Red, searing pain and black despair. These two colors, these two forms of torture, are all I know for the next few minutes. It is not as if I lose sight of the room, it is just that I see it from another angle. A place of pain and judgment where my soul floats above the boiling cauldron I am sure is waiting for me on the other side. To realize I have been working all along for the enemy, that I was in fact their greatest ally, is too much for me. Death, if it would just involve oblivion, would be more than welcome. But I know there must be a special hell prepared for the one who sold the messiah to the jackal.
From far away I feel something moist and warm touch my lips.
It tastes like blood, very sweet blood, but it is such a potent elixir that I swear I have never encountered it before. Before my mind knows it, my body is hungrily licking the substance. The flow of blood that has been steadily dripping from my throat finally begins to slow. At first I think it is because my body is running out of blood, but then I realize I am healing, which should be impossible with a severed neck, a knife in my back, and Setian poison pumping in my veins. Yet after a time my vision clears and I am able to see normally.
My daughter lies beside me.
She is feeding me her own blood with her cupped palm.
For a moment I think that means she is recover?ing. But then I see that her horrible wounds have not healed at all. My eyes register my sorrow but she smiles even now.
"There is only enough life left for you," she says.
I push her hand away. "You mustn't. You are the only hope."
"You are." She forces more of her blood down my throat and then rolls me on my side. There is a sharp pain in my back as she pulls out Ory's dagger. I still feel the poison in my system, howev?er, crawling through my veins and feeding on my internal organs. Kalika opens the vein on her wrist and forces me to feed, and it is as if the current of her life energy overwhelms the poison, and I feel it die inside me. A peaceful warmth steals over my physical form. Already I think the wound in my throat has closed. Yet inside I am still in torment. Even as I sit up Kalika seems to lose strength and lies back down. The massive wound to her chest is still open and I cringe because I worry I may actually see her heart beating, or slowing down. I don't know, of course. I do try to open my vein to drip my blood over her wound, but she stops me.
"It's too late," she says.
This death I cannot bear.
"No," I moan.
"You see I did not want to harm the child. I just wanted to protect him from the Setians."
"That's why you came into this world?"
"Yes." She raises her left hand and touches my hair. "And to be your daughter."
The tears on my face are so red. They will stain my skin, I think, and I will carry the burden of this loss the rest of my days, out where people can see it. I want to bury my face in her chest but I am afraid I will hurt her more. So I take the hand she touches me with and I kiss it.
"I should have listened to you," I say.
"You never hurt the police, did you?"
"And you knew Eric had a fatal illness?"
"Yes. His suffering would have been worse if I had not killed him."
My voice is choked. "You should have told me."
This amuses her. "You hear what you wish. You are more human than you know. But that is your greatest strength as well. Krishna loves all humani?ty as his children."
"Who is the child, Kalika? Is he Krishna? Is he Christ?"
Her voice is weak, her gaze far away. "He is like me, the essence of all things. A name, a title, does not describe him. Divisions are for men. God knows only one being."
"Does the child need my help to survive?"
She is a long time answering. Her eyes are focused on the ceiling.
"You will help him. That is why you were born."
Sobs rack my body. "All this time you never lied to me."
That makes her look at me. "Once I did. When I told you I would not let you stand in my way to the child." A spasm shakes her body and I hear her heart skip as she begins to die. "I could never hurt you, Sita."
"How do I stop Ory?"
"Your age-old weapons, strength and cunning, will not do it."
"But what will?"
"Faith is stronger than stone," she whispers.
"The scripture." I am confused. "But it spoke against you."
That makes her smile. "Parts Suzama wrote. Parts Ory wrote to make it look like Suzama's writing."
"The papyrus about you was of a different tex?ture."
"Yes. You cannot believe everything you read, even when it is supposed to be scripture." A convulsion suddenly grips her body and her back arches off the floor. My tears are a river. Five thousand years of life and death have not prepared me for this. To see my own daughter die, all because of me--how cruel the irony is. Yet Kalika, with her failing strength, pulls my hand down and kisses my fingers. "Words cannot inspire faith. Only love can destroy the maya."
