Badlands II: God of Wrath
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)
Now, there was nothing
left, nothing at all, except broken plaster and cracked stone.
He would have called her
name, if he could remember it. But he opened his mouth, and nothing came.
"She isnít here." The
voice was at his shoulder. "She hasnít been here in a very long time."
He didnít turn round.
"A long time. Itís been
longer than you think since you were last here, Man. Much, much longer."
"I thought youíd left me
and gone away," he said then.
There was no reply to
this. He still didnít want to turn around.
"Where is she?" he asked
"Do you really want to
"Yes." He could see the
demon out of the corner of his eye now, a red glowing shadow. "Is she dead?"
The demon laughed, a low
chuckle. "Why donít you look at me, Man? What makes you so shy?"
"Where is she?" he
repeated. "Is she dead?"
The demon laughed again.
"No, she is not so lucky. Do you want to find her? Really?"
"Is that why you brought
"Why should I bring you
here, Man? You brought yourself." The demon touched him lightly on the
shoulder, a touch like mist, but one he felt right through his chain mail.
"Werenít you thinking Iíd left you and gone away?"
He turned his head to
look at her. She formed out of the darkness, her eyes glowing amber in the
shadow, her hair dancing like flames. She grinned, her teeth sharp and white.
"What do you want me to
do?" he asked.
The demon crossed her
arms under her bulging breasts and pretended to think. "Well," she said
judiciously, "if you want to find her, you might follow this river
bed along till the night turns over towards dawn. Then, perhaps, you might find
an entrance carved in the rock." She paused, her eyes glinting mockingly. "And
once you go through the gate, then..."
"Then, Man," she said,
her eyes staring into his, her smile disappearing, "you are going to wish you
had left well enough alone."
"But if I want to go," he
said, after a pause, "you wonít stop me?"
"I wonít, Man." She
sighed, her breasts rising and falling. "I could, and perhaps I should, but I
"Then," he said, "Iíll
The sky was pinkening with dawn over the bare hills when
he saw the entrance.
It was a doorway carved
in the rock, with pillars on either side, and stairs leading up from the dry
bed of the river. He was sure heíd come this far along before, all those years
ago, but heíd never seen it then. It must have been completely submerged under
"Who made this?" he asked
the demon. The intensely grim look was still on her face, and she made no
attempt to answer. Instead, she motioned at him to dismount.
"Leave the beast here,"
she said. "It canít go inside there."
Reluctantly, because he
had come to think of the beast almost as a home, he complied. The creature
showed no reaction, its eyes merely turning once towards him for a moment. He
did not, of course, need to hobble it in any way; it would wait for him to
Forever, if need be.
The stairs and pillars
were very old, so polished by time that the stone had become polished enough to
gleam in the dawn light. There had been carvings, once, but they had been
almost completely effaced. What little was left of them made him obscurely glad
he could not see them any more clearly.
The dawn light faded
rapidly as he walked up the stairs and through the doorway. Inside there was a
long, low tunnel, which sloped rapidly down into darkness. He could see the
stumps of brackets on the walls which might once have been holders for torches,
but there was nothing there now.
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