“You see now,” he says. “I can see it in your face, in your eyes. You detest me. But you must also feel thankful to me. For revealing the truth to you, for tearing away the veil drawn over you by people you loved most, your family. You must feel like you owe me for freeing you. You are now you, and you can see what you are capable of, even if you have no idea. You cannot comprehend how beyond your wildest imagination is your true potential. You cannot begin to understand what lays ahead. Your true family where you truly belong awaits you.”
Is he expecting me to embrace him? Forget everything and smile with him, at all that he spouts? Does he truly not understand what I feel? Is he so blind to the seething rage overflowing, overwhelming me? Does he not see what is coming?
“There is so much you don’t yet know. Even the stories. I am not sure how much she told you. But I can assure you there is so much more. You can learn it all. And you would be delighted. It would mean so much to you. There is so much you are capable of, so much you can accomplish.”
“Maybe,” I finally speak. My first word in what seems like forever. My very first word ever.
There must be something in my voice, because he stops speaking. The smile is finally gone from his face, and I am thankful. I am also something else.
Everything feels new, I need time to get accustomed to it all, to me. He seems to finally see. Most of what is happening inside has nothing to do with him, with what he is saying. He must also see something else. He is no longer relaxed. Calm. Cool. I can see his mind ticking. Thinking. Working out a plan? Trying to figure out what was going on in my head? Is that even possible? It seemed so until a while back, but not now. The confusion is clear on his face. I know now for certain something has changed.
I look at my hands. And I see it. The blue. The stream, he called it. A second skin. Mine entirely. Different from the stream of the world. Stronger somehow. The blue reaching for me from the memories all this while is this. My stream. I was wrong though. It wasn’t the blue, the stream of the world reaching for me. It was the stream trying to burst out from within me. It shouldn’t make sense, but it does. I am not questioning, not now. There are more pressing things needing my attention to. Like dear Vikram sitting by me, seemingly readying for what is coming.
What am I thinking? Nothing actually. I am blank. I’m on autopilot. Going wherever I find myself going. Only certain that I will like it, wherever it might be.
“Ani,” he says, softer than before. More careful. Is it a question? Is it the beginning of whatever it is he is going to say? Or is it somehow a complete sentence that I simply cannot understand? Another mystery. This one I can’t care enough to solve. Whatever it is, doesn’t matter. Because he isn’t going to say anything more. He isn’t even trying to.
Of course he is able to see the stream. Acting up around me. I don’t know what I am doing. I only have the faint memory of the stream as a tiny spark in me, spreading through, setting me ablaze. I hang on to the feeling, of the stream from the car, from last night. It feels more familiar now. And it feels easier. Like I can command it. To do my bidding.
“They built a system. To keep the world running. To take the free souls away, as they left the body. To a different place, where they now belonged,” aunt said. She heard the question without my asking, and she answered without the slightest disturbance to the story, blending it into the story with the ease of a storyteller extraordinaire.
“Does that mean then that if someone was strong enough they could fight the system? Stay?”
My question aunt could answer before I even had to ask. Aniya was something else though. She had to ask her question, many a time catching aunt off guard. I was used to it, from the innumerable times I had seen her do it in school.
“Yes, that is true,” aunt said, hesitantly. Like she was keeping something back, not telling us everything.
I couldn’t see it then, but looking back now, it makes more sense. What she didn’t say back then. The part of the answer she held back. It is possible. One could get powerful enough to fight the system, the stream. Is that why I am still here? Am I so powerful? The way the stream acts around me makes it seem so. Does that mean aunt wasn’t so powerful? None of the others were? Does it mean then that it is possible to weaken someone enough for the stream to grab them out of their body? I don’t know why, but I believe it is possible. I believe I can do it. I believe that is what is going to happen to Vikram.
The room dissolves around us, as I will it away. The world twists around me, to have me standing the same as I was laying on the bed. He is standing too, on his feet, unable to understand how. I can see the confusion on his face, and it pleases me. It is not nearly satisfying enough, but it is a start. A start I can like. A start that is promising of what is to come.
Is he so weak? That he can do nothing? That he cannot even understand how I am making it all happen? His eyes are frozen on mine, letting me know he has figured out that much. That I am responsible. I can see his brain ticking, working out just how much more I am capable of. Just how much more I can do. Just how much further I can go. He needn’t work too hard, I am going to show him, as much as I am going to show myself. I am not sure it can be done. I am not sure I can do it. I am not sure of anything. Except that I am going to try.
“Ani,” he says again, the start of a full sentence. But I have no intention of hearing him out. I have heard as much as I can stand.
Quiet, I think. And his voice is gone. Like the wind is sucked out of him. Is he gasping? It seems so. I like the sight of him suffering. I want so much more of it.
As I point to him, I will for more of the stream around him. I remember what I saw, in the car. The blue heavy around everyone, like it was sucking out their life. Which it was. That is what I intend it to do now. Crash onto him with all its weight. Crush him. Suck his soul out of his still alive body.
The stream that was a calm blanket around him is now a rug of raging storm. The gales leap off him, each taking a greater part of his soul. Is it painful? It looks so. It looks like he is struggling to scream, too weak to get his voice out though. Gasping for breath. Clawing at the stream falling over him, trying to peel it off. Trying to get his feet to move, to run away. But his feet seem crushed under the weight, unable to even carry him. He collapses to the ground. The open ground, as unlike the closed room as it could be. We are in a sea of blue, all of it falling onto him. I can see the intense pain he is in. And I find it satisfying. Not enough yet, but there nearly.
“This is what I want, this is what I comprehend. This is what you have accomplished,” I tell him. Smiling. Surprised myself by the humour, the mirth in the smile. It is dark, but it is intensely pleasurable. Intensely satisfying.
“Die,” I tell him, the word surprising me too. The look of surprise on his face as wide as mine. I don’t know what is happening, but I know it is too much. Even for me to handle. I recognise the feeling. The bright day turns dark around me. Turns into the night. The night I just woke from. I am back in the car. In the back, with Aniya. Mom and aunt are in the middle. Dad and uncle in the front. Aniya has her eyes closed, leaning onto me. I return the stare of the four other sets of eyes. It feels like heaven, like everything is as perfect as it could be. I feel the spark igniting in me. I smile at the happiness of the six of us together, and explode.
I am in the hospital. I recognise the room even through the darkness. The white walls, under the thin veil of the stream. The tubes strapping me to the bed, to the machines. I am alone. The machines are beeping. But something is different. As the lights come back on, I realise that is what was different. I can hear the confused voices outside my room, in the corridor.
“What was that?”
“No one else had it.”
“Only we went dark.”
“Some freak accident. A freak blackout.”
“Good thing the new back up system went online last week.”
They may not know, but I do. I know exactly what happened. I exploded again. I only hope this time I succeeded in sending Vikram to his death. Does that make me evil? Maybe. But it doesn’t matter. Didn't aunt say it, the beast was evil to some, hero to others. To me, I am a hero. A dark, vengeful hero. He feels deserving of my wrath. I only hope he suffered enough, and is gone.