The foamy waves gently caressed her bare feet as she strolled by the sea, her worn-out brown sandals clutched firmly in her grasp. Another brunette skipped in front of her, giggling and twirling, her short silky curls bouncing with the motion.

At first glance, just about everyone could tell the one fact that linked the duo. Everyone in town knew their names as well. After all, identical twins were quite rare in the thinly-populated sleepy town of theirs. It made them feel quite special really. Add to the fact that those two girls were the only twins around in their age-group; just shy of thirteen. The girls even attempted to confuse the townsfolk by wearing the same outfits and parting their hair the same way. Even that very day, they were both wearing similar white frocks which reached just below the knees. They had even worn the same set of sandals. However, Tanya was the only one left holding hers. Haniya had kicked off her sandals somewhere on the beach and was attempting to dance, twirling round and round with her arms widespread, a gleeful smile etched onto her face. On any normal day they both would have been dancing and having fun on the beach. But that very day the older twin was more forlorn. More detached with everything around her. Way more than what was considered normal.

This strange mood did not go unnoticed by her other half.

The younger twin turned around on her heels, both hands clasped behind her back as she looked at her sister with raised eyebrows. Her hair splayed about her because of the wind that was raging in the opposite direction. “What’s the matter Tanya?” Haniya inquired, leaning forward and frowning. “Who spit in your porridge this morning? You’re such a sourpuss today!” she exclaimed, trying to tuck her curls behind her ears.

Tanya rolled her eyes at her sister’s oh-so-fine choice of words.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Haniya. I’m perfectly fine!” she said, raising both hands. “Everything is just… peachy.”

Haniya took three long strides forward and unclapsed her hands from behind her back, taking her sister’s hands in her own. “You can’t fool me, you know,” she said to her mirror image, her frown deepening.

Tanya sighed in resignation and looked into her sister’s eyes. The same sea-green eyes as her own.

She could lie to the whole world but not to that girl.

She took a deep breath and started, “I honestly really cannot figure out what the matter is, but I feel like something is wrong. Something is really wrong.” She took a gulp of salty air, “I feel so down right now for no reason at all. I feel restless. Hollow even. And it’s not only right now. This feeling has been persisting in me for some time. And I have no idea why! What’s wrong with me?”

Haniya’s grip tightened on her sister’s hand before she suddenly let go and walked straight into the water. She stopped when it reached up to her knees, her white dress getting soaked at the seams.

“Since when?” she whispered, facing the crimson horizon.

“Since when what?” a bewildered Tanya inquired, rubbing her hands on her arms. They suddenly felt cold. Perhaps from the loss of warmth her sister’s hands had priorly provided.

“Since when have you been feeling this way?” Hainya asked, standing perfectly still in the water against the rhythmic tides.

For some reason, Tanya couldn’t stomach seeing her sister’s silhouette with the deep crimson sky in the background. So she closed her eyes and thought about it. Since when had she started feeling this strange emptiness? Was it yesterday? Since last week? Last month? When did it all begin? How had she lost all perception of time?

She was suddenly broken out of her reverie by the voice of her best friend calling out her name. No it was not Haniya. It was her next door neighbour, Samira.

Tanya turned her head to see Samira in a purple t-shirt and white shorts running towards her. “Hey, Tanya!… Hey!” she yelled, waving her hand as she ran with the wind, leaving a trail of footprints behind in the sand. She came to a sudden halt just in front of her.

“Samira! Where did you come flying from?” Tanya laughed at her friend who was bent over, panting, her hands on her knees. Quite a few strands of her jet black hair had come loose from her once-neat ponytail.

“I saw you here… alone… so I ran over!” Samira gasped, standing upright, grimacing while holding her side.

“What?” Tanya raised an eyebrow, “First of all, you have horrible stamina. And second, I’m not alone. Haniya’s with me,” she said, motioning to her sister with a slight flick of her head.

There was a static silence.

5 seconds

10 seconds

15 seconds

30 seconds

“Oh Tanya,” Samira’s eyes welled up, “Don’t tell me….? Don’t you remember anything? The fire…did you really forget…” she reached out a trembling hand towards her friend.

“What in the world are you babbling about?” Tanya shouted, swatting away her hand as she stepped back, feeling a wave of anger sweeping over her. How dare she say something like that? How dare she! Haniya was right there! She was right….

She turned around to call her sister over.

And in the midst of the crimson waves, there was no one there.

 

-Maria Ahmad.

Biosciences, 4th Year.

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