The Gates of the Mederan

When Vayshali reels the interest of an inhumane spirit who visits her dreams, she is left distressed. However, her dreams are not as untrue as they appeared.

Photo by Tianshu Liu on Unsplash

Chapter One

The knocking turned incessant.

It was just another way of saying ‘too loud to ignore’. Three boys, each a cousin brother of hers had come to her house that day with their moms. Their mothers, along with her mother, had gone off on a shopping spree.

All of them laid under thick blankets of wool that had its frayed strings dangling all over it. A weird thing it was, to hear such a noise at this time. No. It was not the noise, but the fact that it was coming from downstairs instead of the wooden door that led down the stairs.

It was as if someone was knocking on the ground.

But who would be knocking on the ground this late in the evening? Vayshali shivered and pulled her own blanket tighter around her chest. This scared her. It was mid-winter and the tenants who lived below and above them had gone off to their villages. An oddity it was, to hear these sounds from a place that was empty.

Then again, it could be a mouse.

Shadows grew around the corners of the area. The room was small. Haphazardly put into place were a few huge objects; the vanity dresser, the queen-sized bed supported with a royal bed frame, a table, and a closet, all royal brown in color. As magnificent these things were, they were all too old. The pieces of the bedding and vanity chipped off from places. Once furnished with the finest wood, the table was now rickety and the metal closet did not have the metal bar that used to open it. Another problem was the loss of space.

With all these objects covering the place, there was a little space left to walk on.

Three doors made an exit through this room. One led to a spacious balcony, the other to the kitchen, and the last one to the stairs. In a manner of speaking, all were interconnected. Even if someone broke in, she and the boys could always escape through the other two doors. That, to her mind, sounded very much like a plan.

This shabby house with a single room was more or less an indication of the poverty of her family.

The peach-colored walls brought back the memories of her mother painting them in midsummer. It was not for creativity, but for the mere purpose of hiding the ugly monotonous white paint.

Agitation filled her to the brim.

Ceased was the knocking now. Calm wafted through the air, and she slipped into a comfortable position. It was easy to doze off in such peace. If not for the fear clouding her mind, she would have already done it.

There was indeed someone in this house comprised of three floors and three different families. Among all the other facts, the fact that they were all alone was more horrifying than the others were. Whoever it was, she was not going to open the door and check on the person. If the intruder would not enter this place, they were safe. She just needed to keep quiet. That particular thought eased her worries, and soon, she dozed off into a sweet slumber.

Comfort was a short-lived thing in her life. The silence she had been keeping to delude a possible intruder shattered with the ringing of the phone beside her. Snatching it away, she picked up the call. A fortune it was to see that none of them had been disturbed. “Vayshali, we will be coming home around ten today. Handle the boys till then, would you?” It was her mother. Rubbing away at her eyes, she stifled a yawn. “That won’t be a problem, mama.” When the call hung up, the knocking began. This time, however, it was on the door.

Chapter Two

“Vayshali.” Aarush groaned in his sleep. “There is someone at the door.” Rolling over on his back, he pulled the pillow over his head. Vayshali did not respond to him. The air in the room felt stiff and suffocating. Soon, all three boys were sitting cross-legged on the bed. With eyes half-closed and stifled yawns, they threw something close to a glare at Vayshali’s direction.

Vayshali chucked the pillows at the three of them for this. Before these idiots voiced out any complaints, Vayshali put her index finger on her lips. That silenced all the accusations. Confusion drawled upon their faces as they looked up at her wide eyes. With one hand on the mouth and the other on the bed, her mind searched through the various possibilities to give a hint to her stupid brothers.

An idea crept into her head. Picking up the phone, she opened it. With much wrinkling of her brows, she struggled to express the thoughts coursing through her mind.

There, she had done it. ‘There is a stranger outside. So, shut up and do as I say. First, I need you all need to keep quiet. I’ll figure out the rest.’

