Fire and pain.
Did they belong to the people she had killed? Or did they belong to her? Where did she end and they begin? Was Abhor a part, perpetrator or god of this living hell?
Shades rose from where she was sprawled but couldn’t see anything. She turned round, and round and round feeling dizzy but not getting any answers. The world around her started to spin when she heard a booming voice and a pressure on her right shoulder, Stop.
The world abruptly stopped spinning and Shades’ eyes opened on the stairwell. Her body felt crammed like she had taken a brutal beating, her mind felt drained and her mouth was as dry as dust. A ringing voice broke through the haze and she looked around, expecting her surroundings to start spinning again. It took her a minute to realize her phone was ringing. Curious and confused, she patted herself till she found the thin slip of a device. “Hello?”
“Oh thank god! Where are you? What is happening? Please tell me this blackout means you have defeated Abhor and that bloody son of a bitch sucked out the living light out of this city as he died!”
“Who is this?”
Shades looked at her phone but couldn’t make out the words. Trying to find a red button but unable to locate it, she threw it down the stairwell, following its downward descent with her eyes. Only once she had heard a satisfying thunk did she turn to take in her surroundings. She knew she was here to do something important but couldn’t remember what for the life of her.
The voice on the phone had said something about a blackout…Shades decided to investigate. She got up and walked outside. She looked around. She could perceive the darkness but didn’t find it difficult to see. She looked to her left and felt the presence of a lot of bodies; to the right the air felt light and so she decided to turn there and further into the heart of the city.
There was not a soul in sight. It felt like the inhabitants had up and run. Where, why, how, Shades didn’t know, neither cared. She walked on, looking curiously around her, unsure of why Mount Kailas had sent her here.
On she walked, aimlessly. To an observer however it would have looked she had a destination in mind. Even with all the twists and turns and alleyways beckoning, Shades was following a more or less straight pathway. She stopped when she reached the centre of the city square. A figure was standing there, as if waiting for her. She walked closer, cautiously, all her hackles raised but when she recognized the figure, she relaxed. “Murug what are you doing here? What am I doing here?”
Abhor did not utter a word, simply raised his hands in welcome. Shades put her hands in his and felt like they had glued themselves together. “Awake, sister, awake and join me in my destruction.” He repeated two more times, almost like an incantation.
A waft of air blew around her and it was as if she was waking up for the first time since Abhor had ignited that spark in her. All events, Helcynth, Garudwar, Lemon, Sarla…all of it came crashing back, crushing her in their embrace. The strength of those memories was so powerful she fell to her knees, crying out in pain. “Make it stop, please make it stop…” She tried to pull her hands away but couldn’t. All her strength, conviction and power were leeching out, out…
The people started to do a faster dance in her mind’s eye. Soon they became a blur but two stood out from that blur and that gave her the determination she needed to pull herself out of his grip.
Shades fell backwards, hitting her head on the concrete. She immediately rose to her feat, taking her fighting stance, left leg in front, right leg behind, weight evenly distributed, hands to the side, eyes opened as wide as possible to take in as much as possible.
“You cannot fight me,” said Abhor. “You are me and I am you.”
Shades was panting, feeling irrationally afraid. What if…everything he had said was right? “It can’t be. I got out.”
“Or did I let you go?”
Her stance fell and Shades looked at her hands. They looked fine. “Why didn’t you kill me?”
“Now where would be the fun in that?”
“It’s…not that.” Her eyes darting back and forth, she finally realized what she was doing. She was looking for his army. She was waiting for an attack. But it was not forthcoming. Had she really dismantled all his soldiers? How many had she killed? “You didn’t kill me because…Kailas would simply send somebody else to deal with you.” She smiled, showing more confidence then she was feeling.
Abhor’s anger always simmering just under the surface was quick to turn red hot. Seeing Shades still disoriented from what he had done, he reached out with his mind to grab hers. What happened next, even Mount Kailas couldn’t have predicted.
Shades felt it when Abhor sent out thin tendrils of his mind towards her. She felt it because he had been right. They were connected and in a way, they had become the same people. But here was the kicker. Not only did she have access to his powers and his razor sharp focus, she also had access to her own powers.
So when Abhor and Shades’ mind clashed, without the inhibiting walls, an unintended by-product was Shades mirroring Abhor’s malice in all its ugly glory.
Terrified with what was happening, Abhor reacted the only way he knew – he threw in more of his power, more of his ability to twist someone out of shape. And the more he tried to twist Shades out of shape, the stronger her mirroring became. Before Abhor could register what was happening and that the only way to stop this was to let her go, there was a shattering sound, like a great big glass had cracked right inside their ears.
The noise jolted the two so viciously that it threw them twenty feet apart from each other. Before Shades could understand what had happened, Abhor’s body dissolved into smoke in front her.
The lights came back online and so did the traffic and the comings and goings of humans. The rapidity with which normal life bounced back it felt like the entire fight had happened not on this plane but another. Sarla came back to herself and though dreading what she’d find, she went running to the last place she knew she had left a pile of bodies. They were all gone, no trace, not even a wisp of smoke remained. Feeling like she was going out of her mind, she realized she needed some sort of an anchor and ran home.
She reached home and started to bang on the front door, now desperately needing to see Lemon’s smiling face. She needed to hear from her granddaughter that she was good, and more importantly, she was alive.
Sarla did not notice the subtle differences in the house whose door she was banging. To be fair, they were little changes…the flower pot was kept differently; the colour of the house was a different green and Lemon…why Lemon didn’t look nearly as old as she should.
When no one opened the door, Sarla peeped through the window. She could see a television in front of her which was blaring the news of destruction and chaos that Shades and Abhor had together wrecked on the city.
She stepped back in shock, but bumped into a hard chest. She whirled around and was so swift in her attack that Tarak went flying.
“I shouldn’t blame you but for the love of Kailas get a grip on yourself.”
Before she could ask for an explanation, he said, “We are no longer in our reality. We seemed to have travelled to another dimension.” Tarak made no effort to get up from where he was sitting.
“How do you know this?” Sarla looked back at the house and this time she was able to register all the minuscule changes that told her she was far, far from home.
“I have been here before. I know how to get out. This way.”
“I think Kailas got angry with our bickering.”
Sarla laughed and then a pain like a knife through her chest made her stop. That was exactly what Lemon would have said.
“Suddenly you realize you’re human, no?”
“Since when are you so wise?”
“Oh in this realm, I am wise,” he said, placing her hand around his elbow and leading her away. “But once we’re back to ours, it’s on.”
With all the questions running in her head, she chose the next one which she knew Lemon would have asked. “Where are we going?”
“To Mount Kailas dear sister. We have an appointment with Him.”
With this ends Volume 1 of The Chronicles of Shades and Abhor. You can read the previous issues here.
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