Category

Creative Fiction

Category

Photo Courtesy: www.pixabay.com

I faked a smile after I kissed the hand of the man who abused me.
“MashaAllah! He’s grown into a fine young man,” he responded as my father reintroduced me to him.

A lump had already formed in my throat. My mind was abuzz with activity as my heart tried to register the multitude of feelings that exploded inside me. It reminded me of the flurry of movement that takes place in a company when something major happens. Bosses making numerous phone calls as their subordinates jog in and out of their offices every thirty seconds to urgently report the slightest update, while a plethora of emails are sent and received as everybody tried to make sense of the situation.

“Aziz, the man asked you a question,” my father interrupted my thoughts.
“Hmm? Ah, yes uhh…” a long pause ensued, then “Come again?”
The man broke into a hearty laughter, “Kids these days, they always seem to be distracted by one thing or another!” he said as he playfully grabbed my chin. Dynamites exploded once more inside my chest. “I asked you about your studies. How are you faring in them?”
“Oh. Alhamdulillah, I’m doing well. I’ll start my first year of college in September God willing.”
His face lit up even more on hearing this, “I expect nothing less from my former student. I always told you that you are brilliant!”

Another fake smile.

“Well, it was a pleasure seeing you after such a long absence, Aziz. Work hard and take care of your parents. Through Allah’s Will, they are the reason you are where you are today.” He then turned to my father, “Thank you for the invitation Mr. Saleem. May God bless you!”
“May He bless us all,” my father replied courteously.
He chuckled as he shook hands with him once more and winked at me.
“Excuse me,” I mumbled as soon as the man went inside the hall, “I need to go to the bathroom.”

*******

Breathing became an alien concept. Thankfully, no one was present in the bathroom to witness my panic attack. I unbuttoned the collar of my kanzu and opened the tap. This cannot be happening! Why is this happening? It took several splashes of water on my face for my breathing to return to normal.

The sound of approaching footsteps snapped me out of my confusion and I quickly got in a bathroom stall that was farthest from the door. I closed the lid, sat on it and then went on to involuntarily listen to a man take a piss. Soon after the same footsteps faded into the distance and I released the breath I hadn’t realised I was holding. Distracting myself from the reality of what just happened was impossible. However, I tried to delude myself into thinking that if I stayed in the bathroom long enough, then he’d be gone by the time I got back. Maybe, just maybe, an emergency would come up and the man would have no other choice except leave before the wedding even started.
I barely noticed my hand shaking. What was this feeling? Was it rage? Or fear? Maybe it was both? Am I going crazy? I couldn’t understand. A short burst of laughter escaped my lips. I’m definitely going crazy.

Where are you? A message from my father lit up my phone’s screen.
I’m experiencing stomach problems. I’ll be a while. I replied.
Sorry to hear that. Get well soon.

I didn’t want to leave the bathroom. The prospect of seeing that monster again terrified me. Seven years had passed since that “unfortunate event”. I thought that it was all behind me, that I had buried one gigantic skeleton. I punched the wall once. Twice. Three times. The pain in my fist, however, couldn’t override the aching sensation in my chest.

An alarm bell in my head was warning me that I was on the edge of a precipice. One wrong move and I would fall into the unknown, a place I have been avoiding for almost a decade.

Counting backwards from one thousand gave me a false sense of stability, like papering over cracks that would surely reappear and worsen with time. I was now clinging onto the precipice with my hands, one delicate misstep and I would tumble down into the unknown.

“Six hundred and sixty seven, six hundred and sixty six, six hundred and sixty five…” I muttered under my breath. The man’s laughter would echo in my ears and his face would flash right before my eyes. My thoughts were beginning to spiral out of control, so I gritted my teeth and continued counting, albeit loudly. To Hell with being heard, my sanity was at stake.

Counting didn’t work, I could feel myself slipping away one finger at a time. Desperation led me to clamp my head tightly between my hands as I hummed a nursery rhyme. Was it ‘Mary had a little lamb’? Or was it ‘London bridge is falling down’? I couldn’t tell at this point. Cold sweat trickled down my spine. More images, memories from before, swirled around my mind, making me confuse past with present. I whispered “Somebody…please help me,” as my arms finally lost their strength and my body went hurtling into the unknown…

*******

“So today we’re going to learn some intermediate concepts of Arabic grammar. Before that, however, open your Quran and read where we left off yesterday,” my ustadh instructed us in an authoritative tone. None of us dared look straight at his face because he always had this imposing demeanour that demanded respect. I couldn’t help but steal a glance, only to make eye contact with the man. Apprehension gripped me, but it was quickly banished when he returned my gaze with a half-smile and a wink. I blushed and took this as a sign that he acknowledged me.

Ever since my first encounter with him, my heart fell in love. The kind of unconditional love a child could afford for his parent, or a student for his master. Here was a man who would be seen constantly with a rosary in hand, invoking praises and glorifying God. Always on time to lead the congregational prayer, everyone in our neighbourhood adored and respected him. He was my second father. No, I considered him more of a father to me than my real one. My ultimate goal was to become like him, or even surpass him if that were possible.

The afternoon wore on until four o’clock reached. We had concluded our lessons for the day and were dismissed, except he called me back and said cryptically, “Wait for me after ‘asr prayer.”
My heart started racing. What does he want with me? Did I do something wrong? No, that’s not possible. It has to be something good, right? Or maybe he just wants me to pass a message to my father? No, that doesn’t make sense. Dad always comes to the mosque, so he could talk to him personally.

Concentrating on my prayer was next to impossible, my body simply made robotic movements as I imagined one scenario after another. My palms grew cold and sweaty. After the prayer was finished, I waited for most of the congregants to leave the mosque and asked ustadh if I did anything wrong. He gently pinched my cheek and told me there was nothing to worry about. My sense of anxiety disappeared, only to be replaced with excitement. If it’s nothing to worry about, then it’s definitely something good. My face grew warm and I stared at the carpet. Finally, he’s acknowledged me and I’ll get a special reward from him, I thought elatedly.

“Let’s go, Aziz,” he said as he got up and put his rosary in his pocket. Five minutes later we arrived at his home and went straight to his study, which was at the top floor of a three-storey building. He called out to his wife in a loud voice, saying that he shouldn’t be disturbed, “I have a very important student of mine!” he added as he beamed at me and winked. He even considers me his friend! I said to myself as I laughed. A few moments later we entered his study and he locked the door behind him after allowing me to enter first.

“Please, have a seat,” he gestured towards a couch. He took off his kanzu to reveal a white T-shirt and kikoi. Sometimes I’d be curious about how he looked like without his usual garments, but now I saw that he was powerfully built, with strong arms and a barrel chest, making him even more imposing.

“Now then,” he began as he sat next to me, “I brought you here because I’d like to give you a special present, for the consistent results you have produced during the four years you have been under my tutelage. However, let’s talk first. I’m in no rush and I’d like to know my favorite student a bit more.”
Favourite student? I smiled instinctively. “Well, what do you want to talk about?”
“Anything you want my child. But let me ask you first, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
I didn’t even need to think before I gave my answer. “I’d like to be an ustadh, just like you!” With this, he broke into a rapturous laughter. I was so entranced by this that I didn’t even notice him place his hand on my knee.
“Like me, you say? That’s good, that’s very good. I’m really happy to know that I’ll have a capable person take my place when I’m gone.”

We continued talking for a little while, about my hopes and dreams, my plans for the future. However, with each passing minute I could feel his gaze intensify as he started to slowly caress my thigh. I noticed this, but I merely took it as a form of parental affection, the same way my mother would hug me tight and crush me against her heavy chest, or how my father would pull my nose and flick his finger on my forehead.

“Tell me, Aziz, what do you think of me?” he asked, but the gentleness in his voice was gone. He sounded…sinister? No, I’m imagining things, there’s nothing wrong. My spark of paranoia, however, transformed into flames when he pulled me closer. The slow caressing motion picked up pace, as did his breathing.
What’s going on? What is he doing? Why doesn’t this feel right? All of this and more coursed through my mind. I couldn’t think clearly. I checked the clock, it was five thirty. I didn’t want to stay in his study anymore, something was definitely wrong. Maybe if I could get him talking until Maghrib arrived, then it would be prayer time and we’d both have an excuse for leaving.

I gulped, trying to calm my nerves, but I was fumbling with what I was trying to say, “I uhh…I think that…you’re a great man…and…everyone respects you…and…and…umm…you’re my…my…my role model,” I finished meekly. Unable to disguise my fear, I met his gaze, but all he did was look at me dreamily, while an evil smile played on his lips.

