks around. Then she discovers that Prokrity is not in her bed. First she thinks she might be in the bathroom. But when she calls for her, she doesn't answer. She isn't there. There's no light in there either. Zeba hurries up and something snatches her sight out the window. Is it Prokrity who is walking through the trees? She runs out from the room and sees Ayon coming towards her room. He saw Prokrity too. That means Zeba didn't imagine it herself.

The two of them follows Prokrity from distance. They get surprised seeing how swiftly Prokrity was climbing up the small hill. After a long time of effort, Ayon and Zeba reach her. She is standing under a tree beside a burnt house. Must be where she lived before. Ayon and Zeba hide themselves behind the trees. Prokrity looks like she isn't alive! She stands still at the edge of the cliff. It was quite windy up there. Some leaves were floating in the air. Then some of the leaves go right through Prokrity! Its like she is nothing but a shadow!

Ayon's eyes widen in great astonishment. And when Zeba realized what she just saw was true, a sharp scream comes out of her voice. Ayon tries to stop her but it was too late. Prokrity now knows that they have seen her. She slowly turns to the trees where they are hiding. Ayon understands that there's no use hiding. So he stands up and tells Zeba to stand too. He wants to know who she is and what she wants. Prokrity replies in her ice cold voice,

"You people don't really understand what is to do and what is not to do. You really shouldn't have come here."

"That's no answer to my question." Ayon says, trying to control his fear. Her floating black hair and black clothes made her look like an unworldly being. She advances towards them very slowly. Ayon, holding his sister's hand, walks backward. He again asks,

"What are you doing with my aunt? What do you want?"

Prokrity stops in her tracks and turns to the ghostly remains of the house.

"This was the place where my home used to be. I still love this place. But I can't stay here any longer." This time her voice gets more depressed.

"This was the house where I lived with my parents. This is the only place… that had their memories after they passed away. Only Sophia was friendly to me after my parent's death. Everything was getting fine… but then…"

All on a sudden she bursts into tears and screams in agony. As she screams the moment of the house burning down becomes visible to Ayon and Zeba.

Bright scarlet flames reaching to the sky, engulfing the whole house and the trees around it. Some people running around trying to save their lives. The next moment the scenario changes to the internal household. Prokrity screaming in pain and fear, calling out to her uncle for help. But this was what he wanted and so, ignoring Prokrity's pleadings, he fled, leaving her there all alone, to be consumed by the flames. With agony, terror and hatred in her heart, Prokrity cried to her last breath.

But nature has its own laws. Her uncle couldn't leave the house in time and burnt to ashes.

Then the vision becomes bleary as Prokrity calms down.

Ayon walks backward in utter disbelief. He's always had a scientific mind and can't believe what he just saw with his own eyes. Zeba looks panicked. He doesn't know if it's because of fear or because of sorrow which she felt for Prokrity.

"I…no longer…belong to this world."

Saying this, Prokrity slowly vanishes in the thin air. Ayon can't take it anymore. He looses his sense.

Ayon opens his eyes slowly. He sees his father and sister sitting beside him looking very worried. This is his own bedroom in his own house! But wasn't he on the cliff behind aunt Sophia's house? He jumps up on the bed.

"What has happened?" He asks.

His father looks relieved. Zeba replies,

"You were shouting in your sleep. Maybe you were having nightmares. But it looks like you're okay now. (She says cheerfully) Remember what day it is?"

"Where's aunt Sophia? And how did I get here?" Asks Ayon thinking about last night.

"Hey! How do you know Sophia's coming to pick you up and Shumon's not going with you?" Asks father in great amazement. Zeba smiles and says,

"Maybe you went a few days forward in your dream. We're going to aunt's house today."

Ayon doesn't get it. He was dreaming the whole thing!

The doors open and aunt Sophia enters with her all times cheerful laughter.

"You woke up! How are you dear?"

Ayon heaves a long breath of relief. Everything was just a bad dream.

But relief doesn't last long. Behind aunt Sophia, there was someone. Ayon's eyes opens wide in astonishment. 'Wait, the girl looks exactly like...'

He could hear Sophia's voice, "Oh, allow me to introduce. This is Prokrity. Say hi!"

"Hello."

The same hollow voice.

-end-


"Ayon" is to be pronounced "Au-yo-n"