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by Ambareesh Sr Ja

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The rain lashed against the windows. A mild aroma rose from the fine wet mud path leading to her house. Darkness engulfed the village, despite the hour of noon. Apollo must well have ridden his chariot home, beneath the eastern sky- there wasn’t a ray of light to see. The brave God, she chuckled, afraid of a few drops of cold?

I shall not be, afraid.

No. Not after today.

Today. It needs to happen today. I need to. I do.

The apprehension was maddening, but expected. It felt the same, every single time. Every couple of years, on her name day- ever since that wretched evening, a decade ago.

She sat back on the couch, sighed and closed her eyes. Memories drifted back in- rugged, yet vivid.

♦♦♦

It wasn’t a remarkable building. No novelties, no decorations, no elaborate art work to adorn the walls- nothing. Lack of it all, on the contrary made it magnetic. The dark dirty front, a barely legible name plate, a gate that creaked loudly when swung open. Weirdly captivating.

She walked into the store, as brave as she felt- a girl of 16, with a thirst for the unknown.

“Hello? Anybody here?” An empty room beheld her. It was surprisingly small from the inside. A row of old books, dusty toys and a few plastic ornaments hung from the wall. The rest was all boxes. Thousands of them. Sealed shut, and wrapped in white paper. But It wasn’t scary- at all. Disappointed she frowned, thinking of her cousin. So like Mia to cook up stories. She had almost died of fear, it seems. Pshaw! Silly girl.

“I was expecting you”. She nearly jumped off her skins. A short man, climbed down beside her, from a ladder in a dark corner. “Are you alone?” he enquired, peering outside. The cracked voice, felt out of place coming from such a little fellow. Seemingly satisfied, he walked behind the counter and jumped onto the stool. “So…?” A raised eye brow and the question hung in the air, inviting her to answer nonetheless.

“I… I need … I need THE book” she told him.

“THE book? You don’t mean…?”

Inexplicable fear. Yes, THE book. She wanted to say it out loud. But her throat was dry, as coarse as stone. Beads of sweat ran down her bosom. She nodded.

He sighed.  “It’ll cost you a mere thousand dollars now. But it may cost you more than a signed paper, later. It is unwise. Take anything else, can’t you?” He waved towards nothing in particular. Staring deep into those doe eyes, he was desperately searching for denial. He couldn’t find it. Sighing again, he jumped down and strolled past a curtain at the far end of the room.

She breathed a sigh of relief. She had found it. The Devil’s Script was her’s. Finally.

♦♦♦

The Devil’s ScriptFamed across the world, like any other object of sorcery it has its own tale of horror and despair. A book of mere ten pages, considered priceless by aficionados and connoisseurs of magic. Each page- barring the first and last- hold the mysteries of tomorrow. The leaf on the left- would tell the reader of sins committed the year before and the one on the right- punishments for them, dealt fairly in the year ahead. Seen differently by different mortals; it is believed to be visible even to the blind. However, eight blank pages is rumoured to mean a pure soul, destined to become an angel. Unless- the last leaf has a Crown of Thorn printed across it. Only a scarred demon shall lay eyes on the cursed crown and thus herald the Eternal Doom- for all mankind.

She reads those words for the umpteenth time & rolled up the old parchment she had bequeathed from her ancestors; and stared at THE book, lying open on her table. Ages had passed since that day- the day she had decided to acquire it. Foolish acts of bravado from a fiery teen. Unaware of life and the hopes pinned on her. The discovery of something so exquisite and precious, albeit evil- thrilled her beyond comprehension. She had opened it as soon as she came home, expecting a page filled to the edges with her crimes and retributions. The thousand dollars she stole for the book, at least- must be listed surely. To covet is a sin. The Bible had taught her that.

The first two pages were blank.

♦♦♦

The 8th page too, had turned out unblemished. That was exactly, two years ago, on her birthday. By then she had lost all hope. A shadow of her former self, pale and frail- she was barely alive. Today, withered and desperate, she almost welcomed death. It wasn’t a scary prospect. After all, she was never scared of it in the first place.

But to set off destruction and death to all? Be the harbinger of the end?

Why was I chosen? To be slaughtered first?

Like a raven, cursed and destined to sing no melody, but a dirge. She was tired. Blaming the Lord, was never soothing. A scarred soul, she was. Inevitable, it will be. She couldn’t help them anymore. She wept uncontrollably, but shed no tears. Those were long gone, dried up with her dreams and desires.

Today. It shall be today. The pain has been too much to bear. Let’s end it all on my name day. The 21st of December. The page, the last page.

She took a deep breath, and opened THE book to the eighth.

The crisp yellowish paper felt so heavy.

She closed her eyes,

and turned the page.

Silence. Deafening silence.

In miniscule black letters, near the bottom right corner of an otherwise blank page was written:-

M.R.P 5 $

♦♦♦

-Sr Ja

Inspired by a story told to me by Joel James, a dear friend of mine 🙂 

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