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Capped Coders Inc.

I signed my son Rohit up for one of those young, online coders classes that are so notoriously famous these days. You see, my neighbor Sharma had his son Virat do really well in the school’s Young Innovators’ project. The boy was just ten, but he had a real flair for building robots, gadgets, and whatnot. Even bagged a Gold medal in the science fair.

But what was my Rohit doing?

He just liked to paint pictures of women in their ‘natural form’. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. I mean, sure; his art teacher always kept going about what real talent he had, and how he could make it big as an artist.

But…painting pictures of nude women? Is that a real way of making money?

I had to disagree. After all, I did happen to be running a fast-food place of my own. Bunty’s Burgers- Where the cuisine is right up your food palette.

Yeah, I was one of those passionate guys who treated their professions like art. Artist of electricity, artist of plumbing, artist of baking- yeah, artist my brown ass. I’d started on the food business 30-years ago, with nothing but raw passion to serve my customers the best food they would taste in their whole lives.

Fast-forward three decades later, and here I was, barely scraping by my decrepit, under-performing establishment. Bunty’s Burgers? I’d say even Bob’s Burgers was doing better than us.

Anyways, you get my sob story- I didn’t want my son to go down the same, sad path of self-employment. So, I looked for some good coding courses online- because let’s face it- coding is everything.

That’s how I came across Capped Coders Inc (CCI).

This was a US-based online, self-learning platform aimed towards ‘empowering young minds to code comprehensively’. How young, you ask? Well, they recommended starting their app development courses around the time of sixth-grade. That’d effectively be 11-12 years in the Indian schooling system. And my Rohit was just weeks away from celebrating his 11th birthday.

Wouldn’t hurt to get a head start, I figured.

*

I bought Rohit a course from the Capped Coders that would teach him to code in a variety of languages. The whole deal set me back by approximately INR 80, 000. Now, before you judge me- I’ll have you know that I watched all the child interviews and advertisements on their websites. I mean, who wouldn’t- they were all so damn impressive!

This one guy named Fox Kumar (weird name, but then I was called Bunty) was only 12 and had finished a course on Python last year. Now, he had landed an internship at Microsoft with a monthly stipend of USD 75,000. Then this other guy, Marcos Fernandez (11, Mexican), was making thousands of dollars every month at Tesla. All thanks to an Artificial Intelligence course from the CCI.

Can you imagine how much that kind of money means to a man whose idea for a fancy, Sunday night dinner is scrambled eggs?

I wanted Rohit to do well in life. Financially, and otherwise. So if I could virtually guarantee my boy a prosperous future at the expense of overtiming for a few weeks…I was gonna take the deal. No brainer.

So that’s how my Rohit started his courses. I’ll be honest- I didn’t, and still don’t have an accurate idea on exactly what all things he was learning. If I recall correctly, there was something about Python, some part Java, some C++, and…

Well, for as good a memory I have of taking long food orders, I didn’t have much aptitude for Rohit’s subjects. Like, at all.

Now that’s not to say I was an irresponsible dad, who left his impressionable, 10-year-old child all alone with the internet. I sat with him during his lectures, practicals, tutorials- even though I didn’t have the slightest idea what was going on-screen. I kept him motivated by serving him his favorite apple milkshake.

I just…wanted him to do good. Really bad.

And my Rohit did quite well! He scored consistent A’s and A+’s in all his assignments. His teachers were really impressed with his prowess. Hell, even the online answer-checking interface in the course videos cheered him on. Whenever he’d give a right answer, it’d flash a video of the CCI’s mascot- which was an owl wearing an orange cap- flutter its wings and squeak in its automated, pre-recorded voice:

“Congrats, buddy! You sure deserve a big thinking-cap!”

Yeah, that was kind of a hook CCI had going on. Kinda corny, but hey, the owl looked cute and made Rohit laugh.

But that was the other thing. There were a lot of things that could make my Rohit laugh, and he’d get distracted easily. I’d often take a break from my shift, only to find him playing Pokémon on his Switch…or doodling in his sketchbook…or be BB-gunning the hell out of the birds in the backyard.

I’d get worried. That’s not how my son was gonna land a white-collar job in the Silicon Valley.

I tried telling him many times; that painting women’s butts and bosoms wasn’t gonna sustain him for life, and that he was too old to live the Ruskin Bond fantasy life.

