“Bolom Sounga?” Ételle, one of Aditya’s best friends asked. “The Mauritian boogeyman? You saw him?”
“Com’on, man,” Om, Ételle’s cousin and his other best friend added. “We’re ten-year-olds. Not two-year-olds.”
“I know what I saw!” Aditya said to his friends. “It was Bolom Sounga. He was there in my neighbour’s yard, I saw him! He stood by their window and was groaning: ‘Bolom Sounga is here. I’m going to take you away.’”
Om and Ételle looked at one another.
“You’re serious?” Ételle asked and looked outside the window of their clubhouse, she shivered.
“Yes,” Aditya replied. “I’m not joking. You guys can come see him tonight.”
“What time?” Om asked.
“Come by around 7.”
It was decided, they were going to wait for the famous Bolom Sounga. He had after all terrified them when they were kids.
“I’m going to bring my camera,” Ételle said. “If we get his picture, we could be famous.”
“I don’t think we want to get his attention and then he kidnaps us,” Aditya said.
“Yeah,” Om said. “He eats children.”
“I guess. I wonder what he looks like.”
“I heard he is made up of body parts from dead sailors,” Om said.
“Who told you that?” Aditya asked.
“Dan,” Om said. “
“Your brother is a sailor,” Aditya said.
“Yeah kind of,” Om said. “Sailing catamarans!”
They laughed, breaking the tension.
“So, what did Dan say?” Ételle asked.
“He heard it from someone else, that over two hundred years ago, a boat, a cursed boat, a pirate ship crashed on the reef on Turtle Bay. The boat had been cursed by a woman who had been robbed by the pirates. She told them they would die a horrible death and they would be smashed to pieces on rocks, which is exactly what happened. They smashed on the reef on a stormy night. She also said they would come back as one and walk the earth cursed to eternal life, cursed to eat human flesh.”
“Oh man,” Aditya said.
“Wait, that’s not the end of it,” Om said.
“You mean there’s more?” Ételle asked.
“He said the sailors were smashed up to pieces and kind of fused together to become one…”
“Fused?” Ételle asked again.
“Yeah, like melded together. You know like there was a leg here, arm there and what not.”
“But different body parts? From different pirates?”
“That’s messed up,” Aditya said.
“I know, right? One arm shorter than the other. One leg different, one foot, and a hand bigger than the other. But it’s his head, though…” Om looked at each of his friends.
“What’s with his head?”
“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, made up of different parts of the pirates, an eye that falls out, hair on his nose, ear on his cheek, and teeth sharp, sharp teeth.”
“Teeth to rip kids apart,” Aditya said pensively.
“Exactly, because kids are easier to catch and Dan says he comes out on stormy, rainy nights,”
“Like the night when they crashed…” Ételle said.
“Why do they call him Bolom Sounga?” Aditya asked.
“Because the name of the boat was Sounga.”
A chill passed over them.
“Aditya,” Om said. “It’s 7. Where is he?”
“He doesn’t show up at 7 on the dot,” Aditya said and peeped through his bedroom window, it was dark, but they could still see. It wasn’t supposed to be that dark outside, as it was summer and although Mount Hope was on the East Coast of Mauritius, it didn’t usually get dark until around 8pm. But there were heavy rain clouds and the radio had been talking about a thunderstorm. Bolom Sounga weather.
“He walks past your window?” Ételle asked.
“Not mine, but at the neighbour’s place.” Aditya pointed to the house that was next to his.
There was a small bamboo bush, that separated the two yards, they could see the other house clearly.
“I could easily jump that bush,” Om said.
“It’s not taller than a baby. Speaking of which it’s Gavin and Malini’s place?” Ételle asked. “Don’t they have a new baby?”
“Yeah, Arunen,” Aditya said. “He’s not really a new baby, he’s two now.”
They all looked at one another.
“It makes sense,” Om said. “Bolom Sounga comes after kids, especially little kids.”
“Why doesn’t he eat?” A voice shouted out from next door.
It made them duck.
“Who is that?” Om asked, tentatively raising his head to take a peep.
Aditya stood up. “It’s Arunen’s Grandad, he always gets upset when he doesn’t eat.”
All three of them looked out of the window. It had started to rain, big drops of rain. Soon it was pouring hard.
Aditya’s mom came into the room. “You kids can have dinner with us. I called your parents. I’ll drop you off when the rain stops.”
“What’s for dinner Ma?” Aditya asked.
“Roti, butter bean curry, sautéed pumpkin, and tomato chutney. Sounds good?”
