Squealing children freed from the prison of 4th grade swarmed out of class to the rat-a-tat of the final school bell for the year. Tomorrow would bring adventures beneath the hills of Mount Juhka with countless caves to explore. It was the transition from adolescence into the maturity of teenagers seeking their rightful place in the world. With the plans already formed and maps consulted, four children prepared for the greatest moment of their lives.
Tavax bolted across the playground escaping the bullies who tormented him all year. He and his youthful crew planned to meet off the Tiger Creek trailhead and begin their search for unfounded treasures and demonic monsters lurking around the cliffs. Edhe would meet with Rumani and Qutaks and join Tavax at the predetermined location.
Nighttime crawled leaving Tavax desperate for tomorrow’s fun. Dinner was a simple meal of potato stew and toasted bread with a smearing of butter. Not quite a feast but it filled his belly. He never grew into a fully developed boy due to the lack of nutrition making him the target of Therekacs’ unrelenting torment. He hoped the summer months would bring on a spurt of growth and he’d turn the tables on him.
Collapsing in bed, he tossed and turned fearing he would not sleep. The moons lit up the poster of Maharaja on the wall, Goddess of the Rakshasa from his favorite cartoon. She protected her clans with loving grace, always there in their time of need.
“Maharaja, please help me sleep tonight.” He said softly. “If only you’d be real, maybe you’d protect me.”
A soft purr echoed in his room lulling him into a meditative state. His eyelids drooped as he smiled. With his wish granted, he slipped into a peaceful night of rest with the comforts of Maharaja watching him.
“Come on, Tavax. Breakfast is ready.”
Tavax rubbed the grit that caked his eyes. A bright morning sun shone into his room reflecting off his tiger men figurines from The Rakshasa’s Adventures. Tavax loved Pirmusmi of the nine Rakshasa’s. It was told her fur was soft like freshly spun cotton candy and smelled as sweet. Her coloring shifted based on her mood, but never shied too far away from the pleasant aura of soft muted teal and indigo. Her growl reduced the bravest warrior to a mass of mucus before her ten-foot towering frame of muscles. Her flaming Napoleonic red cat’s eyes pierced the soul of any who dared challenge her.
Yet, the children worshipped her.
“TAVAX USET STAEVAID! If you don’t get your butt down here NOW, you’re grounded.”
Tavax quickly dressed and sprinted down the stairs to the kitchen. He leaped over his backpack in the hallway and reached the table just as his mother placed a stack of purple pancakes on the table.
Tavax dumped syrup on the pancakes and sliced into them.
“Slow down, don’t want you getting an upset tummy.” Mom poured a glass of milk and set it beside Tavax. “What are you doing today?”
“Mount Juhka.” Tavax shoveled pancakes into his mouth. “DOHM SUR.”
“Swallow first, talk second.”
“Treasure. Edhe said there’s gold up there.” Tavax sipped his milk.
Mom laughed, “I think it’s all be found, but good luck. Be home before dinner.”
Tavax polished off the rest of his pancakes and washed it down with milk.
Tavax returned the dishes to the sink and rinsed them off. He gave his mom a quick hug and bolted for the door. The screen door slammed against the wall and he lept off the porch onto the lawn.
He sauntered down the sidewalk toward the hills at the edge of town. Older kids at school talked about the caves at the base of Mount Juhka. Silently he listened to their fearful whispers of monsters in the caves, but he wasn’t deterred. He would summon the strength of Pirmusmi and forage inward emerging as the schoolyard hero.
Exiting the dead-end street, Tavax began the long hike toward the base of Mount Juhka following the well-worn path. Dogwoods were in bloom giving the edge of the forest a pleasant flowery fragrance. Summer flowers lined the edge of the trail brightening the scenery with explosive colors.
A rustling off to the left caught his attention. A blur of movement startled him at first believing a monster from the caves stalked him. He prayed one of his friends was off in the woods, but his imagination ran the gambit of increasingly hideous beasts eager to devour him. Spinning to face the source of the noise, Tavax paused when he noticed a strange patch of what appeared to be moss hanging from a dogwood branch. It was a beacon of brilliant neon turquoise and lavender standing out from the soft white petals of the dogwood tree.
