Ayla collapsed on her bed, exhausted after having her physics exam. It was the final exams, of her last year of college.

“Now I’ll read as many books as I want!” she thought, smiling, when a loud thud startled her.

She sat up straight on her bed, listening attentively. Ayla could hear muffled voices but not belonging to her parents. They weren’t human voices either. Gulping, Ayla stood up and tiptoed outside her room. She heard a roar from downstairs making her jump in fright.

“Is … is that a …” she couldn’t complete her sentence when she spotted something tall and brown with dark spots here and there. She was looking straight into the eyes of a giraffe looking back at her with a bored expression, chewing on her mum’s favourite curtain.

“Woah!” Ayla exclaimed in excitement. “Mum? Dad? Is anyone there?” she called out to her parents but there came no reply.

“This is a dream come true! Parents not at home! It means I am home alone!” she jumped in joy as she realised this and came towards the staircase and looked down to witness the site of astonishment. A bunch of wild birds, bears, giraffes, turtles, hyenas and even lions were roaming around her living room. Ayla couldn’t believe her eyes!

She slowly descended the stairs. A bird came flying and sat on her shoulder, dropping something with a big thud.

She bent and picked up a huge candy, a mint one — her favourite.

“Oh… so sweet! Mum and Dad would have never let me have this!” she yelled in joy, unwrapping it and licking the goodness.

She made her way out of the house with caution. If Ayla thought inside was a paradise, she was too stunned to process what lied in front of her now. The absolute dream of every kid — A Candy Land!

Ayla wanted to dive into the lake of vanilla goodness, taste the rain dripping with strawberry ice cream, the trees holding on to chocolate fruits, the plants growing marshmallows and every other sweetness imaginable on her tongue.

“No parents to stop me now, no homework, no cleaning rooms, no strictness! I’m finally free!” Ayla exclaimed as she ran towards the river and dipped her hands in, slurping the vanilla river flowing by.

She chewed on several marshmallows and then the chocolate fruits. It started to rain and Ayla opened her mouth, facing the sky as ice cream fell on her face, in her mouth.

“Yummmm!” she said with utter delight.

After a few hours, she got tired of eating and fell asleep under a tree. She didn’t know for how long she slept since no one was there to wake her up. But when she woke up, she felt stiff and too lazy to do anything. Her stomach was aching and she couldn’t walk. It was still raining and she was drenched in ice cream.

“Eww… I’m so sticky and oh it’s so cold,” she said as she tried standing up and walking back to her home.

As soon as she entered, there was a foul smell overflowing the house. The animals had ruined the once lovely decorated house of hers.

“What have you animals done?” she yelled at them when all the animals turned their attention to her.

She looked healthy and very a delightful dinner. The lion roared and started towards her.

“Wait, what! No please stop. I’m your friend,” Ayla stuttered in fear.

The bear stood on its two paws and roared so loudly, scaring Ayla so badly that she tripped, crying.

“Mum, Dad where are you guys? I need you. I need you both!” she pleaded.

The animals were circling her now, as the lion made position, keeping her in view and suddenly jumped as Ayla shut her eyes, and screamed in horror.

“Wake up Ayla dear,” came a soothing voice followed by a soft touch. Ayla opened her eyes and saw she was breathing heavily and was sweating.

“Mmmum…!” she sighed in relief.

“Yes my love, it’s me. You were having a nightmare!” mother said, stroking her hair gently.

“Oh, mum I’m so glad I’m back,” Ayla said hugging her mother tightly.

“But you never left darling. You got back from your exam and fell asleep. Look, you’re still in your uniform,” her mother chuckled lightly.

“So I was never gone?” Ayla looked at her clothes, there was no ice cream. Her stomach did not hurt anymore, nor was her room ridden by wild animals.

Her mother kissed her forehead, “Don’t worry, I’ll always follow you even if you leave. Now get fresh, I have cooked spinach,” she smiled. Ayla nodded, getting out of her bed, towards the restroom.

“By the way, we have vanilla ice cream for dessert,” her mother said before closing the door to her bedroom.

“What!” cried Ayla, clutching her stomach.

Published in Dawn, Young World, May 11th, 2024



KP’s ‘power struggle’
Updated 21 Jun, 2024

KP’s ‘power struggle’

Instead of emboldening protesters, CM Gandapur should encourage his provincial subjects to clear their due bills and ensure theft is minimised.
Journalist’s murder
21 Jun, 2024

Journalist’s murder

ANOTHER name has been added to the list of journalists murdered in Pakistan. On Tuesday, Khalil Jibran’s vehicle...
A leaner government?
21 Jun, 2024

A leaner government?

FINANCE Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb has reiterated his government’s ‘commitment’ to shutting down ministries...
Kindness needed
Updated 20 Jun, 2024

Kindness needed

This year’s World Refugee Day theme — solidarity with refugees — includes keeping our borders accessible and addressing the hurdles they face.
Fitch’s budget note
20 Jun, 2024

Fitch’s budget note

PAKISTAN’S ongoing economic crisis is multifaceted. At one end, the government must pursue stabilisation policies...
Cruelty to animals
20 Jun, 2024

Cruelty to animals

TWO recent incidents illustrate the immense cruelty many in this country subject voiceless animals to. In the first...