Chapter 12

On the spot where Paula's child was conceived, on the sandy bluff in Joshua Tree National Monu?ment, I lie in the shade of a tall Joshua tree and stare up at the sky. It strikes me as a small miracle how the sky has not changed in five thousand years. Why, I could be lying on my back in ancient Egypt, beside the Nile, and there would be no difference in the sky.

But it is not easy for me to remember.

Suzama took me in, into her home, her heart. She shared a small shack with her parents. It is ironic that the greatest seer of all time should be born to a blind mother and a blind father. Neither of them ever knew what I looked like, yet they treated me with great kindness. They even toler?ated the strange hours I kept. For in those days I needed to drink blood almost every night to quench my thirst. It was still difficult for me to feed myself and keep my victim alive. I lacked the control that was to come with age. Yet many people naturally died in those days during the night, especially the old, and I tried to confine my feeding to them so as to raise fewer suspicions.

When I returned home from one nightly sojourn, I found Suzama awake. At that time I had been in Egypt a month. There was pain in Suzama's large soulful eyes. She sat outside beneath a blanket of stars. I sat beside her.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

She would not look at me. "I followed you tonight."

I drew in a sharp breath. "What did you see?"

"What you do to people." She had tears. "Why do you do it?"

I took a while to answer her. "I have to do it to survive."

It was true. She of almost perfect clairvoyance could not see what her friend really was. When she had first met me, she had only suspected.

She was horrified. "Why?"

"Because I am not a human being. I am a vampire."

Even in those days they had a word for creatures like me. Suzama understood what I meant. Yet she did not flee from me, but instead held my hand.

"Tell me how it happened," she said.

I told her the entire story of my life, which even though it had just begun, seemed awfully long to me. Suzama heard of Yaksha and Rama and Lalita and Krishna. I told her every word Krishna had said to me, of the vow he had placed me under to make no more vampires, and of the vow he had made Yaksha take to destroy all vampires. Suzama listened as if in a dream. When I was finished she whispered aloud.

"I have seen this Krishna in many visions," she said.

"Tell me what you see?"

She spoke in a distant voice. "He has the whole universe in his eyes. The sun we see in the sky is only one of many. All these stars--more than can be counted--shine inside the crown of his head." She paused. "You must be a very special kind of monster to receive his grace." I was able to relax.

Suzama was telling me she was still my friend. It was shortly after that night that she began to heal others.

The cures started innocently enough. Suzama was fond of collecting herbs. Even as a child she had had a knack for knowing which ones to pre?scribe for which illnesses. It was normal for a handful of ailing people to stop by each day for medical advice. Sometimes Suzama would have the sick person stay. She would have the person lie on his or her back and take long, slow deep breaths while she held her left hand above the forehead and her right hand over the heart. Invariably the person left better afterward, or at least they said they did. Then came a crippled man. He had not walked since a massive stone had fallen across his hips five years earlier. He had no feeling from the waist down. At first she prescribed some herbs and was about to send him away when the man begged her to bless him. Reluctantly, as if she knew this act would forever change the course of her life, Suzama put him down on the floor and had him take deep breaths. Her hands shook as she held them over the man, and there was sweat on her face. I couldn't take my eyes off her. A milky white radiance had begun to shine above her head. Even when the man's lower legs began to twitch, I couldn't stop staring at her angelic face. For the uncountable stars were shining through her now. The man was able to walk home. After that there was always a line outside Suzama's house. She continued to perform many healings, although only a few matched her healing of the crippled man. For many seriously ill people she was unable to do anything. It is their karma to be ill, she would say. They had the word karma in that part of the world at that time, and they understood its meaning.

More than healing, Suzama preferred to foretell the future and to teach meditation. A series of special meditation techniques had come to her in visions and each of them was related to the wor?ship of the Goddess Isis, the White Goddess, who shone in each soul above the head. Suzama taught mantra and breathing techniques, and sometimes she mixed the two together. I was her first student, as well as her last. While doing the practices she showed me, I began to experience peace of mind. She was my guru as well as my friend, and I always felt deeply indebted to her.

A time came when Suzama's exploits reached the ears of the rulers of the land. The king at that time was named Namok, and his queen was Delar. Namok was forty years older than his wife, and their beliefs, so the rumors said, were contrary to each other. Namok was firmly behind the powerful priest caste at the time, the fabled Setians, who supposedly gained divine insight from the ancient past, as well as from beings in the sky. The Setians worshipped a number of angry-looking deities, all of which were reptilian. I was curious, at the time, why Isis was supposed to be married to Osiris, who was Set's brother. The deities couldn't have been more different. The Setians did not approve of Isis worship, and went out of their way to destroy it. That is why Suzama always conducted her initia?tions in secret.

But the secret was out as far as Suzama's foretell?ing abilities were concerned. She was summoned to the Great Pyramid, and as her closest friend, I was allowed to come with her. In fact, Suzama refused to go without me. By this time she knew of my great physical power and felt safer with me by her side.

It seemed that Queen Delar had had a dream the Setian priests and priestesses were unable to deci?pher, at least to the queen's satisfaction. Delar wanted Suzama to try. Together, we were ushered into the royal meeting room. Its opulence was breathtaking. Never again would Egypt have such wealth, not even in the supposed golden ages of latter years. The very floor we walked on was made of gold.

