Written by Nishi Nandineni
Art by Matt Seymour
When I woke up that morning, I could already feel the thorny atmosphere of my house, as if the thin ice we walked on had begun to crack. I could only sigh at the horrifying thought. Much like the usual, I was reluctant to get out of bed, to get out of my room– to face the world again.
Unlike other days, the world beyond my bedroom door was quiet, and almost, just almost, peaceful.
Until I heard the whispers.
Soft, airy, and cautious whispers.
No one ever whispered in the Asylan Home, because whispers were secrets, secrets that hurt the public eye. And secrets meant danger, danger that no one in the home desired.
I knew that curiosity would do me no good in the long run, yet I couldn’t help but lean against my closed door, taking in every sound of breath, desperate to make out at least one word.
But within a second, I’m met with silence.
I could’ve imagined it, I can’t help but think. Whispering? Here? No one would dare to do such a thing, especially at this time, where everyone’s ears are open and active.
Yet, I keep thinking. I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe– that secret, those whispers, might be a good thing.
Because breaking the rules means change is coming, and if change is coming…
Maybe those whispers are the key to getting me out of here.
The morning bells ring again, leading my eyes to snap towards the ticking clock that lay above my bed’s headboard. It’s set to be exactly seven minutes ahead, creating the illusion that we’re late when we’re not– it’s the Forewoman’s way to ensure that we arrive early and on time.
Though I’m aware of this fact, I act as if I’m not, doing exactly what the Forewoman expects of us. I get up seven minutes early, wash up seven minutes early, head out of my room seven minutes early, and get congratulated for being seven minutes early.
But today … today, I feel against it. I know this clock is ahead, so why must I follow it as if it isn’t? I have seven extra minutes to be myself, to do what I want to, so why can’t I?
Why is it that the Forewoman and the Home must also take time that is meant for me?
So, no, I decide. These seven minutes will be mine today.
And in a single moment, with my mind away from any potential consequences, I decided I will not do what I’m supposed to today.
I will sleep seven minutes longer, wash up seven minutes later, and head out of my room seven minutes later, and this time, I will not be acknowledged for being seven minutes early.
So with a smile, I lay down, but don’t even close my eyes– something I’m not supposed to do.