PART three: buns
Chapter 15: The Monster
BUNS sat with her SKIMMA at the edge of a tall mountain, watching the large sprawling town that lay underneath them. She absentmindedly looked at its haphazard streets and their constant crests and troughs. She took another swig out of the large bottle of liquor that sat next to her, and cursed at the horizon for the hundredth time. This day was always a difficult one for BUNS, a day where nothing she did stopped the past from coming back to haunt her, despite the number of years that had passed since it all happened. She drank silently at first, and soon began telling the SKIMMA all about her past and what this day meant to her, before she even realized it.
It all started with her father, the OSZA who played a major part in the earliest memories of her life, which also happened to be the happiest ones. She always smiled, despite not wanting to, when she thought about those days. The recollections were hazy, but they filled her with joy nevertheless. She remembered the different games her father played with her. It felt like he came up with a new one every day. She remembered that he read various stories to her every night, often making some up as he went along. She remembered how he always carried her on his shoulders everywhere, and how there were days the entirety of which she spent looking at the world from that height.
Then came the accident. She didn’t remember much about what happened, or why. All she could remember was that he got hurt, badly, and had to spend a long time in a frightening building full of crying, coughing and screaming OSZA, what she now knew was a hospital. She could still feel some part of the fear she felt back then, just like she could still reach out and feel a sliver of the happiness from those initial days of her life. The bad times passed, and eventually her father returned home. Or so she thought.
BUNS never really understood it back then, not until a few years had passed and she was older, but her younger self soon realized that what her mother had brought home from the hospital was not the father she’d had. His physical features had not changed. His behavior and temperament were the same for a while as well. But he hadn’t returned home alone. A monster had latched onto him at the hospital, and that monster soon began taking over.
The signs were small enough to be missed at first. He was more irritable. He often lost his temper for the most inconsequential reasons. He often shivered. He often sweat for no reason whatsoever, and more than any OSZA with his levels of physical activity should have. He often complained of pain, and stuck to his complaints even when it was clear that he was lying. The medicines the doctors had prescribed him satiated him. They put an end to his tantrums. They calmed him down. They made him much happier than he usually was, friendlier too. BUNS didn’t understand it. Her father’s happiness always made her happy. His smile always made her smile. But something was different about them after the hospital. They scared her for some reason. She couldn’t explain it to herself. She smiled back regardless. She didn’t really know what else to do.
Her father went back to work eventually. It was clear that he was better. And yet, he continued to complain about various pains. He made all kinds of excuses, and constantly cried and screamed. His tantrums continued, and they only stopped when the doctors gave him the medicine he wanted. Things had changed. BUNS didn’t understand why, but she understood that they had. Her father’s decline continued. The medicine became too expensive to afford. The fights between her parents increased. Her mother constantly talked about claims of some kind, and how some entity was no longer honoring them. But her father refused to listen. He wanted his medicine, and he played every card he had to get them. He begged and borrowed, from relatives and friends at first, and then from the banks, and then from whoever still spoke to him. He began cheating others, and stealing from them. He was soon thrown out of his job. He began to stay at home, locked in his room with his precious medicines, which he had started taking more and more of. BUNS’ mother took on two extra jobs to make ends meet, while her father continued to wither away.
Her mother stood by him for a long time, refusing to leave his side. She gave him everything she had, but even she couldn’t keep the monster at bay. It had taken over him, and no amount of love seemed capable of killing it. BUNS’ father no longer cared about any of them. He barely even acknowledged BUNS or her younger brother, except when he ran out of medicine. The lack of it made him their best friend, their greatest well-wisher. He followed them across the house, asking them to show him where their mother hid her earnings. He asked them lovingly at first. He begged them when they refused, just like their mother had taught them to. The begging turned into pleading. The pleading turned into sobs. And the sobs turned into wrath, anger unlike anything BUNS or her brother had ever witnessed. BUNS could still remember the various spots in the house they ran to, when the monster that had taken over their father fully revealed itself to them.
BUNS’ mother held on for as long as she could, but in the end, she had to leave. Not because she wanted to, but because the well-being of her children demanded it. Her husband had become a danger to them. Breaking various utensils and furniture, as he rifled through every room for medicines or money was bad. Stealing whatever money he found was worse. But constantly finding her children shivering uncontrollably under a bed, or in a closet, inconsolable for hours, hungry and unfed for the entire day, was unforgivable. She still refused to leave him. She couldn’t get herself to do that. But she had enough sense to separate herself from him temporarily. And so she did.