I was about to speak, when suddenly he embraced me so tightly that my arms couldn’t move. I felt like a rabbit being squeezed by a python as it prepared to devour the poor thing whole.
“I must confess something to you, my beautiful boy,” he began, his voice heavy and excited, “Ever since I laid my eyes on you, I have been beset by a demon, a demon only you can exorcise. You’re the only who can do this! If not, then I don’t know what will become of me. I need you, my beautiful child. You’re the only one that I want in this world my precious boy!”
I tried to pull away, but it was impossible against such strong arms.
“Will you exorcise this demon Aziz? Will you?” his voice was so frantic, that for a moment I thought he really was possessed by a demon.
“Y-y-yes…I’ll try!” I found myself agreeing to his request. Anything to get out of this choking embrace.
“I’m so glad you’ll help me. Thank you so much, this means a lot to me,” he whispered reassuringly as he pulled back, though his hands were still locked on me. I thought that the worst was over, but in the blink of an eye his lips were firmly placed on mine. Shock ran all over my body and I was rendered immobile. One of his hands was firmly set behind my head, so pulling away wasn’t an option.
After what felt like an eternity, he stopped kissing me and for the first time, the desire in his eyes was apparent.
“That felt good, didn’t it? It always comes as a shock for first-timers like you, but with time you’ll end up loving it, I promise.”

How could I ever end up loving something as disgusting as this? I thought as my body trembled. This couldn’t be him. This couldn’t be my ustadh. It must be the Devil himself. They say that the Devil can shapeshift into the form of any man, except prophets. So it had to be him. There’s no way that this monster before me could be the same pious and dignified man that I loved and respected so much.
“You seem shaken up. Would you like some tea?” he asked with feigned concern.
I nodded, too shell-shocked to speak. He then got up and went to heat two mugs of tea in a microwave. I checked the clock, fifteen minutes until six o’clock, fifty minutes until the maghrib call to prayer. If I drink my tea slowly, then I might make it. Otherwise, there’s no knowing what this man would do next.
“I had the maid make us some before we came in,” he said as he returned a couple of minutes later holding a mug in each hand, “I’ve warmed it up a bit in the microwave, but you should be able to drink it without burning your tongue. Go on then!”

I took a small first sip, then another. I decided to give myself three-minute intervals in between sips. Alright, I can do this.

All of a sudden my vision started blurring, my head grew heavy and my hand could hold my mug no longer. It slipped to the floor and I felt my body fall on the couch in slow motion.
“No…please…stop,” I protested weakly. My voice sounded far-off as I tried to stay awake. Whatever was laced in my tea started taking full effect, and the last thing I saw was ustadh on top of me, his burning eyes like twin coals, and then darkness…

*******

I saw my father’s concerned face when I woke up. The first thing that came to mind was that I was home. Thank God! it was only a bad dream. I must have come home and dosed off.
“Are you okay?” he asked, as he pressed his palm against my forehead.
“Yes, but my back hurts. I must have slept badly,” I replied with a smile, but it quickly vanished when I realised I was still in ustadh’s study, with the man himself standing a few feet behind my father, his face expressionless. My hands tightly gripped the blanket I hadn’t noticed until now. So it wasn’t a dream? No this can’t be happening! I panicked and my breathing grew rapid and shallow.

“Aziz are you alright? Ustadh told me that you fainted.”
I didn’t even register my father’s question, all I did was recall what happened before I lost consciousness.
“Can we go home? I don’t feel so good” were the first words I blurted. All I wanted was to stay as far away from the Devil as possible.
My father acquiesced and held my hand as I got up from the couch. I still felt dizzy. Ustadh, no, the Devil said something to my father but I couldn’t process anything. I was in flight mode. He moved towards me and placed his hand on my shoulder. It took all I had to stay put and not make a run for it. “You take care, okay?” he started, the warmth in his voice had returned, “I’d be beside myself if something were to happen to my favourite student.”
I did nothing but stare at the floor, hoping it would open up and swallow me whole…

*******

Where are you? The ceremony is about to start.
I’m on my way. Give me five minutes.
Good. I hope your intestines are still intact though.
Haha. They certainly are.

I leaned on the toilet and stared at the ceiling gloomily. Seeing my abuser for the first time in seven years revived that feeling of being tainted, that there was a certain impurity which will never go away. Like a stubborn stain you thought you had removed, only to realise that it was painted over, and now the paint has peeled off.
I shuffled out of the stall and headed towards the sink. I looked at my tired face in the mirror and became amazed by how sometimes it takes only a few seconds for someone to ruin your day.

I sighed pitifully. Is there truly an end to this nightmare? I wondered, as I straightened my back and faked a smile.

Photo Courtesy: https://pixabay.com/

I am running. Both literally and metaphorically. It’s two minutes to time and it is raining heavily. I don’t want to be late, I hate being late so I jog faster letting my sweat mix freely with the rain drops. It doesn’t bother me; the rain that is. I let it flow on me like it would wash away all the grief within, perhaps then many more people wouldn’t mind the rain. Or me. I have been running away from my life too; wanting so desperately to detach myself from it. So that’s why I am here, knocking restlessly at my therapist’s door…This right here is not a love story. It is a story of love.

My therapist opens the door for me before settling on her king-size chair. She checks her watch and smiles. ‘Never late,’ she says. I smile back. ‘I’m proud,’ I chuckle.
‘How have you been since our last session?’ she asks, gesturing me to sit down at another king-sized chair opposite her.
‘Umm,not sure yet.’
‘Understandably, this is just the second session. Don’t worry we will work it through together.’
I nod lamely.
‘So I want us to pick up from where we left last time. You told me you’ve been running. You told me you’ve been struggling. Is that correct?’
‘Correct.’
‘So tell me, how would you describe your life in three words?’

The question catches me off guard. My life? In three words? That would be like measuring the ocean by one droplet. I stare into nothingness for a while, scratching my head.
‘I’d say…overwhelming…confusing…’
‘Aha and?’
I remain silent. How would I describe this third feeling. The one that bites you irregardless of whether it is 2 a.m. or 2 p.m. This feeling that makes one feel like they are drowning.
‘Sad.’
‘Sad?’
‘Yes sad. I think Sad is probably my real first name.’

She looks into my eyes. Are therapists psychic too? Or why else would she stare at me like she’s reading something from the veins behind my eye sockets?


KE Gif Ge 468X60

‘Alright let’s go back to the running. What are you running from?’
‘People, situations, connections…people mostly’
‘Why would you run away from people?’
I feel a burn and some wetness falling on my cheeks.
‘Because people leave. All the time. They come into your life and give you hope and make you a big part of their lives. They make you happy…so you invest on them. But I invest too much on them. Too much such that whenever one of them leaves, a part of me is gone forever…’

I stop to cry. She sits there silently, watching me in scrutiny. She hands me a tissue.
‘I’m listening,’ she reassures.
‘I think I’ve loved people more than they ever deserved and now…and now, I have nothing left within me. It is empty in here. And every time I make a new friendship, a new connection, a new acquaintance, I am already preparing my safe exit plan before they plan theirs. I’m being too cautious I can’t breathe freely. I am building high walls I can’t see the sunshine. I am running…from everyone and everything…”

I take another tissue and blow my nose. She is still quiet. I hope she is not pitying me. Then she interrupts my thoughts.
‘Do you think that is the way to live?’
‘I know its not…’
‘Have you perhaps thought of how many beautiful people, moments, events you are probably missing on by caging yourself in this darkness?’

The darkness is familiar. Sometimes it is the safe place you can always return to; that cage, that high wall.


KE Gif Ge 468X60

I am running. Both literally and metaphorically. This time it is on my way back home. It has stopped raining. I see my home ahead but I decide to take a corner. I let the sweat wet my shirt as I listen to my own heavy breathing. This is not a love story. It is a story of love given and never returned. Shared but never to last.

‘How were you ever going to be happy if you gave all the love within you and left nothing for yourself?’ she had asked me. And I remained silent because self-love was unrelatable. ‘You need to find yourself first. Love yourself first before anything or anyone else. It should be YOU first. Always.’

I let the words sink in. It gives me a good feeling. Makes me anticipate the next session. I stop on my tracks, bend down to hold my knees as I breathe. Running, the literal one, is not bad after all.

