“What has all of this to with ending all suffering and unhappiness Audas?” asked Genevre as they reached the middle of the garden. The garden’s heart was the huge tree that Genevre loved to climb up, imagining herself ascending into the clouds and finding castles and palaces there. Kane had attached a swing to one of its sturdy branches a few years ago, and it swayed slightly in the faint breeze. Audas sat himself down on the lush grass under the tree and gestured towards the swing. Genevre sat on it, rocking gently as she waited for Audas. She knew his ways, when he was ready he would speak.
Audas wiped his bald head with a handkerchief as sweat trickled down from it. He smiled widely at her. “Kane and I searched for a long time to answer that very question. Is there an end to unhappiness? And if so, how can it be attained? This question burnt in our hearts as we traveled searching for answers. At first we joined magical orders, attempting to reach their highest levels of mastery to find out these secrets. Some of the orders were full of charlatans, purely performing magic as a past time or as another means of getting what they desired. Eventually our search led us to Paris and to that great order. I am bound by oath not to speak the name of the order but they know of…ancient wisdom. Wisdom not only from our culture, but from cultures around the world. They hold texts that are unknown to even the most clandestine sects. And so, we stumbled upon it.”
Audas paused and gazed away as if he could see something Genevre couldn’t. After a short while, he looked back at her. “We found out about a spell. The ultimate spell…the spell to end all suffering.”
Genevre leaned in closer, amazed to hear that such a spell existed. “That’s marvelous sir! What does the spell involve? How is the ritual performed?”
Audas spoke again, his tone grave, “The spell involves invoking a very powerful being. Once this being is invoked, it will bestow this mystery on a worthy recipient within the group of magi who summoned it. The important thing is that the recipient is then able to share it with others.”
Genevre spoke again, her tone excited, “If that’s the case, why don’t you perform the ritual? Surely you are ready now. How many magi are required for the spell?”
“Three.” replied Audas.
Genevre sat back on the swing and pondered Audas’s words. Three people were required for the ritual. Did that mean…? Genevre had already decided before she spoke.
“I want to be the third person Audas.” She whispered. Audas looked over at her, he wasn’t surprised. His expression was more like a proud father looking at his daughter.
“I had suspected that you would,” he said. Standing up, he brushed off dried grass that clung to his clothes. “I must talk to Kane about this…I’m sure he won’t agree though.” He turned and winked at her. She blushed at what that wink implied. Kane was fond of her, she knew that, but her fondness for him was something quite…different. “The formula is nearly complete. I’ve been deciphering it from an ancient Egyptian scroll. Once I’m finished we should be able to perform the ritual. There are some things you need to learn beforehand though.”
Genevre clasped her hands tightly together. She knew that if it was for Kane, she’d be prepared to do anything. “Sir,” she said firmly. “I want to be the third person, no matter what.” Audas began to stroll back to the mansion to search for Kane. Before leaving he said one thing.
“There is something you need to be cautious of though, my dear. This spell can evoke…hidden things within people. So, you should be mentally and physically prepared.”
With that, he was gone and Genevre sat motionless on the swing. She’d made up her mind already, come what may.
Esha moved away from Alec in shock. He had rolled up his pants and the same blotches were visible on his legs too. Esha thought they resembled a tattoo, that’s how much they were a part of his flesh. Staring at Alec again, she could see why he wore a high collar shirt. Just below the collar, the same burgundy color was visible on his neck. “Aww, what now?” thought Esha. She wanted to smack herself for getting involved with another fruitcake. The urge to go back upstairs and switch on her PSP and forget about this guy’s very existence was tempting. The problem was that look in his eyes. He looked as if he was being hunted. She decided to at least hear him out. “Change into…what?” she finally asked.
His hands grabbed his knees tightly and didn’t look up as he spoke. “You probably won’t believe me but my family says that I’m gonna become a monster pretty soon. They say that this red…disease will cover my entire body and that things will grow out of me. Once I get to that stage, I’ll already have a very strong urge to kill. So, my family considers it mercy to chain me up in the basement of our home and put me out of my misery when the time comes.” She could see his hands grabbing his knees tighter. He spun his head to look at her, tears welling up in his eyes, “I don’t want to die Esha! I don’t know why this has to happen to me! Why did I have to be born into this family and have this curse?”