Tavax scoped out the trees near the trail and attempted to discover any lurking creatures nearby. He crossed the wildflowers to investigate the strange patch of moss confident nothing stalked him. Nearing the brightly colored tuft, he recognized it as fur instead of moss. The aroma of last spring’s carnival tickled his nose. Raspberry cotton candy, his personal favorite, filled the air with its blissful scent.
“Rakshasa’s!” Tavax shouted.
Tavax reached the tuft of colored fur and snatched it off the branch. It was soft as a rose and smelled intensely sweet. Evidence of Rakshasa in their town would earn him a reputation of respect and awe.
Deeper in the forest, he noticed another small patch of fur clinging to the bark of a dogwood. At his feet were footprints of a large feline he assumed belonged to a Rakshasa. He traced it to the second clump of hair causing his pulse to race.
“They’ve left me a trail to follow.”
All through the forest, Tavax discovered more bits of Rakshasa fur in various locations. He gathered them and stuffed them into the pockets of his shorts. When his friends beheld the greatest treasure of all, he would be admired for the first time in his life.
Off in the distance, the sound of churning water made him pause. Tavax knew of no waterfalls around town. He stumbled through the overgrown grasses and fallen branches until a clearing appeared ahead.
His heart sank when he ran into several of his classmates mulling around the large meadow. He wasn’t the first to discover a hidden cave or Rakshasa but the sight before him caused his knees to wobble.
In the center of the meadow, a massive statue stretched as high as the trees. It was Maharaja, Goddess of the Rakshasa and protector of her children. An aquamarine cloak flowed over her shoulders and draped down to her truck-sized paws. Her silvery tail wrapped around a crystal clear pool providing a protective barrier from overflow. A raised circular platform connected the land along its tail on opposite ends. The center was missing giving it the appearance of a massive concrete ring. Maharaja held a pewter pitcher in one hand. Water flowed into the pitcher from the pool below defying gravity. Plumes of mist drifted away from the pitcher cooling the air as it coated the landscape with dew. In her other hand, she held a boulder sized golden cat’s eye marble made of crystal. The slit within the golden orb watched as the children entered sacred ground.
“TAVAX!” A child shouted.
“Edhe?” Tavax said.
Everyone looked his way to see other children from his school taking in the surroundings befuddled. Qutaks and Rumani ran with Edhe to Tavax’s side, all admiring the statue and its glassy pool.
“Have you seen one yet?” Qutaks asked.
“Rumani got here first, and they told her to wait.” Edhe said.
“She’s lying.” Qutaks pushed Rumani to the ground. “I don’t think the Rakshasa’s are here.”
“DID TOO!” Rumani rolled to her side and bounced to her feet.
Tavax rooted through his pocket and pulled all the tufts of fur he collected. He revealed the treasure in his open palm causing his classmates to gasp excitedly.
“No way!” Edhe said. “Is that real?”
Tavax allowed each to hold the fur. Each one sniffed it and smiled.
From behind the statue of Maharaja, queen of the Rakshasa, three other children joined the four as they inspected the treasure.
They whispered amongst themselves as the evidence of the Rakshasa’s return passed from hand to hand. Each spoke of how their journey brought them to the meadow, but none of them found the fur of the Rakshasa as Tavax did. It brought joy to Tavax to know he, and only he, had been blessed with this gift. In his mind, he took it a sign that the Rakshasa’s favored him. When the fur returned to his hand, he tucked it back into his pocket.
Two dazed children arrived together from the forest and joined the seven others near the edge of the large circular pool. They huddled together not saying a word, but their quivering cheeks and red streaked eyes couldn’t mask their fear.
Tavax heard purring, believing that Maharaja or Pirmusmi approached. It surrounded the children causing some to collapse to the grass. It increased in intensity and rattled the ground. Water in the pool sloshed and the statue of Maharaja swayed. The golden cat’s eye in her palm tumbled plummeted into the pool through the ringed circular platform.
The water flowing to the pitcher reversed and poured into the pool generating copious amounts of mist. It obscured the children’s vision from seeing a few feet beyond.
Tavax stood unafraid as his skin moistened. He sensed a powerful presence around him. Last night when he fell asleep and heard the calming purr around him, he felt the tenderness of Maharaja in the room.