"Is this just an illusion to you? Even your own death?"
She squeezes my hand and her eyes are bright.
"You are no illusion. I really am your daughter." A sigh escapes her lips and her eyes close. Inside her chest I hear her heart stop, but there is air left in her lungs, and she says in that special soft voice of hers, "I love you, Mother."
Those are her last words.
She is gone, back to the abyss from which she came.
Another death, another farewell, waits for me on the shore, on the beach beneath Paula's house. There I find Dr. Seter slumped against a stone wall, his skin the blue color of a failing cardiac patient's. Seymour and Paula are nowhere to be seen. Dr. Seter has had a major heart attack and I do not have to stretch my imagination to figure out how he got it. James returned with the child and revealed that he was not a nice and kind son, after all. As I kneel beside the doctor, he opens his eyes and gasps for air.
"You're bleeding," he says.
I am soaked with blood but I am no longer bleeding.
"I am all right." I put a hand on his chest and feel his erratic pulse. "Can I get you a doctor?" I know that will not help him, and am relieved when he shakes his head.
"I am finished," he says, and his face is so sad. "I never knew."
"I didn't either."
He is bitter. "Suzama lied to us both."
"No. Most of the scripture was true. James only created the part that dealt with Kalika." I pause. "She was my daughter."
He is amazed. "Where is she now?"
"On the island. She's dead." I sigh. "We were fools."
He weeps for my pain. "I was the fool. It was my arrogance that made me believe God was giving me visions. That I understood the mind of God." He coughs. "James put those dreams in my mind. He led me to the scripture."
I nod. "He led you to where he buried it."
"But why would he do these things? How could he do them?"
"He was never your son. He only came into your life to use you. He possesses the body of the young man we see. He is neither young nor is he human. Please do not blame yourself, Dr. Seter. I fought with this creature long ago and I did not recognize him. If anyone is to blame it is I."
He stares up at me. "Who are you, Alisa?"
"I am your friend." I hug him. "And I will get the child back."
My words seem to comfort him. He dies a minute later but there is peace written on his face. He was a good man, I know.
Paula stands behind me.
"Sita," she says gently.
I turn and look at her. Around her neck she wears a blue scarf with gold threads running through it. These threads make a wonderful design, but I am in too much of hurry to pay it much heed. Letting go of Dr. Seter, I stand and step to her side.
"I know where the enemy is taking your child," I say.
She nods. She believes me, she always has. Such faith.
"Your friend," she says.
I grab her arms. "Seymour!"
She nods her head to the side. "He is out front. He has been shot."
"Is he dead?" I ask.
She hesitates. "He is close."
I gaze at the small island in the center of Emerald Bay. I had swum back ashore. It had not been easy to leave my daughter's body.
"Find a boat," I say to Paula. "That was my daughter who took your child, but she was only trying to protect him. Her body is on the island, in the house. Please bring her back here and wrap her in a blanket until I return." I turn away. "I will take care of Seymour."
She stops me. "I will help you with your friend first."
I shake my head. "No, Paula. I have to be alone with him to help him."
There are tears in her eyes. "Your daughter gave her life to save John?"
"Yes. She gave more than any of us knew."
Seymour lies on his side in a pool of blood fifty yards up the hill from Paula's house, wedged cru?elly between two large rocks. James had shot him in the stomach. One close-range blast was enough. He is unconscious and slipping away fast. The child is gone, and this time I do not have the mystery and magic of the universe in a convenient vial in my pocket. The only way I can save him is to grant his oldest wish. That I will do for him because I love him, and I know Krishna will forgive me. Indeed, if I can only find the child again, and give him a chance to grow old enough to understand me, then I can ask him to take away my vow. Leaning over, I open a vein and whisper in Seymour's ear.
"Now, old buddy, just because you're going to be a vampire doesn't mean you automatically get to sleep with me. We'll have to date first."
I give him my blood. It is all I have to give.
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