Esha felt her heart softening even more as she saw his pained expression. “Wait a minute; it sounds like your family’s very aware of what’s going on with you. Why aren’t they helping you instead of trying to kill you?”
“That’s what I wanted to tell you…”
He was cut off by the sound of the lobby doors smashing open. Esha jumped up to see two girls standing in the doorway. The security guard heard the noise and wobbled away from his TV to see what was going on. The two girls stood there, without moving, their eyes on Alec. Esha was surprised to see they were twins. The same dark brown hair and green eyes. The only thing that was different about them was the color of their clothes and height.
The security guard boomed out, “Hey, watcha’ girls tryin’ ta do? Break the damn doors? Those’re expensive and my job could be on the line if they get broken. I’d appreciate it if ya ladies would leave!” Alec sprung up and cowered behind Esha.
“Geez,” Esha thought, “So much for male bravery.”
“Who the hell are they?” she whispered to Alec.
“M…m…my sisters.” He stammered.
“Sisters?” Esha looked closer. There actually was a slight family resemblance.
“I asked ya ladies to leave,” the security guard repeated, “And I meant it.” He raised his baton and approached the girls. Without taking her eyes off Alec, one of the twins stepped toward the guard. In a few seconds, she’d elbowed him in his stomach, making him keel over, kneed him in the face and knocked him to the linoleum floor. He didn’t look like he was going to get up soon. The girls advanced on Esha and she shrunk back, while Alec started to hurry for the staircase.
“This guy really is a knight in shining armor,” she thought. She was about to follow him when she noticed a familiar figure behind the twins.
“Would you mind if I joined in?” yelled Shari.
The woman walked through the gallery of lifetimes. Her fingers ran over the frames of photographs that adorned the shelf tops of the room. She gazed at the faces she knew well from her past. Her family. Some of the pictures were yellowed by time, the clothes the people captured within wore gave away their ages. Eighteenth century, early nineteenth century photographs, and as she meandered further down the gallery, she gazed fondly at the two girls everyone always said looked just like her. Smiling at their images, she reached for them, but her hand touched another frame. Just touching it made her heart feel torn and bleeding. Her son, doomed from the day he was born. She’d known that, but still she knew what she had to do. She took the frame and held it in her hands. She resisted tears that she’d allowed to fall far too often. The blond boy smiling back at her from within the frame was already dead in her heart. She laid the frame down flat and continued walking through her gallery of lifetimes.
In the realm of war, he waited. He’d already forgotten how long it had been. Was it a century? Two? Or a few days ago? Time in his realm passed so differently. Behind him, the everlasting mountain rose majestically into the sky and beyond his vision. Everywhere he looked, there was destruction. Fires seemed to grow like deadly flowers from rocks blackened by the heat of battles past. He sat on an outcropping overlooking a valley. Dark forests that never saw bright light covered the curved lines of the valley as it made its way down to a hissing river. The river coiled, snake-like far away to the horizon. Yells bellowed out nearby, another skirmish. Above, winged beings soared the sky that seemed to be coated in blood and clouds stained by smoke drifted through it. The winged ones met in midair and he heard the familiar sound of flesh rending, the sounds of pain. The sounds of war. He knew the door would open again soon. It had opened twice before. The first time was when he’d gone through, The second time he found that he couldn’t enter it. Just an empty crack had appeared in the midst of the dark meadows. Nothing had come through, but he’d glimpsed that light again. The light he’d basked in once before. It would open again soon. He could feel it. He felt it in the fibers that made up his battle wounded soul and hatred meshed heart. It would open again here. So he waited, in the realm of war.
The twins turned around to stare at Shari as she stood behind them, hands on her hips. Shari didn’t know why, but an intense energy surged through her. Every nerve in her body was alight, on fire. It was an incredible feeling. The first twin, who was slightly taller, nodded to the other one and they separated. The taller one came at her and the shorter one went in Esha’s direction. Shari had anticipated this, and leapt over their heads to block the shorter twin from reaching Esha. She’d seen what had happened to the security guard, and knew that Esha wasn’t up for this. She saw Esha and the boy with her disappear up the stairs.
