I stand up from my hiding place. “Hi, Mr Tapas! So sorry, everyone! Hello! So sorry!” I step backwards, trying to make my way back to the glass door. “I’ll see myself out. Lovely office, Mr Tapas, wonderful view.” My water bag hits the door. I press my thumb to the sensor box, but the door doesn’t open.
I hear a ping on the other side of the glass. A group of old people in silver suits steps out of the elevator. I recognise a few of them. I wave, “Hello, Aunty Norma, Aunty Hester, Uncle Clivey, you alright? Don’t you wanna open here for me please? My mommy is probably wondering where I am. I must get home.” I hope one of them will help me but they all just stand on the other side of the door, glaring at me through milky eyes. I face Tapas. He looks amused.
Behind him, I see people in silver suits climbing up outside the windows like Spiderman. But that’s impossible. We’re on the 82nd floor. Tapas opens a window. Two grannies crawl inside.
I smile, “Hello, Aunty Dawn, Aunty Jina, it’s me, Sharon’s child.” My voice cracks, “How are yous?”
Aunty Jina stretches out her arms and flies towards me. I duck down and feel wind behind my neck as she grabs and misses. She crashes into a cabinet; it falls on top of her.
“Aunty Jina, are you alright? I’m sorry!”
I run to help her but Aunty Dawn’s screech behind me turns my blood cold. I turn around just in time to see Aunty Dawn come at me with Bruce-Lee kicks. She hops on one leg while the other one kicks in and out fast. One of her Crocs slips off her foot and knocks over a vase full of roses.
“HELP, PLEASE!” I plead to Tapas. The people on the screen are watching with blank expressions.
I jump over a table to get away from Aunty Dawn before her foot connects with my face. I run to the windows and spot more pensioners climbing up the side of the skyscraper. Dozens of old people in silver suits start climbing through the open window. I recognise my mommy’s silver ponytail.
I run and hug her. She hugs me back. I’m relieved. She will protect me. She squeezes me tighter.
My ribs hurt.
I can’t breathe. I’m going to pass out. I kick my legs, but it doesn’t help. I feel weak, I have no energy.
The people on the screen applaud.
I hear Tapas’s voice say, “Pause. Idle. That’s enough.”
My mommy pushes me against the window and holds her hand on my neck. “Please, Mommy, it’s me,” I whisper.
“Mommy? This is your mother?” Tapas walks to us, slowly. He turns to the people on the screen, “See, not even the bond of a mother and child can override the power of the orb.” He raises the golden ball into the air. “Tapa-Tricity is thicker than blood!”
My arms hang limply by my sides. The button for my water bag feels like ice against my left hand. I muster all my energy to pull on the bag’s string with my right hand. The metal pipe with the paintbrush at the tip shoots out. I lift my arm and aim the tip towards Tapas. I squeeze the button in my palm and the last bit of Sparza River water flies out. I pray that my aim is good. I watch the drops arch in the air and land directly on the golden orb. Sparks start spitting from the ball and small flames fall on Tapas’s body. He drops the orb, swearing as he smacks himself, trying to put out the small fires on his clothes.
The buzzing sound gets quieter. Outside the window, the electric dome fizzles to a stop. The electricity in the building goes off.
“Oh no, what have you done?!” Tapas falls to his knees, picking up the hot golden ball and tossing it from palm to palm.
My mommy looks at her hand around my neck and lets go of me. She looks around. “Baby, what’s going on? Where are we?”
The office door slides open. Uncle Clivey and them walk in looking very confused.
The Tapa-TV screens are black. Tapas runs over to the screens. “Hello, are you there? Netherlands, Russia? Anybody? Hello?” He turns to me, “You stupid fool! Look what you’ve done. You’ve ruined everything!”
My mommy points at him. “Who the hell do you think you talking to? I don’t care who you are, you don’t speak to my child like that!”
“Oh shut up, you!” Tapas says, and takes off his T-shirt, trying to wipe the golden ball dry.
My mommy steps towards him but her hip gives in. I grab her arm and rest it on my shoulder.
Tapas looks at me. “What did you wet this with? What is this? Sand? Gold glitter? See, this is why you people can’t have nice things!”
“What do you mean, you people, huh?” Aunty Dawn asks, as she and a few other pensioners lift the cabinet off Aunty Jina.
“Yes, you people! You idiots! You just made me lose billions of dollars!”
Uncle Clivey rolls up his sleeves. “Brother, say quick again, who’s idiots?”
“YOU!” Tapas shouts, “This whole community. Ungrateful fools!”
The old people don’t like what they’re hearing.
“What did he just say?!”
“He’s got a nerve to call us fools.”
“Ja, a fine cheek!”
“He needs a hiding!”
“He must go!”
“Hey Tapas, leave! We don’t want you here!”
“GO! GET OUT!”
They all move towards him.
Tapas looks scared. “Soldier mode, activate!” he says into the golden ball, but it’s completely dead. He throws it at the group of pensioners and tries to push past them. There are too many of them; they grab him and drag him into the elevator.
My mommy and I are alone in Tapas’s office. I look at the smoking golden ball laying on the carpet. Tapas’s scorched T-shirt lays next to it. I see one of the old people’s false teeth laying there too — they must have fallen out in all of the commotion.
I see a face. I take my mommy’s hand and put my water bag’s paintbrush in her palm. I wrap my hand around hers. I move the brush. Together we paint the face I see on the carpet. I know whose face it is.
We finish the portrait and my mommy has tears in her eyes. “It looks like your daddy,” she says.
I rest her arm on my shoulder, turn, and help her walk away before the water dries and he disappears before our eyes.
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