A creature covered in indigo fur strolled from the circular platform and worked its way towards the children. Water beaded up on its fur and rolled away.
“Pirmusmi!” Tavax said.
Pirmusmi’s tail swished back and forth, occasionally slapping her back. Her scarlet eyes scanned the children as they backed away. She pinned her ears to her head and let out a low growl. Upon reaching the ground she sniffed the air until her attention focused on Tavax.
“CHILD. Stand before me.” Pirmusmi motioned with her left paw.
Tavax glanced about hoping that she was talking to another child, but her eyes locked on him. He stepped forward knowing how the enemies of the Rakshasa felt approaching one. He cast his eyes down terrified and his jaw quivered.
When her paw brushed against his chin, he believed his life was about to end. Pirmusmi lifted his head so they could see eye to eye.
“You cower before me, though I smell Rakshasa upon you.” Pirmusmi knelt before Tavax. “Why do you fear me, Child?”
Tavax started crying, “I DON’T KNOW!” He wiped his face dry and pulled out the tuft of fur.
“You found them. Very good, my Child. Only a true warrior of spirit would have discovered them.” She patted him on the shoulder. “Besides, I summoned all of you this day.”
Tavax sniffled, “Really? Why?” He put the fur back into his pocket.
From the mist of the pool, more Rakshasa’s emerged. They all had distinctive coloring ranging from dark blue, charcoal, to jet black. As tall as Pirmusmi and as muscular, they glided across the meadow each heading for a child in the crowd.
“We are the last of our tribe. For centuries we have slumbered in a land between worlds.” Pirmusmi’s eyes glazed over. “Forever shunned, never to be remembered.” She patted Tavax on his head. “Then, a child’s voice called to Maharaja, and she awakened me from the long slumber which held us all.”
Tavax never dreamed that his prayer made to a cartoon character would be heard. It was a dream come true to meet the Rakshasa.
“I did that?” Tavax relaxed.
“Yes, Child,” Pirmusmi stood. “and from your calling, I awoke my feline companions to join me.”
Tavax walked with Pirmusmi as she headed towards the other Rakshasa’s and the group of children curiously petting them. Each Rakshasa paired with a child from town forming an unlikely bond between a human and a mythical beast.
“That’s kinda cool. Right?” Tavax asked.
Pirmusmi laughed, her purr accentuating her happiness. “Very much so.” Pirmusmi stopped with Tavax several feet away from the rest of the crowd.
Tavax broad grin announced his first true success in life. His grades in school had been average; his friends few. Now, standing beside the leader of the Rakshasa, he would return to school as a champion amongst his classmates. He initially set out to find treasure but instead found the greatest gift of all.
“Let’s go back home and show you to all our friends.” Tavax said.
“Ibasama wants to be my friend!” Edhe shouted.
“Of course she does, Edhe.” Pirmusmi said. “Companionship for the celebration is paramount.”
“A party?” Qutaks said.
“Yes!” The Rakshasa standing with him said.
Pirmusmi raised her paws into the air causing the excited children to hush. “Maharaja, our Goddess, proclaims that we are the chosen. You,” She pointed to all the children. “will guide us into your world and help us become accepted once again.”
All the Rakshasa’s listening to Pirmusmi began to growl.
“THE EYE OF MAHARAJA! It’s gone.” The Rakshasa with Rumani cried out.
The Rakshasa bolted from their charges toward the statue of Maharaja. The water pouring from the pitcher had stopped flowing. They climbed the statute, sniffing as they searched for the missing globe.
Pirmusmi perched herself on top of the statute and gazed into the pool. “There, at the bottom. It must have fallen in.”
The Rakshasa howled out in frustration. They swarmed the edge of the pool anxious to jump in, but none attempted to enter. Some bounded up the bridge and reached down with their paws but recoiled the moment they touched water.
The sun began to set in the north sending the Rakshasa into a panic. Strodrun, the larger of the two moons, slowly crept in front of Azos eclipsing the distant satellite.
Tavax walked toward the pool, occasionally glancing at Pirmusmi upon the statue. He was the coward, never the celebrated hero. Until now, the opportunity never presented itself to allow him to shine. He knew from the cartoon that the Rakshasa rewarded those who aided them with praise and favored status amongst all the clans.
