When your friend turns immortal

Though I called Ashwa a friend, I had never seen his face, never needed to. We had met at Bedardi Bar and usually hung out on slow nights, drinking in silence. Our relationship had always been more about silence than conversation.

‘You know how precious death is?’

He asked, looking at the gyrating crowd around us. ‘It’s a nectar, a blessing, to die. To give up life, its memories, the baggage. To start afresh. You wouldn’t understand, Anantya. You with your moment’s breath, so full of life, wouldn’t understand. Death begets life. The fear of death clutches at your heart’ – he made a claw of his hand – ‘so that blood flows faster, pumping through your veins, making you run, feel the wind in your hair … without it, there’s nothing, nothing. There’s nothing but a long, long lonely stretch of road. There’s nothing but emptiness—’

The kravyad couple above us screeched, burst uncontrollable fireballs at each other.

‘Dude, don’t talk in freakish metaphors,’ I answered.

‘What the hell happened to Guru B? How did you know—’

Ssss. Maaki had picked up a fire extinguisher and sprayed the kravyads.

‘It doesn’t matter!’ said Ashwa, lifting his head to glare at me. ‘We should all go! Die!’

‘Who?’ I asked.

‘All of us. All. Our souls they’re so threadbare, so torn, so tired. How can freedom from life be wrong for us? I don’t want to wait anymore for death to choose me. is my dharma, what’s my duty? Can I never choose right? How can something that feels so right, so natural, so much like breathing again, like freedom, cause this pain?’

He clutched my arm.

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That won’t work on any chudail

The man tumbled, wheeled around and straightened, still shivering like a leaf in a storm, his eyes double the size of his shrunken balls as he ogled her knees.

‘You stupid man!’ Jaanu rasped. ‘Leave, you’re in danger here!’

‘Please don’t eat me,’ he yowled, crossing his arms to protect his groin.

Jaanu groaned.

‘I’m vegan,’ she said, matter-of-fact.

He didn’t seem to hear her as he fished desperately in his bag, his eyes glued on her. He pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, opening it and squinting to read from it. ‘Manshun jabaar chudail naale…’

‘That wouldn’t work on any chudail,’ Jaanu sighed.

‘…baa araa…’ He stopped, frowning, looking rapidly from the paper to her and back. ‘But…but I paid fifty thousand rupees for this junglee chudail totka!’

‘Heard of internet scams before?’ she said, toenadering towards him. ‘And now you need to leave!’

‘P-p-lease don’t hurt me! I’m innocent. All I wanted to do is…to see your feet. I’ve never seen real chudail feet. Please. Once.’

‘My feet?’

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‘Immigration? Aren’t they Indians?’

The Non-Tantrik Department was crawling with all kinds of pashus and mayans, who might have arrived here at night and now waited for their stamped pieces of paper to get into the city. Rakshasas, yakshas, dasyus, looked at me with lazy eyes, unseeing and disinterested, waiting for their name to be called. I stepped over a half-eaten dog lying next to a chandaali, who slept with her hand cuffed to the wall, and walked on. Madhu followed, gasping at something every now and then.

‘What are these creatures?’

Madhu asked me, as we walked along the corridor with damp and filthy walls, a layer of grease splattered on them. The corridor stank of piss and shit and was littered with enough cups, broken plastic bottles, pieces of clothes, bones and stale food to almost hide the tiles of the floor.

‘Immigrants from outside the city, waiting for a passport from the immigration o office,’ I replied.

‘Immigration? Aren’t they Indians?’

‘Hah,” I said. “The Indian government doesn’t recognize them. The tantriks who do, want them to get immigration stamps if they come in highly concentrated human spaces like cities. Which is where the immigration office comes in. Without the papers and a human identity, the supernaturals can be arrested and put into the Tantrik Authority’s rotten prisons.’

The Immigration Department was a sham created for the sole purpose of bringing all sups under the control of tantriks. Before CAT had been created, cities were free spaces where any sup could move to. As long as they didn’t reveal themselves to the humans. But now, with the recent creation of the association, things had been getting organized.

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Mattreya’s claw-like left hand sank into the vampire’s neck

Mattreya’s claw-like left hand rose again and sank deep into the vampire’s neck. There was a collective cry. Those who had been standing too close to the stage were splattered with blood.

