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“Jumi! Mallee! Vala! Come on! Faster! Get up!” I sobbed to them.
They weren’t moving. My sisters weren’t moving! Jared was shaking each one of them, but they wouldn’t budge. No! They can’t leave me! Not after Linya and Kinita! Not after everything! I was sobbing so hard I was surprised I had any energy to get up. I had the sword in my hand and I was so angry, I wouldn’t come within five feet of me. my blood boiled as I looked down the tunnel, towards the footsteps approaching. “I’ll be back. Stay here Jared. Help my sisters,” I said gravely.
He just nodded and kept talking to them, they couldn’t do this. They couldn’t leave me! I made my way along the narrow tunnel, dragging my broken leg. The brainless Centaurs were mad at me. They were mad because our mothers, the Spirits of Earth, killed Herod. He went to them, expecting just to get full immunity from the war the Centaurs were having. So he could be immortal too. He didn’t want to die, that little… When he got refused, he didn’t take it well. He tried to attack my mother! It was, really, my mother, too. Tini, the goddess of the water is Kinita’s and mine. Jumi and Vala’s mother, was Dectas, the goddess of the Soil. Then there’s Linerati, the goddess of the sky. When he did that he was easily vaporized by my mother, and turned into a small cloud. Now the Centaur-like things wanted revenge. I wasn’t with my sisters when they attacked, but they weren’t even ready. They had stolen my sword, which can “kill” immortals, and used it against them. They didn’t let them even arm themselves!
The sword in my hands, I could feel the weight of blood that it carried. Linya, and my other sisters. Except for Kinita, she died by my hand not my sword. I hear the footsteps stop as I think they saw me. I looked up at the nasty sneers on their faces. My anger boiled and I felt my leg healing. Since we immortal, or supposed to be, we heal much faster than humans. Soon my leg felt fine and said in my scratchy voice, “Look what you have done! You monsters!” I pointed the other end of the tunnel, which they can’t see, but I knew they knew what was back there.
It was the head manic at this site, so I was ready to fight. Sometimes they are good at sword fighting. “I’m sorry, but your mother did a horrible thing. Herod-“
“Attacked them!” I said defensively, “Completely self-defense! Now you are killing my sisters!”
“How about we settle this the right way,” another said too confidentially. “A sword fight, master. You’re the best in the Land.”
Ha! Right, or that’s what they think. “Do you know who I am, stupid?” I spat at the little freak-show.
“No, which sister are you? Jumi, the small one?” That was crossing the line, and my nerves were already live wires.
“No, idiot!” the head guy said to him, “That’s Rachna!”
He turned dangerously pale. I pulled out my sword set it in front of me, “I’m fine with a sword fight, you?”
“I think we’ll be leaving,” Head said quickly.
“No! No, you won’t be leaving!” I shouted. “First, I’m going to need to show you not to mess with my sisters. Get over here, now!”
Then the head stepped up, “Fine, just leave the small one alone.”
I got stung by that, it reminded me too much of Linya. I couldn’t pull my sword up, and the stupid little one chuckled, “Hurt by that, big one? Linya got some kind of curse on you?”
My head snapped up. I don’t care who he thought he was, but he started to run. I jumped right over him so he was running towards me. He didn’t stop in enough time to stop from running into my blade. I took it out and didn’t feel anything, no ting of guilt or anything. He was fine, but I knew it hurt. I nailed him in the shoulder. “You’ll live you ungrateful, snob.”
“You-“ he cried out in pain as it seemed to hit him again.
Then I went back to the master. “Trust me, freak-show. I won’t be so nice next time.”
“Oh, we know, Miss. We know.” he said shakily as he rushed over to help the ignorant one.
My sisters had fought off most of their species trying to defend themselves today. I walked over to the end of the tunnel, just below the house we were living in, to where my sisters lay. Jared had tears in his eyes. He didn’t think they were going to live. I collapsed to my knees and drop the sword. I put my finger to Jumi’s neck, no pulse. I felt tears in my eyes. “Jared,” I whispered and he looked at me with tear streaming down his face. “Help me, we must take them to my aunts.”
He took Vala, the smallest, and I took Jumi and Mallee in each arm. We went our secret way straight to our waiting moms. “Mother-“ I began but was cut short when I saw them come and pick them out of our arms like we weren’t even there.
