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Authors: Mahtab Narsimhan

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The Third Eye

BOOK: The Third Eye
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T
HE
T
HIRD
E
YE

T
HE
T
HIRD
E
YE

Mahtab Narsimhan

Copyright © Mahtab Narsimhan, 2007

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (except for brief passages for purposes of review) without the prior permission of Dundurn Press. Permission to photocopy should be requested from Access Copyright.

Editor: Barry Jowett                Design: Alison Carr

Printer: Webcom

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Narsimhan, Mahtab

The third eye / Mahtab Narsimhan.

ISBN 978-1-55002-750-1

I. Title.

PS8627.A77T45 2007           jC813'.6            C2007-905459-5

2    3     4     5       11       10       09       08      

We acknowledge the support of
The Canada Council for the Arts
and the
Ontario Arts Council
for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and
The Association for the Export of Canadian Books
, and the Government of Ontario through the
Ontario Book Publishers Tax Credit
program, and the
Ontario Media Development Corporation
.

Care has been taken to trace the ownership of copyright material used in this book. The author and the publisher welcome any information enabling them to rectify any references or credits in subsequent editions.

J. Kirk Howard, President

Printed and bound in Canada.
Printed on recycled paper.
www.dundurn.com

Dundurn Press
3 Church Street, Suite 500
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5E 1M2

Gazelle Book Services Limited
White Cross Mills
High Town, Lancaster, England
LA1 4XS

Dundurn Press
2250 Military Road
Tonawanda, NY
U.S.A. 14150

For Dad, who inspired this story.
For Mom, who kept me going.
And for Rahul, Aftab, and Coby,
the three favourite men in my life.

P
ROLOGUE

Someone was following him. He was sure of it. Bare feet following in time to his steps and stopping just after he did. Late enough to be heard, soon enough not to give away their direction.

Shakti hesitated. He looked around. The deepening gloom in the forest cast eerie shadows across the path. A biting wind swept down from the Shivalik Range and woke every tree and shrub in its path. Shakti shivered, more from fear than cold. He cursed himself for losing track of the time and wandering so far away from the safety of his village, Morni.

Holding up the lantern, he peered intently for any sign of his pursuers. Darkness surged against the edges of the feeble light. He lowered the lantern and hurried toward the village.

His sturdy leather mojris ground up the dead leaves.

Bare feet followed.

He quickened his pace.

The pursuers matched it.

His heart thumped like a tom-tom within his chest. He dropped the dead hares slung over his shoulder and bolted, his lantern knocking against his knee. The flame flickered and went out. He was plunged into darkness. The sickly sweet smell of rotting flesh wafted past him. Panicked, he went crashing through the trees, not caring about the noise he made. He had to get to the village before they caught him. The footsteps were louder now, coming closer and closer. His breath came in gasps as he ran. He tripped and fell headlong into the bushes. Dirt filled his mouth. It tasted like wet earth mixed with worms. He spat it out. Sharp rocks scraped his chest in spite of his thick kurta. He put his hands on the ground to push himself up when a heavy body landed on his back. One, two, three ... he lost count of how many bodies piled on top of him, holding him down. It felt like huge boulders had landed on his back and knocked the air out of his lungs. He smelled their breaths — which reeked like a combination of rotten eggs and feces — and almost vomited.

“Please,” he gibbered. “Please don't hurt me.”

A warning thump on the head silenced him. The weight on his back began to lighten till the only thing pinning him on the ground was the rough skin of a foot planted in the small of his back. He tried to twist his head back to see who it was, but the complete darkness made identification impossible. He waited, sweat dripping into his eyes, bile
nestled at the base of his throat just waiting to erupt.

Suddenly, the gloom dissipated. Someone was coming toward him bearing a lit torch. He looked up at his captors and his stomach contracted with fear. A sea of ghastly green faces looked down at him. A huge, green monstrosity towered over Shakti. The monster's skin was stretched tight over his gaunt, skull-like face and framed by dirt-encrusted hair. Eyes, black as bottomless pools, bored into Shakti. Then he noticed the man's chest. The skin was translucent and he could see all the way to the man's heart — a pulsing fist pumping black liquid through that massive body. It was fascinating, yet horrifying, to watch the green body crisscrossed with a network of black.

Shakti's eyes strayed upward again to the man's face. A deep gash ran the length of his forehead. It was still fresh, and black liquid seeped from the edges of the swollen skin. The man, clearly the leader of the group, stared at him with his whiteless eyes. Shakti looked around at the sea of bodies, which looked the same except that the shape and size of that horrifying form varied. They all had similar gashes on their foreheads, though some of the wounds seemed to have healed while others looked very fresh.

