Something that Aunt Kali’s memories didn’t prepare me for was the all encompassing hunger after siring another. Emptiness spread from my belly to my brain, leaving me foggy but determined to find a meal.
I dragged Aarti along, the fragrance of blood drawing me to a couple in an alleyway. The hunger heightened my senses, and, before we were within fifty feet of them, I knew they weren’t good people, knew they deserved the fate I was about to give them. She was a prostitute, ready to stab the man to take his wealth; he planned on using her in ways I can’t describe in my limited knowledge of carnal affairs, if she wanted him to or not.
Aarti must have known I needed to feed before her, to have the energy to teach her. She stood back in the shadows as I jumped onto the man’s back, sinking my teeth into his neck. The prostitute pushed herself back, raising the knife she had hidden under her sari. I met her eyes, paralyzing her, the knife dropping from her fingers, as I ended the man’s life. He fell from my grasp, thudding to the pavement. I walked over him to get to the woman, then turned, motioning to Aarti.
“Come, Aarti. Do you see what I’m doing?”
My fledgling approached the woman slowly. “I do.” Her head tilted to the side. “Let me try?”
I released my hold on the stranger, the stench of fear permeating the alley.
“Who… who are you?” She stared down at the man. “You killed him!” Her mouth contorted, a scream building.
“No, no. Shush.” Aarti eased down next to her, crawling into her lap, moving the woman’s face down so she could look her in the eyes. “He was a bad man.”
“He was a bad man.” The prostitute’s face grew blank as she repeated the words.
Aarti leaned against her, nuzzling her neck. “And you are a bad woman who wanted to hurt him.”
“Yes, I am. I’m a bad woman. I wanted to hurt him. To take his money.” Her arms wrapped around my fledgling, hugging her close despite the confession.
The ghost of a shriek left the woman’s mouth as fangs sank deep into her flesh. Her head fell back, her eyes blank and mouth gaping, minutes later. The body slumped down the wall into a pile of limbs as Aarti slid from her slack arms.
Aarti stood, blinking hard at the corpse before her, then turned to me, taking my hand. “What do we do now?”
I shrugged. “Whatever we want. The night is ours.”
And we made the night ours, holding hands as we walked, comfortable in the knowledge that we were safe. We had taken the money off the couple we had fed from, so we bought food to give to the people begging on the streets, though Aarti couldn’t resist having one of the samosas she had smelt cooking right after her siring, the look on her face pure pleasure as she savored it. The people we fed blessed us with prayers and smiles, some begging us to be careful as we made our way, squeezing our hands in thanks.
When we got back to the sanctuary, we bathed and changed into clean clothes, then sat next to the huge hearth that kept the underground temple as warm as summer. I told Aarti all the hopes and dreams I had for us as my mother’s followers moved around us, hardly daring to glance our way.
Aarti looked up from time to time, meeting her mother’s uncomfortable, but curious, looks, though the woman didn’t fully recognize her, I could tell from her mind. This didn’t seem to bother my fledgling. “I don’t expect her to know me. I’m not the scared little girl she left. Let her wonder who I am and what you created.”
Ajit sat across the room, staring with a mixture of horror and amazement, his lips parting in soundless words.
Now, if you’ve heard Ajit’s side of this, I play quite a passive role. I think he doesn’t want to remember, or doesn’t know everything that happened silently, though he doesn’t lie when he says I am not fond of violence.
I’m not fond of it… but when there’s a purpose, then I can forgive myself.
Devika and Vivek, hand-in-hand, entered the temple an hour or so after Aarti and I had, and, for the once in a very long time, my mother looked my way, her nostrils flaring as she realized the girl next to me was now immortal. Vivek followed her gaze, his eyes narrowing, then turning to Ajit.
They continued on to the dais, reclining as they usually did, though I could feel their anger at me building. Their Pets gathered at their feet, bowing their heads. Devika smiled at them. “Tonight, you may leave us to ourselves. We have exciting plans to discuss. Ones that I know you’ll all adore.” The cult left in a susurrus of voices, wondering what the exciting plans could be. Her eyes met mine from across the room as it emptied, saying that what I did had consequences; I remember raising an eyebrow at her before I turned away.
My mother and uncle stood before me as the last of their followers left the temple.
“How dare you? You gave our gift to a human? And a child, no less!” Devika grabbed my shoulder, shaking me as Aarti watched, her fear growing.
Uncle Vivek leaned in close to my face, spittle leaving his lips. “What were you thinking? Do… do you see yourself as Kali sees herself, child?”
I shrugged from my mother’s grip and turned from my uncle’s wrath. “Aarti, we’re going to find children who need us. Make them wha—” Fingers dug into the flesh of my upper arm, flinging me into the pillows that lined the dais across the room.
Devika aimed for the soft place, wanting to make a point that she was in control but not wanting to hurt me, her daughter. To this day, I think I would have preferred being treated as an equal as she would have done to Vivek or Kali in the same situation. She would have aimed to hurt them.
“How dare you ignore me? I am your mother.”
In a heartbeat, I stood before her, gazing up, and Ajit at my back, his hand on my shoulder. Disgust and anger filled every cell in my body. My hand raised on its own… and Devika flew back, the wall she hit crumbling down on her. “I’ve had enough, Mother.” She pulled herself out to her waist, but stayed there, eyes wide, stunned by the impact and my insolence.
Vivek moved my way, but all it took was turning my head his direction to stop. And I don’t mean he stopped of his own volition. He wanted to hurt me, to show the child I was that he was in charge. His body froze mid-step at my command, his rage a tidal wave over me. I sent an image of him engulfed in flames into his mind. You know I can, Uncle… and I will if you try to hurt us or stop us from leaving.
“Spoiled brat. You’ve been given everything.” His eyes moved to Ajit. “And you, son?”
I still regret that I hadn’t given my cousin much choice. Had Ajit stayed, he would have paid for my actions. Maybe he would have fought back, like I was doing, but I don’t believe he knew the absolute power he possessed. We were equals to Devika and Vivek, and, I imagine, he would have realized that when he was pushed too far by one of them, when his abilities exploded in his own rage and fear on one, or both, of them.
Ajit looked from me to his father then back but said nothing. He motioned Aarti over to him and took our hands.
We three, hand in hand, left without a word.
To be continued…