None of them cried silent tears like Jared and me, they just looked like they wanted to curl up with their dead daughters. I looked away and started to walk towards the exit until I heard my mother call me, “Please, Rachna. Don’t leave us.”
My back against them, I stood there for a minute remembering everything that had happened. “Five years, mother. Five flimsy years!” I spat at the ground, my tears dried. “Mother, I can’t look at them, they are gone. Their body are cold!”
I turned to the Pond and shouted, “Well! Tell me! Are they gone? Dead?”
I looked at my reflection, but I didn’t see me. I saw Kinita, nodding. I went over to her image and whispered, “Please, take care of our family the way I never could.”
She seemed to understand and I saw her cry, in the water. “Don’t cry, Kinita. It’ll be fine. They can’t leave you there, right?”
She nodded again and spoke to me. It was more like a voice in my head than something I was actually hearing, and it seemed wispy like the air. She said, “Don’t worry, sister. You did all you could do. You always took care of our family better than I did. Good luck.”
Then she disappeared. I sniffed but didn’t cry, I told the mothers that they were dead and they didn’t do anything, just sat there with their daughters in their arms. Tini took Vala, Jumi was in Dectas’s arms, and Mallee was with Linerati. Jared was standing awkwardly over by a tree and I motioned for him to come over. I told my mothers goodbye, which they didn’t care, and I left with Jared. It was just us now. I wished with all my heart that the pain would end right here, but I knew that would only ever be a silly wish.
We went back to the house, and Jared collapsed on the couch and was in a mini-coma in minutes. I, on the other hand, must have stayed awake for day before even looking at a bed or couch. I just sat in the kitchen, at the dining room table, listening to the sounds around me. Jared woke up and made his own breakfast and after a couple days went up to me and said, “Rachna? Come on, get up! You’re not dead yet! Come on! Get up. Please?” he seemed desperate.
I looked over at him, twisting my head and feeling every vertebrate slowly rock and tumble in my neck. I opened my mouth to say something, but before I could even think straight, I fell back and passed out.
“Hey? Rachna? You awake? Snap out of it!”
I opened my heavy eyes and let them flutter, I saw Jared sitting on the edge of a bed in my room in the house we were stationed at. He had a plate of food and he handed it to me. I must have swallowed it all whole because he laughed at me. I swung my legs over the bed and yawned, “How long have I been asleep?”
“Nice, well, weren’t we going to leave soon?”
He sighed, “Rachna, come on. Don’t you want to rest? At all? Not even a little?”
“Please, I need to keep moving. The longer I stay in one place, the more time I have to think.”
He said groggily, “Ugh, sure. Let’s go pack.”
He went over to his room and I laughed at him, being over-dramatic about it. I got up and went over and followed him. He looked over at me, “Rach, you look pretty bad, even with a day’s sleep.”
“Oh well, ready? We can just get more clothes on the way, we are going to miss the train.”
He raised his eyebrows, “Train?”
“You’ve never been on a train?”
He shook his head and looked at me like I was crazy. I said “Well, we got to act normal.”
He shrugged his shoulders and we ran out the door leaving a note for the realtor on the way. When we got to the train station we put in our fake bags and Jared seemed nervous. “What is wrong now, Jared?”
“I just got a bad feeling. You know how I get,” he said trying to act like he was shaking it off when he wasn’t.
He had these weird feelings, and sometimes they were right and sometimes they were wrong. I didn’t pay much attention to it, I just checked the bags and led him to the train. We got a sleeper car, with two beds. He got the one on the top and I got the bottom. I had to force him on the top because I wanted more space than him, and it was funny how much he complained. When he finally got up, he must have fallen asleep as soon as his head it the pillow. I fell asleep easily, but would have stayed awake if I knew about the nightmare I was going to have.
In the middle of black, pure black. Not in a house, not outside, not anywhere. I was just completely surrounded by my own black hole, and I felt tings of pain hit me as I remember parts of everything. I remember the worst parts about Kinita, the time I had to watch her torture humans. I recalled the time, in slow motion, when Linya jumped in front of me. I even remembered the fight that killed my sisters.
I jolted awake, wanting to get out of the dream. My hand went to my chest. I was gasping for air and my legs were shaking. I flinched when I saw Jared hanging upside down from the bed. He smiled when I hit in the back of head for scaring me. “A little jumpy there, sis?”
