by McCamy Taylor
Part 1. The Contest
Anna Brahms was pregnant again, which meant that it was just a matter of time before she challenged her rival, Vic Shoemaker to a contest of psychic skill. The general consensus in the Old City was that Vic was the more powerful magician---when he was awake. Unfortunately, his narcolepsy had gotten worse recently, and he now spent almost eighteen hours of every day asleep. If a tournament was held in the near future, there was a strong possibility that he would not be able to stay awake long enough to finish it in which case Anna would win by default. And even if he managed to keep his eyes open the whole time, she still might beat him, for pregnancy had a profound effect on Anna, enhancing her psychic powers and making her fiercely competitive.
Long before the contest was announced the bookies were taking bets, with the odds three to one in favor of Vic. By the time the bright yellow flyers advertising the "Greatest Psychic Showdown of the Century" appeared on the telephone posts, bulletin boards and doorways of the Old City, the odds had narrowed to two to one and there were over ten thousand dollars at stake. Over the next three weeks, an additional twenty thousand dollars worth of bets were placed, and the odds narrowed even further until, on the eve of the event, the two contestants were even money.
The tournament was scheduled to take place in the Old City Park, a rectangle of grass in front of the old City Hall building. The award winning twenty story art deco WPA project had served as the seat of the city government for over half a century until 1999 when it was gutted by fire. Depending upon who was telling the story, the blaze was either sparked by faulty wiring or started by terrorists, but there was one thing about which everyone agreed---1999 was a pivotal year in the history of Century City . The fire gave the mayor the excuse he had been looking for to move the city government to a gleaming steel and chrome skyscraper ten miles to the south. Over the next ten years, the banks, corporations, department stores, theaters, hotels, restaurants, and museums of the city had all relocated to the New City, leaving the Old City to those who were either too poor or too stubborn to leave.
In the days prior to the contest, the residents of Old City Park worked hard to clean up the trash and trim the weeds and hedges into some semblance of order, but at the last minute the competition had to be moved to the old Library on account of rain. Despite the bad weather, a sizable crowd turned out to witness the confrontation of Vic Shoemaker and Anna Brahms. Vic, an Old City native was the sentimental favorite, but the Women's Collective had turned out in full force to support Anna, whom they had affectionately nicknamed the Little Mother because of her diminutive size and enormous brood. All seven of her children accompanied her as she marched into the library, wearing a wreath of marigolds in her auburn hair, silver bracelets around her ankles, and a lavender silk Indian sari stretched taut over her swollen belly. Her youngest was only eleven months old and frightened of the crowd. As Anna waited for her opponent to arrive, she uncovered a pale, blue veined breast and began to suckle the baby, for comfort rather than for nourishment since pregnancy had dried up her milk.
Most of the vagrants who lived in the library had retreated to the upper levels, but a place of honor had been reserved for Lucky Seven Sally, so named because she bet every cent she managed to get on number seven, even when "number seven" was not an option, as in today's contest. Someone had managed to persuade her to take off the seven baseball caps which she habitually wore one on top of the other, their brims fanned so that they resembled the petals of a flower. Her stringy gray hair had been combed, and her face had been scrubbed, but her seven dresses were caked with mud, and there was black grime under the long, broken nails which protruded from the frayed fingertips of her black crocheted gloves. Three of the fingers, two on the left hand, one on the right were missing. While Sally swore that they were amputated by surgeons at the county hospital after she feel asleep in a gutter during an ice storm and developed frost bite, it was commonly believed that Sally sold the three digits to the Devil in exchange for the promise that the number seven would always be lucky for her. A can of Seven-Up sat on the table in front of her, along with an unopened deck of Bicycle Playing Cards and a carton of Lucky-Stripes.
Always the showman, Vic timed his entrance for the moment the audience began to grow restless. He had stripped off his raincoat and galoshes and discarded his umbrella in the lobby, so that when he stepped into the crowded auditorium, he appeared immaculate in a freshly pressed white linen suit and pale blue silk shirt with a blue carnation in his lapel.
Closer inspection showed that the great magician was not immune to the ravages of age. His hair, which once fell in a long, golden braid down his back, was now gray and thinning in the front, and his skin had an unearthly blue tint due to a cyanotic heart condition. But his blue eyes were still bright, and he entered the library on his own two feet---a good sign, agreed those who had decided to place their money on him.
He nodded to his opponent, then to the members of audience. "I'm sorry I'm late---" he began.
"Oh, shut up!" Anna snapped. "You're always late. You do it on purpose." Her voice rose. She addressed the panel of judges. "The next time we meet like this I want it stipulated in advance that if either of us is more than five minutes late he forfeits the match."
"Or she," Vic added mildly.
Anna scowled. "What the fuck are you talking about?"
"If either of us is more than five minutes late, he or she forfeits the match. We don't want to be sexist, do we?" His smile was serene.
Anna's eyes narrowed. "Screw you!"
The more she taunted him, the happier he seemed. Beaming, he replied "I'd be happy to, if you don't think it would hurt the baby."
Anna had to be physically restrained. "You dirty piece of shit!" she spewed. "You shit eating, cock sucking faggot!" The members of the Women's Collective, many of whom were lesbians, objected to this, and Vic's supporters were beginning to shout things like "Stick it to the bitch!", but before the contest could turn into a brawl, Lucky Seven Sally saved the day by opening the deck of cards. Quickly, she shuffled them, then cut them once and picked up the topmost card.
"What card am I looking at, Anna?"
Instantly, the room was silent. The contest had begun. Anna, whose psychic ability always seemed to be at its peak when she was angry paused only two or three seconds before announcing "It's the seven of clubs!"
Lucky Seven Sally turned over the card which was indeed the seven of clubs. "Very good," she murmured. She reached for the next card. "Now, Victor, it's your turn."
The rules were simple. One point for guessing the correct color, two points for guessing the correct suit. One point for correctly predicting if it was a face card or a number card, three points if the contestant was right about what number or what face was on the card. The opponents had two minutes per card, but there was a two point penalty if a player took more than thirty seconds to make a prediction. After ten cards were drawn, they were reshuffled to prevent either contestant from card counting, and Lucky Seven Sally was the only one who was allowed to touch the deck.
Despite her thick gloves and missing fingers, Lucky Seven Sally handled the cards deftly, shuffling them from hand to hand like a pro. Another of the many rumors about Sally was that she used to be a black jack dealer in Vegas, but that she had to quit because the seven card kept coming up more often than was statistically possible whenever she dealt a hand.
It was a close match. Both contestants played brilliantly, Vic studying the back of each card for a full twenty-five seconds before announcing his prediction in a quiet, speculative tone, as if he was merely making a suggestion and would not mind a bit if he was wrong. Anna tended to blurt out the first thing that entered her head. When she followed this strategy she was generally right. It was when she stopped to think about her answer that she made mistakes.
"No, dear," Sally said gently. "It's a three of diamonds. But that was a good try." She always had something positive to say. That was part of her charm. No matter how much money she lost betting on number seven, she always paid her debts cheerfully, and she was the perfect dealer for these card games, completely impartial, equally impervious to Anna's insults and Vic's complements.
"You weren't concentrating, you old cow!" Anna snapped. "Give me another one."
"In a moment," Sally replied amiably. "But first, Victor, will you please tell me what card I am now holding in my hand?"
"Certainly, my love." He laid his palms together and touched the tips of his fingers to his chin as if he was praying. "I see....the queen of spades."
"Very good," Lucky Seven Sally purred as she laid the queen of clubs on the table. "Now, Anna, let's try again. What card am I holding?"
The two rivals were in top form, and the audience watched in respectful silence, awed by the psychic powers of the Old City's two greatest magicians. The fact that Anna was Vic's former apprentice and that two of her children bore an uncanny resemblance to him only added spice to their battle. By the time fifty cards had been drawn, the contest was still too close to call, and the spectators were so quiet that it was possible to hear a pin drop, which was why everyone clearly heard the teenaged girl announce to her friend "What kind of crap is this? You can do better than that."
As one, two hundred eyes turned to stare at the speaker, a muscular girl with a square jaw and thin lips tattooed black. Her head was shaved smooth except for a single lock of garish orange hair which fell over her eyes, and she wore the standard uniform of a Street Surfer, black bicycle shorts over black tights, a black mesh jersey and a black denim vest. She stared back defiantly at the crowd."What are you looking at?"
Her companion laid a restraining hand on her shoulder. "They're looking at you. If you want them to keep looking, keep talking." He was slightly taller than her, a beautiful boy of eighteen or so with wide, dark eyes framed by long black lashes, shoulder length curly black hair, smooth brown skin and full, almost feminine lips which made a strange contrast with his muscular neck and forearms. The rest of his body was covered in multiple layers of gray and black, a shapeless garment that bore no resemblance to any gang uniform. His voice was low, almost gentle, but the Street Surfer immediately flushed and hung her head.
"But it's true," she insisted. "You can do better than either of them. I saw you---"
No one in the auditorium ever found out what she had seen because Anna Brahms threw back her chair and lurched to her feet. "Did you plant these clowns in the audience?" she demanded of Vic. "If you're trying to spoil my concentration, it won't work."