Both king and queen were present, old and shrewd Namok on his high throne, with his tall and muscular spiritual adviser, Ory, at his right shoul?der. Delar sat beside him on her own throne, with her young but hard face. It was Delar who bid us come closer and I couldn't help noticing out of the corner of my eye how Ory watched me. It was as if he had seen me before, or at least had had my features described to him. I wondered if his army of secret police, the dread Sedan initiates, who had eyes like snakes, had taken note of my nocturnal ways. Ory wore a special dagger in his silver belt with which, it was reported, he cut out enemies' eyes before eating them. At that time the soul was thought to reside in the eyes.

Delar cleared her royal throat and spoke.

"You are Suzama. Your reputation precedes you. But who is this other person you have brought with you?"

Suzama bowed. "This is Sita, my queen. She is an Aryan--which is why her skin is fairer than ours. She is my friend and confidante. I ask your permission that she be allowed to remain by my side while I complete your reading."

Delar was curious about me. "Are you from India, Sita? I have heard stories of that land."

I also bowed. "Yes, my queen. I am far from home, yet I am happy to be a guest in your great land."

"What brought you to our land?" asked Ory. "Were you, fleeing from danger?"

"No, my lord. It is only a love of adventure that brought me here."

Ory paused and whispered something in Namok's ear. The king frowned and nodded. But Ory smiled as he asked his next question and I couldn't help noticing how flat his eyes were. His hand never moved far from his dagger.

"It seems improper that a woman of your age should have traveled so far alone," he said. "Who were your companions along the road, Sita?"

"Merchants, my lord. They know the road to India well."

"Then you are also a merchant," Ory persisted.

"No," I said. "I have no special title."

"But you live in the house of slaves," Ory said. "Suzama is a slave. You, too, must be a slave." I held his eye and there was strength in my gaze. "No one owns me, my lord," I said. My answer seemed to amuse Ory. He didn't reply but the power in my eyes did not seem to affect him. Perhaps he had goaded me on purpose, I thought.

Delar cleared her throat once more. "Come closer, Suzama and Sita. I will tell you my dream. If you are able to decipher it, your reward will be great."

Suzama bowed. "I will try my queen. But tell me first--did you have this dream at the last full moon?"

Delar was impressed. "I did indeed. How did you know?"

"I was not sure. But dreams that come at that time are particularly auspicious. Please tell me your dream, my queen."

"I was standing on a wide field in tall grass with lush rolling hills all around. It was night, but the sky was bright with more stars than we normally see on the dearest of nights. Many of these stars were deep blue. In the distance was a group of people who were walking into a ship that gave off a brilliant violet light. I was supposed to be on that ship, I knew, but before I could leave I had to talk to a beautifully dressed man. He stood nearby with a gold flute in his hand. He had bewitching dark eyes, was dressed in a blue robe, and had long dark hair. Around his neck was an exquisite jewel--it shone with many colored lights and hypnotized me. As I stared into it, he asked me, 'What is it you wish to know?' And I said, 'Tell me the law of life.' I don't know why I asked this question, but he said, 'This is the eternal law of life.' And he pointed his finger at me."

Delar paused. "That was the entire dream. It was incredibly vivid. When I woke from it I was filled with great wonder, but also great confusion. It seemed I was given a great secret but I don't understand what it is. Can you help me?"

"A moment please, my queen," Suzama said. Then she turned to me and spoke in whispers. "You have had dreams like this?"

My eyes widened. "Yes. How did you know?"

Suzama merely smiled. "Who is the man?"

"Lord Krishna. There is no doubt."

"And why did he point at her?"

"I don't know. Krishna often taught with riddles. He was mischievous."

"He was careful," Suzama said to me before turning back to the queen. "Delar, the answer to your dream is very simple."

Both the king and the queen sat up in anticipa?tion. Even Priest Ory seemed to lean forward. He was no doubt one of those who had failed to decipher the dream properly.

"The blue stars signify the blue light of divinity," Suzama said. "You stood on a spiritual world in the spiritual sky. The man beside you was the Lord himself, come to give you instructions before you were born into this world. You asked the question you did because you wanted to know what law of life you should follow as queen of this land. You wanted to know what was fair, a means by which you could decide how to pass judgment on those you knew you would rule." Suzama paused. "He gave you the means when he pointed his finger at you."

Delar frowned. "I don't understand." "Point your finger at me, my queen," Suzama said.

The queen did so. Suzama smiled.

"When you point your finger at someone, any?one, it is often a moment of judgment. We point our fingers when we want to scold someone, point out what they have done wrong. But each time we point, we simultaneously point three other fingers back at ourselves."

The queen looked down at her hand and gasped. "You are right. But what does that mean?"

"It means you must be very careful in your judgments," Suzama said. "Each time you decide fairly about someone, you gain three times the merit. But each time you make a poor judgment, you incur three times the debt. That is the law of life, whether you are a queen or a priest or a slave. When we do something good, it comes back to us threefold. When we harm someone, we harm our?selves three times as much." Suzama paused. "The Lord was telling you to be kind and good, my queen."

Queen Delar was impressed.

King Namok was unsure.

The high priest Ory was annoyed.

The main players in the drama were set.

The dice had been thrown.

It was only a question of how they would land.

And who would be left alive to collect the prom?ised reward.

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