I rolled my eyes and put my head back on my thin pillow. “Go back to bed, Jared.”
“What if I don’t want to?” he said defensively.
“Then I’ll make you.”
I rolled over and looked at his face. He looked stubborn, but had that humorous look in his eye. I raised my hand flicked it a little. He flew back and hit the bed with a thunk! “Hey!” he protested.
I laughed at him and listened as he snored lightly. As soon as my eyes closed, I seemed to have to open them again to the sound Jared asking me if we could get off. “Where are we?”
“Somewhere in Colorado. Come on!”
I yawned and got my few things together. We stepped off the train talking about something funny we saw on a billboard. When we walked around the station we didn’t pick up our bags, we just went straight out into Colorado. It was fun exploring the little town and meeting some people. We found a house, and decided to stay there. Two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and everything we needed. We made the first payment and went and unpacked a few things. I felt something inside of me, something tugging at me. I kept having flashes of my sisters’ faces, and I couldn’t help but dry my tears. Then as soon as I got to the house, I felt it again. I went to my room and dragged my hand across my cheek to sweep up the tears.
After that I thought to myself, Sisters, I can never forget you. I promise I will do all I can to help you, even this far away. I will never forget you, it’s impossible. You mean too much to me. I know you’re here, I don’t need proof. I love you girls.
I knew they heard it, and they were making sure I didn’t forget them. I really, truly will never forget them. How could they think that? They are still my sisters! They are too important to ever forget.
You would think that on the first day in a new city, it might be boring. I’ll admit, I thought it would be. Nope, not even close. We decided to go for a walk down the city and meet some people. We talked with some locals and found a good restaurant. We started talking, and Jared had a million questions. “So ghosts can’t, like, haunt you, can they?”
I laughed, “Well, sort of. If they aren’t accepted into the Underworld, they can do what the Spirits ask them, or they can take revenge. Either way, you’re still a ghost until the Spirits are happy. Ghosts, if they are immortals, can move things and pick stuff up. If you are human, you can only appear in dreams or make people have hallucinations. Which can drive people insane.”
“But, what about the t-“ Jared was cut off by someone thrusting the door open so hard the wall had a new crack in it.
All heads turned and gasped simultaneously. I almost fell out of my chair. Cursing under my breath, I looked down and the atmosphere turned dramatically from comfortable to tense. The man stepped in and I stood up silently. I couldn’t talk, if I said anything he would recognize me. He was about as tall as a NBA player, but his muscles told you he was some kind of compulsive weight lifter. He had dark wash jeans, a black shirt with a black leather jacket, and sunglasses that made him look like the bad guys on TV. Only, he was about fifty times worse than bad guys on TV. The one thing that screams Danger! Danger! I am a bad guy! is the huge red scar across his forehead. That’s how I knew what he was.
I grabbed Jared’s elbow and pulled him towards the back. He seemed to want to protest, but the urgent look on my face must have tipped him off that I really wasn’t willing to negotiate. When we got outside I kept dragging him along and he spat out questions at me like a llama. The one question he kept saying over and over when he thought it was the most important thing ever was, “Who is that guy?”
After about fifty times over of that and we are near the new house. I could feel his presence faintly. When we got to the house, I told Jared, “Jared, run. Run far away from here. You can’t be near this thing. If it gets you-“ I hadn’t even thought of that. All the more reason to get him away from it.-“Just get away.”
“What about you?”
He was getting closer, the tingling feeling on my skin was back, too. “What about me?” I speared through my teeth. Thinking that was maybe a bit too harsh, I said more calmly, “You don’t want to know the things he’s done to immortals, Jared. Just get out of here.”
“I’m not really seeing a good reason to go, Rach.” Why was he so concerned?
“Shut up Jared! Go now! You’ll live!”
“What about you?” he growled at me.
“Forget about me! Now! He’s coming!” I was so mad Jared wasn’t doing anything I was right in his face and my fists were balled at my sides ready for a fight.
He was right around the corner. I pushed Jared the opposite way and I saw him look back, wishing there was some way he could stay, with tears in his eyes. “Don’t waste your tears on me,” I whispered before he ran off.