"Concentration?" For the first time that afternoon, Vic's patience showed signs of wearing thin. "What concentration? You throw out your answers at random like----"
In a shouting contest, Vic was no match for Anna. "At random?!" she howled. "If my answers are so random why the hell am I beating you, you overblown, overdressed, mealy mouthed little pansy. You---"
Lucky Seven Sally shuffled the deck and held up a card. It was Anna's turn, but this time her ruse did not work. The two rivals continued to argue and if not for several muscular members of the Women's Collective who forced Anna back into her chair, the civilized contest of psychic skill would have degenerated into a fist fight. A few bets were even made about which of the two would win if they did come to blows, but no money ever changed hands because while Vic sneered and Anna screamed, the dark boy stepped forward. He moved with a dancer's grace, but there was nothing effeminate about him. Rather, he reminded those who watched him of an animal, a black panther slinking through the forest or a hooded cobra slowly rising towards its prey.
He stopped in front of Lucky Seven Sally. "Three of clubs."
She looked startled, as did the two contestants, who stopped arguing and stared at this boy who had the presumption to intrude upon their game.
"Well?" Vic drawled. "Don't keep up in suspense."
Slowly, Sally laid the card onto the table face up. It was the Jack of Diamonds. Anna Brahms breathed an audible sigh of relief, and Vic's face relaxed.
The boy's expression did not alter. "Draw the next card," he told Sally,
She glanced to the left and right. Vic shrugged his shoulders as if to say Do whatever you want. Anna was more vocal. "If the kid wants to make a fool of himself that's fine by me."
Sally picked up the next card and glanced at it.
"Six of diamonds," the boy announced.
The card was the four of spades.
Undeterred the boy continued. "The next card will be the Queen of Hearts."
Anna drummed her fingers impatiently on the table. "This is getting ridiculous," she muttered. "Sally hasn't even looked at the next card yet. How can you read her mind if she doesn't know what the card is?"
The boy turned his beautiful dark eyes to Anna. His voice was sweetly soft. "I'm not reading her mind," he replied. "I am reading the cards."
Sally turned over the next card which was a nine of spades.
"And not doing a very good a job of it," Anna replied sourly. But those who knew her well noticed that her scowl had softened, and she was staring at the boy with the predatory gaze which she reserved for beautiful young men.
"Why Anna, I think you're in love," Vic chided.
She flushed, her face turning the same shade of red as her hair. "Up yours, asshole!"
The boy ignored them both. "You deal ten cards before you shuffle, right? The next seven cards will be the ace of spades, the five of clubs, the king of hearts, the two of hearts, the eight of spades, the four of spades, and the seven of diamonds. The seven of diamonds is the one you will drop on the floor."
Lucky Seven Sally's lip twitched. "I never drop the cards, boy. And I've already drawn the four of spades, so we know that at least one of your guesses is wrong. Why don't you sit back down and let the professionals play?"
The boy continued to smile, but his voice was firm. "Turn the cards."
Sally was too good natured to frown, but the way she slapped the cards down on the table showed that she was angry . "Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. And wrong again, because I didn't drop any cards. Congratulations, boy. It takes a lot of skill to avoid getting even one card right."
The audience's reaction was mixed. A few people who had been charmed by his beauty, grace and composure were disappointed that he had not performed better, but most were either annoyed at the interruption or embarrassed for the boy who had challenged the Old City's greatest magician's and fallen flat on his face. Vic was looking at his hands, examining his perfectly manicured nails, his face a careful study in boredom, and Anna was giving everyone a big I told you so grin.
The only person who seemed unaffected by the boy's poor performance was his friend, the Street Surfer, who was grinning from ear to ear. "Now he'll show you," she smirked.
"Show us what?" Anna demanded. "How to make fools of ourselves?"
The Street Surfer scowled at her. "No, you bitch. He's gonna show you real magic."
The dark boy laid a restraining hand on his companion's shoulder. "Don't be rude, Kika." His voice was a caress.
Her tattooed lower lip stuck out. "She started it," Kika pouted.
"And I am going to finish it. Shuffle the cards, Sally."
The old woman's eyebrows rose.
"Shuffle the cards," he said again. "Shuffle them, then lay out the first ten cards on the table where everyone can see them."
"Is this some new game?"
Still smiling, he hissed "Just do it!" His beautiful dark eyes stared into Sally's cloudy, jaundiced eyes, willing her to obey him. The color drained from her face. Her gloved hands trembled slightly as she shuffled the cards.
"Don't forget to cut," the boy reminded her, his voice sweet again. "No, use your left hand. Now show us the first ten cards."
Her hands were shaking so badly that she had trouble dealing the cards on the table. The first card was the three of clubs. There was an audible gasp. The next was the six of diamonds. People began to murmur. The third was the queen of hearts. Anna covered her hand with her mouth, and Vic stared at the boy with wide, startled eyes. The next six cards were the ace of spades, the five of clubs, the king of hearts, the two of hearts, the eight of spades, and the four of spades. Sally started to turn over a tenth, but the boy interrupted her politely.
"You dropped one." He pointed to the blue and white card under the table at her feet.
Sally's jaw dropped. She could not move. It was Vic who leaned forward and plucked the card from the floor. He stared at the card, then at the boy, then back at the card again.
"Well?" Anna demanded shrilly. "What is it?"
Vic tossed the card onto the table. "The seven of diamonds, of course." With his elbows planted on the table he rested his chin in his hands and examined the boy. "How did you do that?"
"It's obvious how he did it," Anna interjected. "He and Sally are in cahoots."
This was such a ludicrous suggestion---Lucky Seven Sally was renowned for her incorruptibility---that even Anna's supporters scowled. Vic waved his hand to quiet the angry crowd.
"Impossible. We know Sally too well to believe that." He examined the boy again, as if he was a card he was trying to decipher. "To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes 'Eliminate the impossible and what you have left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.'" The corners of his lips rose. "There is just one thing I want to know. Do you see the future or do you change the future?" When the boy did not answer immediately he added "What I mean by that is did you know in advance what cards Sally would deal after she reshuffled the deck or did you use some kind of psychic suggestion to make her deal the cards you predicted?"
The boy's upper lip curled. On someone less beautiful, the expression would have been a sneer. "Knowing the future, shaping the future---what's the difference?"
Vic's left eyebrow rose."So you're saying that you do both?"
The boy threw back his head. His dark eyes glittered and his teeth flashed white against his dusky skin. "When I know the future, I shape the future. In shaping the future, I know it."
Vic's other eyebrow rose. He stared at the boy with a look of mock surprise. "A philosopher as well as a psychic. My, my." A few members of the audience chuckled at his gentle sarcasm, but most of them were completely bewildered by the conversation between the aging magician and the mysterious boy. "I'm afraid that I have to disagree with you on the first point. Just because a person thinks something is true doesn't necessarily make it true. For instance, if I said 'Tomorrow the sky will rain frogs,' you wouldn't expect it to happen, would it?"
Despite his youth, the boy seemed completely composed as he returned Vic's sardonic stare. "No. Not if you said it. " There was a slight but unmistakable emphasis on the word "you."
"Are you implying that you can make amphibians fall from the sky simply by saying that it is going to happen?"
Still smiling, the boy shook his head. "No. Not by saying it. But if I desired it, then it would happen."
Vic's eyes narrowed. "Only God can do things like that."
To this the boy made no reply, but the way he lifted his chin said more than words.
"Arrogant little prick," Anna muttered.
The boy bowed his head towards the two contestants as if to say Well fought then he turned to Sally. "Thank you for a delightful game," he murmured. He took one of her gnarled hands in his smooth hands and stripped off the glove so that he could kiss her dirt caked palm.
Her heart began to flutter in her chest like that of a love sick school girl. As the beautiful dark young boy turned to leave she called after him "Who are you? What's your name?"
He glanced back over his shoulder. "Shiva," he called. "My name is Shiva Jones." Later, those standing closest to Shiva swore that as he spoke one of the strips of black fabric draped over his shoulder turned into a snake which raised its head and opened its mouth revealing sharp fangs and a forked tongue which hissed Ssssshiva. But that story was told much later, in a time when truth and legend had become irrevocably blurred.
Part 2. Third Eye
Tria got the idea from a Japanese animation video. The heroine, a tiny little thing with a mousy face possessed a magical third eye. When the eye awoke, she changed. Her voice became confident. She acquired supernatural powers. The people who used to step on her were suddenly afraid of her. Evil could not hide from her. She found it in the dark sewers where it hid. She turned the purifying light of her gaze upon it, and it was utterly destroyed.
For the artwork, she went to Snakeskin, who waived her usual fee. "You're going to live with this for the rest of your life," she said. "And I'm going to have to look at you every day when I see you on the streets. I don't want to have to look at the trash work some of my competitors do, so I'm making it impossible for them to undercut my price."
Her apprentice, a fifteen year old kid with bad acne and beautiful eyes whispered "Don't listen to her. Facial tattoos are sacred. They have power. That's why she doesn't want anyone else to do them. There are enough bad energies in the Old City already."
Bad energies. Until recently, Tria had not believed in any form of energy except the electrical variety. However, she had seen some disturbing things in recent weeks and dreamed some that were even worse, which was why she wanted the third eye.
The tattoo took much longer than Tria had anticipated. Halfway through the procedure, she realized that she wasn't going to get back to her apartment in time to cook supper. Three quarters of the way through, she caught a glimpse of Snakeskin's watch and realized that Beau was already home. She pictured him checking the bathroom down the hall which they shared with the other tenants. She imagined him kicking the wall in a momentary burst of anger, which he would quickly swallow. By the time she got home, he would be quietly sulky. She would have to baby him for a while, coax him back to his usual good humor.
Oh God! What would he say when he saw her tattoo? Well, too late now. The worst he could do was leave.
