By Manaly Talukdar

The chemist assured me that the sachets of powders will work. I have heard that his unconventional ingredients have proven to be of great assistance. 

“His medicine has helped my son socialize better in school” A friend of mine spared her secret one evening when she visited for tea.

The witchy chemist’s only condition upon handing his product was that the purchaser concoct the ingredients as per their need. He wasn’t going to prepare a ready-made potion, “The one in dilemma will know how to best tackle their situation” which translated into his intent of not willing to receive the full blame if anything ever went wrong. So far, a bare few were his customers and so far no complaints filed against him.

Lara was at her pre-puberty stage, and since the past year she had become strangely quiet. Anytime I made conversation, her gaze drifted elsewhere: either at her feet or the wall behind me, spitting one-word answers when asked a question. Her appetite shrunken to the amount that would fit in a tiny bowl. She’s always been the ideal listener, who obeyed without a single protest. Was I too authoritative? Maybe I had instilled some fear in her. A few weeks ago, I did lash out at her for breaking an expensive crystal vase. And a few days ago, I didn’t permit her to join her friends for camping cause she’d been spending too much time loitering in the woods. 

“The woods inspire me to paint, ma.” She reasoned once. I snapped and told her to find less murky,  less obstacle’d and less mosquito-ridden areas for her inspiration. 

“You’re done wasting time in the wild!” I commanded.

I leaned on the chemist’s desk waiting for him to lay out the small packets. 

“The orange would bring her appetite back.” He slid the sachet across the table, “and the electric blue for energy.” He added.

“What antidote do you have for breaking her shell?” 

The witchy doctor was caught in a moment of silence before ducking down behind the counter, “I have charcoal black for blunt speech.” Bluntness sounded extreme. Running her mouth at the wrong time for the wrong reasons would only lead me to grounding her unnecessarily.

“What else do you have?” I asked.

He rummaged through the rustling plastics and slapped three small transparent pouches on the walnut varnished counter, “the emerald green’s for ecstatic enthusiasm to solve problems, the cherry red’s for a bold nature and the magenta’s for pursuing her deepest desires.”

If Lara gets infused with a problem solving attitude, it would green-lit the idea of open discussion. She finally wouldn’t hesitate to confess what’s been bothering her for so long. The red and the magenta might dissolve her chronic shyness about her artworks that’s been stacked under her bed. 

“Perfect!” Excluding the charcoal black, I bagged the rest.

“Make sure she gets a proper 8-hour sleep.” The witchy doctor advised. I mindlessly nodded.

I emptied the orange, the electric blue and the emerald green, sprinkled a pinch of red along with half of the magenta in her kitten print cup and poured her nightly milk which she never skipped. As I creaked open her bedroom door, there she was … the canvas enduring her aggressive brushstrokes. 

“Drink up.” I said as I placed the cup on her desk. She gulped it all down without once glancing at the glittery concoction, “it tastes weird.”

“I added some honey to it” I swiftly lied. 

Right before I closed the door behind me, my eyes fell on the painting she’d been laboring upon. Dotted stars strewn over a black and grey sky, a curly-haired girl standing on an empty field with a ginormous pair of wings rooted between her shoulder blades, her legs shackled in chains and a caramel teddy bear in her clasp, just like the one lying on her bed which she never leaves behind even when on a short trip. Lara had been getting better at her art beyond my expectations. Surely, one day she will boldly showcase her impeccable work in an art gallery. 

The table was set for breakfast. Pancakes with chocolate syrup— her favorite. 

“Lara!” I tried to summon her before the school bus arrived. No response. I knocked on her door, no answer. When I twisted the knob and swung the door open, the room was empty and the window was left ajar. Her teddy bear was missing and so was she.

Manaly Talukdar is an emerging writer from Assam, India who pens her stories when her memories haunt her … even in her sleep! She was chosen as a finalist for her short fiction “Where is Grandpa?” in “The League of POETS” Weekly Contest (Week 1). Her first online publication “Persona Switch” can be found in BlazeVOX Journal’s fall issue 2022. She’s a Cancer sun, Leo moon and Cancer rising! You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @manalytalukdar


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