PART three: buns
Chapter 16: The Savior
BUNS took another long swig from her bottle before setting it down. The activity in the town had started to increase. The OSZA that lived in it had started to wake up and go about their day. As BUNS watched the tiny shapes moving through the various streets in the town, she realized that almost all the buildings in the town were colored in various shades of pink, with only a few resisting the urge to follow the majority.
It was a rather strange sight, especially from the height at which BUNS observed it. The town was a haphazardly shaped mass of pink, not entirely uniform, nevertheless united, except for a few spots that stood out more than they should have, like tumors on an otherwise healthy body, only because of how differently they were colored when compared to the rest.
BUNS looked at the town for a while, before she got bored and continued telling the SKIMMA her tale, and why this day was significant enough to bother her every year, and why even time could not dull its pain. Her mother found safety from her father in the arms of her religion. The ANJALIKA that she dragged her family to every week, to commune with a God that BUNS no longer believed in, ended up giving them a place to stay temporarily. The head SPRITE, the one in charge of the building, its operations and everybody in it, was the one who made the offer, one that her mother gladly accepted.
The ANJALIKA was a strange place to live in. It had none of the distractions that BUNS and her brother were used to. It had no electronic games to play, no entertainment to watch or listen to. All it had were books, most of which were religious in nature. BUNS and her brother hated the place at first, but eventually, they got used to it, the way children often do. They found a variety of ways to create their own entertainment. The SPRITE often observed them, and occasionally, he even played with them. Unlike their mother, he never scolded or reprimanded them for the mischief they created. He always smiled at them, and patted their heads playfully. He often told them about how thankful he was that they had decided to live with him, and how much he loved their laughter. It lit up the entire building, he said. It made the entire structure come alive, like it never had before.
The amount of time BUNS ended up spending with her younger brother attuned them to each other. She knew everything about him. She knew what every look meant. She understood what each of his facial expressions actually conveyed. She knew the different types of mischief he was up to based on the ways in which his nose twitched. She knew every facet of his body language. And thus, unlike her mother, she could see the decline in him. She didn’t think much of it at first, but it soon become problematic enough to worry her immensely. Her brother had become more withdrawn. He didn’t smile as much as he used to, or even the way he used to. His appetite wasn’t what it used to be. He still played with her, but it wasn’t the same. He was distracted all the time, as if he were trapped in a world that she had no perception of.
As time went by, he withdrew from her even more, and began spending most of his time curled up on his bed. She often found him crying. He denied it all whenever she questioned him. He didn’t let her dig deeper. Her mother was too busy with work to notice. Whatever she noticed, she chalked up to their new environment, and to the fact that he missed his father. She told BUNS that she was worrying too much. But something within BUNS told her she wasn’t.
BUNS chose to follow her instinct over every justification her mother had given her. She began following her younger brother whenever she could, unsuccessfully at first, but practice made her adept at it. It took BUNS a while to learn the truth. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary initially. She found out that her brother had been spending a lot of time with the SPRITE, often alone and behind locked doors. Her mother did that too. The SPRITE often took OSZA into his office and locked the doors to be alone with them, so that nobody else could hear what they discussed. Her younger brother wasn’t the first child he had taken in. She had often seen other children go in as well.
BUNS continued investigating, but she found nothing. The room the SPRITE took the children in was always locked. There were no windows she could see through, no keyholes she could look into. She had no way of finding out what happened in the room. The SPRITE always opened the door and invited her in whenever she knocked. It took him a few minutes sometimes, but the door always opened. And the OSZA in it never cried for help when she entered.
As the weeks went by, BUNS had a realization. The adults who left the SPRITE’s room always left with a smile. The children, however, always left with their heads held down, as if they were saddened and ashamed.
BUNS approached her mother again, and told her what she had noticed. Her mother ignored her completely. She told BUNS that she was being paranoid, and rather ungrateful, considering the fact that the SPRITE was still letting them stay at his ANJALIKA, without charging them anything for it. BUNS tried her best to convince her mother, but she refused to listen. BUNS, undeterred, decided to use the only option she had left.
Over the next few weeks, BUNS stuck with her brother every chance she got. She refused to leave his side, and most importantly of all, she refused to leave him alone. Her brother seemed indifferent to it all at first, but something changed one day. He began sticking to her as well. It was as if he had suddenly realized what she was trying to do. Within the next two weeks, BUNS had managed to get the truth out of him. What he told her horrified her. He told her about all the things the SPRITE made him do when they were alone together. He told her all about how the SPRITE touched and felt the various parts of his body, and how the SPRITE often undressed and made her younger brother do things to his body, things that her younger brother wanted no part of.
BUNS didn’t understand why her younger brother had allowed such things to happen, and why he had never complained to her or their mother. She did, however, understand the severity of it all. She wasn’t mature enough to truly understand the horror her brother had been put through, but she was old enough to know that something really bad had happened to him, and that he needed to be protected, no matter the cost. She swore an oath to him that day, one that she never broke. No such thing would ever happen to him again. Nobody would ever hurt him in that way again. Not while she was still alive.