Tria had expected it to look puffy or red. It must be true what they said. Snakeskin really was a genius. In the mirror, she saw a mousy little girl with a pointed chin, snub nose, big ears, and a high forehead decorated with an eye almost as lifelike as her real ones. The iris was brown shot with green. The pupil contained a reflection---of the artist, Tria realized. The lashes matched her own. The "white' part of the eye was natural appearing with subtle gradations of color and tiny blood vessels..
"Love it." Would Beau love it? Suddenly, she didn't care.
Once she was back out on the street, the new tattoo began to throb. She checked her reflection in the window of an abandoned electronics store to reassure herself that the third eye was not melting or sloughing. It changed her face completely. The mousy little girl was gone. She was a goddess, Kali, wearing a necklace of human heads, grinding her male counterpart into the dirt.
She clenched her fists, suddenly overcome by the urge to shed someone's blood.
The people on the street seemed to share her nasty mood. She passed three couples fighting, two with their fists as well as their tongues. Someone was being beaten or raped behind the dumpster. She did not care much which it was. The air smelled like burning rubber. Somewhere a car was on fire. Maybe two or three cars. She saw six burned out automobile shells on her way home. A pair of smashed glasses in the gutter, a decapitated doll, a wedding photo album stained with blood---there could have been an innocent explanation for any of these. Taken together, they seemed to paint a picture of a city which had lost its sanity.
Was it always this bad in the Old City? Or had she simply become more sensitive to the anger, violence, and confusion that filled the lives of the homeless, crazy, drug addicted, antisocial, poverty stricken losers who made this ruin their home? The place needed a fire. A big fire that would purge the filth, light up the darkness and drive out evil.
As she entered the building where she lived, the schizophrenic who occupied the gutted phone booth on the ground floor stared at her face then began to howl like a dog baying at the moon. The teen aged girl who spent most of the day sitting on the steps between the ground floor and the first, smoking one cigarette after another, glanced up at her as she passed. "Cool." Her inflectionless voice was a compliment in itself.
Tria's lips curled back from her teeth. She took the last few stairs two at a time. Her head was on fire. The rest of her body felt as light as smoke. There was tremendous strength in her suddenly weightless arms and legs. Why had she never noticed it before? She used to be afraid to cross the shadowy part of the corridor, below the spot where someone had ripped out the light fixture. Now, she snarled at the darkness and dared it to step out into the light.
Her blood was pulsing in her temples. She recalled the time she overheard her first boyfriend telling his friends what a good lay she was. She remembered the time she bled through her pad, through her underwear, through her skirt and how her older brother laughed. She recalled the way that Beau always sulked when she got home late and how he looked at her with big brown eyes as if to say Now you have to make it up to me.
She growled under her breath. Make it up to him. She'd make it up to him, all right. Just as soon as she found a two by four or a tire iron. And the girl on the stairs. What did she mean by that snide little comment? Cool. She would give the bitch cool. They were all such assholes, everyone except the schizophrenic. He was too lost in his own world to touch her, but everyone else had to go. There wasn't enough room in the universe for their world and hers.
She pried a piece of railing from the balcony and weighed it against her palm. Experimentally, she swung it. It would do.
Her pulse was a drum, keeping time in her head. From the neck down, she was gone, in Heaven or Nirvana or Valhalla or whatever it was called. From the chin up, she was in Hell, but she had made up her mind she was busting out of here.
Her left hand closed over the knob of her apartment door. The hand holding the long slab of polished hardwood was concealed behind her back. She turned the knob and heard the expected click. Only one thing was wrong. The sound came from behind her.
She turned and saw a kid dressed in gray and black. A spooky kid with spooky eyes. A snake was wrapped around his shoulders. The kid was skinny, the snake was big. Better start with the snake. She raised her arm.
"Drop it." His lips barely moved.
She dropped her weapon.
Go on, his eyes dared her. Hit me.
She took a swing. Her fist connected with his jaw. Blood poured down her arm from her split knuckles, but she didn't feel a thing except the buzzing, throbbing burning behind her eyes.
"Funny how the desire to destroy the world and the desire to destroy the self go hand in hand." Unexpectedly, he touched the tattoo on her forehead. "Nice work. Snakeskin?"
The terrible pressure vanished. Her head felt light, and her hand began to throb. "Yeah. Snakeskin. " She squinted up at him. "Who the fuck are you, and what are you doing here?"
He took her arm. "I'm here to save your soul. And your boyfriend. Too bad I can't do the same for the other residents of this city." He handed her a rag. "You're dripping on the carpet."
The cloth was gray, but it smelled clean. One handed, she tied it around her bleeding knuckles. "Save my soul, huh? Why me?"
"I saw you in the street. You had murder on your mind. Why the tattoo?"
"This?" She touched her forehead. "I don't know. It just seemed like something I had to do. Darkness is coming. I need the third eye so I can see in the dark."
"If you see in the dark, what becomes of the darkness?"
"Are you crazy or what?"
"Or what," he replied with a tight little smile. "Come on."
She held back. "Beau's waiting for me."
"If I hadn't showed up when I did, he'd be bleeding for you. You owe me. I won't keep you long."
She was too confused to argue. Had she really planned to smash Beau's skull? What had gotten into her? Maybe it was an allergic reaction to the dye. Maybe it was the Devil.
They left the building. He steered her east, into the cemetery. She wasn't afraid of ghosts, and she was only a little worried by this strange boy and his creepy pet. What terrified her was the thought of what she had almost done to her lover. The kid was right. She needed some cool down time.
He stopped beside an old, sunken tomb. His eyes managed to pick up what little light there was and reflect it, like cat eyes. "Here's a riddle. The man dying of thirst prayed for water. Rain fell from the sky, flooding the desert. He drowned. Was the water good or evil? Give up? The water isn't good, the water isn't evil. The water is water. Evil is found in extremes. Nature doesn't make extremes. People do. Too much light blinds as effectively as too much darkness."
Abruptly, he released her arm. She tumbled backwards onto a grave. Her shoulder was against the tombstone. He knelt beside her and placed his thumb on her tattoo. "The third eye isn't a weapon. It's wisdom. It's the middle path between the two extremes. The next time the extreme tries to dig its claws into you, your third eye will protect you, by allowing you to see both the darkness and the light."
She stared. "Who are you?"
"Darkness and light, same as you." He lay down on a marble slab and folded his hands over his chest. Change the dark rags for white, and he would have looked like a corpse.
"Do you live here in the cemetery?"
He closed his eyes. "No, I sleep here. It's quiet. And safe. People looking for someone to kill never go to cemeteries."
Tria considered the violence of the last few weeks. She had lived in the Old City all her life, and she had never seen anything like this. She shuddered when she thought about how it had almost sucked her in. "Why is everyone going crazy? Is this the end of the world?"
"The end of the world is an extreme. It can't exist unless someone dreams it, creates it, feeds it. "
Was that what she was doing tonight? Feeding the beast? "Who is doing this to us? Is it the CIA? The Mafia? Devil worshipers?"
Without opening his eyes, he began to laugh. "The Lamb of God is doing it. It's taking away our sins. Once all our sins are gone, there won't be anything left worth saving. Tell me, what's so merciful about that?"
After that, he did not move or speak. Hours later, she stood up. Her joints were stiff from the chill. Slowly, she started walking back to her building. Beau would be asleep by now. Or worried out of his mind. Either way, she would be glad to see him.
Part 3. The World Poison
Tracking down Shiva Jones turned out to be more difficult than Vic Shoemaker had expected. Today, luck was with him. A girl with a third eye tattooed on her forehead informed him, unconsciously, that Shiva Jones had made his home in the Old City Cemetery, sleeping in a tomb alongside the corpses of some of the City's most famous citizens.
Vic found all this secrecy puzzling. Third raters resorted to passwords and restricted gatherings in order to cultivate an air of mystery to make up for the fact that their talents were limited. They chose to meet in cemeteries in order to elicit fear---fear which their meager skills did not merit.
Yet, from what he had seen, Shiva Jones had a remarkable gift. Why hide in the shadows? Perhaps he was shy. But if that was the case, why make a spectacle of himself at the Old City Library? Could he be a fugitive? What crimes could one so young have committed? Nothing violent. Vic could read people the way that others read books, and he sensed nothing malevolent about Shiva. If anything, the boy exuded an air of calm that seemed to say "It will all work out in time". A result of his gift for precognition, no doubt. When one knows the future, there must be very little left to fear.
To increase the chance that he would stay awake long enough to talk to Shiva Jones, Vic had taken double his usual dose of amphetamine. His pulse was a little fast, but he had no chest pain or difficulty breathing.
With a wry grin, he recalled the story of the doctor who examined him shortly after his birth. The physician had told the family that Vic would not survive childhood. That was sixty years ago. Except for a bluish tint to his skin, the result of low blood oxygen, Vic had lead a normal life---until the sleep attacks began shortly after his fiftieth birthday. Sometimes he wondered if narcolepsy was nature's way of extracting payment for all those extra years of life. Or could it be a natural consequence of the growth of his psychic powers which had occurred over the years? He had read that dreams help people process information. Ordinarily, older people, who were exposed to less new information each day, dreamed less. However, Vic was no ordinary sixty year old man. Where others saw faces, he saw entire life histories. For him, the phrase "My marriage did not work out" could become a Tolstoy novel.
In preparation for tonight's meeting, Vic had changed into a black windbreaker and slacks. Black was a shade he usually avoided, for it emphasized his unusual coloring. However, tonight it seemed prudent not to draw attention himself. There was something in the air of the Old City, something that made the hairs stand up on the back of his arms.