He’d nod his head in a silent approval. I figured he’d understood.

But the very next morning, he’d see hear the song of a magpie on his windowsill. That’d divert him again, and he’d ask me to take him hunting in the woods.

I’d sigh. Grooming my son was turning out a difficult job.

It was tough, very tough, but I had to be a strict father if I wanted my son to succeed. So, I started procrastinating his requests to go hunting. Every Sunday morning, Rohit would snuggle up to me on the bed, and use his baby doll eyes to lure me into taking him into the woods. I just kept changing my excuses; busy weekend, cricket-match, feeling under-weather…and he’d walk back to his room.

Well, that’s a start, I’d think to myself.

It took some self-control on my part, but it did work. With nothing much leisurely to do, my son was now spending more of his time studying coding.

But I wasn’t nearly as responsible for the coding-worm that my son would eventually catch.

That was all thanks to the Capped Coders. And their cursed thinking-cap.

*

On a random weekend, we had this package delivered to our doorstep from the CCI. Inside it, was the said cap, a certificate, and a flash drive. The certificate basically congratulated my son for how well his progress was coming along in his courses.

And, it also made an offer.

The certificate informed me that my son was in the top five-percentile of CCI’s young coders program. So, they were interested in offering my son a project. The flash-drive featured a video guide that’d help him get started on an online app based around creating a virtual-world simulation. It was like one of those RPG video-games: Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon (don’t judge me, at least I’m aware of Nintendo. And I’m 47!).

Rohit would have to make such a functioning app, with a full interface of interacting characters, NPCs, environment modifiers, and stuff. All by himself.

But it wasn’t just a mere project…it was a whole online competition. Out of all the participants, the one whose simulation app would be the best would get a direct recommendation from CCI. A recommendation; to big tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Tesla, who were looking to hire child-geniuses like Rohit.

Yeah, that’s literally what the brochure said- they called my Rohit a child genius.

It was motivation enough for me to put the thinking-cap on Rohit’s head, send him to his room, and start churning milkshakes for my boy.

I know, I know, sounds super authoritarian. Even I felt a bit guilty for just forcing Rohit into this stuff, not regarding his wishes or opinions whatsoever. I felt bad too- and to think I was supposed to be the bad father in the story!

But then, when I did walk into the room…my Rohit- he was hooked on his laptop! He had his headphones on, CCI’s flash-drive plugged into one of his laptop ports, taking active notes on his notebook.

Heck, he didn’t as much as bat an eye while sipping his drink…the whole time, his eyes were glued to the PC’s screen!

It was, like, my ten-year-boy, had fallen in love. With his studies.

I don’t know what else can make an Indian father happier!

The next few days, I spent my time-off watching my brilliant son code. I was so mighty proud of him, of whatever he was doing- even though I had no heck of an idea what was going on! He’d just keep humming, and type one line of code after another on his keyboard. Seconds later, they’d translate into on-screen magic, as lush green trees would come to life in his prototype, virtual world. That’d make my Rohit hum even louder.

Watching him…it didn’t look like he was coding some hard-lined program, no.

My Rohit…with his bright orange Capped Coders’ thinking-cap and a backpack, grinding away at his laptop…

He looked like a coding artist!

My son was hooked onto his coding. I wanted to be with him, but I really had to compensate at the shop for all those education loans I had taken. Besides, as time passed, Rohit seemed kinda bugged by every stupid interjection I would have, like “Woah, how did you make that pond’s water ripple?”, or “Wow, I can see the wind!”

But I was fine. After all, things were going so damn well.

But then, isn’t that the exact time when all hell’s supposed to break loose?

*

I’d keep Rohit asking about his progress from time to time. Sure, he was getting to the stage of becoming independent with his work, but God help me- I’m a curious father! He kept telling me how awesome his progress was coming; how all his trees, rivers, and mountains were just like the ones on his Nintendo Switch games.

Until one day, he hit a roadblock.

“The NPCs, dad. They are just so boring. I can’t think of any way to make them interesting.”

“Hmm…then why don’t you try modeling them after your real friends? You know; how they speak, what they speak, their mannerisms…that could be pretty interesting.”

“Huh. That’s actually a good idea. Thanks, Dad!”

Problem solved. Just like that.

Or so I thought…

“So I’ve added about 10 characters you can interact with all based on my real friends. But I think I’m gonna need more. I mean- it’s a virtual reality simulation after all. You want it to be as realistic as it can get, right?”