Aarush took the phone from her hands. His eyes squinted at the text for a while. Confusion turned to horror, and his mouth pulled open in shock. Seeing such a strange expression on his face, Reyan took it. The same process repeated and now the phone was in Pranav’s hands. They all took a deep breath and looked at her with anticipation.

All except for Pranav. Pranav, unlike the other two boys, shrugged and gave her the bird. The knocking halted and started again. This time, it came from the downstairs, just as it did before. He looked at all of them. “Why are you even listening to Vayshali?”

There, he had done it again, like everyone else in the family. Disgusted she was by this ill mentality of her family members.

“She has clearly lost it. I’m just going to go and check it myself,” he said. Others were given no time to protest. He had already plopped down from the bed and opened the silver latch of the door beside him.

They all ran after him. It was of no avail though, not even a little. He had already skipped down the stairs. Clenched fists clutched the framework as they peeked down the stairs, hoping Pranav would appear again.

A part of Vayshali hoped to see his head pop up from down the staircase, grinning at her and saying that it was nothing. Nevertheless, another part of her, the more realistic one knew.

It understood the aftermath before it happened. Everyone knew the aftermath of such impulsive behavior, a behavior that was bound to get you in trouble. Such things were pleasurable. The rush of the adrenaline, the fast beating of the heart, and the bubbling curiosity had always been a fatal combination. Horror movies were solid proof of that.

With the speed of the knocking flew her thoughts. Then, only the thoughts remained. A sight of relief left her mouth as she heard his voice.

“There is nothing here, guys. You are worry-”


Chapter Three

Minutes passed but Pranav’s unfinished sentence did not reach its end. It was, as if, after all these years, someone had cut him off before he could speak. What they forgot was to silence his voice earlier. Maybe then, he could have been saved.

Both the boys released a sharp breath. Their hot breaths fanned Vayshali’s neck, and caused a shiver. These two were not going down. Someone else would have to do this dirty job, but who would? Bringing out all the memory files stored in that brain of hers, she searched and sorted through the names. Three names struck her. Without wasting a second’s time, she rushed inside the room, and went straight towards the table. Arms thudded on the table. With frantic motions, her long dirty fingernails rummaged through the mess lying atop the table. Soft plastic material met her rough palms.

Picking the cheap white ball of plastic, she sprinted across the room to the balcony. The smell of dead fish twirled her senses once the door opened. One of her eyelids drooped low. With acute precision, she aimed at the wooden windows of the neighboring house and hit it with all her might.

It made a knocking sound. Soon, the three young boys that lived across her were outside.

Vayshali, hidden behind a blue pillar with its color wearing off, observed them. Astonished and appalled, they looked around the house. With lips parted and brows furrowed, they looked around all the corners. They even checked the stairs. That was, until one of the boys crouched on the ground. When he stood up, he had the ball secured in those olive palms. This was the right time to call out to them. Leaving her comfortable spot, she found herself near the railings.

“Psst.” She failed her arms around. Her efforts to attract their attention were not gone to waste. Heads turned in her direction.

With bizarre expressions, they looked at her in the anticipation of an explanation. Her hands clutched at the railings. This action, like all the other actions, too, had consequences. Red turned the skin of her hands, and a wince left her lips for the force of her grip had bent one of her fingernails.

Fate was in her advantage. In the alleyway she lived, the houses were placed together in a constricted space, and hence, were close to each other. You could reach out your hand to the one living across you and they would be able to grasp it.

True, it made it hard to walk amidst that narrow, garbage-riddled street. Now wasn’t the time to complain.

Swinging her ribs forth over the railings, she urged them to come closer too. One of the boys, Mohit took the hint. He leaned in, copying Vayshali’s posture. Shaggy hair with golden highlights fell down on that thin skeleton face of his. For a moment, Vayshali pitied him. Using them felt unfair now that she looked at those hollow skulls in the name of faces.

Looks of malnutrition were so evident on the faces of people her. Maybe her face looked like that too.

After all, staring at the vanity for more than a few seconds was a luxury, a luxury that life denied to offer her. Letting go of all those complaints and regrets, she leaned down more.