The cemetery was deserted. His eyes and ears detected no sign of life, and the psychic plane was empty except for the faint buzzing of ghosts. Like bees, they swarmed around him. . It was his life force which attracted them. They meant him no harm. The negative energy which he detected in the air tonight emanated from the living.
Vic strolled down a narrow brick walkway which separated two rows of tombs. Pollution had eroded and blackened the marble. Land subsidence had caused the massive structures to sink. In another hundred years, the cemetery would be gone, stone returned to the earth that gave it birth, corpses and coffins reduced to dirt.
He passed his family's tomb. One day, he would be interred here. When the cemetery returned to the earth, he would feed the wildflowers and weeds. How long would it be? He had no idea. Sometimes, he was grateful that he had not been gifted with precognition. Knowing the thoughts of others was hard enough. If one knew the future, what would be the point of living?
A shadow unfurled and became a man dressed in filthy gray rags. At first he seemed to be staggering, but as his swaying became rhythmic and his arms began to trace elaborate patterns in the air, Vic realized that the man in rags was dancing. The beauty of the dance took his breath away. He forgot about the graves and dirt and his own mortality. Wonder filled him. How could anything be so beautiful?
Abruptly, the man in gray stopped. He threw back his hood, revealing a thin face with unusually large, dark eyes
"Shiva!" Vic exclaimed. "I was looking for you."
"I know. You want to discuss the killings."
A good guess or more evidence of Shiva's power? "Under ordinary circumstances, I would consult Anna, but she has been confined to her bed until the baby is born, and I don't want to disturb her."
"You went out of your way to annoy her at the contest."
"Sometimes, Anna needs to be taken down a notch or two. I would never do anything to harm her. Or her baby. Do you felt the ill wind that is washing over the Old City?"
"The negative psychic residue, you mean? How could I help but feel it?" Shiva took a deep breath and grimaced. "The air stinks of it."
"I have been studying it, trying to find the source. The moon is new, the stars and planets are neutral. Nothing catastrophic happened on this day in the past. I have ruled out all the usual causes, and I have been forced to the conclusion that someone, somewhere is deliberately trying to poison the psyche of the Old City. And succeeding." In the last twenty four hours there had been twenty-three murders, twelve suicides, countless rapes and assaults . And those were just the reported crimes. South of the river, the New City was experiencing nothing out of the ordinary "At this rate, the Old City will be decimated within a week. Do you have any idea who is capable of such powerful black magic?"
Shiva shook his head. "It isn't magic. It's science."
"Science?" Vic shuddered. Ghosts, spells, witches--these did not frighten him as much as the atrocities which he had seen committed in the name of science. "Are you saying this is genocide?"
The young man considered the question. "I guess you could call it genocide, though not in the way you mean."
"I didn't come here for a social studies lesson."
Shiva bared his teeth. He seemed older than he did the last time they met. There was something darker about him, more menacing. "You came to me for help. If you no longer require my assistance, then leave."
"At this point," Vic said pleasantly. "Anna would call you an 'arrogant little shit.' She might be right." He sighed. " OK, we'll do things your way. Genocide is when one group decides to kill another."
"That's the effect, not the cause." Shiva took Vic's arm. For such a slender man, he was surprisingly strong. When he began to walk, Vic had no choice but to accompany him. "Genocide is a tool used by those who imagine that they can separate the good things of life---birth, joy, love---from the bad things---sorrow, sickness and death. They blame their suffering on evil and attempt to rid themselves of suffering by identifying evil and excising it, like so." Shiva made a chopping gesture with one hand. "When they call a group of people evil--say Jewish people or old women who use spells and charms-- genocide results. However, it isn't the death of the witches or Jews which is desired. The goal is heaven on earth."
He sounded like an old man, Vic thought. One of those wise old Chinese men with long beards who explain the meaning of life, death and all that comes in between, and whose words make perfect sense--until you try to analyze them
Shiva had lead him to the edge of the cemetery. In the distance, a bon fire was burning. Smoke filled the night sky, obscuring the stars. Angry voices shouted. There was the sound of shattering glass, the grating of metal on metal. A single pistol shot was followed by a sustained burst of gunfire, then a blood curdling scream. It was a warm night, but Vic shivered as he felt three souls leave the mortal plane simultaneously. "What does any of that have to do with what is happening here?"
Shiva continued walking and Vic was forced to accompany him, even thought it meant moving deeper into the heart of the madness that had fallen over the city. "Someone in the New City has found a way to extract negative impulses from people. Suicidal people. Angry people. Unfortunately, there is a cost. All that negative psychic energy has to go somewhere. He has decided to send it north of the river, on the theory that the transients, drug addicts, and outcasts who inhabit the Old City won't notice the difference."
Vic grimaced. "In other words, someone is turning our city into a psychic dumping ground. Do you have any idea who is responsible?"
Shiva averted his eyes. "Yes."
Vic made a half hearted effort to read the boy's mind. As he expected, he found a solid wall. Shiva's psychic defenses were formidable. "Are you going to tell me who it is?"
Vic's patience was legendary, but it was beginning to wear thin. "Yes or no, will you help me stop the destruction or won't you?"
Shiva's eyes caught and reflected the red light of a fire which someone had started in a trash can. The smell of burning hair and flesh filled the air, but Vic was too riveted by Shiva's gaze to wonder who or what was being burned in that fire. "Yes. I'll help you. Do you have a plan?"
"I was hoping you would have some suggestions."
Shiva considered the problem. "Together, we could deflect the psychic residue. Send it back to the New City. However, there would be no way to control it. The result would be the same. Death and destruction." One of his rags separated from the others. It was a gray snake. Slowly, it encircled the young man's neck. Idly, he stroked its smooth skin with one finger. "We must try to capture it."
"Capture the ill wind? How?"
Before Shiva could answer, they turned a corner and stumbled upon a gang of young men who were attempting to rape a woman beneath the yellow light of a street lamp. The woman was middle aged, slightly obese. A sack of groceries had spilled onto the street. A milk carton had been crushed underfoot, forming a white puddle against the black asphalt. The woman whimpered as one of the men struck her across the face with the back of his hand
Vic winced. He waved his hand and muttered the words of an ancient sleep spell. The three would-be-rapists collapsed, asleep before they hit the street. The woman relaxed, too. She closed her eyes, and her whimpers were replaced by soft snoring.
Shiva watched with interest. "Impressive. If you can put the enraged citizens of the Old City asleep, why do you need me?"
Vic woke the woman. He helped her to her feet , gathered up her groceries and escorted her to her apartment a few yards away . Only after he heard the key turn in the lock did he answer Shiva's question. "Because they always wake up again. And the ill wind is a still there when they do."
As if on cue, the three gang members began to move. One sat up and glared at Vic. "Hey man! What'd you do that for? I'm gonna rip your balls out---"
Shiva stepped between Vic and the angry young men. "Let me try." He imitated Vic's words and hand gesture. The three young men went as stiff as boards, then began to shake violently as seizures wracked their bodies. Several minutes passed before their convulsions stopped. When they finally went limp, their pants were wet where they had urinated on themselves. One young man was bleeding from the mouth. Vic checked and found that he had lacerated his tongue. The cut was shallow and the bleeding had almost stopped, but just in case, Vic positioned the boy's flaccid body on its side so that he would not choke on his own blood.
Shiva looked annoyed. "He was going to rip off your balls. Why should you care what happens to him?"
Vic shrugged. "Why is the sky blue?"
"Right now it's black."
"You know what I mean. We should get out of here before these boys wake up. I don't think they'll survive another magic assault." They resumed their walk. "You still haven't told me how you intend to capture the ill wind," Vic reminded him.
"It's simple. We need a vessel capable of containing it. That's me. We also need something to attract it. That's where you come in."
"Me? Why me?"
"All that purified evil is looking for its opposite. It wants to become whole again. It wants someone untouched by the violence, someone who is pure at heart. Like you." A smile flickered across Shiva's dark, handsome face. "Why do you stay in the Old City? You could make a fortune if you took your gift to the New City. Just think of how much businessmen would pay to know what their competitors are planning."
Vic had been asked the same question many times before, and he always gave the same answer. "This is my home. "
"Your home," Shiva repeated. "It must be nice, having a home, something precious, something worth defending. I---" Abruptly, he changed the subject."This is my plan. You will allow the ill wind to find you, and then you will funnel it into me."
"What makes you think that you can handle so much negative psychic energy?"
"Because I've done it before. Many times. Anger and sadness are nothing but fear, and how can one who knows the future fear anything?" He cocked his head to one side. "Do you hear that? It's an angry crowd. They are coming this way. Though they can't see you, they know that you're here. They are coming for you, Vic Shoemaker."
Just as Shiva predicted, a mob rounded the corner. There were men, women, and even children, carrying torches, clubs, rifles. They smashed things at random--cars, windows, light bulbs. Occasionally, they fought among themselves, although there were no clear sides in the battle. Two people who were attempting to strangle each other one moment might join forces a few minutes later to attack a third person. No one paid any attention to Vic and Shiva.
"Let down your guard," Shiva whispered.
"Your guard. You threw up a psychic barrier the moment the crowd appeared. We're invisible to them."
"I did? I must have done it out of habit." Vic eyed the angry faces which surrounded them. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"Do you have a better one?"
It required more effort to tear down the barrier than it did to construct it. The moment the shield was gone, the crowd noticed them. Or rather, they noticed Vic. Just as Shiva had predicted, they were drawn to him. All heads turned in his direction. All eyes were fixed on his face. There was absolute silence.
Finally, someone muttered "That's him!"
Another voice shouted "It's his fault. He's to blame!"