The first, taller twin swung her fist at Shari. Shari thought it was like watching a movie in slow motion. For an instant she thought, “This must be how a fly looks at a person trying to swat it.” She ducked well in time and had noticed the other twin coming from her side, bringing the ball of her foot up to kick Shari in the face. She rolled backwards to avoid it, but was surprised as the girl’s foot stopped in mid air and changed direction, heading straight at her! “Could they have some kind of heightened ability to sense movement?” Shari thought as the kick struck her jaw.
Shari had done Taekwondo before, she knew what a kick felt like, but that was no ordinary kick. It was powerful. “But how?” she thought as she tumbled backwards slightly. She was amazed at herself too, being able to see their actions so clearly and now this…she didn’t feel pain. Her jaw wasn’t broken and she was on her feet in a few seconds. The problem was that her opponents were equally fast. The taller one had drawn a knife and swung it at Shari. She knew these two operated well together, so she’d already considered that if she fell backward the other would take the advantage. She plunged at the knife, curving her body around it. She could see it’s lethal edge almost caressing her clothes as her forearm came up and rammed the taller twin’s face. The blow smacked her into the wall. The other twin was at her back, leaping, a blade protruding from the toe of her boot. She didn’t have to turn around. She knew. She could feel the disturbance in the air created by the other twin s body as she sliced at her. Shari sidestepped as the second twin lashed at the spot she’d just been in, gashing a hole in the linoleum. Shari arced her hand, as though it were a blade itself, and struck twice. Once on the side of the second twin’s shoulder, bringing her to her knees, and another behind her neck, knocking her down.
Esha fumbled with the key, trying to fit it into the keyhole whilst nervously watching to see if any of the twins was going to jump out of the elevator or from the staircase. Alec stood next to her, holding onto her arm and quaking at the same time. She’d only just met and Alec and she was already his bodyguard. “Dammit!” she thought as the lock clicked and the door opened. They both dove into Esha’s apartment and she locked the door behind them. There was a brief moment of eerie silence that was broken by Alec’s raspy breathing.
Fumiko came wandering out of the bathroom in her robe and huge bunny slippers. She stared at the two youngsters on the floor, gasping and panting.
“What in the goddess’s name is going on? Esha, who is this boy? Why are you lying on the floor in the living room?”
Esha suddenly had a light turned on in her head. She repressed herself from shouting “Eureka!” as she got up and dragged her mom over to inspect Alec’s body.
After gazing at the splotches of red all over him in amazement for a while, she said, “Don’t fret dear, I have just the right ointment for this kind of thing.” Alec laid his hand on Fumiko’s arm and shook his head.
“I appreciate it ma’am. But I’ve tried every ointment in the book. The problem isn’t about my skin. It’s about what’s within me.” Alec said with a hopeless tone.
“What’s within you?” queried Fumiko.
“In my DNA, in my genes.” Alec fell back onto the carpeted floor, not wanting to say anymore. He looked as if he’d completely given up.
“Why didn’t you say so earlier, sweetie?” Even Esha was surprised to hear her mom’s words. “What you need is to do some past life regression! It’s probably something from one of your past lives that’s affecting this one!” Fumiko said as if it were obvious.
“Moooom!” said Esha, exasperated. “This isn’t the time to help one of your spiritual pals out…”
Fumiko spun around and glared at Esha sternly, “I’m completely serious Esha. I know that you think a lot of my talk is mumbo jumbo and hocus pocus…but this time you need to believe me! This boy needs to see a friend of mine as soon as possible!”
Esha decided to go along with her mother this time. After all, what other option did they have?
“Alright mom, we’ll give it a try.” She said shrugging he shoulders. She turned to Alec to tell him they’d better get going and nearly yelped at the sight before her. Alec sat upright, his face and probably his entire body had now become completely red. That wasn’t all though. Two smoldering coals gleamed where his green eyes had been. Alec glanced up at them.
“It’s happening.” He said. “Just like mom said it would.” He put his head in his hands.
“What’s happening?” asked Esha, placing a reassuring hand on his back.
“I’m becoming a demon.” He said.
Shari gaped in amazement as the twins began to stand up. The blows she’d given them would have rendered anyone normal unconscious or at least in serious agony about now. Regardless, they both stood up, facing her. The taller one nodded slightly to the other. Shari tensed up, her muscles getting ready even before she was. But the shorter twin didn’t make a move, she just opened her mouth. Shari wasn’t sure if she felt or heard the noise. A loud wailing sound resounded in her ears, so she put her hands over them. She could still hear it though. She tried pressing harder against her ears, harder and harder to block out the sound. Blood trickled down her neck from crushed cartilage in her ears, but she didn’t care. She had to block it out, she could still hear it…within her, a piercing shrill echoed inside of her.
