Jigoku Shoujo: Dirty Streets

What could a young, teenage boy from the slums of India want with Jigoku Shoujo?

This is a Case Story fanfiction set in the world of Jigoku Shoujo.

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1. Dirty Streets Chapter One

           Thirteen-year-old Kajal ran barefooted and laughing through the muddy back alleys of Calcutta, carrying his little sister, Selma, on his back. He couldn’t run for long. After only a few yards, he collapsed, panting, on his thin, olive-colored knees.

            At least Selma was laughing. Despite the weak trembling in his arms and legs, Kajal smiled as she hopped down off his back, grinning and watching him with her big, sparkling, black eyes. There was such innocence in those eyes, such refreshing trustfulness. Kajal had seen things that he didn’t want her ever to know about. It pained him to thin that she would have to grow up someday and learn about the world.

            They had been born into the lowest religious caste of Hindu India: the “Dalits”, the crushed ones. Kajal was the oldest child in his family, and Selma—the only girl—was the youngest, being eight years old. They had three other brothers, a hopeless, unemployed father, and a mother who worked herself to exhaustion every day just to keep them alive.

            Being a Dalit meant destitute poverty: poverty with no hope of escape. It meant being treated by everyone as something less than human. Worse, in fact. The cows that wandered the streets were treated with far greater reverence. Dalits were looked on in the same way as the dirt the cows tread upon.

            Kajal looked at Selma, and his heart twisted with compassion. Her stomach was swelled and tight with malnourishment, and her little arms were as thin as sticks. She was small for her age. It would be so easy for her to catch a disease like her brother Ravi, or to get hurt and die. More than anything, Kajal wanted her to live, and—if possible—live happily.

            “Come on,” he said to her, speaking in Hindi. He straightened up and held out his hand to her. “Let’s go home. Maybe Papa found some food for us today.”

            Selma nodded silently, placing her little hand in his thin, dirty one. Together, they made their way back to where their family stayed, trying to stay in the alleys as much as possible to avoid all the cows, bikes, carts, mopeds, and cars, that crowded the roads.

            As they made their way to the sprawling slums, Kajal thought he felt someone watching them. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw a well-dressed, handsome man who seemed to have just looked away from them. Had he been looking at Selma? Suspicion and protectiveness rose in his chest, and he tightened his grip on Selma’s hand, walking a little faster across the lumpy ground. She looked curiously up at him, but he didn’t tell her what was wrong.

            Kajal and Selma’s family home was less a shelter and more just a cardboard lean-to. Their father was sitting on a stool outside, and their mother was inside, caring for Ravi. The other two boys were away, perhaps scavenging for anything useful from the trash that piled up along the streets.

            With a squeak of “Papa!” Selma ran to their father and received a hug and a slight, tired smile.

            “Kajal,” their father, Prabir, said, nodding to him and then looking at the lean-to, “It’s Ravi—he’s not well. He’s had diarrhea…won’t eat. I don’t know if he can…live.” Tears came to his eyes, and he lowered his head hurriedly.

            Kajal ran inside and took his little brother’s hand. It was dry, and the boy’s lips were cracked. Ravi was the youngest boy of the family: only a year older than Selma. He was sleeping fitfully now, and he looked pitiful. Their mother, Babitha, wearing a torn, patterned cloth, fussed over him, placing her hand on his forehead, but there wasn’t much she could do. “He needs medicine,” she said anxiously when Kajal came in, “If he only had some medicine, maybe…” her voice trailed off.

            There was a shout from outside, and Kajal looked around to see that his other two brothers, Arup and Sanjit, had come, carrying plastic buckets of scummy water. Not wasting a moment, Kajal snatched up a cup and dipped it in the water. He shook Ravi’s shoulder.

            The boy’s eyes half-opened and he moaned weakly. “I’m thirsty,” he said.

            “Yes, I know,” Kajal replied, feeding him the water. Maybe it would make him even more ill, but right now he needed water more than anything else.

            “Medicine…he needs medicine,” Babitha fretted, “Clean water…something to eat…”

            It wasn’t any use wishing for those things, Kajal thought resentfully. They’d never have them.

            Suddenly, the second-oldest, Sanjit, poked his head inside. “Mama!” he cried, “There’s a man outside, talking to Papa—a rich man!”

            In an instant, Babitha had leapt to her feet and hurried outside, followed by Kajal and Sanjit. Arup stayed to look after Ravi, but he watched them from inside with curious eyes.

            The hair on the back of Kajal’s neck bristled when he saw the man. It was the same rich-looking man he had caught watching Selma as they went home. Now he was crouched down, talking gently to Selma, who watched him with wide eyes, not sure how to respond. He looked up when her mother came out.

            “Oh, have I caught you at a bad time?” he asked politely.

            “No—no,” Prabir assured him, flustered, “No, sir. We only are amazed that you have come. Why would you speak to us?”

            “I follow Ghandi,” the man replied smoothly, standing up, “I believe the Dalits should be lifted up in society.”

            Kajal noticed that he still had refrained from shaking any of their hands.

            “I stopped because your family seemed distressed,” the man went on, “Is there something the matter?”

            “Our son is very ill,” Babitha replied pleadingly, “He needs medicine! I beg you, sir, we are not worthy, but if there is anything you can do—please, out of the kindness of your heart!” and she threw herself at his feet.

            While she was speaking, Kajal gestured urgently to Selma to get away from the man. She ran to his side, hiding slightly behind him.