"Burn the witch!" This simultaneously from several members of the mob.
Vic acted instinctively. Psychic shields, invisibility spells---these were as natural to him as breathing. However, as soon as the barrier went up, it was ripped down again by a force more powerful than anything he had ever felt. Trembling, he waited for the crowd to descend upon him. Even before he felt their fists, he felt the fury of their anger. It was dark, bitter, corrosive. He could feel it eating at his soul, and he wondered if he would be murdered by the mob or become a part of it, and which fate would be worse.
A baseball bat was raised before him. He closed his eyes and braced himself.
When several seconds passed and there was no blow, he opened his eyes again. The expressions on the faces of the people who surrounded him had changed. Eyes had widened. Jaws had dropped. A few people fell to their knees. They were no longer looking at Vic. Instead, their eyes were focused on something behind him.
In his youth, Vic had traveled the world, exploring exotic places, studying mysterious phenomena. He had witnessed miracles beyond his wildest imaginings, but in his journeys he had never seen anything like this. In the spot where Shiva had been standing, there was a pillar of blue fire, swaying in time to imaginary music. Occasionally the flames took on the form of an arm or a leg. Once he saw Shiva's face. He seemed tranquil despite his fiery ordeal.
Tentatively, Vic touched the flame. It was cool on his skin, but it scalded his soul. He snatched his hand away. The blue flame lingered on his flesh. He pulled off his jacket and wrapped it around his hand in an attempt to smother the fire, but when he pulled the jacket away, the blue glow was still there.
"It isn't that kind of fire," someone whispered. It was Shiva. In the blink of an eye, the blue pillar had became an ordinary appearing young man with brown skin, black hair and eyes. His rags were still filthy but appeared unscorched. The serpent was fast asleep around its master's neck which was still faintly luminous and blue. There was no other trace of the fire which moments before had engulfed him.
Shiva took Vic's hand. The blue energy passed from pale fingertips to brown fingertips, where it disappeared, absorbed like water into a sponge.
Vic opened his mouth to ask what had just happened. However, instead of speaking, he yawned, a warning that one of his sleep attacks was about to strike. "Sorry," he muttered. "Must sleep." There was just time enough to lie down on the street with his jacket under his head as a pillow before he lost consciousness.
Part 4. Sati
Vic woke, many hours later, in his own bed. It took him several minutes to orient himself. He recalled his meeting with Shiva Jones, the mob, the blue fire which had seemed to consume the young man, but which Shiva ended up absorbing. Where did all that hatred go? How could anyone contain so much fear and anger without going mad?
Vic swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up. He switched on the lamp. There was a note on the bedside table, scrawled on a yellow legal pad in pencil.
Vic. In answer to the question you did not get a chance to ask, I was able to absorb the negative energy and neutralize it, because I have done it before.
There are many rumors about my origins. Perhaps you have heard some of them. My favorite is one that claims I was conceived when an archeologist discovered an ancient cache of divine sperm in an Indus Valley temple. Mistaking it for a legendary oil that is supposed to give eternal youth, she bathed in it and conceived the child of a god.
The truth is not nearly so romantic. My mother was the daughter of a poor sharecropper. My father was a migrant worker at one of the big farms. He had a family in Mexico and no use for a mulatto child, so he left the area as soon as she told him she was pregnant.
My name really is Shiva Jones. My mother saw the name Shiva in a book and liked it. However, except for my name, there was nothing to mark me as special. I was the poor son of a poor daughter of a poor family. We ate greens, cornbread and buttermilk most nights and considered ourselves lucky to have meat two or three times a week.
It was during a routine screening for lead poisoning that the doctor at the local public health clinic found out how different I was. When she saw my blood tests, she thought I had leukemia. However, the cancer specialist found that I had something even more rare. Where most people have two sets of chromosomes, I have four. It's something that occurs in plants. They have chemicals to make it happen. Crops with double DNA grow faster and stronger. The owner of the big farm next door used these doubling agents on his fields, so maybe that was how I got a double set of DNA. Or maybe it was divine intervention. Maybe the migrant farm worker was really a god looking for a good time with a mortal girl.
How it happened does not really matter. The important thing to the doctors was that I had a genome that is supposed to be incompatible with life for a human being. Based on everything they knew, my mother should have spontaneously miscarried me while I was still a shapeless blob of cells. But here I was, a healthy five year old boy.
My life changed after that. Researchers at the local medical school took an interest in me. They discovered that my unusual genetic code gave me immunity to many illnesses, and made my tissues regenerate more quickly than normal. My IQ was much higher than any of the other members of my family.
One finding took them by surprise. I was able to predict the future. Not just vague premonitions of good or bad events. I could tell the cause of death of the next person who would die in the City. I could predict rain two or three weeks in advance.
My gift for precognition caught the attention of a wealthy donor. He arranged to become my guardian. I don't know how much he paid my family, but the last time I saw them seven years ago, they drove up in a new car, and my mother had real gold jewelry, so it must have been a lot.
It was not so bad living with my new family. My guardian was rich. He hired tutors to educate me along with his daughter, so I learned more than I ever would have learned in the public school back home. There were no more blood tests, no more electric probes. The worst thing I had to endure were meetings with his stockbroker in which I would predict which stocks would rise and which would fall.
I quickly grew accustomed to my new life. It seemed idyllic--until shortly after my twelfth birthday. That was when my guardian's daughter tried to commit suicide. Depression ran in her family. Her mother had taken a fatal overdose of sleeping pills shortly after her daughter was born.
Sara's overdose was not fatal. She was hospitalized for several months. When she came home, she was a different girl. Like a ghost, pale, silent, withdrawn. She was so heavily medicated that she could barely keep her eyes open.
It horrified me to see my sister--that was how I thought of her-- like that. I wanted to help her. 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions', isn't that how the saying goes? If I had any idea where my actions would lead, would I have acted as I did?. I will never know. Strange how my precognition failed me. Or maybe I was so worried about Sara that I didn't want to see.
I began visiting her in the middle of the night. I know what you are thinking, but I was only twelve, still a boy. My intentions were pure. I wanted to make Sara feel better. From experience, I knew that I had a talent for cheering up people. Don't ask me how I do it. It is something that comes naturally to me. Tonight, in the cemetery, I did it for you. Remember how depressed you were, thinking about your own mortality? The feeling vanished when I started dancing. I absorbed your sorrow and neutralized it. Another of my gifts.
Sometimes I sang to her. Other times, I danced. When Sara took ballet lessons with a private tutor, I also attended the lessons. The teacher said I had a natural gift for the art.
When I danced for Sara, she would smile and for a few minute her eyes looked less glassy. As she became more lucid, I began to read to her. She liked fairy tales and had a collection of tales and myths from around the world. I found a book of Hindu mythology, and that was where I learned about my namesake.
As I read the stories of Shiva, I had a strange feeling of deja vu. Not the deja vu of something that happened in the past. This was a sense of recognition of a future that was already set. The story in that book was the story of my life as it would be. Did you know that Shiva interrupted a contest between the gods Brahma and Vishnu? The two deities each claimed to be the greatest, but when Shiva appeared, it became clear that he was supreme. Did my knowledge of that story lead me to interrupt the contest between you and Anna Brahms, or did the ancient story make such a contest inevitable?
Then there is the tale of the World Poison. The other gods decided to churn the One Ocean in order to distill all the goodness from it. However, with all the goodness gone, what remained was bitter poison. In desperation, they called upon Shiva, who drank the World Poison without any effect except that his throat turned blue. I checked in the bathroom mirror. My throat still has a faint but definite blue tinge. Why? Why did my mother, a good Baptist, name me after a Hindu god? Did she name me Shiva because that was who I was, or am I the man I am today because of the name she chose? Did I chose my life from a fairy tale or was this all fated to happen? There are no answers to these questions. Perhaps the question is its own answer.
Back to Sara. It is difficult for me to write this part, so I will make it brief. Sara improved. She was able to wean herself from her medicine. She became her old, smiling, sunny self.
My guardian was delighted, in his daughter and in me. He hired scientists to study my new power. With a little training, I learned how to extract negative psychic energy from anyone. Depression, anger, grief---no matter what the problem, I could make it go away, without any obvious harm to myself. Like alchemy, except better. Money will replace lead with gold, but all the money in the world can not turn grief into joy.
At first, my guardian used this new power only to help a few close family friends. However word quickly spread. Soon, my skills were in demand. People began to offer enormous sums for my services, and though my guardian was rich, he could not resist an opportunity to make more money.
Within a couple of years, I was treating two or three people a day. Still, I suffered no harm. If anything, I felt happy to see people walk into the house looking miserable and leave smiling.
However, everything has a price. In this case, the price was Sara's soul. My guardian was shaken by her suicide attempt. He feared that her depression would return and that she would try to take her life again. As a precaution, he had me treat her almost daily. Every minor sadness, every petty grievance was washed away. She was as serene as an angel, always smiling, always loving.
I remember the afternoon when it occurred to me for the first time that the real Sara was being stripped away, layer by layer. I discussed my worries with her father. At first he seemed to listen. The treatments became less frequent. She was allowed to cry occasionally. On rare occasions, she yelled. Like real girl. Like the Sara I used to know.
Then, last winter, depression struck Sara again. As soon as her father realized what was happening, he insisted that we resume the daily treatments. However, I could feel something within her resisting me. There was a kind of desperation in her eyes. It was as if in relieving her of her sadness, I was taking everything and leaving her nothing.