There was a second’s silence. Everyone started to clap in unison. A monster had been destroyed. Nobody seemed to care that it was another monster that had done it.

‘This is what iMagic can do for you.

‘Destroy all the evil in your path. Conquer the universe so that nothing can come in your way,’ said Vajrin

I couldn’t quite see the connection between killing a vampire and owning a device, but it definitely left the crowd on a high note. The Vama picked up the head of the vampire by its hair and showed it to the audience. They cheered and clapped.

‘Mattreya! Mattreya! Mattreya!’

The vampire’s body lay on the stage, wilting in plain sight as blood gushed from it. Someone behind me retched. I turned around to find Dakini throwing up over her stilettos.

‘Why the hell would someone do this in a civilized party,’ she bellowed when she regained her voice. She wiped the puke from her face. ‘I think I will leave right—’

‘HOW DARE YOU DO THIS?’

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You realise she’s a female?

‘You realize she’s a female?’ asked Lord Qubera, his long golden eyelashes fluttering on his fleshy cheeks as he blinked. I cringed, wishing I had sunglasses. As with the eyelashes, the rest of Qubera’s bulk was covered in gold bling. Rings, medallions, necklaces, bracelets, you name it, he was wearing it.

He looked like a walking, talking pawnshop.

Even the wave-like pattern etched on his chest, which was part of the binding ritual that let the daeva’s spirit inhabit the fat human body, was tattooed in gold.‘She’s the best, O Rider of Men,’ answered Grrhat, who stood before Qubera with his back towards me.He bowed deliberately so that his tight butt almost touched my nose.

He had changed into his favoured guise, a black muscular body and a regal silver-embroidered coat. I would have been aroused if I did not have other things on my mind. For one, my hands were tied behind my back with mayan rope to ensure I couldn’t mumble a mantra.

Then, I was still dressed in the tatters of what used to be a beautiful dress and, of course, my body smelt of yaksha poop. And, believe me, I could have ignored all those things but for the fact that I was in what could only be termed…

…a humongous jewellery box.

Qubera’s office had turned out to be a swanky newly constructed building behind Lodhi Gardens. But even the gold frills on all the windows and doors of the building couldn’t have prepared me for what the yaksha warriors, who escorted me in, called the ‘Grand Hall’ – a monstrosity of hundreds of richly engraved golden pillars, in the centre of which was a pond.

I wasn’t sure if the hall was underground or on one of the upper floors of the building because I hadn’t been able to sense the direction in which the elevator had gone, but about this there was no doubt: it was glaring gaudiness of gigantic proportions. We sat on a jewel-encrusted raft gently floating in the pool. Opulently dressed yakshas and yakshis – palm-sized forest creatures – fluttered all around, some singing, some dusting, some spraying perfume.

‘But … but, she has breasts and a fertility hole.

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He looked at her body, naked except for the kumkum

Tantrism ritual

He looked at her body, naked except for the kumkum, which looked more like black smears in the moonlight. For a moment, his heart lurched. She was just a child, really. Could he go through with this? The phone rang, making him jump. He didn’t bother to check the number. He knew who it was.

It was almost twelve.

‘Jai Kolahalnath!’ he whispered, the doubt of a split second ago already forgotten. He listened for a few seconds and nodded. It had to be done. This was his destiny. His part in a greater story that would unfold. His part in recreating the world. Purifying it. They would remember his sacrifice in the new world. He placed the phone at the apex of the triangle. Its screen glowed for a second before automatically darkening. The phone crackled like a strangled deer.

They had started the mantra, so should he.

He stepped out of the yantra and picked up the small black velvet package that had been placed beside his bag. Its velvety leaves opened at the touch of his hand, one by one. His heart began to race. Even though he knew what lay inside, he gasped. The exquisite blade, not much bigger than his palm, was pure white, it glowed from within. 

It was perfectly sickle-shaped, a broad arc, its middle thicker than the ends. The handle was white as well, only it wasn’t luminescent, but gleamed nevertheless like polished marble with intricate ancient motifs carved upon it. It looks so delicate. Can it be as old as they say it is? The knife quivered and shook in his hand slightly.

It wants to go inside, he thought with mild surprise.

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