Then he was there. The huge thing was in front of me. The fight I had been putting off for years, even centuries, had finally come. His bulky figure, the sunglasses, even the scar made me stand tall and give him some authority, even if he was an enemy. His bronze skin glowed mysteriously. The worst kind of enemy, too. My uncle stepped up and smiled.
“Well hello there, Rachna. Let’s see what we’ve got here.” With a swipe of his hand he removed all the armor from my skin.
“Oh, Rachna. What happened dearie? Get a little tossed around by your sister?” His voice had the seniority of a wise grandpa, with the severe-ness of a powerful general.
I had to bite my lip from talking back to the judge of the Underworld.
I stood directly still, my heart pounding a little too hard to be healthy. He walked over to me casually, acting like a simple inspector. He drew a circle with his feet in the pavement as walked around me twice, and I got self-conscious. After the second time he stopped right in front of me and leaned down in front of my scar bitten face. I locked my jaw and glared into his sunglasses. Hate filled me to the brim, and I felt myself breathing only through my nose. My fist bunched up so I wouldn’t hit him right there, and every muscle in my body was ready to attack. Or defend.
Before most humans had a clue, the two Spirits, guys and girls, the sisters and brothers, had an argument. It was in the time when the dinosaurs roamed and creatures humans could never wrap their head around waddled and walked around. Well, the Brother Spirits decided, “Hey, why don’t we imprison the other Spirits and take over the world?” Not such a good idea. The sisters had been skeptical of the brothers for a long time, but once they had proof that the brothers were conspiring against them, all war broke out. They fought year after year, for almost a whole millennium before the brothers finally screwed up. One of them, went down to the Underworld to get lost souls to help them out. Well, eventually the sisters tricked the other brothers to go down to the fields of punishment and locked them there for the same exact time the war had gone. I thought it was genius that they had to pay the exact time that the war went on, but they didn’t think that way. When the time was spent, the sisters and brothers made a deal, brothers control dead souls, sisters control living.
Well, obviously, the brother Spirits never really got over it. They have tried to capture my sisters and me and we have always led a narrow escape. That’s all know about them, but it’s enough. I don’t even know why their called brothers and sisters, as far as I know, their not even related. Only the sisters are related, and the brothers are all related. Now, I have no escape route. I will have to do something. Once he was done analyzing me, he smiled and straightened up. I looked up and watched as he laughed quietly to himself. “What?” I demanded.
“I just don’t see what he sees in you.” He kept on laughing at his own inside joke.
“Oh, you’ll see. But you’re coming with me, young one.”
He leaned down and grabbed my elbow and pulled me along like I had with Jared, except I wasn’t about five feet taller than him. We walked off the path and down to where it looked like a dog had dug a large hole. He walked right up to it and started walking down with me behind him. It was just wide enough to fit him, and I fit fine. It looked only about six inches into the ground, but it was really a step to a spiral staircase that led down to the once place I had most feared. Underworld here I come.
Once we went down about fifty or so flights, I found myself in an elegant 1800’s kind of room that looked like a study. Me, with my willingness to shout out the first thing I think sometimes, spat out, “You have a staircase to the surface in your office?”
He looked down like he had just remembered I was there. “Well, ah, yes. Actually, it can go anywhere in the world thank you very much.” He sounded almost hurt by that and he rambled along.
He walked me through the door and through a bunch of different hallways until he reached the door he wanted. “Here we go,” he said as he opened the door and threw me on the floor.
I looked back at him and said, “Well, thanks for that.”
I got up and looked at the boy he threw me in front of. He was around my frozen age, sixteen or seventeen, and had thin brown hair that seemed to go out in every direction and never had a real pattern. He stood like he had some kind of authority, and had gray eyes that reminded me Kinita. His eyes were like the ghost Kinita though, and not like the friendly Kinita that I loved and saw in the Pond. He was tall and lanky, like the Spirit that took me down here with the bronze skin but younger and no muscle. “Who are you?”
“I am Jeru, son of Perisu”
Perisu is one of the Underworld Spirits, the one who brought me down. The other two are Bures and Fexil. “Great, why am I here?”
“I want to see you fight, I want to see if you are a worthy opponent,” he said like he was as powerful as his dad.
“Are you immortal?”
“Yes, like you Rachna.”
