Read Part I | Part II

A boy, about his height, drifted next to Vik, stared at him and then stared at the closed doors. He had an ill-fitting red shirt on, and a bad haircut. There was something wrong with his eyes, although Vik couldn’t tell what. The boy kept opening and closing his mouth for no reason, as though he were a goldfish.

“Bro-ther, what’s inside… the doors?”, said the boy. Vik was surprised. Did he not even know this!? Vik carefully considered his options. Of course, outright mockery might be out of the question. Mum took a serious exception to frivolity at the temple. A snide remark that would both educate and silence the boy, perhaps? But Vik was too sullen today to bother. And the boy had an earnestness about him that made him curious. He decided to keep it short.

“God. God’s inside”, Vik said. “God”, the boy repeated. A slow smile spread across his lips, and he brought his hands together, but with fingers spread apart, in an improper imitation of how Vik himself held his hands. The boy kept smiling at him. Vik didn’t know what to do. He smiled back.

Mummy heard the exchange, and turned and smiled. She made him give a toffee to the strange boy. The boy smiled even more and broke into a grin. Mum seemed pleased. She patted Vik’s head, and kissed him again.

“Happy Birthday, sweetie.”, Mum said. “You’re a big boy now.”