Photo Courtesy: pinterest.com

My friends and I talk about anxiety in hushed tones,
in desperate volumes,
in late night texts of hopelessness,
“You too?”
she asks as if we are a team,
like we are a bandwagon,
a secret group full of emotion jargon
like we are some sort of cult,
clutched in the hands of our feelings
that we can’t bring to a halt.
“I’m overthinking,” he says
“I’m overthinking about my overthinking,
about my edginess,
my restlessness,
my helplessness,
my breathlessness.
***sigh***
“Shhh!!” she says
they shouldn’t know
you should just lay low.
They shouldn’t notice any more
lest they call you weak
they’ll call you sensitive
an attention seeker
or perhaps an emotional speaker!
sshhh!
Conceal, don’t feel
Don’t let your joy seem so real
or show your over-flowing tears in the name of ‘I want to heal’
They don’t understand how you can laugh so whole-heartedly about a silly pun that’s not even fun,
or how you passionately cry about a video you watched on whatsapp.
They’ll say, ‘You’re too much’
like too much of anything is really poisonous.
They speak as if they know the itchiness beneath your skin
like insects having a party within.
As if they know of the noise in your head,
of the demons you carry on your back,
of the weight of the world you carry on you like you just became a truck!
No. They have no idea,
They have not a single bit of an idea of how it feels to have a super-power of feeling,
of feeling things unfelt, untouched, unseen.
They have no idea,
that’s why I keep feeling.

***Dear, you are never alone…

Photo Courtesy: MTY Organization

Hey Amedo,

Assalam aleikum,

I would have said Ahmed but then who recognizes you with that name anymore? Haha, you are all grown Mashallah. I hope that’s how it is spelt? The Mashallah I mean and the assalam aleikum up there…haha what do I know anyway? I’m just this old pal from upcountry living in Mombasa. I remember hearing your parents use such phrases so many times…ah, your parents. I miss them, you know that? I wish they could see how grown and smart you are right now. Your parents and I, we had this special kind of relationship. I bet you wouldn’t remember much though. You were just eight when that unfortunate accident happened right? *Sigh*

When I first came to Mombasa twenty years ago, I remember how warmly I was received by your parents into this neighbourhood. I still remember your dad, tall and lean, with such a loud laughter, welcoming me like I was a long-lost brother. Your mother, on the other hand, prepared dinner for both me and my wife that night. “I bet you are tired,” she said in her shy voice. I was a bit puzzled with the reception. We were different people, different tribes, different cultures, different religions…what could have made them so comfortable to bond with us immediately? My wife was a bit suspicious at first. You know, we had heard of rumours about the Mombasa genies and how witchcraft is so common and human sacrifices are made to become ‘viti’. Well, we never even understood what those viti were. As far as we knew it, viti are chairs. Nonetheless, my wife, she was a bit worried at first. But then by the next three to four months, we had interacted with almost the entire neighbourhood. We came to learn that this is just how Mombasa is. Warm and lovely; feels like home. It is why we decided to remain here longer. We decided, this is the best place to raise our children.

After your parents passed away in the accident, your divorced aunt moved in to take care of you and your younger siblings. Your aunt was another very lovely lady. She is charming and full of life; the kind to hear her voice sweeping the compound as she sang famous taarab songs. She is the one who taught my wife how to cook biriani and pilau and all these tasty coasterian foods. I never get enough of these foods.

It was all going well for us until Timmy died. You remember Timmy don’t you? Sometimes I see you walk by my home and I yearn to talk to you, ask you if you remember him, if you remember how you two used to play football together, or how you used to stay up late playing PS until your dad would come force you out of our homestead. If you remember that your birthdays were only two weeks apart and that today, he would be 22 years old like you are. Perhaps that would lessen how much I miss him. But then every time I want to start up a conversation, I see the lines form on your forehead. I see how quick you respond just so as you can leave, how bothered you seem by just calling out your name. I never understand it. Maybe it’s my age; old folk what does he want? Or maybe my skin colour or maybe you just don’t recognize me anymore. Maybe…the maybe’s are endless.

Timmy…my only son, my lovely boy, died ten years ago. Both of you were just twelve years old. My son, he was killed. Do you remember? Do you remember the shrieks of pain? The screams? The tear gas, the fear, the stones, the chaos? Do you remember the 2007 post-election violence? You were young but you couldn’t forget how Timmy died right? Your best friend, your brother from another mother, could you? There was too much smoke, wails, angry protests and there we were, caught up right at the middle of it all. Our neighbourhood had always been peaceful, serene…what was happening now? How could everyone forget our brotherhood so fast? We were among the few “outcasts” in the compound. After more than ten years in Mombasa, we suddenly became “outcasts” because our skin colour was darker, our mother-tongue accent betrayed us and our features were clearly “not of here” and that was enough reason to have knives stabbed into our bodies. Because of my origin, my vote automatically meant someone and some party, and at that point, my tribe betrayed me, betrayed us all. We were robbed and deeply injured that night…but one more thing, we lost our son.

It took me three months to heal my wounds and my wife’s’ but we still have one wound that will always remain a wound; unhealed and it just has one word, Timmy. Your aunt has been there for us, all this time, for better for worse, just like we stood by her side whenever she couldn’t afford some bread to feed you all. But you worry me. You my son, worry me.

I see how opinionated you’ve become. How strong and firm you are. It is good. But yet it could be dangerous. I see you sit with your mates barazani, I see the fury in your eyes, the anger in your tone. I see you young men discuss politics like this is a battle field and you want to win at whatever cost. I see you argue, I see the clenched fists and the tribalistic insults. I see how your friends look at me, how they purposely shout out “Kila mtu arudi kwao” when I pass by. I see how you all are invested so much in politics you forget you are supposed to be friends. I see how some of you have stopped talking to each other because “he is pro-someone” and you are “anti-them”. I see how much belief and trust you have kept towards these politicians.

I know it is your right to have an opinion, to vote and to be politically affiliated. Yet I want to remind you my son, when your parents died, I was the one who came to your home and took you for the next few nights, I want to remind you that Timmy was your friend despite me and your parents having different cultures and political opinions. I want to remind you that when we were stabbed, it was your aunt who washed off the blood in our house. That she was the one who nursed our wounds like she was paid for it.

I want to remind you, that during those ugly, dark moments it wasn’t my favourite politician who stood by me, by us. It wasn’t my tribe, or my mother-tongue accent that helped me through those difficult times. It wasn’t your favourite politician either. It was you and your people. It was my neighbours, my friends, my associations who have totally different opinions from mine. But we knew that friendship or any other form of relationship should never be sold for the sake of dirty politics. This game is too dirty. My son, I see how you and your friends are too aggressive in this whole politics business, remember, the game is too dirty, too cheap for your hands.

I am so proud of who you are, what you’ve become; an educated focused man who wants change. I guess we all need the change, don’t we? Just never forget that no change comes from animosity, rivalry, hatred or stubbornness. Remember that for better for worse, none of the politicians will be at your doorstep to help you with your personal problems other than your personal friends and relations. I need you to never forget the humanity joining us; these small joyful moments we have shared between us all; as neighbours, as brothers, as co-existing human beings, as people of the Coast, whether by nature or nurture, as people of Kenya. Never forget that we are naturally bonded as humans before politics ever divide us.

This coming election, my son, remember my words. Remember that chaos will never beget change. That your voice in the call of peace is important and necessary. Remember to hold your friends close together, in unity and preach to them peace like you preach politics and politicians. Remember my son, no more bloodshed, no more Timmy’s, no more crying over spilled milk. Let’s all hold hands and pray for peace and unity. Remember we are One Kenya, One people. This elections, as you cast your vote (or not), remember peace, peace, peace!! May God protect us all. God bless Kenya!

Your next door neighbour,
Baba Timmy.


 

Photo Courtesy: https://youth4developmentkenya.files.wordpress.com

What is more interesting than standing together for Kenya that is united by all means? What is more interesting than a walk that preaches for peace and propagates for unity of all? The Dumisha Amani Peace Walk is a walk organized by MTY organization in conjunction to both MUHURI and Manyunyu community. It will bring together more than 200 youth to propagate the message of peace and unity. The peace walk shall start at treasury square and it will also entail performances by artists, holding hands pledges, peace mascots, security, media coverage and lots of fun, love and unity. Not signed up yet, text 0705 586 076. CHAGUA AMANI!!