“Um. Pirmusmi?” Tavax stopped far enough from the statue so she could see him. “I could swim down there. I think?”
The other children joined Tavax nodding alongside him.
“I could too.” Edhe said.
“Me too.” A boy said.
“I can’t swim, but I wanna help. I swear.” Qutaks said.
Pirmusmi leaped off the statue and landed before Tavax. The other Rakshasa came to a stop, their ears perked up as they purred.
“We can’t ask you to do that. It wouldn’t be right.” Pirmusmi said.
Tavax grinned, “I WANNA.” He rushed to Pirmusmi and held onto her.
Pirmusmi nudged him away and summoned all the children to her. “Who here would join Tavax to find our artifact?”
Six of the nine children raised their hands eagerly.
“We must hurry for the night comes. If Azos is swallowed by Strodrun, the offering won’t be accepted.” The black Rakshasa said.
“Very good, Khithettue.” Pirmusmi nodded. “Get the salves so that we may help these fine young children.”
Khithettue sprinted into the woods and disappeared.
“Help us?” Tavax asked.
“Yes.” Pirmusmi said. “We can use our magic to give you a greater capacity to breathe underwater.”
The six children who could swim bounced about the meadow.
“MAGIC?” A girl said. “I’ve never seen magic before.”
“We want you to succeed, Omphae.” Pirmusmi purred.
“What do we do?” Tavax asked.
“First, we need to perform the ritual so that you may enter Maharaja’s water.”
Pirmusmi waved the Rakshasa over. In low growls and guttural grunts, she spoke to the Rakshasa, occasionally glancing over her shoulder.
“Do you understand them, Tavax?” Qutaks asked.
“No.” He replied.
Three of the Rakshasa’s split from the others and walked to the far side of the pool where the bridge connected to the meadow. Two Rakshasa positioned themselves alongside Pirmusmi.
“Rumani, Allons, and Bhastaet, would you please go to my three friends on the other side of the basin.” Pirmusmi motioned across the way.
Allons and Bhastaet bolted to the bridge and joined the Rakshasas.
“Can’t I stay here with Tavax? He’s my friend.” Rumani said.
Pirmusmi approached him and knelt before him, “We must hurry before Azos vanishes. This will speed up matters. Once you’re ready, you will search together.” She stood.
“It’s okay, we’ll be good.” Tavax said.
Rumani shrugged his shoulders and walked over to where Allons and Bhastaet waited. He occasionally glanced back to Tavax, his face a canvas of worry.
“You are a true friend, Tavax. A quality worthy of the Rakshasa.” Pirmusmi held out her paw to Tavax.
The two Rakshasa not assisting along the bridge strolled over to Qutaks and his new friends who couldn’t swim, speaking softly to them as they watched.
“I have the salve, Pirmusmi.”
Khithettue returned from the forest holding two metallic jars with cork stoppers. She dropped one off with Pirmusmi and delivered the second jar to the Rakshasa in silvery fur.
“What’s that?” Tavax asked.
Pirmusmi walked to the bridge, waving the children to follow her. “It’s a compound that will heal the flesh.”
“But I’m not injured.” Tavax said as he stopped.
Pirmusmi sighed, “I know. You see,” She pointed to Azos in the night sky. “once Strodrun devours it, retrieval of the Eye of Maharaja will be impossible. In order to get the magic into your system fast enough, we will have to cut into your forehead to allow it to get into your mind. When the ritual is complete, we’ll spread this,” She held up the jar. “into the wound and it will heal instantly.”
Tavax never saw healing used on the show. He had to assume that the show creators wouldn’t reveal all their secrets. He looked over to the three waiting across the pool and saw the three Rakshasa’s touching the children’s foreheads. None screamed or fussed leaving him convinced it was harmless.
“Okay, I’m ready.”
Pirmusmi escorted the three children to the edge of the bridge. She had each child stand before a Rakshasa with Tavax before her.
“This ritualistic mark will draw blood. I promise no pain. Do not be afraid.” Pirmusmi extended a claw on her left paw.