They pressed closer to Shakti, touching, pinching, and prodding him with grimy fingers. He stood up on shaky legs, desperately looking for an opening in the crowd. The sickly smell enveloped him and seemed to permeate his body through every pore.

“What do you want?” he croaked.

Silence.

The giant who blocked his path raised a callused green hand with filthy, black fingernails up to Shakti's eye level. Shakti jumped backward, lost his balance, and fell to the ground. He turned to crawl away, sobbing with terror, but was barred by a fence of feet — feet that looked unnatural because they were all
turned backwards at the ankle
! A scream rose in his throat. He jumped up, arms outstretched, pushing his way through the crowd. Someone grabbed him by the hair and jerked his head back. He felt a razor-sharp fingernail move across his forehead, tearing through the tender skin. A searing pain coursed from his head through his body like liquid fire. The pain was so intense that he was starting to lose consciousness. Through the haze he saw a tall figure approaching.

Maniacal laughter echoed around him and then everything went dark.

C
HAPTER
1
T
HE
B
LACK
C
OBRA

A bright burst of stars lit the night sky, illuminating the upturned faces of the children gathered around the old banyan tree. The stars dissolved into smoke and it was dark again. Laughter rang out from the clearing where a dozen children of the village of Morni had gathered for the festival of lights. The smoke and smell of gunpowder hung in the air.

A short distance away from the clearing, two silent forms sat huddled on the front step of their hut. Tara hugged her younger brother, Suraj, as they watched the firework display. Around them, Morni shimmered in the glow of clay lamps that adorned homes and doorways as far as Tara could see. The soft, yellow light reflected off the reds, greens, and blues of the villagers' clothes and their gold and silver jewellery. They were all dressed in their best to celebrate the joyous occasion of Diwali, the New Year of the Hindus.

She heard a deep sigh.

“Cheer up, Suraj,” said Tara. “Mother will be back next year.” She had doubts that this was true, but for the sake of her brother she had to keep up a brave front. She looked up at the black sky, now strewn with stars, and for the umpteenth time she whispered a plea.

“I'm so scared, Lord Ganesh, so scared. But please don't let anyone find out ... especially Suraj. And send Mother back to us.”

A solitary tear rolled down her cheek and she wiped it away as she glanced at her brother. He was so thin and small; he did not look seven years old, more like five. His skin was a deep brown from working in the hot sun. Unruly black hair surrounded a pinched face and black eyes that had once sparkled with mischief, now long gone. His white kurta pyjama hung on his bony frame.

They sat in silence looking up at the stars. Suraj rested his head in Tara's lap.

“Why won't anyone play with us anymore, Didi?” asked Suraj with a wobble in his voice. “Didi” was the respectful way to address an older sister.

“I don't know, Suraj,” said Tara, staring into the distance.

“Where is Mother, Didi? Why did she go away? Why?” asked Suraj, his voice barely above a whisper.

Tara tightened her grip on his shoulders. She had no answers to his anguished questions. Her mind turned back to a morning almost a year ago, a few days after Diwali,
when her mother had woken her while it was still very dark outside. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, she had noticed that her mother was dressed to go out. She had looked very upset and sad as she hugged Tara close to her.

“I have to go away, my child.”

Tara's heart beat at triple speed. She pushed her mother's arms away and stared at her in complete shock.

“Go away? Where? I'm coming with you.”

“No, Tara. You have to look after your brother. But I will be back. I promise we will all be together again.”

Tara clung to her mother's skirt, sobbing softly, feeling as if she were in a bad dream. Her mother undid a gold chain from her neck and fastened it around Tara's neck. On it hung a small, bejewelled mirror shaped like an equilateral triangle. The border was inlaid with red stones in hues of the setting sun. These were interspersed with blue star-shaped stones, the shade of a summer sky. Leaves in thin, gold filigree wound their way around the border. Of the little jewellery her mother owned, this was Tara's favourite.

“Wear this always, Tara, and when you look into it, you will find strength.”

“Mother, don't leave me, please,” said Tara, sobbing even harder.

Her father, Shiv, and Suraj were still fast asleep.

“Hush, my child. We will be together again, I promise.”

“Parvati, it's time. We have to go,” someone called out very softly from the window.

Parvati looked up and nodded. She took Tara's face in her hands and looked deep into her eyes.

“I have to go, Tara. Be brave, be strong, and remember: always do the right thing.”

BOOK: The Third Eye
12.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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