Saira was lying on her bed, her back facing the ceiling, her mind and body in a deep lull. An old, battered ceiling fan spun at a disgraceful pace coupled with a brash, rattling sound that was an irritant to the ear and racket loud enough to have woken up the whole colony. But to Saira, the noise of the fan was soothing- a familiar, comforting and monotonous lullaby that kept to its reassuring rhythm in her world of chaos.
A day in the life of Saira was made up of five hours of University lectures, another three hours of back-breaking academic work requirements of the University, a good solid period of relaxing after the long day that started as a break of one hour but extended to an ungraciously long five hours of wasting time, three hours of long, luxurious meals, two baths for an hour and a half each that wasted all the water resources available as Saira conveniently stood under the mellow, cool shower lost in her thoughts and unproductive daydreams, three hours of trying to sleep, and then a sleepless night. But every afternoon, Saira slept blissfully, like a child, like a warrior in peace, like a vagrant comes to rest, taking in the monotonous rattle of the fan as a child takes to the lullaby.
Any student at the University of Beltour, a prestigious institution for the study of Law nestled in the heart of the small, bustling town of Beltour in the southern part of the country, was considered to be a top performer- an assumption the world made by default. Saira, like the rest of the other students in this University, was promised that the 'Beltour-ite' tag would ensure that the rest of her life is a heaven if she managed to clear the entrance requirements and aptitude tests for this University. And, Saira aced them to secure her seat. What a proud moment it was for all who knew her! And, what a relief it was for Saira who believed that her life is now set!
Diya was her best friend from school, and another girl who was promised a bright future on entry into the esteemed institute. And, they both got sailed through inside in a bout of success after their schooling. Diya had always been a natural fighter when thrown in a race of competition. She was the kind of winner one never felt bad losing to and who made it look like she deserved to win, and she always won. A happy girl with a breeze of confidence, and a steady look at her goal, her march to victory was mostly unwavering even when there was an equal match for her.
Saira always had a subliminal pride in her friend, something that went beyond the superficial successes and was more about her very spirit. The two of them had always dreamt of the day they would start something together, and watch it grow under them. They always saw their lives entwined as the best of friends- extending it to even their professions.
A loud thud on the door of the room made Saira jump up from her deep slumber. Someone was banging the door hard and calling out her name. And, along with the bang she heard a high-pitched siren. Her head spun in confusion. What in the world was happening? Was it a dream?
'Saira! Saira! Open the door,' yelled the girl outside.
'Who's it?' Saira called back, her cluttered mind unable to register or recognize the voice. Her heart was pounding fast from the sudden banging noise and the siren. Her reflexes were slow, and her eyes were hazy and unfocused. She got up to open the door, steadying herself.
As she pulled the door open, she saw Diya standing there.
'What's-' started Saira, her eyes wide awake and reflecting the alarm from the chaotic noise. Her nose caught the smell of smoke, and she gave a short cough.
'There's a fire in the hostel. Let's get out.'