She spoke in the Rakshasa language and all proceeded with the ritual. As they spoke in unison, they pierced the children’s forehead cutting the symbol for infinity into the flesh. Blood trickled down between their brows and over their nose. When the chanting was over and the mark etched into their skin, each Rakshasa leaned over their child and licked the blood from their skin. Pirmusmi opened the jar, dabbed some on her paw and passed the jar to the Rakshasa next to her.
“Tavax, a hero to the Rakshasa, I heal thee in the name of Maharaja.” She dabbed her paw to his forehead.
Tavax marveled at the lack of pain he felt when Pirmusmi cut into him and cringed when her rough tongue swiped away the blood. He became dizzy when she applied the cream to his wound. The shock caused him to gasp deeply, but the sensation of breathing felt different this time.
A curious thought entered Tavax’s mind. If I hold my breath, will I pass out?
Pirmusmi grinned as she tapped the other children on the shoulder to watch Tavax.
For several minutes Tavax stood there refusing to exhale. At first, instincts told him to breathe, but he fought his natural impulses and held fast. When he accepted the magic’s effect, he laughed joyously.
“IT WORKS!” Tavax shouted.
“Of course it does, my Child.” Pirmusmi smiled. “I would never offer you something that would put you at risk of suffocation.”
As Pirmusmi led the three children to the circular platform above the pool, Khithettue joined the two Rakshasa’s standing with the children who couldn’t swim.
Tavax wanted to try out his underwater breathing so desperately, he almost jumped into the pool to swim to its depths. From his vantage point he couldn’t tell how deep the pool was, but at the bottom encompassing the entire floor was a cat’s eye staring back at him. The black slant of the pupil was surrounded by a shimmering golden light for its iris. Maharaja’s eyes on the statue mirrored the bottom of the pool.
The six children joined the Rakshasa on the platform and gazed into the pool.
“How deep is it?” Edhe asked.
“We do not know. Our kind does not submerge ourselves in water. It is an adventure for the heroes of the Rakshasa.” Pirmusmi said.
“Maharaja, bestow upon those with the mark of infinity your sight and guidance to secure the Eye. Our existence depends on it.” The silver Rakshasa said.
“I tried to give my cat a bath once,” Bhastaet said. “and he clawed me up.”
Tavax noticed the Rakshasa beside Bhastaet glowered at him.
“Yes, your domesticated animals showed you their disdain for water.” Pirmusmi said under her breath loud enough for Tavax to hear.
“Pirmusmi, we must hurry. Azos is almost consumed.” Khithettue said from the meadow.
Everyone looked skyward.
“Very well. We must begin now.”
Pirmusmi leapt off the platform and landed at the feet of Maharaja.
“What do we do?” Omphae said.
Pirmusmi raised her paws into the air. All the Rakshasa followed suit. “Children, Heroes to the Rakshasa, the Eye of Maharaja fell into the pool and needs to be returned to her palm before Azos is destroyed. Swim into the pool, find it and return it. Your reward will be eternal.”
Edhe, Rumani, and Omphae dove into the pool.
“The others will join us upon the dais. They will give of themselves to aid you.”
Khithettue escorted the three children toward the platform as Pirmusmi nodded to the three above the pool to dive in.
Every summer Tavax spent at the city pool hoping he would grow gills to escape the relentless misery on the surface. He was weak in body and limited in spirit. Tonight would be his moment to shine. Pirmusmi had the fortitude he desired in life, and upon retrieving the Eye of Maharaja he would have her and the Rakshasa as his allies.
He gracefully dove into the open ring of the platform and slipped into the silky waters. Tavax didn’t feel the water pass by his skin. The golden light shining from the eye below made the pool into liquid sunshine. He held his breath as he descended in case the magic didn’t work underwater. He should have lost his breath halfway down, but his stamina remained steadfast. He didn’t panic as he inhaled the water. The intake of water labored his lungs but with work he manipulated it so as not to over-exert his young body.
Edhe swam up to Tavax pointing at his mouth.
Tavax shrugged at first, then heard an almost inaudible bass-like tone. Edhe spoke slowly.
“Eeeeyyyyyeeee?” Edhe said.
