Night has come, and Amanda’s window is now covered with cardboard. She prepares for bed by letting her dog out to use the bathroom. Her dog begins sniffing around in the grass. Amanda whistles, and the dog comes running.
“Come on, uh… I didn’t give you a name yet.” She kneels to pet the dog as it tries to lick her arm. “I think I’ll call you Ameena!”
They both go upstairs into Amanda’s room.
“No. Out. You sleep outside the room and protect the house from burglars and my nose from allergens.” Amanda shoos Ameena out.
Amanda strips down to her underwear and throws her clothes toward a chair in the corner of the room. But the clothes don’t rest on the chair; instead, they drape in midair just above it, as though caught on something invisible.
Amanda doesn’t notice; she grabs her phone and plugs her headphones into it. She places them in her ears and climbs into bed, covering herself with a blanket. Soon, the only sound is her music, and the only light comes from the dim moon. Amanda closes her eyes, finally managing to relax, but something bumps her bed. She sits back up with a jolt, searching frantically for the source, but the only thing that catches her eye is her open door.
“Okay, Saira,” Amanda snaps as she gets up to close it. “Not funny. You can’t scare me—you’re just being a pest. Stop creeping around in the dark.”
The door clicks shut.
Amanda turns back around, but the light filtering through the window settles on the clothes on her chair. There’s something strange about them—they’re not draped anymore, but instead look as though they’re being worn by someone invisible.
“These eyes are driving me crazy,” Amanda mutters, rubbing her face as she storms over to the chair. She throws the clothes across the room as hard as she can, but they catch in mid-air. Slowly, the clothes begin to move of their own accord, arranging themselves until they once again look as though someone invisible is wearing them.
“No way,” Amanda breathes.
The clothes lunge for her, and she screams.
The door crashes back open. “Boop, stop!” Saira yells.
The clothes are thrown in Amanda’s face, and she continues to panic. She screams and hurries to snatch the clothes away, then begins looking frantically around her room. Ameena comes into the room and begins jumping up and biting at the air.
Logan enters in his underwear, holding a bat. “What the hell is going on in here?”
Amanda stares at them, petrified. Saira shakes her head no, signaling Amanda not to say anything.
Jean cuts in between Logan and Saira. “You look like you just saw a ghost, honey.”
“I’m fine now. It was a bug in here, and I thought it got in my bed, so I freaked out. Sorry.” Amanda shudders.
“All that damn noise over a bug? I just had a heart attack, and you’re trying to give me another one already.” Logan walks out of the room. Jean follows, but Saira remains standing in the doorway.
“You said you wanted to meet my monster, and now you have. The more scared you are, the scarier it becomes. Good luck trying to get some sleep.” Saira slowly closes the door.
Amanda looks over at her dog. “Pick a spot and make yourself comfortable. You’re staying in here with me. I’ll just take some allergy medicine.” Ameena picks a spot in the corner and lies down.
Amanda doesn’t sleep all night. The next morning, she has bags under her eyes when she sits at the table, trying to eat a bowl of cereal, but her food keeps jumping off her spoon.
Saira walks into the kitchen with her tablet. “You haven’t been up this early in a long time. I’m guessing you had a hard time sleeping?” Saira sits in a chair next to her sister.
Amanda puts a spoonful of food to her mouth, though most of it falls off before it reaches her. “Slept like a baby. I guess you’re not blind anymore?”
“My vision came back last night. I strained my eyes to the point of blindness, but a little rest was all it took to get my vision back. With more training and practice, I should be able to use my powers longer and better without experiencing the negative side effects so quickly. While online last night, I decided to try something new. I typed in that I was the acolyte of transcendence and that I need help understanding my powers, but nothing showed up for my web search. Then, I tried ‘my sister is the acolyte of truth and needs help understanding her powers and what she is.’ When I did that, my computer screen froze, and I thought it had gotten a virus. I couldn’t exit the web browser or shut it off. Then, rainbow static took over the screen, and then it went completely blank, like it was off. It pinged, and this notification showed up.” Saira shows her the laptop screen.
Amanda looks at the white words on the black background. Press enter when you’re ready to prove yourself.
“It’s only interested in you,” Saira explains. “It didn’t care whether I was an acolyte too. So, press enter, please.”
While Amanda is looking at the screen, she notices a reflection of a blue ball of feathers behind her and slowly turns around.
Saira notices Boop too. “Whatever you do, don’t turn around. Boop is behind you.”
Amanda turns all the way around and finds nothing there. “Is Boop a deity that can only be seen in mirrors, or something?” She faces forward and sees a fluffy blue ball of feathers the size of a basketball in front of her face.
“Amanda, just pretend you don’t see it. If you react every time you see it, it won’t leave you alone.”
Amanda eyes go wide. “Your monster is so cute!” Amanda prepares to touch it.
