Authors: Alica Knight
Part IV: Shadowfall
A Paranormal Romance Serial
with a little hint of spice.
“Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings - always darker, emptier and simpler.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche
The Moon’s Shadow
When I dreamt, I could see things that weren’t real. I saw a copy of a hill, around Canberra, one that I’d visited. The same place I awoke after my first transformation—one small hill, just like many others, crowned with a single tree. The grass was long and uncut, the air warm and sweet, free of the malaise and the heavy, stagnant pull of the city.
I was not alone in my dream. Ishan Kari, the man I’d come to love in my dreams, would be with me. We would share our place, our private space, in the dream. This place, powerful and raw, reflected the state of our minds and our hearts. It was always so joyous and full of life when we were together, empty and incomplete when we were apart. Normally the land was primal and bathed in light; the sun, so bright I would almost had to squint, blasting its warm light into every corner of this false land.
But sometimes it was not so. Sometimes the dream world, as were our hearts, was a colder and emptier place, without light and power.
This was one of those times. Ishan’s words had filled this place with darkness, with doubt and despair. The wind carried a biting edge to it, a chill that went beyond the simple touch of autumn.
“It’s possible that… it’s because when the moon covers the sun, I’m going to die.”
The moment he said that I felt as though my heart were being crushed inside my chest. I couldn’t find words right away, and when they finally came they kind of tumbled out in a disorganised jumble and my mouth was working about two and a half sentences ahead of my brain.
I wanted to know what he’d seen. I wanted to understand why he’d said that terrible, painful thing to me. But the dream world can sometimes be fickle, and before any kind of answer could come I found it fading away to nothing.
I awoke on the couch at my apartment covered in goosebumps. The window to my balcony had been left open and the cold Canberra air had seeped its way in, stealing the heat from the apartment and dragging the temperature of the main living room down close to freezing.
These things didn’t bother me since my transformation. Wiggling off the couch I dragged myself over to the corridor, ignoring the wind as it pushed my curtains around. Instead, I stepped into the corridor, moving down to my bedroom.
Katelyn, my friend, slept in my bed covered in blankets. Despite the chill of the Canberra winter her body was caked in sweat and she shivered, ever so slightly, despite the thick coverings.
She hadn’t woken up since we’d rescued her nearly two months ago. We fed her porridge and plenty of water and Ishan and I took turns changing her bedpan. We’d massage her legs and turn her over so that she didn’t develop pressure sores. We’d check her eyes and her nostrils to make sure they were not dry, indicating dehydration. Despite giving her the best care we could, she’d lost about fifteen kilos since we’d started caring for her, making her skinny, attractive body seem sickly and gaunt. She looked like one of those starving African children on TV. She needed to go to the hospital.
I had begged, cajoled, pestered and threatened the coven with everything I could think of, but they couldn’t be reasoned with. Deep in my heart, I knew the reason.
Were-tigers, called the Rakshasa, were independent and had only small clan structures. There was no overarching clan leaders, no grand rulers. Each clan lived how they wished and made their own rules. I had only recently discovered my heritage, so I was still learning all the finer points of our existence.
But no matter what, simple survival dictated one simple rule that they all followed: the humans can never know of our existence.
Katelyn had seen what we were. She had seen the Champawat Tiger in his natural state, seen his Rakshasa form. She knew I was one of them. No matter what happened, we couldn’t let her free.
Her ultimate fate was not yet known, but at this stage I just wanted her to wake up and I didn’t care if the world knew what I was. I watched her twitch, groaning softly in her sleep, her face twisted as though she were in pain. We didn’t know what was causing Katelyn to not wake up; it wasn’t an injury that we could find and no drug anyone knew would remain in her system this long. As the days dragged past, we all worried what was going to happen to her.
I had sometimes wondered if my lineage, my awakened power, was going to come with some terrible cost. I hadn’t paid anything yet, so far, but perhaps the cost would be paid in blood and suffering, in tears and pain.
Paid by my friends.
Sometimes, You Can’t Do Anything
I don’t know how long I watched Katelyn toss and turn, but it must have been hours.
When a human’s Rakshasa lineage manifested itself and the power within us bubbled to the surface, the process was gradual and slow, like going deaf. Hearing loss was like that; you never really noticed until everyone could hear something you couldn’t.
My power had been building, slowly, and right now I could hear
. I could hear the faint noise of cars purring down the nearby street. I could hear the distant mumble of television from the apartment beside the one beside mine, and I could hear the couple upstairs making love—the faint squeaking of their bed, the soft, heavy breathing, the occasional gentle moan. No human could hear these things, but I could.
But from Katelyn, the only noise I could hear was her quiet inhalation and exhalation, punctuated by a gentle, uncomfortable groan.
“She doesn’t look good,” came a voice from behind me. Asena, the red headed woman descended from a British soldier stationed in India, the unofficial leader of our little group. No matter how good my hearing became, it seemed, Asena could be quieter than even I could hear.
It was one of her talents. We all had them. Some had one, some had many, but they all seemed to be clustered around a common theme. Hers was sound. She could mimic any voice she wanted, or move completely silently. I’d stopped being surprised when she, or the rest of the coven, dropped by unannounced. In fact, I found their presence oddly reassuring.