Tavax shook his head and gestured for him to check at the bottom of the pool. He noticed the four others were hesitant to dive further into the pool staying close to the surface.
Edhe grinned and headed for the far side of the pool gliding down as he swam.
Tavax swam to the bottom and scanned the floor for any indications of the object. The pupil expanded in the eye causing the iris to shrink and lose its golden radiance. He felt as if the eye watched his every move. A moment of worry caused him to slow down and approach with caution.
Edhe made it to the bottom and canvased the area for the orb. The four children above Tavax worked their way down but had some distance to go before reaching him.
A ripple of energy pulsed through the water from above Tavax. It carried with it what he perceived to be a childish scream, amplified by the water and muffled so it sounded like an underground explosion.
Everyone stopped swimming and looked to the surface. The light from below dimmed enough to where the outline of the platform ring was a shadow from the moon’s glow. Tavax couldn’t discern what was happening above, but the light reflecting into the pool shifted from a pleasant sunlight to a pinkish hue. It formed in the center and quickly spread outward.
The amplified screams abruptly ceased as the water discolored. Streamers of small crimson pebbles trailed through the water. One by one they tumbled towards the unblinking eye.
The children closer to the surface began to flail as they swam upwards. Legs kicked violently without propelling them higher and their arms swatted at the debris passing by them.
Tavax swam towards Rumani hoping to understand why his friend panicked. He tested his ability to breathe underwater, and it hadn’t changed. As he neared, two tiny objects drifted close enough for him to make out the tips of fingers severed above the first knuckle. In his shock, he inhaled deeply, and the taste of copper pennies filled his mouth. The water darkened as the light from below faded and the hint of blood intensified.
Tavax cupped his hands to his mouth, “DOWN!” and he promptly headed back for the bottom.
His paralyzed legs failed to give him any speed, but he didn’t slow down his attempt. A large brownish coil snaked past him endlessly as he made his progress. He attempted to push himself away from the flexible streamer, stirring the surrounding water. The taste of bodily waste saturated his mouth as the intestine sailed past him.
Tavax looked down. Edhe pointed at the unblinking eye anxiously. With the water changing colors he couldn’t identify what it was but assumed that Edhe had found the orb. He kicked his feet furiously determined to reach his friend at the bottom. His right ankle slammed into something hard. When he turned to look, the horrified eyes of Qutaks stared at him as his severed head sank to the bottom of the pool. Its spine flopped in the water, a bony projection grazed against his flailing leg.
Tavax wanted to grieve for the loss of his friend, but his survival became the sole focus of his thoughts. He peeked upwards to get a sense of the carnage that might be coming his way. Rumani and Allons floated in the water as if caught in a trap. Two large poles with shimmering red tips eased toward them. The light intensified as they approached their foreheads where the mark of the Rakshasa has been carved.
The tip hit Allons first causing his limbs to shoot outward. The tip pierced his skull and sunk in deep. Rumani followed suit a few seconds later. A vibration disrupted the water and Qutaks’ organs sinking to the bottom. Both children exploded into scarlet liquid, pureeing their bodies into a thick soup of organs and bones.
Bhastaet attempted to swim away from the gore as it expanded outwards. The concussive explosion tossed him end over end in the water leaving him disoriented. Through the murk of the water, the beacon of light plunged toward Bhastaet and connected to his forehead. The explosion added his liquefied body mass to the first two children killed by the Rakshasas.
Tavax never saw a person die in his life and watching two of his friends executed before him was terrifying. The horror froze him in place as he awaited his own death. When the first blast of displaced water slammed into him, Tavax was knocked against the side of the pool. His head ricocheted off the polished marble and sent him tumbling away from the explosion. The second wave pinned him to the wall, forcing him to scrape against it. He didn’t feel the skin peeling from his arms as he accelerated around the pool. By the time the third blast hit him, his love of the Rakshasa vanished. Vengeance for his dead friends overpowered his desire to live. It was the sensation he wished he felt when he was bullied on the playground. Within a few moments, he was at the bottom of the pool with Edhe.
Omphae emerged from the bloody water and huddled beside Edhe.
“Oooorrrrbbbb!” Edhe pointed to the other side where a massive marble rolled away.