 

 

#7. Hell
Flames were on her skin,
Yellow…
Black…
Blue…
She watched them one by one,
As if they were
Tongues
Of a different pleasure,
Consuming sins
Caught on
The oily pores
Beneath her goosebumps,
Straining in an effort
To taste it
With the ferocity of a bear
In bee–spawn hives,
Hungry to fill its carnivorous belly
With honey.
The fire burned
Like a Viking’s requiem,
Drumming
To the heartbeats of gods
As it called on
To its slaves of ash,
Rousing pain
On places that lived for pleasure.
The walls on the hallways
Were ugly,
Molded in the carefulness of
Screams
And fear-shaken hands,
Turning once smooth faces of the walls
Into a grotesque,
While souls hang from roofs
At the depths of
Damnation.
It was then she became
Acquainted
With hopelessness.

*

She was delirious, swirling in galaxies that lay with the sparkle in her eyes. There were chains bounded to the emptiness itself, reaching out for ghosts she couldn’t see, and captors she was yet to see. The place she was in, as her reality finally set in, seemed abandoned… cold even, as if only death brought the living there. Aside from her, nothing else came to the light that spilled into her eyes. She was taken aback by the sound of a muffled noise… as if there was someone else caught in the web of the same spider.
“Hallo?”
She called out, her voice strained into notes that aroused her fears.
“Is anyone there?”

The shadows before her seemed to move, awoken by the disturbance of their eternal night. She tried to move, to find a position that could somewhat provide a meager sense of security, despite the conundrum she was in. It was then she noticed the absence of the floor from the touch of her feet, and the fingers of a phantom breeze on her soles seemed to wake every goosebump on her skin, stinging her senses awake. The footsteps grew louder, as if they carried legs heavier than the tension in the air.

“Please, say something…”

She plead to the silhouette that walked towards her. Grey light from the bulb that hung above her shed sense to her eyes, making out the rags that hung on the girl’s body walking to her…the wounds that bit at the nails on her toes… and a chain that held onto a brace cuffed to a slender neck.
“You’re awake.”

She spoke, her voice as distant as crickets in the dark. She looked old, but indifferent to the effect time tolled on her body.
“They will be delighted.”
She said as she observed Luna with sad eyes.
“Where am I?”
“You’re in Karma’s temple. You called on to the services of Her blade, and now the blade comes for recompense. “
“What? Look, there’s been a big misunderstanding here, I didn’t call for anyone’s help! Please let me out…please…”

She walked closer to her now, enough for Luna to make out the creases that swept over her skin like frozen ocean waves.
“Hush now, child. You are with The Woman of the Temple, Blade to her holy Sword. And I am here to guide you into The Plunge.”
“What are you talking about?! You’re not making sense! I-…”
Images of what transpired before recent events leapt into her mind
“I was with a police officer. Please, call the police, tell them I have been abducted and that-“
“All that is meaningless.”
The woman said, as if Luna was wasting her time.
“In the world you left behind you are a fugitive, an individual thought to had conspired in the death of her sister.”
“What?! No! No it can’t be!”
She walked to Luna’s chains, pulled on a lever that was behind her that brought her down to the floor she was not introduced to since she woke up.
“The ceremony will commence now. I will summon the others.”

Luna remained on the ground, letting her body gather her bearings while her mind adjusted to the reality that was setting in.
“…What the hell is going on?!”

She watched as the woman walked away into the vacuum dark, leaving her with shadows that haunted the grey light above her. She tried standing up, and was partly relieved that her legs could still work. There was dust all over the place, and it felt as if she was being held in some place underground.
“I have to find a way out of here.”
“In a hurry to leave already?”
Tiffany walked into the room, her gait… her poise… her voice unmistakable even to a blind eye.
“The party is just getting started”
She wore a mask, the same one that she remembered having been a disguise during the attack on her & the Inspector.
“Why are you doing this?”

Tiffany seemed different, as if the mask brought out a side of her that she has never seen before. There was a malice about her impression, a blood thirst that left Luna’s mouth dry of emotion. She carried a hunting blade to her grip, big for its size and yet she handled it in a fashion that made it seem as if she could never cut herself with it. She walked closer to her this time, letting her appearance explain the gravity of the situation.
“You were chosen by Karma to enact her fury, and now you are being prepared for The Plunge.”

At the sound of the last words, the place lit up, flames sprouting into the hearts of deathly shadows as it graced the hearth of the room, revealing the nature of the prison she was chained to. There was no way to describe the walls, she wasn’t sure whether it was due to the movement of flames or the looming of ceiling-bound shadows, because each left a grotesque portrait on the face of the wall. There was nothing to make of the ceiling, and where there was to be a bulb above her hung a statue of a 4-armed figure holding all sorts of swords on each hand. At the top of her head was a luminescent material that glowed, despite the respite of fire kindled by The Woman of the Temple.

“It is time. We must begin.”


Luna’s heartbeat leapt a few seconds as she braced herself for the horror that was about to unfold. She watched Tiffany walk toward the lever that had ‘steadied’ her to the ground, and pulled it a different direction from the first time, igniting another mechanism that pulled Luna toward the hollow altar that knelt before the fire around the room.

“We beseech you, O Goddess of the World, Bringer of Judgement, Keeper of the Good, Harbinger of Demise. Send forth you’re Blade, and accept this sacrifice in you’re name.”

There was something that had begun to move from the altar before her, as if it was awakening a spirit. The closer the chains pulled her the more she realized it wasn’t an altar after all, but a well; and the movements she was seeing at its tip were not of shadows, but fingers reaching up to collect the sacrifice. She felt the fear blow in the seams of her being, feeding her with adrenaline.
“No! No stop this! I didn’t want this! Why would I want to kill my sister?! My only sister?!”

She beseeched her observers, but they felt no solemnity in the words she said.
“Be glad, Luna, this is the best death to give to anyone that seeked Karma.”
“But why?! Why would I?”
She was getting closer to the well now, and she could make distinct sounds of roaring over her struggles with the chains.
“Because she took everything you ever loved and made it hers. She destroyed your world out of spite. She had to die.”

Tiffany walked to her now, pushing her to the edge of the well as the chain’s mechanism, came to a stop.
“No wait! Why would I want to kill my sister when she was pregnant? Why would I want to kill a baby as well?”
There was silence then. The Woman had stopped her incantations as well, and shifted her gaze to where Luna and Tiffany stood.
“You killed a child?”

Luna ripped out the mask on Tiffany’s face, needing to see her expressions behind the blankness of a mask. She was distraught, colluded in between anger and fear as if she revealed a secret no one else was meant to know. She looked back at The Woman, noticed the wrath that emanated in her grey eyes.
“Mother! No!”

The Woman approached her now, as if she was even more insulted at the title that she had just used on her.
“You killed an innocent? and didn’t mention it?”
“It was a mistake! I didn’t know about it, I swear on the goddess!”
“Then you will have no trouble convincing the goddess otherwise”
She pulled out the torch she used to kindle the fire, the flame like a crown on the rage in her face. Tiffany turned toward an exit, only to find her path barred by more flames.
“You think you can flee from Karma child? You think because you are my child that she will give you forgiveness?! “
“Mother no! You can’t! Ple-“

A bigger flame erupted toward her and Luna now, forcing them toward the lips of the well, where fingers had grown into two hands now, and a new figure was hoisting itself up into the fray before its reach.
“He’s coming out! We’ve kept him waiting too long. Now die!
The Woman threw the torch toward Luna’s direction onto the surface before her feet, sparking up from what seemed like dry grass & growing anew.
“What are you doing! I’m innocent! I have no part in this!”
The Woman looked at her lazily,
“We’ll let the goddess decide that.”

Before any of the girls could say anything, a roar grew from behind them & they
found themselves facing a ragged man, torn from the fringes of reality and left to the endlessness of his insanity. His eyes were as black as tar, and donned blood all over his body. But it was his screams that were nerve-wrenching, tearing at the remaining shards of silence as he relished on the heat of flames around him.
He lunged forward then, hand stretched toward Luna, who was his closest prey. She fell under his weight, shuddering beneath the grip of his arms as he flashed his yellowed teeth that craved the flesh on her neck. She realized she was screaming now, her voice a song to his ears as he laughed at the madness. She jerked on one of her chains, bringing them into the bite of his mouth. He stepped back, waiting for the pain to subside before he could get to his prey again.

The fire was now growing bigger by the second, devouring everything in the room. She looked back to find Tiffany grounded by the events unfolding before her, murmuring to herself words she could not be able to make out. She got to her feet, steadying herself before the predator in front of her. he lunged forward again, hands aimed at the circle of her throat. She ducked just in time, side-stepping him as he caught naught but air and flame. She turned in time to see the world explode, throwing her into the well from whence the beast came from, and plunging her into darkness.

*
*
*
Epilogue.