“No,” I said, “she doesn’t. I’m worried about her.”
“No change today?”
“Nope. The same as yesterday.”
Asena and I stood in silence, staring at Katelyn as my friend’s restlessness abated and she became quiet once again, her breathing becoming gentle and calm, her facial features relaxing. Although Ishan had assured me that it appeared in all ways like a normal fever, I couldn’t shake the feeling that, as she slept, she was experiencing some kind of terrible dream.
Without taking my eyes off Asena, I heard Katelyn’s breathing, gentle and relaxed. For a moment she seemed completely at peace, as though she was just sleeping like any normal human.
Then she inhaled painfully and I knew her fitfulness would start again soon enough.
“Katelyn needs a doctor,” I said. “It’s been weeks.
, Asena. We need to take her to Canberra Hospital.”
“You know we can’t do that.” Asena moved in front of me, standing between Katelyn and me. “You
“She’s my friend. She got into all this because of me, she hasn’t done anything wrong. She needs help. I owe her that much.”
“Aurora,” Asena said, “we can’t.”
I growled, thumping my fist against the doorframe. The force chipped the paint and cracked the wood beneath. With my enhanced hearing I heard the couple above me stop their activities. The vibrations would have felt like a mild tremor in the room above.
I had to remember that I was stronger than I used to be.
Asena lifted her hands and rested them on my shoulders, giving a gentle squeeze. “Did I ever tell you about my Dad?”
I shook my head.
“He died last year. Cancer.”
I grimaced. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. We knew it was going to happen, and we had lots of time to say our goodbyes.” Asena hesitated, ever so slightly, and I felt her grip on my shoulders tighten. “The thing is, at the end, we almost went out of our minds. The doctors said the tumour was inoperable and that there was nothing we could do, so Dad stopped his chemo and tried a whole bunch of ‘alternative medicine’ things. We ate heaps of chilli, went totally vegan, we tried everything we could. Everything people told us they’d heard from a friend of a friend, from their second cousin’s brother’s aunt’s dog, everything. I read books about antioxidants and free radicals, homoeopathic solvents, traditional Chinese medicine, Native American Indian recipes, even fucking Ouija boards and Tarot cards. My Mum died when I was just a kid, and I loved my Dad more than anything. We basically wasted every penny of our savings on things we knew, deep down, would never really work. But we did it, not because my Dad didn’t want to die, but because I really, really, really didn’t want to be alone.”
I had absolutely no idea what to say or do. I didn’t have any friends except for Katelyn, and before my transformation I was the quiet Indian girl nobody liked. I’d never had anyone ‘open up’ to me, to give me girl talk, and now there was a redheaded Caucasian woman gripping my shoulders like I was about to fall off the Earth, looking like she was one ill-placed word away from bursting into tears.
“About two days after he died, I went to the south bridge over Burley Griffin. I jumped, landing directly on my chest, trying to break my neck; but when I hit the water I didn’t die. In fact I barely felt any pain. That’s when my changes started to happen, when I discovered what I am.”
I imagined what Asena had gone through, and how those crushing feeling of despair had lead her to try and jump to her death, to end her existence. Although the thought of suicide was abhorrent to me, on some level I could understand how she’d gotten to that point. How losing someone you loved so much, so deeply, could drive you to the absolute brink of madness, where you’d do absolutely anything to take away the searing, unstoppable, relentless agony; where you’d end your life if it would end your pain.
My parents had died when I was young and I barely knew them. But if Ishan left, or died…
Asena locked eyes with me, the grip on my shoulders painful now. “I know you’re worried about Katelyn, Aurora, and believe me, I know… when someone you love is sick, you want to do everything you can to end their pain. But the thing is, and I learnt this the hard way, sometimes there’s just no way to stop bad things from happening. And trying things, dangerous things, pointless things, makes things worse. Sometimes you do everything you can, throw everything you have into trying to save someone, and all you get is an empty bank account and a loved one to bury.” Asena took a deep breath, then let go of my tingling shoulders. “Katelyn’s just going to have to pull through this one herself.”
I looked back to my friend who, as I predicted, was beginning to sweat again. “I don’t think she can. We need to find the Champawat Tiger and find out what he did to her, but before we do that, are you sure there aren’t any Rakshasa who are doctors?”
“I told you, no.”
I gnawed on my lower lip. “What can we do then?”
Asena was quiet for a moment, then inhaled. “Maybe we could go see Cinder?”
“Cinder?” I peered at her. “Who’s Cinder?”
“A Rakshasa, one of us.” There was a hesitancy in her voice, though, that gave me reason to pause. “Someone we can talk to, if he’s willing. Someone we trust.”
“I’m sensing there’s a ‘but’ in there somewhere.” I said.
Asena scrunched up her face, nodding. “Cinder’s gift, amongst other things, is agelessness. He’s extremely old… as in,
of years. Moves around a lot. Has actually lived in India, you know.”
I gave a playful snort. “An Indian
from India. That’d make a hell of a change around here.”