I have no idea if I’m going to finish this. But I just can’t keep myself from trying. Here it goes.
The stone walls of the old temple smudged out the stars that glittered through the finely woven fabric of night sky. The trees whispered to each other, remembering the beginning of the battle. Only the trees knew its beginning, and only they would be present for the end. The story would travel, from leaf to leaf, carried by the gossipy south wind. Then she would waft through open windows and into the dreams of a young writer… and then the story would become legend. But that, is a story for another time.
The sand whispered beneath her feet as she paced the invisible circle… she knew it was there, just as the rakshasa did. They were destined to keep chasing each other – hunter and hunted. The border between the two often becoming blurred, and the roles reversed. She looked into its fiery red eyes, and instinctively adjusted the rope wound around her arm. The rakshasa’s feet padded on the sand, ancient and solid; as though made of chunks of flesh from Earth herself. It growled, eyes flickering from the rope to her face. Gut knotted, heart pounding, eyes gleaming, she snarled. Her teeth gleamed like a lightning flash, charging the air with its intensity. She could feel the adrenaline rushing through her head, her body straining like a wild animal on a leash. She could hear the voices screaming in her head; urging her to escape when there was still a chance. They sounded like they were coming from across a distance – as though through a bad telephone line. Made it all the more easier to ignore them. A sudden cold wind blew, sending shivers down her taunt body. She took a deep breath… today will be the day it will end. She didn’t have the strength to keep fighting anymore. She pulled the rope taunt between her hands, and rushed towards the hulk of dark muscle towering in front of her. The rakshasa looked at her cocking its head to one side. It had a quizzical gleam in its eye.
“That’s not allowed,” it said quite matter-of-factly.
“Let’s finish this!” she said through her clenched teeth. She pulled the rope into a tight loop around its neck.
“No, really. You’re not allowed to actually kill me.”
She felt distinctly stupid. The rope fell limply onto the sand.
This annoyed her. She did not like being made to feel stupid. The adrenaline was slowly fading from her mind, and the wind was getting a little too chilly. She made an attempt to pool together all that undirected rage.
“What’s the point in the whole battle thing then?”
Her voice sounded petulant even to her own ears.
“Battle ends when you actually confront me,” the demon said shrugging. It settled on a near by rock and made a small blue fire that hovered a foot above the fine beach sand. It waved a stout hand in a vague, inviting action towards the fire. “How do you know I’m real anyhow?” it added.
“Same way I know I’m real I guess.”
The amused look in the demon’s eye annoyed her even more. Just when she was about to open her mouth and let the river of anger flow, a sudden thought struck her. She was arguing with a rakshasa she had been trying to strangle a few moments earlier. She definitely must be dreaming.
“Am I dreaming?” she asked.
“Depends on whether you are real enough to have dreams or not.” The rakshasa smiled, tending to the fire that was coughing out wispy gray smoke. She eyed demon and fire dubiously for a moment. It looked like a long night ahead, and she was showing no signs of waking up. May as well make herself comfortable. For the first time she looked at the landscape she was standing in the center off. An empty beach sprawled as far as the eye could see on both directions. The ocean aggressive invaded its pale shores over and over, only to be repulsed and fade back into the darkness. The moon sat upon the waves like a fat dowager, casting its pale, tired, light over the scene. The air was heavy with the smell of salt. An old temple stood a short distance away, half submerged in the high tide. She looked around curiously – no smell of fish, no crabs, no small insects, not even a hint of ever-prevalent garbage. This place was completely bare, as though life itself had suddenly decided to pick up its bags and abandon the place.
“So, where are we?” She said, humoring the figment of her imagination. She had never had a conversation with this creature from a nightmare before and she figured it would make excellent time pass till she finally woke up.
The rakshasa looked around and shrugged, “on a beach with a temple.” It fished out a lump of some vile looking substance from under its amour and began roasting it over the fire. ”One of those places that refuse to be named.”
She took a few tentative steps towards the fire while working out the correct words in her head. “I know I’m dreaming. You’ve been appearing in my nightmares since I was a kid. So we’re obviously somewhere inside my head. And if you are inside my mind, then how could you be real?” she asked.
The demon looked up from its slurping for a moment. It looked like it was going to contradict her, then stopped itself. “There are more ways of understanding reality than just one,” it said, taking a bite out of the lump. “And maybe more than just one reality.” A dark liquid oozed out and dribbled down the demon’s chin. A long red tongued licked up the truant droplets. ”Enough questions,” it added, in between gulps.
“But you said rules. What rules?”
The rakshasa held up a hand, silencing her.
She plowed on, determined to fish out the answers. “If this is inside my mind, why is someone else making the rules?”
The rakshasa slowly rose to its feet. “Do you know what this is?” it asked holding up the lump. She shook her head mutely. Her stomach started squirming as an idea crept within her head. The demon watched her expression change with an amused smile. “Yes,” it said, seeing the horror on her face. The stench made her eyes blur, and her knees buckled beneath her.
“It is a heart,” the demon said simply. The half eaten mass was still beating weakly against the coarse walls of the huge palm. “Pity that it should have so much bitterness in it,” the demon said as it tilted its head back, and slipped the rest down the cavernous mouth. The chiseled teeth stained brown in the faint light of the moon.
“I am a demon little one, and you would do well to listen to me. There are things in the universe that are far more powerful than your puny mind. This is my home. We are not inside your mind, it is you who is trespassing.”
She looked into its eyes, and did not see the old furnace, but the worst of herself – her hatred, regrets, phobias, rage, evil, frustration, bitterness, all amplified a thousand times over. She could feel her mind pushing against the edges of her skull, revolting at the sight of how disgusting she was. The stench was crawling up her nose, invading her throat, forcing her stomach to retch. Her eyes blurred with tears.
“Please…” she gasped.
She sank to her knees and rolled herself into a tight ball, cradling her head. She rocked herself backwards and forwards, muttering gibberish. The rakshasa stood over her a moment with a curious expression in its eyes. The demon’s hand twitched – the only sign that it was unsure about what to do. Dropping a soft blanket of silence over her, it disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Shakti woke up, uncurling herself from the tangle of sheets. She looked at the alarm clock. She groaned. Today was jut going to be one of those days. She looked at the hard bound book resting near her pillow and idly picked it up. She flipped it open to the first page – it had ‘DREAM JOURNAL’ written in a fancy cursive font. And underneath, in smaller, more practical letters was written ‘vol 4 sept 2008 – ‘ Shakti stared stupidly at the page for a moment before picking up one of the reynolds black ball pens that littered her bed. Deliberately she scored out the ‘DREAM’ and scribbled ‘Alternate Reality’. Then she made a silent wish that no one would ever look inside the book. But then everyone thought she was crazy anyway, so it wasn’t that big a deal.