“No,” she thought, “This was another tactic.” She let go of her ears, now bloodied from the pressure. She understood now. They were making use of her extremely focused senses to attack her. She tried to step towards them, but her body shook epileptically. The first twin moved towards her again, knife drawn. Shari didn’t know what to do, the sounds in the air and from within her were attacking her. All that came to mind was to lash out at the very air and to put her last scraps of energy into it. She raised her foot and kicked the air in the direction of the twins, breathing out. She could almost see it. It was like a wave on the air. It curled out from her foot and rippled towards the twins. The wave of air struck them both and they were propelled backwards through the glass doors. Shattered glass burst outward and whisked through the air before finally dancing manically on the ground. The sound had stopped.
Shari stood staring at the two. They in turn stared at her. Shari tried to control her breath. It was becoming heavier. Her energy was nearly spent. The two girls rose again, but this time, retreated. Amongst the clinking of glass she heard their footsteps vanishing into the distance. She noticed the guard in the corner opening his eyes and sitting up groggily. “Shit! Ahhh, I can explain all of this Mr. Hugo!” She laughed falsely while wondering what on earth she could say.
Bhadra patted his daughter’s head as she put on her mini school bag. He knelt down and gave her a bear hug and a nose rub before she walked out the door. Her ride was outside, a lift club in the neighborhood that took kids to and from elementary school. “Have a great day dad!” Bhadra’s daughter shouted out, sounding more like the adult than him.
“You too, sweetness!” He shouted as he waved at her and the car drove off. Bhadra put his hands in the pockets of his loose pants. He just realized he was barefoot but he didn’t mind. The spiky stones and poking grass beneath his feet almost felt like massage. He stared at the small sign hanging above his door, running his hand through his short, very curly black hair.
“Bhadra’s Self Help Center.”
He thought the name sounded just right. Everyone who came here helped themselves. All Bhadra did was tell them what had happened to them in their past lives. He walked in the door wondering what his ex-wife was doing now. She’d left him a few years ago saying that he was too unreliable, unstable, had strange habits and was just a plain bad husband. She’d still given custody of their daughter to him though, which he was happy about. Strangely enough, it seemed like all he did was make enough money to survive and his daughter took care of the rest. Every day after coming home from school she cleaned the house, cooked lunch and dinner, and acted like a little mom.
“I should really get my act together,” thought Bhadra,” pondering about what he had to that day. “Hmmm, meditation, studying, oh yeah the new book by master Naji…” As he was thinking, his eyes drifted over to a comic book that lay open on the table. Forgetting everything, Bhadra flopped down on the couch and continued reading. He put his feet up on the table and reached for a granola bar. Opening it, he dipped it in a tub of salsa on the arm of the sofa and lost himself in his own imaginary world. Just as he was getting to the good part, the doorbell rang.
Bhadra was tempted to ignore it and carry on reading, but it rang three times! If it was a practical joker they might have given up by now. He went to the door and looked through the peephole. On the other side he saw the familiar figure of Fumiko and a younger girl he guessed to be her daughter. Beside them was a hooded guy who he couldn’t see clearly. He opened the door.
“Fumiko!” he started. “Namaste…” he couldn’t finish his sentence as the whole troop of the marched into his house. He slowly closed the door and looked at them. “What’s the matter Fumi?” he asked. Fumiko walked over to Alec and removed his hood, revealing his coral colored skin and flaming eyes. Most people would have stepped back in shock, but Bhadra stepped closer to gaze at the awesome sight. “This is incredible Fumiko!” he touched Alec’s skin on his neck and peered into his eyes. “And genuine too! Incredible! How did this happen? Is he from another dimension?”
“Bhadra,” Fumiko nearly shouted out, “This boy needs to have a past life reading…quickly!” we have to find the cause of this…problem of his right away!”
“I don’t know if I’d call it a problem,” said Bhadra, a look of admiration on his face.
“Bhadra…” Fumiko began in an exasperated tone.
“Okay, okay. Take a seat, we’ll begin right way.”