“I guess you do. Maybe you should try modeling some of the characters after kids other than your closest friends. That could be fun.”

“Hmm, I guess…”

But it didn’t turn out to be fun. In school, Rohit tried talking to one of his popular seniors, Jasprit, to get some ideas for his character. But that little shithead called my son a nerd and spilled juice on his shirt.

In front of the whole classroom.

Rohit’s self-esteem hit a real low. He came home crying, and told me how the other boys made fun of him for wearing his thinking-cap all the time- even though it wasn’t hurting nobody! They thought of him as a geeky loser.

I had a word with the school principal. While I couldn’t make that asshole Jasprit directly suffer for what he had done, I got him suspended for a week. A pretty severe punishment, if you think about it.

But the damage had already been done. Rohit’s confidence took a real beating from the whole incident. He felt like an outcast.

“None of the boys want to be friends with me anymore, Daddy. They think I lack personality.”

“Oh, come on, Rohit, you know that’s not true. And you can’t let those bullies get to you, son. You’ve gotta stand up for yourself. That’ll be the real test of your personality.”

But my son just kept staring into the plate of his pav-bhaji. I was gonna placate him when he said something that caught me off guard.

“Personalities are good for a person’s character, right, dad?”

“Of course, son. It makes you the strong-willed man that you are. Don’t you ever forget- “

“So people without personalities…they just. Exist. Without purpose. Like Non-Playable Characters. NPCs. Isn’t that correct, Daddy?”

“Umm…I guess.”

What an oddly specific observation, I thought.

That should’ve been the first red-flag I should’ve paid heed to. But I didn’t. Because a Karen-type customer at table number 7 kept bugging me to serve extra onions.

But I still had my chances. And I missed each one of them.

*

I got a call from the school next week, asking me to visit on immediate notice. When I got there, I learned that my son had spit a wad of his sputum in one of Jasprit’s friend’s lemonade cups. Mayank had just taken a sip when Rohit started giggling…and after a prolonged exchange of “you wouldn’t be laughing if you knew what I did…”, the school authorities were made aware of what my son had done.

It was in the middle of flu season, so there was a genuine risk of infection spread and whatnot. They weren’t overly stringent, but it was clear that they were disgusted.

As was I.

“Why on earth would you do something like that, Rohit?”

My son looked at me dead in the eye, straightening the thinking cap on his head.

“I just wanted them to show I had enough personality, Dad.”

I had nothing to say. Except ‘Sorry’ to his teachers, and take my son back home.

*

A week later, I got called again, and this time it was more serious. Rohit had bitten a boy called Shreyas while playing Kabaddi. He kept insisting that it happened on accident- and his teachers did believe him- but they weren’t gonna let two strikes slip by without consequences. He got suspended for a week.

I was much softer to my son this time. Mainly because he was crying.

“I just feel horrible, Dad. I didn’t mean to do it…my mouth was open, and when I tried to tackle him, his neck just touched, and I…”

“Hush, it’s okay, son, you didn’t do it on purpose. Injuries happen while playing, don’t beat yourself up for it.”

“I- I just don’t think that anyone will want to be friends with me anymore, Dad. I’ll just end up, like those boring, NPCs in video games.”

“Hey now, Rohit. That’s just stupid talk; nothing like that’s ever gonna happen. I’ll tell you what- next week, why don’t you invite your friends over to the shop for a tasty lunch? That’ll make them to like you, wouldn’t it?”

“I don’t know, Daddy. Lunch from you doesn’t sound like a tasty idea. Because you always serve healthy stuff like Charchari and Karela to my friends.”

He was fine now. Long as he was joshing my food, I knew he was fine.

“Oh, fine, I’ll serve you guys burgers! Happy?”

“What, like a brinjal burger?”

“No, proper-job chicken, mutton, and fish burgers, I- oh no, wait, it’s Navratri next week. Sorry, kiddo, I can’t serve meat, but I’ll cook up some juicy paneer and aloo-”

“That’s okay, I can cook non-veg.”

“Son, we’ve been over this, and- “

“Mom said I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, remember? I’m still part Christian. Besides, no one’s gonna come to eat aloo and paneer!”

“Always the mom card, huh? You know, son, eating a veg-kebab once in a while ain’t gonna kill you.”

