He woke up with a jolt.

His shirt was wet with perspiration. Breathing heavily, he slowly looked around. The fan had stopped whirling and the lights that were never turned off, were out. It was eerily quiet and he could hear his raspy breath. Darkness enveloped him, penetrating his insides and gnawing him.

Paralysed with fear, he couldn’t blink. A tear slipped down his cheek and fell on the bedsheets, mixing with the sweat. He sniffed. He tried to shout but he couldn’t open his mouth. He knew there was no escape. And he was sure he was going to die. No one would know who killed him. 

“Shh. You are not 8”, he whispered. “You are not 8. You are not 8. You are not 8. You are not 8. You are 8. You are 8. You are 8. You are 8…..”

“Help me, please!” he called out. He didn’t know who he was calling out to. He thought it was their game. A game of hide and seek. A game he had played everyday so he could be friends with them. They would lock him up in different places and he had to be brave. That was his test in order to be part of the cool gang. But today, they hadn’t let him out. Maybe his friends had forgotten him. Maybe they didn’t realise that it was way past dinner.

“Hello?” he shouted. No reply.

He got up from where he was sitting and walked in no particular direction, in the hope of finding the door.  With hands in front of him, he walked shakily letting his instincts guide him in the dark. Suddenly, he felt the round of the door knob. He banged the door with all his might to draw someone’s attention.

That’s when he heard them giggling. 

“Hey! Let me out!” he shouted. “Please.” He kept shouting until his voice was hoarse. Tears streaked down his cheeks, falling on his wet shirt. All he could hear was laughter from the other side. Suddenly, he heard them walking away. 

“Don’t go away. Please let me out!” 

Darkness haunted him and the burden of sinister silence tormented him. He sat down with a thump. He didn’t know what to do. He wanted to get out, but he felt tied. He wanted to shout, but he felt gagged. He kept thinking about failing his test. Frozen to the spot, he waited. Sweat trickled down his forehead and he felt Death making its way towards him.

He woke up with a jolt.