Tavax and Omphae looked to where Edhe pointed and all three quickly swam towards it. Edhe reached it first and clutched it tight. He tried to hoist it above his head, but it was too slippery.
Tavax helped him hold it. He pointed to Omphae to grab the Eye then toward the surface.
Tiny metallic spikes bounced off the marble floor spinning wildly on its tip. They had strange markings on them which shimmered with a pure white light. Omphae paused as one several yards away diverted course and sped towards her until it slammed into her forehead. Her head snapped back, and she flailed for several seconds until exploding like a balloon filled with crimson shaving cream.
The coppery taste in the water caused Edhe to wretch violently. He let go of the orb to clutch his stomach. Several of the spikes changed course and headed toward Edhe.
“Ggggrrrraaaabbbb!” Tavax thrusted the orb at Edhe.
The darts lost their trajectory the moment Edhe touched the sphere. One bounced off his chest driven by the inertia created when it honed-in on him. It broke the skin but didn’t penetrate his flesh.
The two boys, friends since daycare, held the Eye and used all their strength to swim to the surface. As they passed through the darkest cloud of blood, strange parts ricocheted off their heads. A bone here, an internal organ there, they were immersed in the remains of their friends and strangers who had been summoned to the meadow.
Tavax didn’t close his eyes as he rose holding the Eye. The revulsion he felt seeing children executed melted away. He inhaled the water into his lungs and found it to be soothing. Its effects were intoxicating, and he began to savor its taste. In his mind, he envisioned Edhe being touched by the spear and swimming in his leftovers after he ruptured. The delight to consume his friends set his soul on fire.
He stared at Edhe intently. As their eyes locked onto each other, Tavax perceived the same corrupted desire within Edhe.
Tavax yanked the Eye towards him, but Edhe maintained a death-like grip upon the Eye. Tavax was determined to be the one to deliver the artifact to the Rakshasa without his friend.
The eye within the sphere flared to life with a silvery light blinding the boys for a moment. The pupil narrowed and gazed at the boys on either side of its crystalline exterior.
Their watery environment vanished as the Eye of Maharaja implanted visions in his mind. Tavax hovered over a sprawling sun-drenched meadow where hundreds of Rakshasas lived their lives. Humans interacted with them carefree and happy as the Rakshasa performed magic.
Clouds rolled in and the rains began to fall. Rakshasa fled the downpour, but the humans stood proud as they retrieved weapons from their sides.
Tavax watched as the Rakshasa were slaughtered in their homes, butchered in the streets by the humans. All the terror and fear within the Rakshasa clans became Tavax’s to experience. He understood their suffering because he endured the torments of bullies on the schoolyard. He had witnessed genocide by his own people over the Rakshasa, and he wept. The once majestic and spiritual creatures had been the scorn of humanity for their lack of magic and it cost them their lives.
Tavax attempted to shield his eyes but his hands fused to the orb. When the vision faded, Edhe struggled to break free. He could tell by the rage in Edhe’s eyes that he witnessed the same dream. The Eye within the orb blinked several times, spun until it faced upwards, and propelled itself with the two boys bonded to it to the surface.
They hollered as they blasted from the pool skyward toward the statue of Maharaja. Thick, blood-saturated mucus flew from their mouths and their bodies expunged the remnants of the dead. They landed in the palm of the statue where the Eye released them from its magical grip.
Tavax collapsed into a ball as the fluid exited his lungs. He gasped for oxygen to nourish his body, but the excruciating pain tore his chest apart from the inside. The beacon from the bottom of the pool dimmed as Tavax slipped into unconsciousness.
Tavax awoke in a huge satin-sheeted bed with pillows surrounding him. His chest ached from the ragged coughing from the night before. He cleared his throat and gradually pulled himself out of bed. Staggering slowly he worked his way to the bathroom. Flicking on the light, he gazed into the mirror horrified at what stared back at him.
A pair of silvery slanted pupils surrounded by blood saturated irises reflected the Eye he had rescued before he passed out. He slapped himself across the face a couple of times hoping the mirage would vanish, but they remained.
“It is good to see you awake, my Child.” Pirmusmi said from the bedroom.
Tavax spun to find the Rakshasa he once admired watching him with a malicious grin on her face.