“Daddy, we’ve been over this, there’s no such thing as veg-kebab…”

*

The day of the lunch came. I stayed as far ahead from the kitchen as I could. Dishonoring my religion was the last thing I wanted to do.

But I could still smell the waft of the meat patties my son was cooking.

Is it risky to leave a ten-year-old boy in the kitchen all by himself?

Absolutely. But when your boy has helped you manage your one-man food-franchise since he was six- and you can’t absolutely afford to offend your religious deities- you learn to live with these kinds of things.

And from the smell I was savoring, I could tell he was doing an amazing job. All his ten-twelve friends sitting at the booth, too, looked quite pleased with whatever was cooking.

Half an hour later, he walked out of the booth in his apron. A tray of sizzling, Mutton Galouti pavs in his hands. Bowls of mint chutney, tomato ketchup, and lachcha onions on either side.

“Bon Appetit, amigos!”

I watched those boys- my own mouth drooling- as they savored the succulent taste of my son’s food. The way they kept eating- from one burger at a time to three, even four…it was torturous, yet wild at the same time.

“Well. That oughta show them that you and your food, both have a lot of personality, son.”

“You say! That’ll show enough personality for a lifetime!”

Huh?

“Hey, dad, you mind watching the boys? I gotta take a potty break.”

“Yeah, no problem, go do your business.”

*

My son had left. The boys were finishing off the last bits off their trays. Looked like some of them were actually arguing over who’d get to finish the final portions.

When did my Rohit learn to cook such amazing food?

I was just starting to head off to a different line of thought when one of the boys started twitching awkwardly.

I rushed over, but soon as I did, every boy in the booth started getting uncomfortable. They were all holding their heads to one side, almost like they were having a terrible migraine. I made them drink water, but it did nothing to ease their discomfort. I turned off the mildly-pungent air-freshener.

Still nothing.

Had to be the food.

I was just one digit away from phoning the ambulance. That’s when I heard the low, guttural growl.

When I turned back, I was faced with a dozen 10-year-old boys. Their eyes looking blank, their mouths open agape, their bodies…twisted in awkward positions.

And then, they began biting each other.

I didn’t have the vaguest of the ideas how to react. Until, I saw the trail of blood they had made on the floor…and found one of the boys eyeing me.

I ran out of the shop.

But it was much worse here.

The street was in total mayhem. Opposite to the shop, six-seven-year-old kids were literally mauling each other in the playground. One of them reached the footpath outside and sunk his teeth into an elderly jogger running by.

Moments later, the old runner had the same look of blankness in his eyes as the boys inside my shop did.

Soon, cars started crashing, and out of them, walked out these dead-eyed people to confront each other.

My whole city…it had become a zombie city!

Whole city, but me! And my ten-year-old son, who was locked in the bathroom inside the house.

I had to get Rohit.

I made my way through the backway of my shop to reach the backdoor. It was no time to make observations…but I couldn’t help but observe that none of these newly-converted zombies had really tried getting to me.

I frantically keyed open the door. Soon as I made my way in, I knocked down on the bathroom door, calling out my son’s name louder than an Azaan chant.

But when it opened, my son wasn’t there.

I scoured through every room in the house, desperate to get him out of this nightmare. And when I did eventually find him- he was in his room.

Sitting peacefully. Smiling, next to his laptop. Wearing his Capped Coders thinking-cap.

*

None of this was looking good.

“Rohit. What- what’s going on here?”

“Huh? Oh, nothing…just the best virtual-world simulation project you can ever find,”. Something about his voice was unsettling. “Here, have a look.”

The laptop screen flashed with the familiar set-up of Rohit’s virtual world. Trees, rivers, cottages, mountains…just like he had shown me.

Except, not quite. There was one new entity, one that I hadn’t seen before.

Standing in the center of the frame, was a digital avatar of my son Rohit.

And next to him, stood a whole bunch of other characters. Each bearing a horrifying resemblance to my townsfolk. There was Jasprit, with his messy hair parted in the middle. There were Rohit’s friends from the shop, all huddled together.

And the longer I kept looking, the more characters popped-up on-screen. The kids from the playground. The elderly jogger. The owners of the crashed cars. All of them appeared…their 3D, virtual avatars hauntingly identical to their real-life counterparts.

In fact, if you looked closely, you could make an expression of terror on their faces. Arms waving, mouths open wide, bodies flailing in desperation…

Almost like they were trapped.