I tried to talk to her father again. This time, he refused to listen. He accused me of delaying his daughter's cure so that I could extort money from him. "Soon, I won't need you," he told me. "Soon, I will have the power to cure Sara myself. I will make her happy. I will make the whole world happy."
I knew about his schemes, of course, the way I know so many things. However, my blind spot about Sara prevented me from seeing how his plans would affect her.
A few weeks later, he unveiled the invention which his research scientists had been developing. They had managed to clone some of my neural tissue, extracted years ago by the scientists at the medical school. This they plugged into a computer, along with enough hardware to fill a large warehouse. The result was hideous to look at, but very effective. Attach a human being to their invention, and all negative psychic energy could be extracted within seconds.
He did not test it on Sara right away. He was too cautious for that. But after a half dozen successes and over my objections, he had them treat his daughter. Though I still did not know what the future held for Sara, I knew that this machine of his was not right. There is a reason for sadness and anger. They are part of life. Take too much of them away, and you take away life itself.
The results were dramatic. Sara went into the booth teary eyed and came out smiling. "Oh Daddy!" She ran to him and threw her arms around her neck. "It's gone. That awful feeling is gone. Thank you. Thank you."
That night, my guardian gave an impromptu dinner party to celebrate his daughter's cure. All the rich people from the New City were there. Sara stood at the door and greeted each of them by name. She looked as sweetly radiant as an angel in a child's storybook.
One look at her face, and I knew that something was wrong with her. Terribly wrong. I kept picturing Sati, the wife of Shiva who set herself on fire when she was forcibly separated from her lover by her father. Sara had no lover to lose, but she had lost something even more important. She had lost herself. There was no telling what she would do. Perhaps she would try to kill herself again. I resolved not to leave her side.
That night, she was charming, witty, beautiful. The guests were amazed. Several made appointments to try out my guardian's new devise.
After supper, Sara went to her room. When I was sure that everyone was asleep, I crept into her bedroom. She was sleeping peacefully. I checked her pill bottle. It was almost full.
Relieved, I lay down on the foot of her bed and fell asleep. I did not wake up until morning. When I sat up, I knew at once that something was wrong. She was still breathing, but there was something missing. She had no psychic energy. Her aura, a thing that all living creatures possess, was gone. Not diminished. Not darkened. It was gone.
And yet, she was breathing, and her heart was beating. When I pried open her eyes they reacted to the light. Was there something wrong with my powers? I tried to wake her. No matter how hard I shook her, she remained limp in my arms. In a panic, I called her father, and he called the doctor.
They ran all the usual tests. Drugs screens. CAT scans. Everything was normal. There was no reason for Sara to be in a coma, but she was. She has been in that coma since Christmas.
My guardian blamed me. He accused me of trying to sabotage his experiments so that I would have a monopoly on psychic healing. He vowed that I would never see Sara again. I was not allowed to visit her in the hospital. Guards were hired to keep me out. When the doctors gave up trying to cure her and decided to send Sara home, my guardian kicked me out of his house.
Since then, I have lived in the Old City, waiting for the day when my guardian would realize that he has no place to store the psychic energy which his machine extracts. Waiting for the Contest, so that I could show you my power so that you would think of me when the ill wind blew over the Old City. Waiting for the moment when I could absorb the accumulated anger, sorrow and worry of a thousand people. Will it be enough?
It is done now. I am ready. But ready for what? Everything has been so clear up until now. Why does my sense of precognition fail me when I think about Sara? Will she wake up? Will her body join her soul in death? I do not know the answers to these questions. All I know is that tonight, at midnight, I will be at the front gate of Richard Capricorn's mansion. Yes, the Richard Capricorn. He was my guardian. Now he is my enemy.
I need your help, Vic. If you are really the man they say you are, you will be there tonight.
Part 4. The Old God
His mother believed in the old god of fire, brimstone and retribution. When his older brother committed suicide, they were not permitted to mourn. "He's in Hell now."
"How long does he have to stay there," Richard, or Rich as he was called then, asked. Time out usually lasted an hour. Hank had done something very, very bad. Would he have to stay in Hell a day? A week?
"For all eternity," his mother had replied.
"Oh." That didn't sound too bad. If she had said a month, or a year, he would have cried, because he could conceive of these. Eternity was beyond his comprehension. When he heard the word eternity, he thought about God and the angels.
When he was twelve his father was killed in an auto accident. He had been driving drunk. There was a woman in his car, a woman whom his family did not know. Rich was old enough to understand the meaning of the whispers he overheard. His father had done something bad. Something evil. This time there was a funeral, and his mother wore black, but everyone in the family knew that Rich's father was going to spend a very, very long time in Purgatory, before he would be allowed to climb back up into Heaven on his hands and knees.
The neighbors said his mother had suffered more than her share of burdens. They called her a saint for never losing her faith. The worse things got, the more she prayed. The more she prayed, the worse things got. Occasionally, when she was praying, Rich caught a glimpse of something in her eyes that frightened him. A dark gleam that made him think of polished boots and swastikas and Saint Cecelia, who smiled as she offered God her own eyes on a silver plate.
The first thing Richard did when he left home was throw away the Bible his mother had packed for him. The second thing he did was look for a job. He wanted money. Lots of money. If prayer could not keep him safe, maybe money would.
His third goal was to find a wife. She was the daughter of the senior partner of the bioengineering company where he worked in marketing. The boss was a technical man. Richard studied nights and weekends for two years to add a bioengineering degree to his business degree. The boss admired that. He gave Richard a promotion and his daughter's hand in marriage on the same day.
Carla was as unlike Richard's mother as a woman could be. She had few opinions about anything. When the world around her was happy , she was happy ××. When there was sorrow, she mourned. When people lost their temper, she withdrew into her shell. Her favorite response to a question or problem was "Let Richard handle that." Richard, who was very good at handling things, felt pleased with the new life he had created for himself.
It always struck Richard as appropriate that Carla's favorite animal was the turtle. Three times a year, on Christmas, their anniversary and her birthday, he gave her some type of turtle. It became a challenge to find something new each time. He went through chocolate, jewelry, ceramics, glass. He found books about turtles. He took her on a trip to the Galapagos Islands. His reward was the look of surprise and happiness on her face. "How do you do it?" she would exclaim.
Their first child was stillborn. The doctor recommended that they put off a second pregnancy for at least a year. "That gives mother a chance to heal, emotionally as well as physically."
Richard could not stand to see Carla cry. After a month, he gave in to her, agreeing that only a second child would take away the pain that came from the loss of the first.
It was a complicated pregnancy. Carla went into labor early. She spent two months flat on her back in the hospital before the doctor said their daughter was mature enough to be delivered.
Sara weighed five pounds, three ounces. She was strong, healthy. When placed in her mother's arms the first time, she went straight for the breast. Her tiny eyes opened, and she seemed to look at Carla for a moment. Satisfied with what she saw, she closed her eyes again and continued to suck.
After the baby was born, Carla was very quiet. She looked thinner than she had before getting pregnant. Her skin was pale. The doctor ordered vitamins. Richard hired a nurse to help with the baby. He filled the nursery with turtle theme toys. He sat up a trust in his daughter's name. He gave Carla a diamond bracelet. Whenever, he found her crying, he comforted her, telling her jokes and amusing little stories, until the tears dried, and her sunny smile returned.
Two weeks after returning home from the hospital, Carla pumped her breasts, left the milk in the freezer with a note indicating the date and time. Then, she went to her room, took an overdose of pills, and died in her sleep. Richard was in the bed at the time, but he did not realize what had happened until he woke the next morning and found her lying beside him, cold and stiff.
On the day of the funeral, Richard received a letter from his mother. He tore it up without reading it. He never saw or spoke to her again. His world was Sara, now. He wouldn't allow that bitter old woman to frighten her with her stories of Hell and Purgatory. He wanted Sara to grow up innocent, free from the fear of the vengeful God who had terrorized Richard as a boy and who continued to haunt him as a man. He wanted Sara's world to be perfect light and happiness.
Part 5. The Dance of Destruction and Creation
Anna woke with a splitting headache and an overwhelming urge to get out of the house. The headache could have been from her blood pressure--the midwife said it was dangerously high and had prescribed bed rest and herbs. However, the intense desire to go outside had a different origin. From experience, she had learned never to ignore the little voice behind her eyes which told her to do seemingly irrational things.
She grabbed a woolen cloak and her pendulum, a chain with an old silver coin at one end and a smoothly polished piece of amethyst at the other. Her swollen stomach made it difficult for her to climb down the steep stairs, but once outside, she moved quickly to the garage, where she powered up the car which the women's collective shared.
She hung the pendulum from the rear view mirror. It swung back and forth before coming to rest, the amethyst pointing in a southerly direction. So the danger was in the New City. If she had known, she would have changed into better clothes and fixed her hair. However, it was too late now. Her eldest daughter Uma, the one who had Vic's golden hair and blue eyes was already running from the house towards the garage.
"Mama! Wait. You aren't supposed to be out of bed---"
Anna pressed the gas pedal to the floor and took off with a jerk that threw her back against the driver's seat. The pendulum did not move. It still pointed towards the south.
There was little traffic on the bridge that linked the two halves of the city. There was even less traffic in the enclave of mansions where the pendulum lead her. A police car was parked on the side of the road. Ordinarily, an old car such as hers in a neighborhood like this would have caught the attention of the cops, but Anna used one of the spells she had learned from Vic to make herself inconspicuous.