Once she was close enough, a whisper left her. “Someone is inside our house. Can you please check?”

Chapter Four

Tenebrous thoughts ran across her mind. The eldest boy, Vidhit, had been inclined towards the idea of helping her. She watched him.

His scrawny physique disappeared in the void inside the house. When he came back, a cricket bat accompanied him. It was selfish to put those three in danger, but Vayshali could not bear to let her brothers go down and risk their lives. Silly were these three.

If Vayshali were in their place, she would’ve shaken her head in denial. ‘It is neither my problem nor my responsibility’ was her response to anything that promised danger ahead. Life had offered nothing to the meek, feeble girl. Coming from an orthodox family had its disadvantages, but coming from a poor orthodox one was somewhat worse.

Forced to leave studies at the tender age of ten, and doing household work in other people’s houses instead left a bitter taste in her.

Why her education was sacrificed to secure her brothers’? Reason for this was simple. Her mother had told her that it was her responsibility to do the low work. Those few words gave her mother the right to do anything to her. Whether it was working as a house cleaner, or selling cheap objects in the middle of a storm, the dirty work was put on her shoulders.

The family was starving? Do not allow Vayshali to eat, and get her in the streets to earn money.

There was a shortage of money? Send Vayshali at someone else’s house for a week or two. Had someone died? Do not let Vayshali come near the corpse, or else she will bring bad luck to the family in the near future.

Irony mocked her from time to time. Oh, the miseries of one’s life when certainty was far beyond them. How much it pained her to exist!

Details of the past blurred around her. The felony she was about to commit against humanity needed attention. Vidhit, with his highlighted blond, padded the stairs with his feet.

She watched him disappear down to the dark staircase. Squeaking noises of high frequencies pained her ears as he tried to open the main door. This noise had become a normality of her life. Hence, the idea of it paining her eardrums was foolish.

Below her, Vidhit stepped down on the street. Without any streetlights, it was hard to see him for anything other than a dark blotch pressing against the dark of the night.

Nearing her house, his silhouette opened the door to her house. Without making a noise further, he slipped inside the shelter of the house. There was no other way to see his progress now.

Vayshali prayed for him to find Pranav. Fingernails that were once tightened around the rails were released. With one fall, she collapsed on the floor. There was no other choice but to wait for the aftermath to arrive.

He never came back. The two brothers, Mohit and Shyam, worried about their brother, had taken their chances and went down to check on him. They didn’t return either.

With feeble will, Vayshali plopped her hands on the floor. She got up. Dusting her clothes made a cloud of dust rose in the air.

She knew how dirty she was. There was no need for God to prove it like this. Heaviness evident in her steps, she moved back to where she had left her two brothers. Her breath ceased as she noticed the now empty room. Running to the kitchen, she checked if they were there. No one.

They went down.

Chapter Five

A jolt shook her. The muscles in her body convulsed, and her eyeballs moved up until there were the whites left in those eyes. Gasped for air, she did. With her mouth wide open, she struggled to breathe as a fish dragged out of water.

Darkness consumed her vision. Finding herself standing in the middle of an unknown clearing had her shaking her head like a maniac. In the middle of the endless void, a bright flame sparked. It was flying. Strange. It kept moving forward, zooming in towards her.

That spark illuminated the area around her. Sprawled across the shiny black- tiled floor laid a rattle of bones and skulls, fresh blood splattered across them. The silence of the surroundings had worsened with these bones. However, there wasn’t time to ravish about the macabre. Cold lean fingers wrapped around her neck. Flailing her hands in the air, she struggled to breathe. Spots covered her vision, the bones a blur now. She feared that the path to her destruction was near. It worsened. There was no more energy left in her to protest.

With a quick gasp and the remaining strength, she held out her left hand. Wider grew the spark, and the bright orange hue converted to something more sinister. It was now a shade of bright, glowing black. Scary it was to watch such a thing in the last few moments of her life.