Inside my son’s virtual world.

“What…what have you done?”

“Well, dad. I really liked your idea of incorporating real-world personalities into my NPCs. But no matter how hard I tried…they were just as boring as ever! You can have all the coding knowledge in the world…but you just can’t control the personalities of non-playable characters. I mean, there is a reason they are called NPCs, right?

“But as it turns out, you can code real-world people. It takes effort, considerable effort, research, brain-work…but then you realize, no human is perfect! They are all mean, hateful, cruel, malevolent- heck, it’s like they are all flawed. Bugged, if we’re going for the more technical term. But not the kind of bug that you want them to have, no. That’s a bug you’ll have to incorporate yourself.”

I was stunned speechless.

“So that’s exactly what I did. I made my own bug. I propagated it- through food, through saliva, through my DNA…and I did it! They call it a virtual-world simulation, Daddy. But I- we- call this a hive. And we- us child geniuses- at Capped Coders Inc…we’re the queens of this hive. We are everywhere, deploying our bugs onto our horrible species from every corner of the world.

“We’ll change them…all these humans; we will bend them into something good. Something much nicer than they are now. Something, that perfectly fits our virtual-simulation. A simulation, that will soon transform into reality.

“And they’ll all be damn perfect…just like they were meant to be. Not bugged and flawed like they have been all their lives. No, daddy…that’s just one bad memory- a husk, if you will. And these lifeless husks…these bodies will keep on killing each other. Like they’ve always done. And the more they do so, the more they’ll spread my bug. The more our hive will grow. So I ask you, Daddy. Are you ready to rule this hive with us?”

“Rohit… this isn’t you. The Capped Coders have brainwashed you. Please, let me talk, I- “

“You know, you’re right, Daddy. This isn’t me- Rohit Bansal, sixth-grader at St. Mary’s school. But then who was I, really? A worker-child, working to realize the dreams that his father never could? A wannabe artist? A ten-year-old child who just happened to be good at coding? Tell me, daddy. Who was I?”

It took a long while before I finally managed, “A sweet young boy, who was hard-done-by his failure father. That’s what you were, son. That’s who you are.”

“Well…I think I like this version better. Part of me, part of you, part of an innocent child corrupted by the CCI- like an upgrade? And here in my hive, I can make all the friends I want. See, Daddy? Jasprit from school is waving at me! I can actually make him good to me here. This here…is my hive, Daddy. And I’m not gonna leave it. Ever.”

“I’m not gonna let you do it.” I clenched my fists.

“Spoken like a true father. Lucky for me, I got everything planned already.”

No sooner than he had said this, and no sooner than I had made my move, did I feel two pairs of arms grab hold of me. Soon, I was pinned to the wall. The zombie old jogger from the park, and Rohit’s now-zombie school teacher held me on either side.

Soon, a whole bunch of zombie townsmen had broken into my house. They were all standing around the door.

Rohit was right- he really had bugged them. All of them had these big, metallic spiders going around their heads. Their spines guarding the skulls, their eight limbs piercing at different corners of the heads. And each of the people these bugs were controlling; these people, with their pitch-black eyes, and drooling, bloodied mouths…

They were all dead from inside.

*

Rohit rose from his chair and started walking to me. “I’m disappointed, Daddy, you know. I had specifically programmed them to not bug you. I really wanted you in our team. Can you imagine, Daddy- we wouldn’t have to care about selling those stupid burgers anymore! We could’ve had the whole world to ourselves! Isn’t that something you’ve always dreamed of? For me- for us- to do something big?

“Guess it’s just funny how things turn out when they actually happen. Oh well. I suppose the least I can do is to get you into this new world. I mean- better it be your own son than some random zombie- right?”

Rohit hauled his jaws wide open. The moment he did, the grips on either side of my arms started loosening. This was my chance.

I kicked my son in the nuts, yanked my arm as fast as I could, and prepared to dodge every single zombie in my path.

I had dodged and flailed about half a dozen of them undead; until they finally overwhelmed and pushed me back into the room. So much for my escape plan.

“Really, daddy?” my son sneered at me. “You really figured you could outnumber all of them? There are about 200 of them here, and you are just a single, helpless, aging man trying…”

Rohit’s condescending tirade was actually helping. Because the longer he kept going on and on about how dumb I was, and the more time these zombies spent approaching me… I could get my hands under his bed.

To grab the BB-gun that lay on the floor.