There was only silence and ash. Chaos had consumed everything she had built, leaving only shards of a lifetime of work. There were embers still glowing, but none strong enough to raze the inferno she created. And now she was getting what she worked for… what she lived for… what she worshipped…

It had been years since she convinced her daughter that she was a member of the cult, born in the ways of the goddess so she could live out the rest of her life fulfilling her wishes. But it was worth it, thinking of the number of lives that were sated by the rites of her religion, killing what deserved to die. Purging sin from the world, wringing society from murderers… thieves… fornicators… husbands that beat their wives… she had found meaning, at being an avenger. She had become the embodiment of ‘necessary evil’.

She walked over to the bodies, the first of The Beast. His insanity had driven him into his death instantly, dying in the fire he has lived in for years. How many had he dragged into his well, she wondered. How many had been blessed eternity beyond the living? She looked at his crisp corpse, taken by the fire… becoming the fire itself.
“Peace walk with you now brother.”

Her daughter’s body lay a few yards ahead, as crumpled up and destroyed as the first. The hunting blade she had held so dearly since her anointment into the cult when she was 15 still clung on her hands, like loyal fangs to a predator. Even in her death, she was a Blade, a weapon that killed when it was told to. Her only regret, was that her final moments were marred by betrayal.
“May the goddess keep you safe my child. You did everything well. I pray reincarnation is given to your soul.”

And with that, the funeral was done. She watched the smoke flee the death below it, turn the air sour in its wake as the wind took everything in its skies. Silence lipped the world, rain content to fall into the aftermath. She took it all one last time, and finally turned to leave.
“Let’s go.”
“Where?”
The girl asked from the brim of the well that saved her. Flashes of the explosion played in her mine, of the fire reaching out to claim her. The shock wave pushing her over the well and into the Plunge, as rubble of stones and wood fell down to keep off the raging flames from her back.

“A new beginning. You are destined for great things Luna.”

The rest of what happened was marred by the blankness of her unconsciousness. The skulls she woke up to still stared at her, eyes as empty as her mind, disfigured by the events of the past week. She turned to watch her, devoid of any fear or dread that she had before; the fire had washed her from the burden she had been carrying.
“The goddess brought you back from certain death. Your destiny awaits…”
She didn’t speak, didn’t even flinch.
“From now on you will be Jane, wielder of Her Blade. ”
“…yes Mother.”
She smiled then at the word, at the thought of being blessed with a new daughter.
“Let us go my Child.”

#6: Blade of Karma.

She seemed to have grown accustomed to these moments now. To the voices that arose when she thought of blood and death, screaming to the silence that was forever broken in her mind. She remembered the first time it happened, being completely engulfed in the act rather than her rationality. The machete was sharp, sharper than most of the tools in her uncle’s shed. She admired how it fit in her palm perfectly, like the handle was specifically designed for her. The python seemed asleep, taking in some rest after swallowing an entire calf, all the way up to the horns. It barely moved when she inched closer to it, her heart pulsing with excitement. She had become a huntress, a sword of vengeance, a weapon meant to conquer other weapons, and she wielded herself to the sky, basking in all that was gore & glorious, taking down monsters in the swift of her judgment. Minutes after, the head of the serpent was gone. She sliced down the blade along the length of its body, trying to see if she could somehow save the calf, but was rather disappointed to find it dead.
***

She was 15 when she saw the bruises on her mother’s face, a bloom of purple and red around the bags of her eyes, as she spent countless nights watching stars pass by, the ones into the sky and the ones that lingered in front of her, dining with the ache in her head. She was never around home those days, spending most of the time at the refuge of her boarding school, where she wouldn’t know of the beatings she took from her father. She came home earlier than expected that day, her mother perched on the kitchen counter, nestling vodka in the fragile ends of her lips. Mrs. Diana Lall was beyond her tears…beyond the quake of her anger…beyond the broken and jagged ends of her self that was living in constant pain, both outside and inside. She couldn’t look at her daughter, couldn’t tell her what had happened. But there was no point in saying anything when the eyes could hear anything the body spoke.

It was no easy task with a human. The head is help by stronger neck muscles, and even in death, it fought as hard as it can to keep itself attached to the spine.
“I need a bigger weapon”
She realized, after spending hours trying to cut off her dead father’s head. The revolver she found in the glove compartment in his car was faster at killing than a machete, but it lacked the enthusiasm of killing altogether…of sating the dragons of her anger from tearing at the sanity of her mind…at the desire for vengeance that she lived for.

“There’s an axe at the back…”

Her mother called out from behind, watching in mute silence as her daughter exacted 3 years of pain on her husband. They had planned it out carefully, at least they thought they needed to. But he came home drunk, staggering all over the house while he broke everything he touched. He was in his violent phase, throwing dinner plates at the mother of his child while he branding her all sorts of names. He didn’t hear her daughter come from behind him, couldn’t do anything when the chair hit him from behind, bringing him back from his drunken stupor and into the world of pain he had created. The white of his eyes shone in the dark, fear crushing his pupil down into a small speck.

“NO! Please…don’t do this! I’m sorry!”

The gun weighed heavy on Mrs. Lall’s hand. A little heavier than how she thought it would. But it was no matter, this was a night she wouldn’t look at stars, but send them into the heart of the beast swiveling on the bedroom floor. The gunshot was loud, sparks coming out of the barrel like miniature stars of fury, sending to darkness the ghost that haunted her living life. They cut out his head 15 minutes later, the first 12 wasted on the futility of using a kitchen knife. The remaining limbs of his body followed suit 5 minutes later, and by the hour, they had gathered his pieces together in a trash bag and gave him a solemn 5 minute funeral over more vodka and cigarettes.

“TJ…”
Her mother called at her, relief shrouding the exhaustion in her voice.
“Thank you.”
“Anything for you mum.”
***

She met Luna during her college tenure. She was preparing herself for going into the police academy, and having a friend at the time felt like a good release from the hard training and studying she had to endure everyday.
“I feel like I’m in a boarding student during the day and a military student at night.”
She told her one day through pillows soaked with sleep and thoughtless dreams.
“Why do you want to be a cop?”
She asked then, curious about her choices. She remembered the snake in her Uncle’s farm…the beast of a father in her mother’s home…
“I like the idea of being a defender of the innocent. To exact the hand of righteousness on crime. To be the gavel of justice itself, or the blade of Karma, that sounds like something I’d like to have on my resume.”
“Whoa! That’s deep. I was expecting something like your dad being a cop too but that will do”

She laughed then, so simple…so innocent…she was a butterfly, and daylight blinded her from the bat that reigned over skies she has never flown in. She found herself laughing with her…at her…at the ignorance that was so majestically her bliss…she laughed, at the simplicity of the innocent.
“Well, that’s a story for another day…”
***

She watched her that day, broken…a scattered reflection from the million glass pieces of her mirror eyes as she liquid orbs fell through the blush on her cheeks, tearing the scent of joy she had been wearing for months on the lining of her sky-blue eyes, drowning her world in silver.

“I found Sin with Kat some 3 weeks ago. They seemed to be arguing, so naturally I asked why they were on each other’s neck at the eve of my wedding…
I found out they were having an affair for 3 straight months, and she wanted to confront me saying she wasn’t going to let me have him by myself. What kind of sister says that?! And during all that, he says nothing! He doesn’t even look at me! I couldn’t believe it, so I walked out.

Yesterday I get a message from Kat saying he’s decided to move in with him, and that he’s making plans to marry her now…”
“Hey don’t think on it too much. Look, if you want you can come live with me, stay away from everything else and just focus on your healing. I want to be of help to you…
“Hey! Hey Luna! Are you listening to me? … Lu I know what he did to you was wrong, but you have to let me in, I want to help you. You have to let him go. I have to see you letting him go.”
***

The room was silent, dark under the gaze of moonless eyes. It was no hard task getting into the house. Everything was intact. Pictures and figurines stood next to graying walls, unable to shut their eyes close from the intent that snaked into the tranquil of their world. She found her bedroom, the door refusing to stay closed to her deathly presence…

She took out the syringe in her pocket, put its needle lips on her skin as poison left its mouth and into her bloodstream. She roused from the deep pools of her slumber, her eyes meeting the mask she wore. She saw her scramble to her feet, trying to push her attacker away, but the drug was already settling into the nest of her mind, pulling away the roots of her consciousness.