What must it be like to be gone? For sure, her family would mourn. Not for the loss of a member, but for the loss of an earner. The owners of the houses would curse her for dying on them. As of the others, she couldn’t remember one person who would be mourning for her instead of her work. At those moments, it became evident. Her work, her purpose in life served more importance in the life of people than her presence.

Vayshali could afford to die on them. It is not as if they would care. They would mourn and-

No. She cannot die. If she died, her younger sibling, Meera; the other girl in the family, would replace her position. Vayshali couldn’t do that to the eleven-year-old.

Her future had been doomed, but maybe she could save someone else’s. Maybe she could be a hero. Not the kind of hero everyone remembers and preaches, but a meek underrated one. That way, there would be content in her soul. Perhaps the money she would earn in the future must be able to support Meera’s education too. That thought lighted a spark in her.

She needed to survive. With newfound hope, she kicked and her hands reached down to the pale fingers cutting her oxygen supply. Pulling at them wasn’t an easy task. With a body half-drunk on powerlessness, doing things was hard. Thinking, on the other hand, was much better. It was both peaceful and chaotic. There was a flaw in this plan: Thinking will not work. How about over thinking? The voice in her head asked. She scoffed at the absurd idea, and with all the left force in her body, pushed the cold fingers away.

Moaning, she rolled around on the pile of bones. The back of her head ached. All that was visible was the black light. It mocked her.

Inching closer towards it, she marveled what it must be. Just as she came closer, it grew twice its size, compelling Vayshali to crawl back. The fire resembled a figure. No, a face. The face screamed. It advanced to swallow her whole, its mouth fished open.

“Help!” She let out a wince, wriggling on the floor. That was, until the fire consumed her.

Chapter Six

The trance broke away. She was back in her room, and those eyeballs had normalized.

She rubbed her forehead, frowning, and wincing. It was the early sign of the throbbing river of anxiety trapped in her head. What she had experienced back there had been fake, which only caused a groan. Thank heavens; she was in her house this time. With presence hit realism. Aarush and Reyan were gone too. She failed to save the two brothers she had left. A heavy heart was going to be hard to carry. She sat down on the bed, trying to recollect her previous vision.

The face was familiar. He was the one who had been visiting her dreams every night for a month. Scared was the feeling that was ever-present in each of their meetings.

Marred by scars, his face was unlike any human. Charcoal black dusted his lips and the long hair black hair matched his obsidian clothes. Shades of purple lined his dirty-yellow eyes. Those eyelids of his were too long and scaled with white dust to be considered normal. Instead of black irises, his were brown. Those yellow orbs had specks of brown on them, and so did his long nails.

This vision was different from her dreams. In her dreams, the man would grab a hold of her hair; pain shooting from her scalp, as he would drag her towards the never-ending abyss.

Weeks ago, she had confronted a priestess about this issue. The priestess pressed for more details.

Vayshali had satisfied her quench for the information. In return, she told her that the person from her dreams was more real than she could imagine, and he intended to set up a meeting with her. That sentence had her running down the stairs of the sacred place in frenzy.

Later on, when the uneasiness had minimized, another meeting was set up with the priestess. A few conversations were shared between the two. By the end of the meeting, Vayshali bore more than enough knowledge to prepare herself for the man that she might meet in the coming days.

What she didn’t know was that the day was today. Now that she did, certainty overcame her.

She was ready for this meeting. Rushing back to the vanity in the far left corner of the room, she pulled out all the drawers one by one at incredible speed.

Where is it?

It was just then that the shiny object caught her eyes. It was not possible to ignore the warmth of its glow in such dark evenings. In the shadows, it glowed and the straight linings over it gave it a sleek look. However, the main aspect that sent chills running down one’s spine was the dragon’s head atop the coin-shaped necklace.

Snatching it from the corner, she stared at it. The priestess had told her that this necklace would not ward off the man, but will make him mortal when close to it. For now, she just needed to dress up.

Chapter Seven

Glossed lips pouted in the mirror. The dark red lipstick looked perfect and needed not a dab. Cheap kajal lined her eyes and did the work of eyeliner as well.