As she neared a large red brick mansion with a wide lawn surrounded by a high metal fence, the voice behind her eyes whispered "Here." She slammed her foot on the brake. The car skidded on the gravel and just barely missed hitting a tree. She threw open the door and hurried to the gate. On the ground, she saw a familiar figure curled up in the grass, fast asleep. There was no sign of injury, no bleeding. His heartbeat was regular.
"Vic!" she said, shaking his shoulder. She yelled in his ear. "Victor! Wake up!" That and two slaps across the face brought him out of his trance. Anna was the only person in the Old City who could wake him when his narcolepsy struck. People said it was because her voice was so loud and shrill. The truth was that she and the older magician still shared a psychic bond despite their troubled past.
Vic's eyes opened. So blue. Staring into them, Anna felt like a girl of seventeen again, giddy with adoration.
"Anna?" He shaded his eyes against the floodlight that illuminated the mansion's gate.
He does this to everyone, Anna told herself. He makes everyone love him. Don't let him get to you with those blue eyes. Be strong.
She stood up. Hands on her hips, she shouted "What the hell do you think you're doing going into a lion's den without me? Who's going to watch your back? Who's going to save your miserable hide when you start getting sentimental over the goon who's pointing a gun at you?"
Vic sat up. Mildly, he replied. "You're supposed to be in bed. The baby--"
"The baby's doing fine." It was true. The unborn child within her womb had been especially active this evening, as if it sensed the tension in the air. "You didn't answer my question. What's going on here?"
Briefly, he told her about his encounter with Shiva Jones the night before. "He left this." He gave her the handwritten note.
Anna skimmed it. "Wordy little bastard, isn't he. All this philosophical mumbo-jumbo. Sounds a lot like you. " She regarded Vic with narrowed, suspicious eyes. "Are you sure you aren't his father."
"Do I look Mexican to you?"
"Not at the moment. But you could make yourself look like a six armed purple leprechaun if it would get you into someone's bed." She returned to the letter. "Psychic energy extraction? What kind of bullshit is this? I think the boy is pulling your leg. Or mad as a hatter. This could be a plot to kidnap you. Remember how that Japanese company tried to---"
"Every word I wrote in that letter is true." Shiva Jones stepped from the shadows. His rags were even filthier than the last time she saw him, and his hair looked like it had not been touched by a comb in weeks, but still, he was the most beautiful creature she had ever seen. Just looking at him made her feel warm inside. As he approached, she felt her anger and fear evaporate, replaced by the comforting sensation that whatever happened in the next few hours, everything would be all right---
The voice behind her eyes issued a warning. The warm, comfortable feeling vanished. "Stop fucking with my head!" Anna snarled. She threw up a psychic barrier between herself and the young magician. "What are you planning to do here? Why do you need Vic?"
Shiva indicated the gate. "I need his help getting past the guards. They have orders to keep me out. Since they're just doing their job, I don't want to hurt them."
"And you think Vic is going to help you break into---"
"Anna," Vic interrupted. "Let me ask the questions." He stood up. Brushing grass from his clothes, he addressed Shiva. "I will help you, if you give me your word of honor that you don't intend to harm anyone. That includes psychic harm as well as physical."
Without hesitation, Shiva replied "Cross my heart and hope to die. The intercom is over there. The guard on duty tonight is named Frank."
Anna never ceased to be amazed at the way Vic could wrap people around his little finger. He murmured a few words into the intercom, and the gate slid open. A paunchy, middle aged man stepped out of a guard house to greet them. Before he could utter a word, Vic waved his hand, and the man was asleep.
He took care of the next three guards they encountered in a similar fashion. The attack dogs---Dobermans--were no problem since animals adored him. Everyone loved him. That was why Anna resisted her feelings for him. Were they her own feelings or were they the result of his magic?
The front door of the mansion wasn't locked. Why bother when there were so many guards on duty? As they entered the house, Shiva became wary. He glanced from side to side before hurrying across the polished marble floor of the entrance hall to a featureless door. He punched a few numbers into the digital lock mounted to the wall beside the door. "Damn," he muttered. "They changed the combination."
Anna tapped her foot impatiently. "I thought you were supposed to be able to read the future. Didn't you see that they would change the code? I don't have precognition, and even I would have expected it. Honestly, I you're going to plan a burglary, you should at least---"
"Who knows the combination?" Vic interrupted. He ignored Anna's glare.
"Richard. And his lab technicians. And the guards."
"Wait here." Vic left through the front door. He returned a few minutes later and handed Shiva a slip of paper on which he had jotted three numbers. "I assume this is where Richard Capricorn keeps his infernal machine."
"And you're here to destroy it."
Anna frowned. "If you knew all along that this equipment was here, why did you wait until tonight to do this?" She thought about the deaths and violence which had plagued her city in the last few weeks. She had lost a dear friend two days ago, when a gang of street punks had smashed his head under their military issue boots. Her temper rose. "Since you claim to know the future, you must have known this was going to happen. You worthless little piece of shit! You're just as much to blame as---"
Shiva turned and stared at her. He did not say a word, but the look in his eyes made her shudder. She was suddenly afraid. No, not just afraid. Terrified. Terrified to the point that she could not speak or move. Even the voice behind her eyes was silent.
She breathed an audible sigh of relief when Shiva turned away from her. He finished entering the code. The door opened. Before them was a vast room full of computers, monitors, hardware.
Shiva tore through the machinery as if it was made of paper. He was looking for something. From reading his letter, Anna had a pretty good idea what it was. "What do we do now?" she asked Vic.
"Wait and watch. Try to stop him if he gets carried away."
Her eyebrows rose. "You don't call this getting carried away?"
"It's machinery," he replied cooly. "If he starts trying to tear people limb from limb, we'll stop him."
Shiva emerged from the wreckage, clutching an amorphous mass of gray and white tissue in his hands. "Just taking back what is mine," he muttered. He raised his hands to his mouth and devoured the slimy mass in one gulp.
Anna fought a wave of nausea. "So, is that it? Is this what we came for? Let's get the fuck out of here, before Vic has to use his powers of persuasion on a dozen cops, a DA and a judge."
Shiva ignored her. He headed back to the entrance hall and up the grand staircase. There was a yellow flood light outside, behind the multipaned window above the first landing. The pattern of light and shadows distorted the black and white marble square tile floor, turning it into something very like an Escher drawing. Anna felt queasy as she moved across the floor.
"Where is he going? Is there more equipment upstairs?"
"He is going after the girl, Sara." Vic tried to take her arm, but she pushed him away.
"We're going to abduct Sara? Richard Capricorn's daughter? Good Lord, have you both gone mad?"
"Not abduct," he corrected. "Cure."
Anna laughed hysterically. "Cure her of what? Don't tell me. This is a house call, and Shiva wants to play doctor."
"Shhh!" Vic lifted his chin and titled his head slightly to one side as if listening.
Anna followed his example. The house was silent, but she detected the psychic presence of three people. Two were far away, possibly living in servants quarters in the back of the house. Too far away to hear the intruders or be any threat to them. Assuming there were no security alarms waiting to be tripped. Anna hated making assumptions. She liked to know what kind of danger was creeping up behind her.
There was one other psychic presence in the house, besides theirs. Its center was located in the west wing. Vic was staring in that direction. He must have felt it, too. Hell, he could probably tell the person's age, sex, name and life history. To Anna, it was simply a focus of energy.
"He's asleep," he muttered.
Vic motioned for her to follow him up the stairs. She did, but only because she was dying of curiosity. There was a slight twinge of discomfort in her stomach and momentary pressure in her lower back. Just the baby kicking, she told herself. The stairs were a challenge to a woman in her condition.
"You could help me!" she hissed.
Vic turned and offered her his arm.
As Anna hauled herself up the last step, she realized that Vic had tricked her again. If he had asked her if she needed help, she would have told him to fuck off. There was that pain again. She must have pulled a muscle.
They found Shiva in the central hall of the west wing. He was studying a door. "There's an alarm here," he whispered. "I can feel it, but I can't find it." He looked at Vic.
"Talk to Anna. She knows more about technical things than me."
"The Amish know more about technical things than you," she muttered, but she was secretly pleased that Vic had deferred to her. She checked the door. The UV light sensor was easy to spot, but her instinct told her that there was something else. She pointed out the obvious trap, then advised her companions not to close the door after they entered the room. "The sneakiest alarms are those that don't activate until the door is closed. They usually have a self locking devise."
Vic looked skeptical. "Locking the kidnapper in with the victim?"
"Locking the thief in with the valuable object he has come to steal. Capricorn knows Shiva won't hurt his little girl. He's afraid the kid will try to take her away. Did you see the size of that machine Shiva just wrecked? Capricorn built it all for her. All for his little princess." She shook her head." And people call me an overprotective mother."
Cautiously, she opened the door. The bedroom was illuminated by a single night light. After the darkness of the hall, the single bulb was dazzling. Shiva slipped past her, taking care to avoid the light sensor. Over his shoulder, Anna saw a young woman asleep on the bed. The steady rise and fall of her chest showed that she was alive, but psychically she was dead. No worse, than dead. The dead had ghosts, lingering memories, regrets. This girl had nothing. Where her self ought to be--her dreams, fears, desires, anger, all the things that make a person who she is--there was a big fat nothing.
"Jesus!" she exclaimed. "What does Shiva think he can do for her?"
"If I am guessing correctly," Vic replied in a whisper. "He is going to try to jump start her soul."
"With the negative psychic energy he absorbed last night."
Anna's eyes widened. "All of it? It will kill her!"
"Or cure her. Either state is preferable to this."