“What—what happened to my eyes?” Tavax said.
Pirmusmi strolled into the bathroom, “You’ve proven yourself to be Rakshasa at heart. You are reborn and will carry on OUR legacy of dominance. You see, our kind paid a price for our magical prowess, and you will help balance the scales.”
His arms rippled with muscles and silver tipped scarlet fur sprouted from his body. He was becoming Rakshasa, and it pleased him. Turning to the mirror, his facial features altered to that of a feline with whiskers jetting out from his cheeks. Sharp fangs protruded from his mouth and his tongue lashed out like a whip. He raised his hand to stroke the fur on his face and steely daggers shot out from his fingers. Razor-like claws tore into his cheek spilling blood down his face. He licked the tips of his fingers clean only to discover the taste of blood nourished him.
The transformation altered his perceptions of his life. He had been the weakling; an easy prey to the predators in school. His family had been destitute since his birth. His despair of life turned in his favor. The wrongs committed against him had to be avenged. The Rakshasa awakened within him a means to exact his horrors on those who tore him down.
Tavax turned to face Pirmusmi, “Why me?”
“Many have called upon us with little intention of honoring the spirit of my people.” She knelt beside him. “You touched upon my heart. You awakened the ghost of our ancestors when you prayed to Maharaja to help you sleep. Do you not appreciate the blessing you have received?”
Tavax pondered the blessing of strength derived through the death of his friends. Seeing them vaporized within the pool of Maharaja disgusted him last night. Now, he relished the surge of superiority his worship of Maharaja bestowed him.
“I do, Pirmusmi. I love my new body. But can I go home?”
Pirmusmi’s body shimmered in a ball of light. When it dimmed, she stood before him a voluptuous woman with long flowing indigo hair. “As Rakshasa, you can transform yourself into human form. In time, you shall understand.”
Any doubts Tavax had about becoming Rakshasa vanished upon seeing Pirmusmi change with a simple thought.
“Come, the birthing you went through exhausts the body and you must eat.” Pirmusmi walked to the door without turning back.
Tavax followed, dreaming of becoming human and blending in with the others. At first, he thought of the delight he would find in becoming Rakshasa in front of Therekacs and tearing his clothes from his body with his claws. His greatest bully would never mess with him again, especially if he severed a couple of his fingers on the hand which beat him daily.
Pirmusmi led him to the dining room where Edhe stood at a table devouring a hefty meal. Ibasama watched beside him, stroking the fur on the top of his head purring loudly.
“Edhe is one too?” Tavax exclaimed.
“Yes. He awoke about an hour ago and was eager to feed.” Pirmusmi escorted him to the opposite side of the room where a feast awaited him under a silken table cloth.
“THANK YOU, PIRMUSMI!”
Tavax heard his stomach growl as the hunger pangs gnawed at his insides. The intensity doubled him over and he had to sate it. He sniffed the air and could smell the sweet succulence of barbeque. Meat at home was scarce and his appetite was monstrous.
Pirmusmi grabbed the edge of the table cloth and peeled it back slowly to reveal the barbequed corpse of one of the boys who couldn’t swim sprawled out on the table. The skin had been flayed back revealing the flesh on his chest.
Tavax’s moment of shock was dulled by the savory sauce which coated the boy and browned his flesh
“EAT UP! It’s the best meal I’ve ever had.” Edhe shouted out.
Edhe glanced across the room at Tavax, his turquoise fur slathered in sauce and chunks of flesh tangled from his fangs. He smiled malevolently and returned to the meal before him.
“Is this for me?” Tavax asked.
Pirmusmi growled softly as she smiled.
Flashbacks of the humans killing the Rakshasa spurred on the vengeance he had felt for the creatures before. He understood they only wished to survive, and he would assist them. The corner of Tavax’s mouth curled as he approached the table. A soft purr emanated from his heaving chest as he opened wide and began to feast.
Horror has plagued me since my childhood, which is why I have chosen the name NOBODY to publish under. It signifies a child who existed yet was invisible to those around him. I have mined nightmares of my past, events that have traumtized me and turned them into something I CONTROL. I invite you to join me as I emerge from the shadows of my past and reveal the darkness which hides in my soul.