Flames were on her skin,
She watched them one by one,
As if they were
Of a different pleasure,
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
The fire burned
Like a Viking’s requiem,
To the heartbeats of gods
As it called on
To its slaves of ash,
On places that lived for pleasure.
The walls on the hallways
Molded in the carefulness of
And fear-shaken hands,
Turning once smooth faces of the walls
Into a grotesque,
While souls hang from roofs
At the depths of
It was then she became
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. ”
She smiled then at the word, at the thought of being blessed with a new daughter.
“Let us go my Child.”