“Kat!”
Another man walked into the room then, hands clenched to a kitchen knife. She pulled out her gun then, the muzzle tip attached to a silencer that muffled the noise with every squeeze of her trigger. She made her way to the man, taking the knife he dropped and plunging it into his gut…his chest…his neck…going deeper as her rage took the better of her. She stopped when his head rolled to the ground, the body as lifeless as coffin nails.
“You should have stayed asleep, not walk into a girl’s room in the middle of the night. I guess chivalry really is dead”
***

Things started to go wrong when she received a call from Chief Inspector Said.
“Detective. Hope I didn’t bother you today. I could use your help in something.”
She had been feinting sickness to plot her next move with Sin.
“No problem at all Chief. What can I do for you?”
“New information just came up from the forensics…”
*The fingerprints*
“…We found fingerprints in the crime scene. We can officially declare the deaths as a homicide, and right now our lead suspect is your friend Luna Valentine. I’m bringing this to your attention because I know she’s your friend, but I have to take her in nonetheless.”
She saw her sprint off into the rain, her talk with Sin evidently having gone down the drain.
“No problem detective. I’ve just seen her leave, you’ll find her on her walking down my street alone.”
“Alright, thanks. I appreciate it. Also, there’s something else that you need to know. Lab results came back and it turns out Katherine Valentine was carrying a child during her time of death.”
“What?!”
She didn’t know that. She wasn’t told anything about a child. An innocent life, washed off by the sins of her mother.
“Yeah. She was just one month old though. Didn’t she tell you guys?”
A month old.
“No, I wasn’t aware.”
Anger wound a noose around her voice.
“That’s weird. We found message threads between her and her sister. I’ll talk it over with her, I’m already on the way there.”
***

She has never taken an innocent life before… She felt tainted, blemished by the fault. She was in her assigned duty car, driving up to the street she knew Luna would be following after days of watching her take walks around the suburb. She left her car a block away, walking down the length of the remaining distance to where she could see the chief’s car, blade in one hand, gun in the other…
…The Chief didn’t have time to shoot, her blade keen to meet its intended mark, leaving him sprawled on the floor, shock engulfing his sanity in the short burst of seconds…
…Luna met her full blown punch, driving her into the ground faster than she could react …
…Three more stabs at the detective…
She brought out the chloroform-soaked the handkerchief & put it on Luna’s nose as she was about to scream, trying to get her unconscious as fast as she could and carry her to her car. She was out within 15 seconds…

Sin came running from the corner she had emerged from, her surprise slowing her reaction. He was sprinting away when she pulled out her gun and squeezed the trigger, the first bullet hitting the wall, the other whizzing into invisibility as it sailed into thin air.

She reached for the Chief’s radio com
*Officer down. I repeat, officer down. Chief Inspector Said has been stabbed. Suspect currently running down Second Street into Shire Park. Suspect is armed and dangerous. Shoot on sight.”
***

She found him running into the main road, a pack of police behind his trail firing shots at him. He was looking to take out a motorcyclist and run away on the bike.
“Not a chance!”
Ramming him was a clean kill. He was dying before he even hit the ground. She stopped the car between her & the coming officers, temporarily blinding their line of sight. She tucked her mask deeper into her jacket and pulled out the blade that tore through the Chief’s torso, placing it in his hand before the officers got to her.
“Nice work detective Lall.”
An officer said as he came in panting, gun out of his holster and aimed at the corpse in front of her.
“Call it in”

#5 Secrets in the Grave.

The dead lay still,
Dislodged from the moving habits
Of the living
By the scythe of death,
As silence followed the absence of their souls
Into veils of the nether-realm,
Where stars are
Shadows
Of a phantom dark.
They slept on the fields of eternity,
In blade-less grass beds
That never felt
The coldness of the sun…
The dark of the moon…
The storms after summer…
Or the decaying warmth before winter…
The dead remained motionless
As they collapsed from
Time-held shells of their mortal coil
Into an ending of
Bones & dust,
Becoming unnamed figures
Of the non-living
Carrying tombstones
Where they put their crosses,
As nails let coffins
Keep the living away.
She looked on at their becoming,
And like the silence
She saw them off without words,
Or hymns,
Or sorrow,
Or sympathy,
For they were ill-fated bearers
Of her secrets,
Damned
To take it with them
To the hell
Where her demons lay.

***

Sirens wailed into the heavy air as police cars whizzed past him, splashing dead rain onto the walls of curiosity in his mind. Anxiety was as thick as the sky, while the wind plucked leaves from where uneasy butterflies hung on branches, fleeing from the chaos of the world. He could feel his own pulse throb through the linings of his shirt, pleading with him to stop running & keep his feet on the ground. His lungs burned from perspiration, chasing the very air that rushed past his face. He was on a full sprint, looking for turns, alleyways & basements that would throw away the policemen on his tail, but it seemed as if there was no way to shake them off.
***

He stood in the light drizzle, taking in the intoxication of jasmine scents left behind by the empty air where Luna once stood, flirting with the nasal trance as he fought off the urge to run after her, to go down on his knees and beg her for forgiveness. He lost himself in the slow of time, between the seconds that he stole to either decide or let go, but when the pendulum swung once again, he found himself tailing the phantoms in the musk of her perfume.
***

He dashed into a new corner now, where the road narrowed into a bridge. A river roared beneath the walkway, splashing on its stone-soaked banks like a water dragon as it struggled to bring down the wooden aperture to the floors of dead rock beneath it. He looked back & saw five more police officers had joined the chase now, making the corner he just came from and taken aback by the fury of the river.
“No time to think now…”
He made his way up the archway, his footsteps heavy on the aging foothold. The river seemed to grow bigger once he made it through the first few feet across, tumbling every now and then over water from both the ocean skies above & the river dragon below, having to do all he can to keep himself from spraining his legs. A quick glance back and the officers had made it to the footwalk as well, guns drawn from their holsters and aimed at him…
“FREEZE! DON’T MOVE!”
***

It seemed like it was mere seconds ago that he traced the path she had taken, snaking through empty roads of the leafy neighborhood and abandoned play fields, her hair falling off from the shelter beneath the white maven she wore. She rounded into a distant corner just as a police car was steered next to her, but he was still too far off and blinded by the corner walls of the building.
“Must be something to do with the investigation, looks like the Chief’s ride…”
He slowed down his pace then, his instincts telling him she would definitely tell the cops he’s been lurking and he didn’t feel like spending the night at the cell…

***

He almost laughed at the remark, seeing how he ended up with an option he literally wanted to run away from since the beginning.
“Stop and get killed by law enforcers or run and manage to escape them and find a way to think everything over…”
He sprinted onward, the other side of the bridge opened out from the short horizon the arch of the bridge had made.
“I can do this”
He panted heavier now, his breathes coming shorter to him. He could feel his asthma fighting through the wall of sheer will he had built up to keep himself from collapsing.
“No…not yet…”
***

He felt like he had left behind a lifetime of memories now. The spontaneous burst of each moment escaping through his line of sight…the sudden scream…the sound of two bodies scuffling…his realization of the wrongness of the situation…the sound of a man yelping in pain…the sound of his footsteps as he ran to where Luna had disappeared into…the sound of the first gunshot…him making it to the corner…the sound of the second gunshot…him seeing a masked figure over Luna…the surprise that held him to place as he realized what he just stepped into…the rush of bullets past his face as the figure rounded toward him and fired a couple more shots…fear pulling him into a sprint back around the corner again as he dashed to hide his open back from the gun of the attacker…
***

He got to the end of the bridge in time and made for the forest that opened up into an eerie dark. It was harder here to maintain a sprint when the ground rose and fell without his notice. Barks of trees sheltered him from his pursuers’ guns as they fired at him incessantly. His chest however, was burning holes through his torso, and he couldn’t even maintain his speed when he wanted to run faster. In the silence of the trees he could make out their footsteps as they rushed behind him, the thought of losing his life the only reason his legs needed to keep moving forward.
The police cars were suddenly behind him, not to protect him, but to run him over.
“What the hell…”
“Don’t let that murderer get away. We’ve been given orders to shoot on sight”
He had barely made it over a nearby fence when he heard the police guards shouting.
“They think I killed…?”
He had made his way through the flood of wood and branches into open space, the road ahead still busy with cars as they dashed back and forth into and out of the neighborhood. He could feel his asthma rising, drowning him in the heaviness of his own chest as his heart raced to keep blood flowing and his legs running…
“Just a little further…”
He made the steps up to the road when one of the officers fired a shot on his right leg.
“Argh…!”
He stopped then, falling down to the tarmac. He turned to see them coming closer as they made their way past the clearing into the open field. With a monumental effort he stood up then, seeing a motorcyclist come up his way.
“Now or never…”
Before he could do anything he felt his whole body get rammed by what felt like a hundred iron bulls, as he suddenly plunged upwards into the soar sky, then down again on rough tarmac…
Pain…
Too much…
Can’t breathe…
He turned to see what happened, finding a black figure come out of another police car…
Headache…
Images growing more blurry…
Liquid in his mouth…blood?
The black figure squatted beside him
“I got him guys, over here!”
He raised his eyes, saw a mask being tucked into a jacket…
His life flashed before his eyes…Spilling milk on his mum’s carpet…doing drugs in his teens…dropping out of school…the first big money he ever made…his first kiss…
The first time he fell in love…
Luna…
He felt himself ooze away from the world, away from all the chaos that erupted around him, into tranquil nirvana. It was funny how everything that felt so important seconds ago, seemed like trivial issues now.
The dimming finally steered him into a full dark…
Light became shadow…
And he could do nothing as the release came to him as swift as the last words of the living met his ears…
“Nice work detective Lall.”

