It was as if the past one year had gone by in the blink of an eye. As Ahmed lay on his death bed, breathing his last few breaths, he remembered…

Ahmed was a dashing young boy, a reckless fellow in the prime of his life. He was living his life to the fullest extent– his virtual life, to be clear. He spent most of his waking hours in another reality, a virtual world popularly known as Altera. Living in two realities was an exhilarating adventure for him– whenever he remembered, that is. Ahmed was a victim of an epidemic that plagued Earth, the Vide. It was a condition of periodic memory loss and violent outbursts owing to the radiations from the electronic gadgets. The Vide was a deadly disease that resulted in widespread deaths and drastic decrease in life expectancy. Extensive research yielded that the only plausible solution to combat the Vide, along with medications, was the creation of a virtual world where people could go about their normal lives, pretending that they were disease-free. Hence, Altera was created, a place for people to ‘forget’ their reality. 

As per routine, Ahmed logged into Altera on Monday morning. Last night was difficult for him. He barely got four hours of sleep due to a splitting headache and had only hazy recollections of what he did the previous day. This frightened him and made him long for the oblivion of Altera. His virtual counterpart found himself in the library and was instantly drawn to the fiction and fantasy section where his half-finished book beckoned him. As he sauntered towards the shelf, he saw a young girl around his age sitting cross-legged on the floor. She had a book in her hands and a pencil in her half-tied hair. As she lovingly turned the pages of the book, completely absorbed in it, Ahmed fell deeply and irrevocably in love. His reality, his existence underwent a major shift. Unfortunately, like any other clichéd romance, the girl, Eyana did not reciprocate his feelings but the pair of them still became fast friends.

If Ahmed was dark and brooding, Eyana was fun and full of life. If Ahmed was dull and grey, Eyana was a riot of colours. If Ahmed was unaccepting of his conditions, Eyana welcomed everything life could throw at her with open arms. The Vide was slowly festering inside Ahmed, sinking its claws deeper. He felt himself slipping away. Eyana was the only thing real to him, an anchor to the world around him. But he soon found out that Eyana was a Survivor who was immune to the Vide.  A growing monster of jealousy and animosity took over his senses and told him to cut the tether. Ahmed lost control over himself and his memory. He forgot that the girl in front of him was his love and not a stranger. Ahmed strangled Eyana to death, choked the life out of his love.

As he regained authority over his own body, the world spinning randomly, Ahmed faced the ugly and gruesome truth. Everywhere he went, he saw a murderer in the mirror and blood on his hands. His reality was in flux. Ahmed was tired, tired of his dual existence, tired of his own guilt. He decided to stop his medications and submitted fully to the dark temptations of Altera. He just wanted to forget all about the Vide, the Earth, and most of all, Eyana.

Altera was a welcome escape.


                  Seven months later, a withered man lay on his death bed, little more than a corpse as he had no life left inside him. The Vide had claimed him for its own and hollowed him out. With the last strength in his body, Ahmed reached for a stick controller at his bedside, the doorway to Altera. As he pushed the buttons, he replayed the library scene when he first saw Eyana. As the frail skeleton of a man drew his last breath, the young man inside him reached out to embrace his love. As Ahmed drew his last breath, he allowed himself to remember.


-Tanvi Jain, Class-10, DPS Noida


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