The feathers on the deity start shaking and flashing different colors. Small, pencil-thin black lips appear from the feathers, along with triangle-shaped yellow eyes with black pupils. It says, “Boop,” then begins to grind its sharp teeth like a chainsaw and snickers, making its grin stretch across its body. Black talons sprout from it, offering Amanda what appears to be a handshake.
“Amanda, ignore it.” Boop’s face disappears, but then it pops out to face Saira and brings one talon around to shush her. Then, its face pops out at Amanda again, snapping its teeth like it’s getting ready to bite her. Amanda jumps in surprise and falls back in her chair, kicking the table and knocking her cereal to the floor.
“What in the world is that thing?” Amanda panics, backing up.
“All he says is ‘boop,’ then snickers. He used to scare me, but now he doesn’t.”
Amanda stands to her feet, and Boop gets in her face, grinding its sharp teeth back and forth and staring at her like a rabid animal. It opens its mouth wide enough to fit a head inside.
“Boop, stop,” Saira nonchalantly says, looking down at her tablet. Ameena rushes into the kitchen, barking. “It’s going to rip the dog apart, unfortunately.”
Ameena stands on her hind legs, then jumps into the air and starts to spin forward like a tire going a hundred miles an hour. Amanda stares in disbelief while her sister watches, looking bored, and Boop continues to snicker. Ameena continues to spin, and then a furry arm pops out of her side, followed by another on the other side. Then, she sprouts two long legs out of her back, with paws the size of a full-grown lion. Ameena lands hard on the ground between Amanda and Boop, huge paws extended out from its seven-foot-long body. Her ears prick up, and her long tail sweeps back and forth as she growls, showcasing her sharp nails, which continue to get longer until they finally stop growing.
“If you don’t want to get pounded into the ground, I suggest you stop right now,” Ameena threatens in a woman’s voice.
Boop quickly floats backward toward Saira until it’s in her face.
“Boop, I said stop. Now, go away,” Saira orders.
Boop’s talons twist around toward Saira, then its face. It grinds its teeth, then quickly thrusts its sharp, pointy talon toward her face, stopping centimeters away from her nose. Saira doesn’t budge an inch. He taps her lightly, then says, “Boop,” and vanishes, snickering.
Ameena takes the milk off the table and drinks it. “Well, that was intense!” Ameena sits in a chair at the table and breaks it. Then, she just sits on the floor. “Whoops. I’ve been trying to think of a cool way to reveal myself to you, and I must say, that was a pretty cool way.”
Amanda looks terrified as she stares at what’s in front of her. “So, do you have a name, and should I be scared right now?” Amanda asks, struggling to get the words out of her mouth while on the floor.
“Aww, you’re so cute!” Ameena reaches over and pets Amanda on the head. “You don’t have to fear me. Only those who oppose you do. And as far as names go, Ameena is fine. I think it’s pretty! From what I’ve seen so far, you’re nothing like your past reincarnations. You’re actually a lot weaker. I’ve been with you for over a week now, and you haven’t tapped into your destructive powers yet. My previous acolytes did it on day one. Maybe you’re just a late bloomer.”
“Reincarnations, destructive powers—what?” Amanda’s fearful expression turns curious.
“You’re the third generation of the acolytes of truth. Once one dies, I just wait for another acolyte of truth to be reincarnated and for the perfect time to unlock your kundalini.”
“I’ll take over the questions from here. What’s the perfect time?” Saira asks.
“In order to unlock your powers, you have to accept our help. We can only ask you twice, and after that, I think you die or something. I’ve never been turned down, but that’s what I’ve heard some of the other deities talk about. My strategy is to ask in a dire situation.”
“I knew it. Who created you, and what are we?” Saira asks.
“The first two deities, Shen and Akuma, were created by the Big Bang and have been enemies since their creation. One is purely good, and the other purely evil. The deity named Shen created pure humans with no negativity in them and placed the first kundalini in a man named Adam in the hope he could defeat Akuma. He equipped the kundalini with adaptive abilities. The good in him would give Adam helpful powers, but Shen knew he wouldn’t be able to defeat Akuma with that, so he planned on Akuma inserting his seven deadly sins into Adam and all of humanity. That would cause the kundalini to change and equip Adam with destructive powers. That kundalini was passed down from Adam as a hereditary trait throughout the millennia, which played a part in more acolytes being created in the process. Acolytes live a long time if they’re not killed. Shen planted two trees, which bore fruit called Kami apples, as a backup plan to defeat Akuma. I was once human, and so were thousands of other deities, until we bit into the Kami Apple after being enticed by Akuma to do so. Although Shen had an agenda for the newly created deities, none of us wanted to be bothered with his and Akuma’s petty quarrels. After becoming deities, we all went out and found someone with an unmarked kundalini in them and stamped them, making them our acolytes. What we didn’t know was that when that acolyte died, they’d be reincarnated with that same stamp, drawing us to it like a magnet. When one of my past acolytes died, I got bored and tried to unlock another deity’s acolyte’s kundalini to see if I could make them an acolyte of truth too, but it didn’t work. I just left a nasty wound on them. So, I had to wait until you were born.”