#4 The Reaper.
Sunburned eyes watched on
From above the peaks of her shoulders
While she pricked the feet of
Pilgrim clouds,
Releasing silver blood onto the
Waiting palms of the
Rising storm.
The world lay at the edge of the horizon,
At the threshold where
A thousand suns
Fell victim
To the endless rage of hell,
Whose fires burn
Black
Over the scarlet blood of
Sin-rich graves.
She watched the becoming
Of her vengeance
Shatter
Diamond pieces of her soul,
As chaos adorned
The fury
That crowned the skies above her with
Lightning thunder,
While the rain rushed forth
To scavenge pieces of her victims below
Like they were grim reapers
Drawn
To the damned.
She blessed their end with the peace in her gaze,
Listened to the silence in their screams
Quench her requiem,
& in the finality,
She discovered new pools of
Satisfaction
Where she could drown
Her demons.

***

He arrived like her pain, unexpected, unwanted, unshakable. The smile beneath his eyes was meant to be soft, but she knew first hand of the forked tongue that sat lazily behind the river of his mouth, swirling in the poison of the words that sat at the banks of his lips. He stood as a representation of everything she ever wanted, and a culmination of the betrayal her desires dealt her, stripping her off the joy of living as she sunk into oblivion.

“You’re a sight for sore eyes. Life is devastatingly taking a toll on you”
He spoke once more, his words like ghosts of the skeletons in her closet.
“What do you want?”
She asked, anger shaking like the silver orbs balancing on her line of sight.
“Can’t I swing by and say hallo? Say I’m sorry? About Kat and everything else?”
“Not if you know whatever you’ll say won’t work on me.”
“Luna I’m not out to deceive you…”
“Ha! Where have I heard that before?”

They stared at each other then, collecting everything that was left between them, taking what they wanted from each other; him a look at how she was doing, her to destroy every bit of him that was still breathing. The knife in the kitchen seemed to be shouting her name now…
“Will we ever get past this?”
“There’s no we anymore Sin. Didn’t you get the memo?”

She walked away then, her legs engulfing stride after stride as she made distance from the devil behind her shoulder…and the knife left on the kitchen counter. She didn’t dare turn when he called out to her, seeking to get the haven of her solace rather than to battle with her anger and the murderous intent screaming in the back of her mind. The wind roared in her ears, taking out strands of her brunette hair into the steady drizzle of rain, turning it darker than the circles around her eyes.
She had been walking for a long time, walking to a direction she was yet to know. The street she blindly took was empty, abandoned by the warmth of human crowds and left to the shallow beat of rainfall on dark drums of the tarmac. There was no tune, no music in the noise, she had walked into a destitute avenues; a mirror manifestation of her memory lane where plagues accompanied her reminiscence. She turned into a corner right as a car pulled up in front of her.
“*sigh* what now?!”

She looked on as chief Inspector Said came out of the car, lips tugged to the waist of a cigarette. He seemed to be too old for his job, but then again she was surprised when Tiffany told her he was just 35.

“Ms. Valentine, may we have a word please? It concerns your sister, Katherine.”

She froze then, taken aback by the fragility of what was being told. It seemed as if the world was filling the void of emptiness inside her with pain, and she was yet to know how to drain it all out.
“What’s going on?”
She asked, tension tying double nooses around her neck.
“Come with us to the station, it’ll be more convenient there.”
She felt agitated then, almost as if he was intentionally letting anxiety crowd her lungs.
“Just tell me what is wrong.”
“We’ve collected evidence that incriminates you in the investigation and we need you to come with us back to the station to answer a few questions.”
“What do you mean incriminates me?!”’
“Our forensics found your fingerprints all over the crime scene, couple that with the death threats we found on her cell phone sent by you last week.”
“Excuse me?! Wait are you insinuating that I killed my own sister?!”
He watched her then, reluctant to draw her away by force, but not at all against it as well.
“Ms would you please come with me?! I understand why you are angry but let’s not do anything irrational that will aggravate the situation any further than it already is.”

She put her hands in her jacket-pocket as she tried to make sense of the situation without having her hands grow numb in the cold. She felt something jab her palm from one of the pockets, a slight distraction that pulled her away momentarily from the officer.
“Ms would you please put your hands where I can see them!”

The Chief looked alarmed, too alarmed. He was walking closer to her as if to apprehend her, and in response she pulled out her hand together with the blade she carried on her hands. The inspector pulled out his gun & aimed it straight at her chest.
“Put that weapon down!”
“What are you….this isn’t even mine I swear!”
“PUT IT DOWN!”

A new figure rounded the corner she came from earlier, blindsiding the inspector with a blade thrown to the space on his chest. She turned to look at the attacker just as she got punched square on the jaw, knocking the gravity out of her feet. In the breath of a second she was down on the ground, her head whirling around as dizziness gripped her where her head had began to ache. She looked up, trying to make sense through the haze in her vision, seeing only a shadow figure in a mask stab the chief once…twice…thrice…the body in front of the attacker jerking with every slash from the knife…
“Someone! Somebody hel…”

The words hushed from her lips as her attacker gripped her mouth, a handkerchief perched on the tip of her nose as she was forced to inhale a bitter substance. Her vision grew more out of focus then…her mind slowly shutting down as the darkness that never left her finally engulfed her. She felt her body grow limb…her head heavy as it grazed rough corners of the pavement…her eyelids shutting her off from the light of the sky…and as she fell off from the world, the masked figure stood above her, sending gunshots into the plunge of her release, reaping her with death-scythe precision into the silence of the unknown.

#3 Sin
He stood at the precipice of the world,
Watching the cacophony of
Automobiles
Tear through neon-lit storms
And asphalt clouds,
Turning shadow earth into walkways
Where
Sky winds kissed star dust.
He was an artist,
A prisoner to everything
That was beautiful,
And he willingly succumbed to its
God-crafted temptations
As if it was a
Blessing
To adorn its sin.
She watched him in his element,
Listened to the way
Her demons
Roused
To the music his presence sung,
Tasted the longing
That collided with
Bittersweet words he left
Unspoken
At the edge of her tongue.
It was hard to tell
What sin
She would do next,
Plunge herself into the rippling
Echoes
That called to her desire,
Or drive a knife
Into depths that were deeper
Than the extent he
Destroyed her.
Then again,
How bad could it be
If she did
Both?

***

She wasn’t prepared for this. Pain ruled her world now, & it seemed as if the world was daring her to die… to take the knife she’d been watching for the last 30 minutes and finally lift the veil that hung between her and the Other world. Time seemed to be irrelevant. She had been chasing it all her life, but now when she gave up on it, she was drowning in an anguish that tore its way through her, leaving separate pieces of her soul to drift into grey realities of Forever. It seemed ironic, that sorrow made her feel immortal, and not love.

Her cell phone kept buzzing by the minute, calls from family and friends sending condolences and making haste to conduct the funeral ceremony and get it over with, as if keeping her dead sister too long from the grave would disturb the reality of the living. It was hard to tell, part of her was angry that they were rushing her into the earth, far away from her reach, but another part of her didn’t really care. Why would she? Katherine was part of the reason she was broken for the better part of four months now, she probably got what she deserved.

“I can’t be thinking like this right now”
She murmured to herself, trying to latch on to the loose shreds of humanity she still had left within her.
“She was still my sister nonetheless”

She couldn’t hide the fact that the way she was killed was chilling in every way. She remembered Tiffany’s face cringe as she described the scene of her murder, keeping the urge to puke away long enough for her to be able to tell the entire story. T was strong, the strongest girl she’s ever known, seeing her at her weakest like that was like a sign that the world was truly coming to an end. She even fell sick in the morning, and it fell to her to get her kids ready for school. Redd, her husband, had decided to stay behind as well and look after his wife, not letting Luna do everything that he could do as well.