“Why would I ever fight you?”
“If you want my opinion, I think he likes you.” Perisu cut in leaning against the wall, “He fought that other girl, Kinita, when she first came down here. But she wasn’t good enough. Plus, how was he supposed to date a sad near-dead soul? She would have been good if she weren’t so depressed. He wanted someone alive if you ask me.”
This Jeru guy, he seemed pretty embarrassed by his dad, and I felt very offended that he dared talk about my sister that way. “No, Father. I just need a worthy opponent after a couple of years, and she wasn’t,” he said finally he turned to me, “Are you ready to fight?”
“I need a sword.”
“Fine,” he tossed me one.
I tossed it back and he caught it. I spat at him, “I’ll get my own, thanks.”
I reached in my pocket and, with a little white magic, pulled out my sword. The only sword that can kill immortals like me and him. He didn’t seem to know that, and got his own sword. I followed him through a door and looked around. It was like the huge arenas where the Romans used to have gladiator fights, and we were the gladiators. The only thing that set thing apart, was the crowd. Real human skeletons. Thousands of them filled the bleachers and cheered with their invisible vocal chords. In the three seats of honor, sat the Spirits of the Underworld, waiting for the fight to start. “Quite a fan club,” I whispered to him as we walked to the center.
I had no idea how serious about this fight he was until we started. We both got in position and, of course, he made the first move. His eyes were locked on me, trying to pry my weaknesses from me with his eyes. Finding nothing must have surprised him, because his eyes popped back to normal size and he went for the one thing he knew would hurt the most if he cut my neck. He stabbed at my throat and before he was even halfway towards my neck I jumped back and threw my legs over my head. The tip of my never-breaking sword dug into the ground and I felt the sand fly up and into my nose. It didn’t bother me, even as my legs closed in on the sword and flung it up into the air. It sparkled and glinted as it went flying like a flaming baton into the air.
He seemed surprised by this act and when my feet hit the gravel I got my sword ready for attack. The whole dead arena gasped as they watched the sword go twirling up and away. Jeru hesitated for a second, and I saw my chance. I twisted counter-clockwise in a 180 and took a slash at his side. He barely rolled out of the way as he waited for the sword to come down. He must not have been good at spells because he didn’t use any, even in this time of need. Going too fast to stop I did another spin and stopped and looked at him scrambling away from me. he looked up and I saw his eyes on the distant sword that was likely tumbling down. I leaped towards him and landed only a foot away from him. I put my right hand, with my sword resting in it’s palm, over my left shoulder and back slashed his arm. He was scrambling to get out of the way, so I only chipped off part of his right shoulder, and he could recover from that in a few minutes. He cried out in agony and his left hand flew to his shoulder. If it wouldn’t be fatal to a human, it wouldn’t kill an immortal with this sword.
He got a little too excited when he heard his sword dig into the gravel behind him, and went running after it. He was barely faster than me, and he had a bit of a head start. When he got to the sword, he kept on running and grabbed it as he ran. When he grabbed it, his pinky was the closest to the blade, and he spun it on his finger so it was right side up. He stopped and turned towards me, and seeing that I couldn’t stop, went and tried to slash at my knees. I easily jumped over it like the little kids in second grade would do with a jump rope. When he saw I had skipped over it, he swung the blade to the side and then angled it up so the bottom of his wrist was facing the crowd. I was still in midair, and leaning the same way his blade had angled up with great skill. My long hair got a small cut off the end and I made a quick choice. While he was getting ready for his next attack and I had jumped over him and almost ten or fifteen feet away, I cut my hair. I grabbed it, slung it over my shoulder in the ponytail, and cut my blonde hair to a length where I wouldn’t have to worry about it. I tugged at the elastic band and it snapped off easily, so my hair tumbled to barely my shoulders.
The fight still wasn’t over, and I saw him charging at me like an angry bull that just had its horns snapped off. He had his sword ready for something fatal, and I got ready for defense. He took it over his head and brought it down so it would cut me in two exactly the same pieces. I got my sword ready above my head and his blade came down so hard it would have broken any other sword. If I wasn’t so old with centuries of muscles, that blow would have brought my own blade down and I would have killed myself. He kept it training down on me and I had to fight it from killing myself.