“Yes!” All three replied and followed her to the dining room, their hunger making them forget about their vigil.
That night after his friends had gone home. Aditya looked outside again before he went to bed, but did not see anything. As he fell asleep he became convinced that Bolom Sounga was there for Arunen and should be stopped at all costs. Even if we put ourselves in harm’s way, he thought dreamily.
The next day they met at their little clubhouse in Ételle’s yard.
“You are absolutely right,” Ételle said. “We can’t let anything happen to Arunen.”
“We won’t let that monster kidnap him,” Om said. “Have you told your mom?”
“I thought about telling Gavin,” Aditya said. “He’s pretty cool. But you know adults. They’ll think I’m exaggerating things.”
“Yeah,” Ételle said. “They won’t believe you until it’s too late.”
That night they went back to Aditya’s place. They told his mom that they had homework to do together. She didn’t really mind. The three kids spent so much time together that their parents weren’t really worried where they would get dinner because they’d invariably eat at someone’s place.
They actually did have homework for school and quickly finished it. The sky was dark that evening too.
“Radio said it’s going to rain hard tonight,” Aditya said. “By the way what are we going to do if we see him?”
“I thought of that,” Om said and pulled out a large Maglite torch from his backpack.
“What are you going to do? Hit him on the head with that?” Ételle asked.
“I thought I would shine it on him, so the adults can see him.” He put the Maglite down. “But hitting him wouldn’t be a bad idea.”
It was soon so dark outside that they had to turn on Aditya’s desk light.
Then they heard Arunen screaming and crying.
“Stop crying, Arunen and eat your food,” a woman said.
“That’s Malini,” Aditya said and looked outside. He quickly ducked down. His friends did the same. “He’s here!”
All three raised their heads slowly. Aditya held his breath, part of him hoping that he had only seen a shadow. It was dark outside and the rain was coming down hard, but the light off his patio and the street light illuminated the two houses pretty well. In the yellow light was a big figure, wearing a trench coat with a hat and it was looking into the neighbour’s window.
“It’s him,” Om said.
“He’s come to get the baby!” Ételle said.
“Let’s get him!” Aditya said. “Before he gets Arunen.”
Om grabbed the Maglite and they ran out of the house, with Aditya’s mom yelling at them to stay inside because of the rain. All three of them ran the short distance to the bush and jumped it. They were wet by the time they got to the neighbour’s house although it was only about five meters away.
“Turn it on Om!” Aditya said and grabbed Bolom Sounga’s trench coat and pulled.
Om turned on the Maglite as the monster turned around. The three of them backed up.
“We got you now, you monster!” Ételle yelled.
Aditya felt a moment of intense terror as the monster raised a gloved hand and pulled back his hood.
“Ételle, Aditya? Om get that flashlight out of my face.”
“Gavin?” Aditya said. “You’re Bolom Sounga?”
“What? No! I’m only pretending. Oh man! You kids blew my cover!” He pointed to the window of his house where an older man had a toddler in his arms and a woman were inside a living room, holding a bowl of food and a spoon. They were all looking at them curiously.
“You kids better come inside,” Gavin said and led them into the house. Aditya’s mom was right behind them. She had ran after them to see what was going on.
They all entered Gavin and Malini’s kitchen.
“Dry yourselves,” Malini said and handed them towels.
“Bolom Sounga?” Aditya’s mom said. “Aren’t you kids too old to be believing in that?”
Aditya explained what he had seen the other night and how they thought the monster was out to kidnap little Arunen.
“Thanks for looking out guys,” Gavin said. “We got the idea from your Mom, Aditya. She said that’s what they used to do to get you to eat when you were Arunen’s age.”
“Well it’s really scary,” Aditya said.
“I’m sure if Arunen could talk he would tell you guys that it’s super scary,” Ételle said.
“Yeah,” Om said. “My dad did that too when I was a baby, now that I remember, it terrified me.”
The adults looked at one another.
“Alright, kids we’ll stop,” Gavin said.
“He needs to eat though,” Malini said.
“I’ll come and play with him so he’s distracted, then you can give him his dinner,” Aditya said.
“That would be great Aditya!” Malini said.
“We’ll help you,” Ételle said.
“Yeah!” Om made a face at Arunen who started to giggle.
“I think this will work,” Gavin said and took off his trench coat. “No more Bolom Sounga.” As he put his trench coat on the hanger there was a loud thunderclap which made them all jump except for little Arunen who started laughing, they soon joined him.