“So, do you or any of the other deities have a purpose? Maybe some type of agenda?” Saira asks.
“We deities don’t. This is all just entertainment for us, but acolytes develop an agenda once they get their powers, as I’ve noticed.”
“So, you’re the deity of truth?” Amanda asks.
Ameena pets Amanda on the head. “I’m your deity of truth, and just like your previous reincarnation, you are the acolyte of truth. Although all the reincarnations’ powers differ, you all can tell when someone is lying in your own unique way. One other thing about my other two acolytes is that they both shared the same destiny. They joined a secret society, became leaders, and saved the world. Each of them did it, and now it’s your turn. I didn’t have to intervene at all to assist them because they were strong, but I’m willing to put my life on the line to help you.”
Amanda grabs her stomach and laughs hysterically. “Save the world? Ha! I’ll pass. I need someone to save me. I just graduated from high school with no plans or future, and I’m broke. I’ve got my own problems and can’t worry about helping other people. Alright. That’s all I needed to hear. Saira, is that good for you too?”
“No. There has to be more to the story. Adam must be dead by now, so does that mean Akuma is too? Are we safe? Are we just pawns in a game? What does Amanda need to save us from?” Saira probes.
“I’m done telling stories. I’m ready to take a nap.” Ameena lies on her back and closes her eyes.
“If that’s the case, Amanda, come press enter on my tablet, so we can see what happens.” Saira gives her tablet to Amanda.
She pushes the tablet away. “No. I’m done with all this stuff.”
“Please. I never ask you for anything. Can you please help your little sister out?” Saira pushes the tablet back in Amanda’s face.
Amanda curls her lip. “Don’t use that sister trash on me. You don’t love me, and you don’t care if I’m your sister. You’re nothing but a robot who’s just saying something to get what you want.”
“Wait… I feel something. I do love you. But that’s it. I just learned to love… you. Amanda, I love you,” Saira confesses, emotionless. She glows red.
Amanda squints her eyes. “Hey, you just lied.”
“Only because I don’t understand emotions. Here, I’ll press enter for you.” Saira presses enter on her tablet, and instructions pop up on the screen. “Here, take it.”
“Fine! It’d better not be a pervert on the other end of this.” Amanda reads the instructions out loud. “‘Listen to the man’s statements and say whether they’re a truth or a lie.’ Alright, I’d better activate my eyes so I can see this man glow.” A countdown clock shows up on the screen, counting down from five, and then a bald man with glasses and a bright red bow tie appears. “Alright, let’s do this!”
“Hi! You need to answer these five statements to prove you are who you say you are,” the man says, then glows red.
“You just lied. Did the test start already?”
“I’m Bill,” the man says, still glowing red.
“No, you’re not. You’re a liar. You don’t even look like a Bill.”
“This test is over.” The man glows red.
“That was a lie, and I’m over this.”
“Hi! I’m Ted,” he says, then glows red.
“Hey Baldy, no you’re not. Stop lying to me!”
“Hi, I’m Frodo!” He turns green.
“Unfortunately for you, that’s the truth… dork! Ha!” The screen goes black. “Oops. Guess I hurt his feelings.”
Words pop up on the screen. Congratulations. Your power would be a valuable asset to our team. We would like to show you around our facility; do you accept?
“Well, looks like I passed.”
Saira takes the tablet away from Amanda and types in “yes.”
“Now, it’s my turn to ask a question. Are you going to eat that stuff you spilled on the floor? Because it looks really good,” Ameena asks, lying on the floor.
“No, help yourself,” Amanda answers. Ameena begins licking food off the floor.
The computer dings. “It says someone named Kid will pick you up in a black Porsche tomorrow at noon,” Saira says.
“I’m not getting in a Porsche! I’m tired of being the guinea pig. What if this is some type of sex trafficker trying to kidnap me?” Amanda asks.
“Ask him, and see if he’s lying,” Saira suggests.
“If he tries to hurt you, I’ll bite his face off. Literally,” Ameena chimes in, her tongue still on the ground.
“Okay, but this is it. I’m tired of all this acolyte, kundalini, deity stuff. After this, I’m ignoring all of you. Including you.” Amanda points at Saira. “You freaking robot. And you need to turn back into a tiny dog right now!”
Ameena doesn’t change back.
“Now, I said!”
Ameena growls at Amanda.
“Or, you can take your time and finish eating. You know what? Don’t even worry about changing back. I’ll just go and think of a lie to tell our parents so I can leave the house tomorrow,” Amanda says nervously.