I eventually, when I was covered in sweat almost mirroring him, pushed him off and he tumbled back. He obviously had never had someone fight this long with him before. I parried his next weak slashes at my waist and when he tried the same little cutting-me-in-half show with less force, and I didn’t really like that. I got out of the way and let his blade hit the grit. I saw my chance, and I jumped up behind him and I raised my sword to stab him square in the back.
Then, something amazing happened. I didn’t really think the guy should die just because he was facing me, but he wasn’t going to drop the chance to kill me either. I guess his dad saw that my sword was the one that could actually kill his son, and did something that blew my mind. Everything froze. Now, I don’t mean that I got cold and turned into a human icicle. I was in midair, and my arms were tense to strike, and everything just stopped. My arms didn’t move, but they didn’t seem tired from holding them up. My legs were tense from just jumping getting ready to land, but my muscles didn’t hurt from keeping them so tight. My eyes were fixed on the back of Jeru’s head, ready to stab right below it and into his heart. He stayed in the same position too, crouched down trying to get his sword out from under himself fast enough, which nothing could ever be fast enough.
Then I heard murmurs from the high seats, where the Spirits sat. Then a disapproving father’s voice, “Well, you beat him, little lady.”
I couldn’t see him, since my eyes wouldn’t move but my eyes still didn’t seem dry from not blinking. He grabbed me by my elbow and pulled me up so I wouldn’t fall and kill his son. He threw me off to the side and this time I landed on my feet and stumbled to the ground. The other Spirits laughed at me, wearing the same outfits and the same sunglasses without the scars on their heads. I breathed heavily and put the armor back on my face, to cover the scars they stared at.
They unfroze Jeru and he looked disappointed, “My first loss, girl.” He told me with piercing eyes, “And I won’t forget you.”
“Well,” I said like I was a higher rank than him. “Don’t I get something for with my victory?”
The boy sighed, knowing that this was a serious fight I should get what I wanted. “Fine,” he said accepting that I had defeated him.
“I would like to see my sisters, all of them.”
The boy’s head snapped up and I saw him disapprove. “That’s it?”
“Yes, Jeru. I would have killed your lousy life if I knew I could see my sisters, but I’ll settle for this.”
“If it is what you wish, Rachna. Follow me.”
He brought me down a bunch of hallways, some I had passed with Perisu. When he came to a door and said before opening it, “This is where the people who have done good deeds go. The Fields.”
He opened the door and I was amazed at the similarities to where my mother and aunts lived. There was lush grass, large leaved trees, a nice pond, and around a large tree sat my sisters. “Sisters!” I screamed.
All of their heads snapped up and huge smiles and joyful tears filled their faces. They ran over to me tackled me with hugs. I wished I could stay there forever. We must have sat there for hours talking and laughing and sharing good memories. Kinita seemed to be her bubbly old self, with her normal bliss, which made me feel good. Jumi seemed like she had too much soda and was going to float away. Vala was talking on and on like crazy in her lacey and colorful spring dress. Mallee was smiling huge and full of pure energy, happy energy unlike my old black hole. Linya seemed to be at peace with herself, and had an over-joyed expression that turned to a calm smile as the minutes ticked by.
After what seemed like hours, we heard Jeru clear his throat. “Oh no! I have to go!”
“No! Please, Jeru. Can’t she stay?” Mallee pleaded.
“If she stays any longer, she might as well be dead, too.”
“I better leave girls, but on one condition.” I turned to Jeru, “Can I come visit?”
“As often as you like, Rachna.”
At that, everyone was bubbly, and let me go. The whole time we were talking, we didn’t mention one bad thing. Nothing came up about Kinita going against the mortals, Linya throwing herself in between me and Kinita, or even the fighting with the rat-headed half-horsemen.
When I left I waved in the doorway and they waved back, anxious already for my next visit. Right before I left, I heard Linya say to the girls, “I told you she heard us and she meant it. Rachna never breaks her promises.”
I smiled at that and thanked Jeru when I left. That’s when I started to look for Jared. I didn’t even find him in the end, he found me somewhere in Europe. I was all too excited to tell him about what had happened, scaling down on the sword fight part, and he seemed as happy as my sisters were when I was finished. We decided that every year in August we would go and visit for a week.
I decided, at that moment, that the moment I visited my sisters in the Underworld was the best time of my existence.