It was her first time doing this. Never in her wildest dreams had she thought of wearing one of her brother’s expensive shirt and jeans.

The white shirt fit her physique. Dare she say, she looked like a woman of the modern society, like the women whose rule she worked under. It brought out her bosom, giving it a more appealing look. The black jeans tightened around her skinny legs.

Pulling off the rubber band, she let her hair loose. Frizzy and frayed from the ends, they reached around her waist. Such hair did not deserve compliments. It was best to tie those up in a ponytail as other girls did. Combing was a fatal idea. Women whose hair wasn’t meant to be tamed found the power of a comb useless and disappointing. At the mercy of this thing, her head would be bald. Half an hour took to get those strands of her in shape. A scissor was drawn out. It followed by the sound of snipping. There, now the split ends were gone.

“Well, screw it,” she mumbled. Glancing at herself one last time, she walked out. The absence of grace prevailed in both her posture and walking style. Sure, a man can change his appearances and put on a disguise, but one cannot let go of his true skin. Just as a wolf couldn’t pretend to be a sheep for long.

Vayshali skipped out of the house. Her stance came up to an abrupt halt, her fingers fighting to find their way inside the house. They twitched to be free. Such tasteless demands were left unaccomplished. Closing those shaggy brown eyes, the hands steeled to fists.

This house would hold her warmth. The shabby walls and hole-riddled blankets would praise her acts.

“Bye, dear house. Thank you for providing me your shelter and comfort.” Vayshali brushed a loose strand of her black hair behind her ear.

If this didn’t go well, she might not be able to come back here. Better not to leave things for the next time. It was fair to express her gratitude to everyone. Under any cost, she would get her brothers back. The creature wanted her. She was the reason behind their misery, and it was her job to stop being a kid for once and face her problems as an adult would.

There was still one acknowledgment left to express. “I want to thank my family. If I were being honest, there is nothing I can thank them for except for taking care of the other children in the family happy.”

“These creatures cannot handle draconian gold. Once he is in the presence of this sacred necklace, he will cease to be mortal.”

The priestess’s words rang through her head. Mumbled curses shot through her mouth, and she brought her palm to her triangular-shaped face. In the process of getting ready and making plans, the details slipped her. She needed something to kill the creature. Vayshali went back inside. Looking around, her eyes landed on one of the open drawers. There, in the stack of other things, lay a tiny object.

She took it and pocketed it. Easy to conceal and use, this weapon was perfect. He would remain unknown as to what hit him.

Chapter Eight

The staircase held neither warmth nor light. It fit all the words from ‘depressing’ to ‘dangerous’. But what it did fit above anything else was the path to her probable destructions. If it was a demon, it wanted to kill her. He must be using her family to get her. Tales of demons and ghosts among the poor minorities flourished everywhere. Black hair flew across her face, and she had to brush away the strands that had escaped her ponytail behind her ears.

Now ceased from any noise, the staircase looked nothing less than a hiding cabin of ghosts and monsters. Shadows curled around the railings. Fears lurked in this narrow, steep path with each step covered in dust, and the walls cracking to black vines of stale paint. Cold air stood still. There was no breeze, just pure, victorious cold. Cold that put its fury upon the countless beggars on the streets. Wild fury was unleashed upon even the rich, who denied coming out of their house unless covered in loads of clothes. To Vayshali in a thin shirt and pants, it was a habitual thing. Her body had adapted to it years ago.

What it could not adapt to was this sudden shift in the winds, this eerie calm of the surroundings, this icy drop to the temperature.

This was no ordinary wind, but something inhumane. The way the air curled into circles and the death of things that held life to them dispersing into nothing hinted at it. White smoke rose and danced as a puff of air left her mouth.

What a calamity it was to be here at such a doomed time! To have another burden knocked upon her shoulders made it worse. Darker grew the doorway, her agitated walk becoming a dance of her own. To the rhythm of the shadows and silence, she sauntered in her own stiff stance to the backside of the empty place. The picture had changed with a drastic turn.

