We left that same night, creeping out despite the torches surrounding our home. Why they didn’t immediately make it our funeral pyre, I’ll never know. Maybe they wanted to give us a chance to show that we were still human.
That was something we were unable to do for them.
Our quintet stood watching the undulating flames from the hill overlooking Banawali. As one, those torches descended, the fire converging in an orgy to destroy the building.
Aunt Kali squared her shoulders, moving towards the destruction.
“You can’t!” Devika grabbed her arm. “What are you doing?”
“Freeing the rakhas.”
Mama’s hand fell away as she gave a shake of her head.
We watched as Aunt Kali moved fluidly—surreally fast—towards the rahkas’s prison. Moments later, she returned with it on her heels. She turned and knelt in front of it, cradling its muzzle in her hands. “You’ve done enough. Run, like we have to now.” She rose and met its gaze. It studied her for a moment, then darted off into the woods.
Thus began our exile.
Perhaps I lay too much of the blame on myself. Perhaps the outcome would always have been the same.
How would it have been if I hadn’t convinced Ajit to feed from Indu? Sadly, I can’t—or I don’t want to—imagine how happy we could have been.
Aunt Kali was most affected by our isolation. She had lost her husband and children, where Uncle Vivek still had Ajit and Devika still had me. I tried to give her the love she needed, but day after day, the anger and sadness in her eyes grew. She had no qualms about feeding on an entire village in a night, destroying both its history and its future. She would return, a look of drunken satisfaction in her tourmaline eyes, right before dawn took its daily toll on us.
We left her one morning. No words. We had warned her many times what she was doing was wrong. No more warnings… And we hid ourselves from her.
Kali became a legend in that wake of violence, a goddess both feared and loved. A goddess of destruction… and then of motherly love. The destroyer of many lives redeemed herself eventually. That brings joy to my heart.
You’ll know her story though. The story of Devika, Vivek, Ajit, and me has been kept hidden.
One of the benefits of the rakhas’s blood was an uncanny ability to hide.
We hid, but we watched, sometimes from as far away as other continents, sometimes from as close as a cave next to the village where she wrecked destruction.
The destruction… Humans viewed her as a goddess, and sacrifices of children and virgins were offered up without a thought. These she gladly accepted in exchange for spreading her blood in fields for a fruitful season or healing the diseases of mortals. We watched, often in horror, as she drained the lives from men, women, girls, and boys alike.
When we watched her kidnap a young village man to give him her blood—to change him into a creature like us—that was when Devika and Vivek made the decision for us to forever stay away.
That wasn’t something either Ajit or I agreed with, but we were their children, despite having preternatural powers equal to theirs. They still saw us as subordinates after five-hundred years, though our minds were as sharp as theirs and we understood more than most twelve-year-olds and four-year-olds could. They dismissed our questions, told us we had to listen because they were our parents and they were adults and adults knew best.
How I longed to rebel against what they said, but… but…
A scared little girl who was confused by what was going on in her body still existed in me. I longed for my mother’s love, her guidance through it all. The hunger lessened, but it didn’t remove the shame of taking the life of another human, which I didn’t understand I wasn’t any longer. A supernatural puberty as it were.
My obedience would get me further in life than my resistance would. Wouldn’t it?
We kept away from Aunt Kali, but there is always the morbid curiosity to see what she was doing. We’ll never know if the rakhas had the same abilities as us, if its blood mutated when it entered a human body, and, honestly, from the little interaction we had, I doubt the rakhas could speak. But we… we could spy on Kali through the eyes of others. And we did.
Gods! Morbid curiosity is such a human desire! Even today. Scrolling social media and the news looking for things that cause anger, that cause disgust. Rubbernecking at a car accident, wanting to see the destruction, to see if anyone died.
We were not immune to it with Kali. Watching her become what she did.
And, I believe, Mama and Uncle Vivek, despite what they said to us, were jealous and fascinated by it.
“How disgusting that she gives humans her blood to make them like us!” Vivek spat. “We’re clearly meant to be superior. We were gifted, chosen.”
“But, Father, we had no choice,” Ajit hazarded.
Vivek rewarded his son with a hand across the face.
Ajit retreated to the corner next to me, fighting back tears and rubbing his reddening cheek.
That feeling of superiority and that jealousy Devika and Vivek possessed morphed. Despite what they said, they wanted to be treated as gods just as Kali was.
I don’t know how long it took—A month? A year? A decade? A century? Time loses the meaning it once had when you’re immortal—and they had a cult. Neither were as large as the following Aunt Kali had. I’m sure that made them all the more determined.
They constructed a glorious temple deep in the cave we lived. The fire in the hearth was always burning to warm the subterranean chamber. Murals of scenes from Banawali—the home we once had, where I caused us to be unwelcome—decorated the walls from floor to ceiling. Statues of Devika and Vivek sat in niches around the room. A raised dais sat against the back wall, where they lounged when they rose from our daily slumber, their growing group of disciples chanting in reverence. And, if a couple of those disciples were fortunate, Devika and Vivek would choose them to feed off that evening instead of disappearing before them to hunt… for blood and more followers.
Men and women abandoned their families to sleep in dark dormitories and only see the candle-lit walls of the temple to be close to the gods they believed Devika and Vivek to be, to pray that the gods would take the offering of their blood instead of an outsider who was undeserving. None of them cared that it was a death cult. In fact, I knew from their thoughts, every one of them relished the thought of being drained in front of the others. The ultimate sacrifice.
My heart broke as I watched the children of those foolish people starve as they were left orphans by my mother and uncle.
“Power does awful things, cousin,” Ajit would say to comfort me. “Remember Aunt Kali.”
But Aunt Kali gave back—healing disease, fertilizing crops—where Devika and Vivek only consumed like a fire.
To be continued…