The name infused her little heart with courage, warmth, and happiness. Bondibu. Her bestest friend. Bondibu. Six year old Pihu’s sole guardian and protector.
She had known Bondibu since she was one year old. She had stopped sleeping well. One night she had woken up crying in her crib. Howling, from the nightmare she had dreamt. Her Momma had come running to her. She had cradled her back to sleep, before she could tell her Momma about her fears. But the mother must have felt her daughter’s terror. The next morning Bondibu was waiting for her near her crib. “He will protect you. Always. As will I,” Momma had said. And Bondibu had been with her ever since.
One day, just before her sixth birthday, Momma had a fight with Da-da. Well, they quarreled most of the time, but this had been THE BIG FIGHT. Then he had left the house. And then Momma was found hanging from the ceiling fan in their bedroom. Or had she already been dead before Da-Da had stormed out? Momma ceased to be no more. Pihu didn’t know what had happened. Not that it mattered anymore, since she found herself alone with Bondibu in an orphanage on the day she turned six. She cried into her pillow till her tears dried. And she wept before she slept.
The orphanage was a good place. Well not a bad place at least. The nuns running the place were kindly. But they insisted all the children attend the church on Sundays. They didn’t realize that Jesus bleeding on the cross reminded Pihu of her mother swinging from the fan by a rope. Only sometimes the rope wasn’t a rope at all. It was a huge black snake that coiled itself around Momma’s neck and forced the life out of her. The same black snake that had tried to strangle Pihu in her dreams before she had met Bondibu.
Time went by. Pihu started school in the nearby convent. She grew lonelier as she grew older since she had never been able to make friends. She had outgrown her only childhood friend, who now sat in a desolate corner of her tiny world. By the time she was fifteen, she had forgotten that Bondibu did even exist. He sat silent as he watched Pihu folding back into herself.
Pihu’s bad dreams had returned the year she turned fifteen. The old black snake had now metamorphosed into a strange beast with burning eyes and big fangs. Something vaguely familiar. Something, she was quite sure, she had seen in her past but couldn’t remember when. She stopped sleeping well again fifteen years after it had stopped forever. She had strange nightmares in her restless sleep, and she saw terrible visions in her waking hours. She went to the head nun of the orphanage for help. “Keep faith in the Lord, my child. Pray, and He will make things right,” was the answer she got. But the more she went to church, the more Jesus reminded her of her Momma. And the more she thought of her Momma, the more the beast taunted her sleep. Until one day, she was startled out of her never-ending nightmare to see the vermin standing right next to her bed. Dirty,. red fire was pouring out of its eyes. Or what must once have had been its eyes. Its fangs dripped venom all over her coverlet. She whimpered in fright. She remembered Bondibu in that moment of abject terror, and begged for his help. The very next moment she realized that a plastic teddy bear the size of her hand couldn’t possibly help her. But Bondibu burst out of the desolate corner of Pihu’s little world and started growing in size. He grew till he was twice the size of the beast. He bellowed at the beast and grabbed it in a bear hug. The fire started to burn out from the monster’s eyes as it seemed to collapse and coalesce into Bondibu. Pihu felt safe and went back to her nightmare.
It was the sixth month of the year, with six days to go for Pihu’s sixth birthday. She woke up to the sound of raised voices coming from her parent’s bedroom. Her parents were at it again. The voices became louder until her Momma’s voice was suddenly cut off. She groggily rose out of bed and, with Bondibu clutched to her chest, tottered into the master bedroom. She saw Da-da’s hands around Momma’s neck. His eyes were smoldering bits of ember and his foot long fangs dripped venom as he slowly chocked the life out of Momma. Pihu realized that her father was the beast, the serpent that resided in her soul. She screamed as the darkness descended upon the world and her guardian angel died in her heart.