“Trust me Lu, I won’t hear the end of it when she gets better or if the roles reverse. Plus I love her just as much as you do, in the least, I have to do my part don’t you think?”

And so with that she was left to her thoughts by mid morning after exhausting every physical activity that she had set out to do that day and distract her mind. It felt strange somehow, spending days hating everything about someone to feeling completely alone when they are no longer there… when it felt like thinking about them was the only solution you have for making you feel like you haven’t lost as much as the whole world is telling you. When memories are all that you have of a life that makes you feel more alive than you are at the moment.
She let herself indulge to the days she grew up with Kat. The first time she knew she was getting a sister was when she was 3 years old, her mom heavily pregnant back then.
“Mom how come your belly is getting bigger than dad’s?”
“Well Luna, that’s because there’s a baby in there who is about to come out”
“There’s a baby in there? How could you mom?!”
“How could I what, honey?”
“How could you eat a baby?!”
That was probably the first time she ever saw her mother laugh that hard.

When Kat finally came to the world, Luna realized that her mom didn’t have a mouth big enough to swallow a whole baby, especially one that was as big as Kat. Then again, she was 3, anything she carried on her hands always seemed to be bigger than her. Her sister though, was as adorable as her name. She had a heavenly scent that was addictive whenever she came from being bathed, something that reminded her of the warmth of home…of waking up to eggs and fried sausages and pineapple juice in the morning…a scent that grew from the endlessness that their mother loved them. In a way, it made them inseparable. In the end, she learned to love her like anyone would love their own sister: to infinity.

And now here, she sat after having spent what felt like eternity hating her sister. Building up waves and waves of anger that never met the shores of her lips, cleaving away the stone cliffs of her mind with every splash the memories of pain spilled from the seams of her shattered soul.
“*sigh* I hope God can forgive you Kat. Wherever you are, I hope He can.”

She thought about Sin, and everything he took away from her after he came into her life.
“With a name like that, I must have been a fool for not knowing what I was walking into!”
Finally, with relative ease, she put the knife aside, and set out to get another kind of poison to kill the bleak voids of her mind. It was only when she opened the door that she stopped short at the figure that was now walking toward the threshold.
“You got to be kidding me?!”

He watched her with artisan eyes, taking in every color she spilt into the hollow canvas of the world, seeing how darker her shadow-brown eyes were, how tears ate away the blush from her cheeks, the storm that weighed down the feather-light wings of her hair, and the pain; pain that took everything else God gave her. His steps were careful, but with intent, like he could see dragons rouse in the spark of his presence. His black suit did nothing to drown the devil in his smile, even though he tried to make it seem sympathetic. A light wind pulled at his tie, and it hung to the gale like a cape tied to darkness as infinite as his sunless eyes. He stood a few feet in front of her, minding the space he left between the artist & the living portrait of anguish he created.

“Luna”

Sinclair finally called out, agitating the dead leaves of her heart with soft words that pushed through his lips & to the ghosts of skeletons in her closet. Her hands coiled into raging fists beneath the sleeves in her sweater, trying to lax the fire that burned in her mind as anger rose like a new-born phoenix. Between the split second moments, she found herself wondering why she left the knife on the kitchen counter.

Blood.

The night was silent.
Moonless stars gazed down the dark
From the inky banks
Of their depth-less oceans,
Their milky eyeballs
Hooded
By the backs of
Stray clouds cursed
To endlessly chase the sun
Into the edges of
Forever.
She remembered breathing,
Summoning the free air
To the broken halls
In her chest,
Where shattered glass lay next
To empty mirrors
That wore reflections
Of the world that died beneath her skies.
She remembered water,
Born from the heaviest silver,
Melted by fires that dared to point
Fingers
At sacred flames of the sun.
She remembered its false smoothness,
The way it washed down
The spines of her hair,
Turning her copper mane into
A deeper brown,
& felt how it
Pricked
At every corner of her mind.
She remembered it all,
& then at once,
As if by her own will,
Let it go,
And threw the knife back
To the other broken parts that were as
Lifeless
As herself,
And walked on to the silence
That the dripping blood
Sung to.

***
She was exhausted. Tired to the point where she couldn’t remember when she ever got this tired before. There was a throb at the base of her cranium, rippling waves & waves of a silent chaos in the already collapsing haven of her mind. She wanted to sleep, desperately. But the events that had transpired that day were nails that pinned her eyelids awake.

“Oh God! How can anyone sleep after seeing such a thing?”

She let her mental thoughts out to the empty room, to the walls that have ears. Sighs escaped the worn out spaces of her lungs, seeking out for her relief like they were prayers from a hopeless heart, but they found only silence & wind as absent as God in a sinner’s heart.

Thankfully the kids were asleep, and her husband would probably be sailing with them in the distant shores of slumber, riding night mares to dreams she now longs to reach. She walked up to the coffee machine, let the whirl of its mechanism agitate the eerie quiet of midnight, as she let her mind loiter to the events of the day.

It was well past 10 o’clock in the morning when she received the call, a couple found dead in a suburb apartment, one body torn beyond recognition. She thought she’d be walking into another episode of CSI, waiting to find a team of forensics at the crime scene drawing up chalk marks on the floor where the body lay while they looked for clues around the murder site. But what she saw was something television never prepared her for, let alone her 2-year police training.

The local police had issued a quarantine around the building, evicting everyone out and conducting procedural questioning of the tenants as was the protocol. Inside, there were some federal agents and a few detectives, but no one dared to go beyond to the room of the murder.

“I have a bad feeling about this!”
“Detective Lall.”
Tiffany turned to see her boss walking over to her with a smug that (she was completely convinced) never left his face, even if he got rid of the stubble he called a beard that seemed to make him look like a living fossil.
“Chief?! I didn’t expect you of all people here. I thought you had a meeting with the mayor to discuss resource management & distribution?”
“The mayor is here. We were forced to cancel everything after we got this distress call. Its messy inside detective, I don’t think you’re gonna want to see it. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
“You don’t have to worry about me, I’m sure I can handle it”

I was wrong.

There was blood everywhere. Too much blood, it was impossible to think all that came from the woman lying dead on the mattress. She could still hear it dripping on the floor after having soaked the entire bed. Its only when she came closer that she saw the thing next to her…
“Is that human?”
A torso…
“…what the hell…”
A leg where the left arm should be…
A huge tear on the right leg, a too muscular leg to be another woman’s…
“A man…her husband! Wait! Where’s his…”
His head was being cradled by the woman, intestines slung around her neck as if they were ornaments…
“Dear God! Are those from…”
The man’s torso had been gutted, the insides removed…
“Oh my God!”
The woman held his head on her lap, held lover-like in her own hands…
“I need to sit down…”
Vertigo swirled in her head in rhythm to the flies that circled around a blood red wine glass on the bed stand…
“Don’t tell me that’s…’

Flies danced at the tip of the glass…inside the brim…and on the droplets that had spilled over to the flat of the table. Right next to a white note…
“That?”
“Suicide note”
Chief police Said spoke for the first time after watching her horrified reaction.
“It just says ‘sorry’. There’s a bottle of prescription pills at her side if you look closely, so we are assuming it’s a murder & suicide.”

There was too much gore around her for her to find sense in what he was saying. She looked up to see the girl now for the first time since she walked into the room, and the swirl in her head grew ferocious.
“I know her!”
She realized, horror choking out the air in her throat.
She closed her eyes trying to shut down the memory. Shaking her head over and over again, waking up to find herself in the hush of her own home, away from the violence the world had thrown to her feet. She let out another sigh…
And another…
And another…

Slowly, she downed the coffee into the depths of her that had turned cold, bracing herself for her last duty of the day.
She walked to the guest room, where Luna had been sleeping for the while as she sorted out her fall out with her fiancé.
“Hey, Lu. You awake?”
The girl in the bed whirled in absolute laziness, turning her face through the colossal tide of her pillows and waves of sleep to see what her best friend wanted in the middle of the night.
“What? Is it morning already?! I swear I have just slept for five minutes!”
“Luna… You have to hear this…Its about Kat.”
At the mention of her sister’s name, she was awake. Tiffany considered this moment, knowing very well that the mere mention of her name was a thing Luna especially forbade. She saw the anger rouse in the shadow of her eyes, lingering behind an invisible leash as 3 month old ghosts zombied in her thoughts with memories she prayed to forget.
“She’s dead”