I had a last-ditch plan. Wasn’t gonna work, most likely…but I was gonna shoot at the computer. Maybe that was the whole system that had connected Rohit with CCI’s interface? Maybe bringing it down was gonna solve this whole problem?

I had to try. What other option did I have?

My son stood plumb in front of me. A distorted smile on his face, looking mighty proud of the Armageddon he was about to unleash.

Unless his father did anything to stop him.

So I pulled out the gun and shot right into the laptop screen!

Nothing happened. To the laptop; the pellet just harmlessly bounced off the screen.

But my son…I could sense something in his eyes.

“Is that…my BB-gun? Are we…you’re taking me hunting, Papa?”

I was stunned speechless. Was I… getting my son back?

The very next moment, Rohit started screaming, grabbing the edges of his thinking cap.

“The cap…daddy. It…controls. Me”, he winced through the pain.

“I’ll remove it, son. Just hold it there- “

“No…bug rooted deep inside. Need to. Kill.”

Soon as he said that, the zombie townsfolk started closing in on us. I stood up and dragged Rohit behind me, hiding him under the bed.

But he started crawling on the floor, making his way to the other side. To the common space. To the backroom closet.

Where I kept our hunting rifles.

It happened so fast; I didn’t even have the time to register. My son pulled out the gun. Undid the safety. And just when I thought he was gonna shoot at the zombies, he aimed the muzzle to his temple.

Right against his thinking cap.

I tried jumping over the bed, but one of the zombies grabbed my leg. Not like it would’ve helped, anyway.

BAM!

Because Rohit had already snapped the trigger.

I watched horrified; as my son’s body fell limp on the floor. But even after he had fallen, my son grabbed the bloodied edge of his cap and yanked it off with whatever strength remained in his body.

It came off with a sharp metallic KLINK.

I walked over to my son. He was unmoving. But the thing that was inside his thinking cap…it was twitching like crazy.

A spider. A big, metallic bug, looking back at me with its big, soulless dark eyes. A whole bunch of metallic pearl eggs hidden under its body.

Its body. Its silver-plated body…stained slightly red and pink on the edges. With the blood and brains of my Rohit.

This bug, inside this orange thinking cap. That had killed the innocence in my son.

I stomped it. It was dead in a single motion,

And then I howled into the night like the traumatized, failure father that I was.

*

The gun-shot Rohit had self-inflicted had barely grazed past his brain. Doctors said the nerve damage he had done was irreparable. Doctors, who were no longer controlled by Rohit’s bugs. They were all dead once the queen bug was down.

In fact, everyone who had got infected by the bug threw-up big, pearl-sized, metal eggs once they weren’t bugged anymore. They didn’t remember nothing. Thought I was hosting some kind of restaurant special and wanted discounts. Course, once they saw what state I and Rohit were in, they rushed us to the hospital.

I would’ve much rather had them remember the whole experience that they were subjected through. Because no matter how much I try to explain them about CCI and its malicious plans, they just laugh it off like some outlandish story. “Stop selling burgers, and write science-fiction, Bunty,” they’d joke.

Then, they’d see my teary-eyed face and leave me to grieve by myself.

Rohit wasn’t lying when he was talking about the Capped Coders controlling a hive. Every post that I make against them; every expose that I try to do- it gets censored, blocked, or removed within seconds. I’ve also started receiving a whole bunch of threat emails and messages. “The hive is watching you”. That’s all they read.

I don’t respond to them. Don’t know what to say.

Speaking of selling burgers…I don’t own my restaurant or house anymore. All my money has gone into keeping my Rohit alive. He’s in a coma. The only thing that’s sustaining his life is a big, 32-inch monitor next to his bed, with a whole bunch of wires and dials.

“Mr. Bansal…you might want to be a bit realistic here,” the doctors tell me. “At this point, his brain is the only alive part of his body. And judging by his prowess, we aren’t even sure how long that’s gonna work. We…”

I don’t listen to them. I just watch my son and the pattern of lines that flashes on his monitor. Sometimes, when two of those lines cross, they kinda look like a woman’s legs spread wide open. Makes me think of all the beautiful, ‘natural-beauty’ sketches that my Rohit used to draw.

And then, I hear those familiar beeps and clicks of the machine.

And I’m reminded of my horrifying obsession…that has brought me and my ten-year-old son to this irreversible point of our lives.



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