What she remembered for a house evolved into another place. Etched to the walls were not shabby drawings and doodles but veils of inked flowers burning away at the touch of human hands. They looked like withering ambers. Vases of exquisite glass lined the once desolate hallway. Carpeted floor graced her footsteps. What remained intact were the cold and the absence of life.

Without a single soul but hers, conversing became difficult. Where was the demon now when she herself wanted to meet him?

Had he guessed her intentions to kill him? Desolated lay the backyard of concrete and half-broken tiles. A storming contrast reflected if compared to the hallway of beauty she passed moments ago.

Stepping into the backyard, she felt compelled to shout. True, it would be stupid on her part to do what the dumb people in horror movies do, but it would be dumber to let her family die. This demon wanted to talk to her. Beneath all the other layers of excuses, one won it all. That today, this demon was going to die. “Hello, is anyone there?”

Chapter Nine

A shadow materialized from thin air. Long hair curtained his face, but one could see the dimpled smile on his face. The unbuckled blue shirt ruffled along with the air. With the cadence of a kite, he flew across the ground, his feet kissing the ground.

“Pranav, is that you?” Hope ignited and she eased out a smile. As the words left her mouth, the boy disappeared too. Black slimy liquid erupted from the walls. A sea of gooey substance emptied on the floors and herself. Screams echoed through the hall.

Her screams. Covered in the wet sluggish liquid that itched at her skin did no help to her vision or psyche. Somehow, this was horrific. Weird noises of knocking, abrupt visions, and scene shifting could be handled with, but having slime shower upon you out of nowhere meant trouble. However, she had expected it. With all this spooky stuff happening, this didn’t surprise her much. Bothering was the fact that her efforts had gone to vain.

Without looking enough pretty, attracting the demon’s attention would be difficult.

“After all this time, I get the pleasure to meet you, Vayshali Jain,” a husky voice said, “And why in the name of Clea are you covered in grime?”

The thick veil clouding her vision lifted. Something close to a face could be made out of the blur. Sooner left the grime, and easier it became to see him. His face held concrete resemblance to the person of her dreams. Those yellow eyes had rendered her speechless. Such peculiar eyes he had! With doe-like eyes, she stared at those mesmerizing orbs.

No, she needed to be focused on her task. “Who are you, and where are my brothers?” A snarl left her mouth. “My identity holds no importance, Vayshali Jain. It is yours I’m more interested in,” he said in the Madrasi tongue.

She had piqued his interest. It was more than enough to hold him. The scene around had shifted to a garden full of sunflowers. Sun rays shone from the clear blue sky where the roof should’ve been. Now was the perfect time to strike a bargain.

“Then let them go.” “Unless you pay the price for their freedom, I am afraid I cannot. You must choose between your brothers and neighbors.”

Indeed, she would choose her kin before any worthless strangers. They lured themselves into this trap. By no chance had the fault been hers when they had decided to be silly and choose her above their own. A life wasted away for the rush of adrenaline deserved pity.

“I choose my brothers.” “Such a shallow heart you possess!” His lean fingertips traced a bright flower. “I see they have made a terrible mistake by choosing you. You disappoint me, Vayshali Jain. However, none of these humans will pay for your choices. To guide these humans to freedom, you must come with me to the Gates of the Mederan.”

“Keep him engaged. He has too much pride to not answer a few of your questions.” The priestess had smiled.

“What is that place?” “It is the land inhabited by people like myself. You, Vayshali Jain, are an experiment. Now, cease your silly talk and follow me.”

Suspicions flew across her dazed eyes. A place where more of him existed was a dragon’s fire. It would burn her if she dared to collide with it.

Chapter Ten

Long strides taken by the cloaked man collided with her uneven, short ones. His cadence was poised. But hers looked like a fish gifted with toes.

However, this offered an opportunity to analyze the situation. If she needed her plan to work, stabbing him was necessary. But doing that right now would be but a suicide mission. It was evident from his careful glance at her every now and then that he did not trust Vayshali. He had his guards up. A chance needed to be discovered to kill him when he had his guards down.

