This was published in Barefoot Sunshine magazine March 2017 edition.
I’m glad to announce that this short fiction has won a Commendable Mention in WingWord Short Story Prize 2017 hosted and organised by Delhi Poetry Slam.
It’s been a century I’m stuck in this vault, no flesh to feed on, no air to breath. But I’m immortal, I may disintegrate but absence of air or food cannot kill me. It’s a boon or bane, I don’t know. There’s no one around, it’s all dark here. My so-called sister has never bothered to come looking for me, forget about rescuing me from this hell-hole.
It seems I’m destined to be alone. When I was born (some 250 years ago), I was loved by my parents and my siblings. The neighbours too adored me. But when I was 6 years old, people started finding me weird. Because I could read their minds. Then I could control their minds. I wasn’t even aware I could do it!!! But they were scared of me. They hated me. They said I’m an evil witch, messing with people’s heads. I had become an abomination to the people who once loved me. My parents, together with the villagers, tied me to a boat and set me off to the sea to starve, drown and die. I cried and pleaded. Begged for mercy. But everyone turned deaf ear. Even my older brother Jeremiah, who had pledged to protect me from all harm, was on their side. He hated me too. Before the unforgiving nature could touch me, something already died in me.
I sailed across the sea, alone, scared and heartbroken. As expected, I was starving. There was nothing around but water which I couldn’t even drink. Hungry and thirsty, I awaited my death. At night, a huge storm arose and my boat was in pieces. I should have been dead but destiny had something else in store for me.
When I opened my eyes I found myself in a desolate island. I walked around looking for food. At the first sight of wild fruits, I pounced on them, only to regret. I was nauseated and passed out. When I opened my eyes, a girl, of almost my age, was sitting beside me, trying to make me drink something that seemed to be some herb concoction. “Where am I? Who are you?”, I asked, sitting up. “I’m Ligeia and you’re in the island of Capreae,” the stranger replied, “I found you unconscious so I brought you to my cave. The symptoms said you had consumed the wild berries. So I was feeding you the antidote concoction. What is your name?” “I’m Molpe. Why are you in this desolate island?” “For the very reason you’re here. I’m a siren as well.” Siren? So that’s what I’m called? “They pushed you out too?” I asked “We’re in the same boat of ill-fate, little sister,” came the reply. The moment Ligeia uttered “little sister”, all my fears disappeared, I felt secure, did not know why.
From that moment on, Ligeia and I were inseparable, we would spend our days foraging the forest and nights narrating to each other exotic stories. We opened our hearts to each other. But, whenever I foraged the forest, there would be hardly anything edible, then how could she prepare food for us every day? There was something she was hiding. The answer came soon.
One dawn I woke up to find Ligeia missing. I went out looking for her. She was at the sea shore, staring at a passing ship. Then she started hummimg — a tune I had never heard before. The ship, as if in response, deflected from its route and approached our island. Clueless about what was happening, I just kept staring at the ship and my sister. The ship arrived at the shore and the crew bowed to Ligeia. I couldn’t make sense to anything. And then, Ligeia did something I could never even dream of. She drowned those five shipmen and stripped their bodies of their flesh!!!
Before she could see me, I ran back to our cave and curled up in the corner. She had roasted the very pieces of flesh she had extracted and served them to me as lunch!! My sister had made a cannibal out of me!!! A sharp chill crawled down my spine. I immediately walked out of the cave towards the shore. “Molpe wait!”, she called out, trying to catch up with me, “Where are you going?” I wouldn’t answer, I wouldn’t stop for a second. Out of the blue, in front of me, a strong gust of wind arose and brought with it a tall, dark, bald man, clad in a white robe.
I was dumbstruck, kept staring at him, eyes filled with fear. “Don’t be scared my dear, I’m here to help you”, said the stranger with a calming tone in his voice. For a moment, neither Ligeia nor I uttered a word. At last, Ligeia, breaking the silence, asked, “Who are you?” “Ligeia, my child, you know me well. I am the one whose tale you were narrating to your little sister last night”, came the reply. “L-Lord A-A-Arcadius, the ruler of Hell?” I gasp.
Lord Arcadius was also a simple saintly man once upon a time, many many years ago. He was a peaceful man but with powers not everyone could comprehend. He could read minds and see the future. But what the world does not understand, it tries to crush that. And they burned him alive. He then vowed to burn all the humans with even a pinch of sin in them. From then, he became, the Lord of Hell.
“Yes, my child, I know you have been wronged and who better than me can understand that”, said the Lord, his tone never changing, “What if…. I told you, that you could get to avenge the injustices bestowed on you by those conspiring humans and also help me in my revenge” “H-How c-can we do t-that, my Lord?” I asked, “I will take you under my wing, the two of you, my little siren warriors, will find the evillest of humans residing in this world and feed their souls to me, you get to feed on their flesh and remain ever young. Also, other than me, no one can bring about your death.” I looked at my sister, trying to decipher what was going on in her head. She looked at me and then at Lord Arcadius and said, “My Lord, my sister and I submit ourselves to your protection.”