Shiva knelt beside the bed and bowed his head as if praying. He took Sara's hand in his. Her arm was thin and wasted, despite the feeding tube that was inserted in her nose. Several other tubes ran to and from her body. She had been laid out carefully, her arms over the covers, her hair brushed back from her pale face, her head exactly centered on the pillow. She looked, Anna thought, like a corpse which had been laid out for public viewing.
Shiva was saying something. Anna, who was not ashamed of being nosy, stepped closer so she could hear. "It's my fault," he murmured. "I should have let you have your sorrow. Even if it meant that you would try to kill yourself again. It was yours. It was part of you. And knowing what I know about your father, I should never him told him my secret. A man like him can't understand that too much of anything--money, power, happiness, safety--can kill just as surely as the bitterest poison."
He sounded the way that Vic used to sound, when he was first courting Anna. Sincerity like that could not be faked. Sister, lover--whatever she was to him, Shiva was devoted to the girl on the bed.
Anna felt another twinge of discomfort, this one slightly stronger than the last. This pain was definitely coming from her womb, though it wasn't strong enough to call a contraction. Maybe it was just pre-labor. Sometimes that latest for days.
Vic slid his hand under her elbow. "Do you need to sit down?"
Good old Vic. He always knew when something was bothering here. She shook her head. "I'm fine," she mouthed silently.
As far as Shiva was concerned, the two magicians might as well have been invisible. After talking to Sara for a while longer, he kissed her on the brow. Then, he began to tell her a story, something about a girl and a swan. Anna did not listen closely. Her attention was divided between the girl lying on the bed and the baby within her womb. The girl did not move a muscle, but the baby appeared to be practicing gymnastics.
When the story elicited no response, Shiva tried singing. His voice was good, but not spectacular. Sara did not respond.
"Dance," Vic suggested.
"What good will that do?" Anna demanded. "Her eyes are closed. She can't see him."
"She can't hear him, either," he pointed out sensibly. "This isn't a performance. It's magic. Shiva absorbed the negative energy of an entire mob by dancing. Maybe he can channel it back out the same way.'
Shiva nodded. He kicked off his shoes and unwrapped several layers of rags. Nice body, Anna thought. A dancer's body.
Vic caught her eye. Was that disapproval she saw?
She had just thought of a really nasty response, when her stomach cramped again. By the time the pain was gone, Shiva was moving, and she forgot about Vic.
Slowly, he began to sway, first his head, then his upper body, then his whole body. Only the feet remained still. He raised and lowered one arm, then the other. It took Anna several minutes to realize that this warm up was actually the dance. The beautiful young man was dancing to a beat that exactly matched the beating of her own heart. Or had her heart changed its beat to match Shiva's dance? She reached for Vic's hand. His pulse was the same as hers.
Though the boy's movements were slow and simple, his dance was the most beautiful thing that Anna had ever seen. It brought to mind the joy of holding her first child, Uma in her arms. It made her remember the anguish when her mother passed away from cancer. The memory hurt as bitterly now as it did then, but the hurt was a good hurt, like labor pains. It was the hurt of love that never dies.
She felt another burst of pain in her abdomen. Though it passed quickly, there was no mistaking what it was. She was going into labor. Not yet, she thought. I want to see this through.
Shiva was making wider gestures with his arms now. His skin had a peculiar sheen that was not just from perspiration.
"He's glowing,"Anna exclaimed.
Vic did not reply.
The bluish sheen grew brighter. It filled the air around him. Tendrils of blue light touched the woman lying on the bed. One finger twitched, then another. Her eyelids fluttered. She opened her eyes. At first, she stared sightlessly up at the ceiling, but slowly she began to focus. She saw Shiva's face. She smiled and raised her hand.
Anna and Vic were so captivated by Shiva's dance that their psychic powers went numb. That was the only explanation she could come up with later to explain how both of them failed to notice that someone was standing behind them. Until he spoke.
"Get away from the bed! Get away from my daughter or I'll shoot!"
Anna turned. She recognized the man who held the revolver. His face was famous. Or infamous, depending upon your political views. Richard Capricorn.
He didn't seem to notice her or Vic. His eyes were fixed on Shiva and Sara. The young woman was sitting up in bed, her back supported by her adopted brother's arm. She looked from her father's face to Shiva's then back to her father.
"Get away from her!" Capricorn roared. His finger tightened on the trigger.
Several things happened at once. Vic began the words of a sleep incantation, a spell which he didn't get a chance to complete because Capricorn pulled the trigger of the gun. The revolver must have been equipped with some sort of silencer. It made very little noise, though the recoil sent Capricorn back against the wall.
What made the bullet go astray? Was it the recoil? Was Capricorn's aim off? Or did Sara throw herself forward at the last moment to protect Shiva? Whatever the cause, the result was the same. Blood appeared on the front of the young woman's night gown. Her scream turned into a choking sound, and she collapsed in her brother's arms.
He called her name. When she did not respond, he checked the pulse in her neck. "Get an ambulance," he shouted. He started CPR.
Anna had several years of experience as a nurse. She moved forward to help him, but before she could reach the bed, pain gripped her, cutting off her breath, forcing her to the floor. She clutched her stomach. Not yet, damn it! Not yet!
It was no use. After giving birth to so many children, Anna could practically spit them out, and this one seemed determined to be born here, in this room. "Vic," she gasped as the pain subsided for a moment. "The baby's coming." Her bag of water broke, flooding the carpet around her.
There was no time to move her onto the bed, and she wouldn't have wanted to deliver her baby there anyway, not with a dead girl lying beside her. Shiva had given up on CPR. He was holding Sara's body in his arms, crying softly into her hair. "Why didn't I see this? Why didn't I know?" The girl's aura was changing from blue to charcoal gray, a sign of inevitable death.
There was a brief lull between contractions. From her position on the floor, Anna could see the doorway. Richard Capricorn stood there, the hand holding the gun hanging at his side. His face was pale with shock. Slowly the awful realization of what he had done crept over him. He had murdered his only child. Despite her own pain, Anna felt his anguish, his despair, his self hatred, and she knew what he was about to do.
"Vic!" Her voice was urgent.
Vic followed the direction of her gaze. She could almost see the wheels turning inside his head. He was debating Richard Capricorn's fate. With a few words, he could make him drop the gun. With a few more, he could lull him to sleep, and when he woke the pain, while still sharp, would be bearable. Or he could do nothing.
Vic chose the later option. Calmly, he turned his head away. When Capricorn raised the gun to his mouth and pulled the trigger, splattering blood and brains onto the wall behind him, Vic did not even flinch. "It is kinder this way," he murmured.
A few seconds later, the pain became continuous. The baby was coming. It only took a moment for Anna to push out a tiny, baby girl who screamed loudly with healthy lungs. And the flickering light of Sara's aura, which had briefly been ignited by Shiva's dance, went dark forever.
Vic wrapped the baby in a towel and placed her on her mother's belly. The umbilical cord was still attached. Anna smelled the familiar fresh scent of a newborn baby, and her memory of the pain of labor vanished. "Does she have all her parts? All her fingers and toes?"
"She's perfect," Vic replied. "Have you thought of what you want to call her?"
Before she could answer, Shiva said "Parvati." Gently, he laid Sara's body down on the bed. He crossed the room to stand beside Anna. His chest, hands and lips were blood stained, his cheeks were tear streaked, but his expression was calm. "The baby's name is Parvati."
"How did you guess?" Anna asked, smiling. "My first daughter is named Uma, so I thought I'd chose another Hindu name for my last." She had made up her mind to have her tubes tied after this pregnancy. However, the sight and touch of her newborn daughter weakened her resolve.
"It isn't a guess." He was calm. Too calm. He must be in shock. Well, Vic would have to handle it. Anna was in no condition to take care of anyone but herself and her baby. "When Sati, Shiva's wife died, she was reincarnated as Parvati. Your baby carries the soul of my sister, Sara." He leaned over the infant, which briefly opened her eyes. Though Anna knew the baby was too young to focus, she seemed to stare up at Shiva as if entranced by his beauty. Maybe his presence made the shock of emerging into a cold, loud, bright world more bearable. The baby stopped crying.
"Take good care of her," Shiva murmured. "She has an important part to play in the story."
"What on earth are you babbling about?" Anna held her daughter to her breast so that she could nurse. She whispered in Vic's ear. "I'll be fine. Look after Shiva. Make sure he doesn't do something stupid."
Vic nodded. He stood. Taking Shiva by the arm, he turned him away from the bodies of his adopted father and sister. "Do you really believe that our lives are predetermined by stories that were told thousands of miles away, thousands of years ago?"
Shiva gave him an inscrutable look and replied "How do you know that the stories that the ancient Hindu told were not stories of us and our lives?"
"Because--Oh, yes, I see. It's possible, I suppose."
Anna looked from Vic's pale, blue tinged face to Shiva's dark, beautiful face. "What's possible?"
"Everything," Vic replied lightly. "Parvati. A lovely name. What kind of life do you think she will have?" He addressed the last question to Shiva Jones, who answered
"A long and happy one. That's how the story goes."
Addendum. About Hindu Mythology:
The Hindus have many deities, but the three primary gods are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is the creator, the one who brought the universe into existence. Vishnu is referred to as the preserver, a kind and merciful god who protects the world. Shiva is known as the destroyer. However his dance is the source of movement or action in the universe, and therefore he can be viewed as both a creator and destroyer. According to Joseph Campbell in "The Power of Myth" "Shiva is a very ancient deity, perhaps the most ancient worshiped in the world today."
Bio:McCamy writes speculative fiction with elements of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her long fiction can be read on her web site at http://www.nationwide.net/~taylorjh.