Her father, a malicious man by nature, had a fair share of tricking people. In all his doings, he cheated. As dislikeable as he was, he could have helped her. But he wasn’t there. The best option, right now, was to think as he did.

What would her father do if he were in her position? A smile graced her face, and this time, she walked with the same bounce in her steps. A brilliant idea had struck her. Giggling to herself, she stared around. Narrow pavements filled with garbage kept blocking her feet. With her senses abstained from fear, the pungent smell of the sewers hit her. There were no streetlights here. Around here in winter, fog engulfed the whole alley by the time evening came.

People rarely came out of the house after eight. Freezing cold was enough reason to keep them inside their houses. For the first time in her life, she deemed herself lucky.

If her body hadn’t adapted to this cold for all those years, she sure would’ve survived the walk. However, by the time she had to kill this demon, the energy would be gone. Therefore, all that hard work did not look so unworthy.

With her head held up high, she sauntered behind the demon just as if she owned the place.

It took longer than she had expected to reach the gates. The journey had been silent. Silence served her well since the idea of talking to a demon or any human more than necessary was exhausting.

When the demon was talking about the gates with such seriousness, she had expected something along the lines of some random gates. What she was seeing blew away her mind. It was no ordinary gate, but a portal of some kind. Made of bricks and iron spikes, one could tell it teleported from some horror movie. Majestic were the gates. The horrific aspect, however, was what lay beyond them. Cumbersome stones were decked around the gates. Those looked ready to crumble at any given moment. Red ashes pertained beyond the gates. From the skies to the land, everything was a burning hue of either red or orange.

So, this is Mederan. Somehow, the name sat atop her tongue and mind as a foreign creature. Pronouncing it wasn’t a cakewalk. Whatever this land was, it resembled hell in many ways. Hell in those religious books had never been uglier. She didn’t plan to go there so soon.

The demon stepped towards the gates. Turning back, he acknowledged her presence and held a hand out to her. “Come, Vayshali Jain. It is now the time for you to leave this realm behind and join ours.”

Without hesitation, she took his hand. Biting at her lips, she leaned towards him. Her hands found a way to his chest, and she paused to give him a smile. His pupils dilated. With a raspy breath, he stared at her. Twice she bit her lips again, and leaned even more.

“There is one last thing.” The priestess had grabbed her hand. “Seduce him before taking your aim.”

As the air between them begun to decrease, her hands trailed down the pockets of her jeans. Before he could seal her lips with his, a roar surfaced. It took a few moments to realize that she was the one to make that sound. She had plunged the blade right in his chest. A few whimpers from his side. With a hand on his chest, he staggered back, his eyes wide and mouth ajar. Just when she grinned, he chuckled. That chuckle caught her off guard. Turning round, he raised a hand in the air, the small blade pressed between his fingers.

“I cannot believe you tried to kill me with a shaving blade.” He laughed. “But this is not what I wanted to ask. The question is, how did you managed to draw blood out of me?”

Malicious looks were passed to Vayshali as the demon looked at the droplets of blood coming from the cut. The series of events that happened after turned into a senseless blur. As far as she remembered, he had bolted in her direction like a raging bull, and held her in the air by the neck. The lack of oxygen rendered her thoughts in a blur.

Every step he took went towards the gates. The fury of the crimson graveyard burned at her fingertips, rupturing a small spark of energy. She was inside the land of Mederan. The demon however was still outside. The fog encircling her memory disappeared, and jolts of energy flew through her body. Acquainted with keen vision, the swords that hung over the sides of the gates were easy to grab. This power was astounding. Never in her life had she felt this strong. It took no time for the sword to pierce through the demon. Golden blood drenched both the sword and the ground. Her body landed on the ground with a thud. Then, the strangest thing happened.

Vanished were the gates, and the demon. In the ruins of this crimson wasteland, she found her legs crumbling. From the beginning, she had known that today was going to be horrible, and so were the days after that.

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