It is Our Custom to Consume

When she was a young novice, truthfully not that many years ago, Genevive had felt like she was always exhausted. Her pillow, small and hard, felt like the mother's lap she'd never known and instantly soothed her. It was like in Macbeth when Shakespeare wrote 'Sleep, the main course in life's feast, and the most nourishing.' Now, a little older and able to see beyond the immediacy of her own needs and failings, Genevive actively fought sleep each night, trying to use the last few minutes of it to unwrap her day and then package it into neat little bundles put away on the shelves of her mind, looking for His grace and plan in each one. Lucy's bundle wouldn't tie itself up and remained undone, waiting for another night to be put away in her mind. Finally, just shy of dawn the nun forced herself from the pallet on the floor that she'd made as her bed and walked among the other people sleeping in the community room that doubled as overflow for the shelter's occupants.

A little boy, sitting up beside his mother, wore a large adhesive bandage over his temple. Red gone black splotched the center of it and he clutched a small stuffed kitten in his pudgy fingers. "I'm hungry,' he said.

Gigi held her finger over her mouth, warning him not to wake his mother, then held out a hand. A bad lesson in trust perhaps but for a child who'd been traumatized, even by his incidental presence here with his mother, basic needs came first before you could teach them. He needed food, attention from someone not in her own crisis and if Gigi couldn't sleep then she could at least be useful.

Eggs were cheap, good for you, and the kitchen had plenty of them in the fridge. A plate of them, fluffy and yellow scrambles, along with half a piece of toast with a hint of grape jelly and some milk soon occupied the boy while the sister took advantage of the food's distraction to use a wet cloth to remove the adhesive bandage and replace it.

Beneath it the unmistakable punctuated crescents of a human mouth were revealed. More than just imprints, they'd tried to - to close, as if not just biting but eating. Genevive winced, imagining how it must have felt and took the time to very carefully clean the wound. She'd have to talk to the sisters and see if he'd had a tetanus shot, human bites were so nasty.

"Daddy did that."

"I'm sorry," she told him and bent to kiss his hair. He didn't say anything but stopped eating and worriedly turned his kitten plushie in his hands. "Is your kitty okay or do they need a bandaid too so they can get better like you?" Another dip into the first aid kit and the kitten doll wore a smaller bandage in the same place. "Is that better?"

He nodded. "You're really nice. I wish you'd been around to help my real kitty. His name was Smokey. Daddy - Daddy hurt him."

Not uncommon, the same men who'd hurt their wife and child would have no qualms about hurting an animal. Some even used them as pawns in their abuse, threatening to hurt them or kill them if the mother or child didn't behave. "Where's Smokey now?"

"He ate him," the mother answered from the door into the kitchen, cheap donated blanket wrapped around her. "We came home and he was just - just sitting there in the floor and -" her hand covered her mouth and the little boy scraped the chair back, abandoning his food to comfort and find safety in his mother.

"He was like an animal. Just, biting into it and ripping pieces off and swallowing them. He - I don't know who he is anymore. He's been getting so mad about everything lately. Then yesterday he - the cat -" She stopped, tears streaming down her face and sank to the floor, arms wrapped around her son.

A sick feeling she hoped wasn't true demanded Genevive to ask "Did he bite your son too?"

The woman's nod and the way she hugged the boy even closer was all the answer Gigi needed.
[hr]
It was near the campus, dawn having struggled into the sky an hour ago. The nun showed her weariness in her eyes and the skin below them, dark and needing more than cucumbers and salt crystals to make them go away. Coffee, black, at her side was half empty and reached for in between tapping at the keys of the laptop, the logo of the coffee shop on the lid of it. A rental, a by the hour thing that the shop owner had started a few years ago to help people without net access survive in a modern world that Genevive had learned from the sisters at the shelter. Their own computers were available but the nun didn't want any of her work to be done there. A silly precaution maybe but she didn't want to willingly invite any evil into that sanctuary.

Following instructions she didn't understand but had memorized, Genevive took a twisted route through the internet until she came to a blank screen with no hint as to what it belonged to, the address at the top a mishmash of letters even a Welshman would struggle with, and two boxes; name and password.

After she logged in another box, again on a blank screen, replaced the prior two. Genevive hesitated then began a very one-way chat, her statements disappearing word by word as she typed them in. The guiding questions appeared and vanished the same way, word by word, so no one watching would be able to easily follow the conversation.

At the end a single word remained, cursor blinking after it.

Rugaru.

The shadow of someone passing between her and the light from the window made Genevive close the laptop and look over her shoulder.

[open tag or I'll continue solo for a bit before bringing in some other Scoobies]

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