We were sent back to the big wide world that condemned us, ready to avenge our injustice, until I was caught unguarded by a Salem witch attempting to wipe out her clan, and locked up in this vault I am now in, before she breathed her last. Since then I have been here. I tried to attract humans, when a secret museum for supernatural artefacts was being built around the vault, to open it. But no one could. It was I who wiped out the Salem witches, the only key to my freedom.
After a long wait, someone does open the vault, and I see him. He was looking for somebody or something. Maybe me. Something happens to me. I feel something like never before. All these years I had been only a servant of Lord Arcadius and everyone around me, potential preys. But this man, David, is changing everything. His soul is not fully white, not fully dark, he’s perfectly like the yin-yang. I need him, but he’s hard to get. I scan him for his weakness, a girl… I want the same love, care, affection that he showers on her, so I lure him with his weakness. I mind control him to serve me, to be my evil-hunting machine and feed me with flesh till I come back to my old form.
He is very loyal, I fall for him more and more. After two whole months I regain my form. Lord Arcadius has not only bestowed me with immortality but also with unmatched beauty. But David does not get attracted to me. He serves me only to escape hell, he feels nothing for me, like I do for him. I don’t want to control him, I try to bestow on him all the love and care I have, but he just looks through me and walks off. He only serves me; He even gave up his home, his family. But he cannot see or feel my love. This hurts me even more. This hurt is turning into uncontrollable anger. He has forced me to give him pain and compel him. I get into his mind to see what it is that makes him resist me. I see a girl, an innocent soul, whose beauty surpasses mine in his eyes. She selflessly loves him, would even die for him. Jealously boils in me like a raging volcano. I attempt to remove all memories of this girl so he can see only me and no one else. As I try to remove his memories, his resistance begins to grow powerful! The more I try, more powerful it becomes. Never before has any man been strong enough to fight me. I keep trying and he keeps resisting until he throws me out of his mind palace.
This infuriates me thousand folds. I will take what’s mine, either by hook or by crook. “You will go and kill whoever this Amara is,” I compel his psyche to obey. He pushes me away and says, “No, I won’t kill her. I’ve never before questioned your command, but this time, I won’t do as you say.” “You do know the consequences of defying me, don’t you? ” I growl. ” Ahh!!!” He kneels in front of me, wincing in pain as I play havoc with his brain. “I don’t care about consequences any more. You may mess up with my head as much as you want to but nothing can stop me from loving her. You want me to forget her and love YOU? A cannibal of a woman who can just inflict pain deserves only hatred and disgust. You may have impeccable beauty but my Amara is an angel incarnate. I can kill you, but her? Never”, he says with gritted teeth. “You can never kill me!!” As a reply, he stabs me with a knife, “At least I can die trying”, and walks out.
After a few moments, I gain consciousness. The entire day has passed by and he hasn’t returned. The pang of betrayal hits me like thunderclap. Where is he? Maybe I know where he might be. I will regain what’s mine.
I set out to look for the wretched woman who tries to steal the love of my life. I intend to wipe out her existence in front of David. I want to break him, so that I re-build him to be mine and mine only. I at last find her, in a small, desolate hut, in one corner of the village of Fernweh. Amara, the prickly tiny thorn in my path of happiness. I try to call him with our psychic bond, “Come my dear David, see your love, before I kill her” “You won’t lay a finger on her, you bitch! “, came the angry reply. And then the church bell rings…
“Ah!!! What is this happening?”, “Look up, behind you”, was the reply from the other side of the bond. I turn to see David standing at the Bell Tower, but it’s not the church bell but the Salem bell.
Made by the Salem witches in the 18th Century, the Salem bell is THE ultimate weapon to destroy us sirens. That’s why I had to wipe out their existence. But not before they arranged for me being stuck in that hell-hole.
Ding!! “AAHHHHH!! Where did you get that bell?”, I say, writhing in a sharp headache. “The girl you want to kill belongs to a family of Salem witches. You think you’re invinscible? I doubt,” he chuckles with such a malice! “David, no! Don’t do this to me, love” “You shouldn’t have come near Amara, Molpe,”said David, “you made me kill numerous people. You bathed me in blood. Because of you, Amara despises me. My first step for redemption is to burn you out of our lives. Nine…” Ding! “Ten…” Ding!! “Eleven…” Ding! “Goodbye Molpe, rot in hell!” “AHHHHRRRRGGGHHHH!!!”
The eleventh ring lit up hell fire on me. Today I actually become an abomination. An evil witch who deserves nothing but hatred. The fire soon engulfs me into hell only to keep burning on and on in my master’s kingdom.