Locked In

Popo was so lost...Does he find himself? Popoola sat in the hall. It had been cleared out.

The empty hall was where he escaped to clear his thoughts and be alone. He sat on the marble floor behind lustrous metal doors, away from detection by wandering juniors and his pesky friends. His earpiece nestled in his ears, lolling soft violin instrumentals. They kept him at ease and in a state of flow as he sketched and painted. Hours sped by as he sketched every line and squiggled ink, and shaded his work. He squinted his eyes through his glasses, assessing his handiwork. He checked his brown leather watch for the time.

6:30 pm! It was way past closing time. He flung out his earpiece from his ears. He fumbled with the door handles. They wouldn't budge. Everywhere was eerily silent—the patter of a drop against the ground would sound like rainfall. He called out for help, for anyone, for anything. But his voice just bounced off the walls and bounced back at him, startling him.

After an hour of calling and shouting, he gave up and crashed to the ground. It was hopeless. Mom and Dad were out on a business trip. Jerry, his elder brother, would be out partying (that's all he always did anyways). He wouldn't spare him any glimpse of memory. The house was empty. No one would notice his absence. No one was coming to save him. Yet, the familiarity of home beat the obscurity of this strange yet once comfy hall.

Sunlight fluttered in. Casting shadows on the marble floor. The sun descended slowly, but certainly, it would disappear and ditch him in darkness. After an hour, the hall grew dimmer and dimmer. He listened for the slightest sound of anyone around. Nothing... It was weird how a large hall like this could choke and suffocate all of a sudden. He plopped his art book against a corner of the room. At least that felt familiar. It was dark now. Leaves whistled. Moonlight glittered, illuminating the room faintly. The hall curtains fluttered in the wind, casting dancing shadows on the walls that reminded Popoola of ghosts—unnerving.

As if on cue, toads croaked, and crickets chirped. In fear, he picked up his book and huddled into a corner, rocking back and forth. Eyes wide open, unable to sleep for the terror of the howling dogs? Wolves? Hyenas? He was uncertain. Time went by. He shivered, rubbing his hands against his arms as wicked cold stung the skin. Then NEPA was brought to light. Joy blazed in him like a furnace as bright orange light washed onto his face. The howl, the cold, the chirps, the croaks, and the dancing ghosts all seemed to fade into non-existence. He would be alright if the light stayed till dawn. But sadly, even that was unlikely.

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