            At their mother’s words, the man’s smile widened. “I believe I haven’t introduced myself,” he said, “My name is Hakim Das Sapan. Yes, I can help you but you would have to give me something in return. If you’ll just do one small thing for me, I will give you the medicine you need immediately. And food, and clean water to drink. More than that, I could give you enough money to live well for the rest of your lives.”

            “We’ll do it! Whatever it is, we’ll do it!” Prabir promised desperately, “Just save our little boy! But what could we have to offer you?”

            “I want to hire your lovely little daughter,” Hakim said, gesturing to Selma, “I promise I’ll take good care of her, but she’s what I need to make the money for your income. If you just give her to me, I’ll give you all I promised. Your son will live. You’ll never again have to worry about where you next meal will come from.”

            Kajal’s parents turned to each other in horror.

            They won’t agree to this, Kajal thought angrily, hatred for Hakim rising in his chest, They would never agree to something like this!

            “Ravi will die if we don’t,” Babitha whispered.

            There was a light of desperate hope in Prabir’s eyes. The offer was too good to refuse. He turned to Hakim. “You’ll treat her well?” he asked shakily.

            “Like a princess,” Hakim assured him.

            “Then we agree. It’s a deal,” Prabir said.

            “Good!” Hakim said brightly. He turned to Selma. “Come here, little one,” he called, holding out his hands.

            “No!” Kajal shouted furiously, stepping protectively in front of his sister, “You’ll never take her!”

            The smile remained on Hakim’s face, but his eyes darkened.

            “Kajal, just cooperate with him,” Prabir ordered.

            “I will not!” Kajal yelled at him, “Can’t you see? This man wants to sell her as a prostitute! She’s only a child, and he wants to turn her into a whore!”

            “Oh, those are such crude words,” Hakim sneered, “I prefer ‘Red Light Lady’.”

            “It’s better than letting Ravi die, isn’t it?” Babitha screamed tearfully at Kajal, avoiding looking at Selma.

            “No!” Kajal screamed back, “No, nothing is worth this!”

            “You’re only making trouble for your family, boy,” Hakim snarled, “Give her to me! Now!”

            “Come on, Selma,” Kajal urged. He grabbed her hand, and they fled, running with all their might.

            Kajal could hear Hakim pursuing them, shouting furiously. He pressed on all the harder, dodging around shelters and walls in the slum, trying to lose his pursuer. When Selma began gasping for breath, he picked her up and continued to flee.

            Weakness soon overcame him, and he collapsed behind a wall, struggling to breathe. His throat was parched, and his stomach twisted with hunger pangs, but he tried to ignore those familiar feelings because Selma was feeling them too. He concentrated instead on listening. Hakim had not been far behind.

            It was hard to listen with all the noisy people and carts going past. None of the people paid any attention to a frightened, young teenager and a little girl, but Kajal felt too exposed here. He would have to move.

            As he struggled to get up again, he suddenly froze, catching sight of Hakim across the street. The rich man was talking to a store owner, who listened, jiggled his head a little, and pointed. He was pointing right at them! Turning, Hakim saw them, and began making his way purposefully across the street.

            Mustering all his strength, Kajal struggled to his feet, picking up Selma to carry her. Hakim’s progress was blocked by a moped, and then by a crowded bus, and he shouted curses at them. Turning away, Kajal fled again. They were in the more crowded part of the city now, so it might be easier to lose Hakim, but Kajal didn’t know how much longer he could go on. He would have to hide.

            Coming to a half-finished, concrete building that looked like the construction workers had abandoned it long ago, Kajal ducked inside. As he ran for the farthest corner, he almost tripped over a starving man who was sleeping there. He stopped abruptly, then ran quietly around the man, making his way to the darkest corner of the building.

            Huddling in the corner, Kajal pulled Selma close to him, and she clutched fearfully at his tattered shirt. She hadn’t understood some of the words they had used: prostitute, whore, red light lady…but she clearly understood that Hakim wanted to hurt her.

            And he would hurt her. Whoring her aside, everything Hakim had said about treating her well had been a bald-faced lie. Kajal had seen once how pimps treated their girls, and it wasn’t well. Once in the sex trade, the girls couldn’t escape, either. They were slaves.

            However horrible that image was, Kajal held it before his mind’s eye. It would keep him from going back there. Yes, even Kajal had been tempted by the offer, which had presented itself as a ray of hope in the face of Ravi’s illness and had presented the tantalizing possibility of escaping poverty and starvation forever.

            But, no. Not at the expense of Selma. Kajal held his little sister more tightly helpless rage and hatred seething inside him. Hakim was evil. More evil than anyone in the world. Kajal tried to imagine what he would do if he had the power to punish him, and he couldn’t think of anything painful enough for the pimp to suffer. He didn’t want to leave the task of punishing Hakim to impersonal karma, which seemed to have blessed him so far. But Kajal was helpless. Absolutely, totally helpless. All he could do was run, and he could barely do that.

            A gust of wind blew through the building, and a scrap of paper fluttered in and landed at Kajal’s feet. For some reason, his eyes were drawn to it. It looked like a memo note someone had hurriedly scratched down, and only a few words were written on it.

            Though Kajal had never gone to school, he had always had a determined spirit, despite the crushing discouragement of being a Dalit. Over the years, he taught himself to read a little. He could read enough to understand what was on the paper. There was a Web address: “www.jigokutsuushin.net”, and underneath it were written the words: “I will release your hatred.”

            Abruptly, impulsively, Kajal grabbed the scrap of paper. His heart was pounding. This was what he wanted. He wanted someone to release his hatred. He wanted to have revenge on Hakim.

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