This chapter contains violence and suicidal ideation.
She was hurled back to that dark place she never thought she would see.
It was not the blindfold, not this time. She was frozen in true darkness.
Her uniform was gone; her side-arm was gone.
Her height, her strength, her experience, was all gone.
Suspended in a void that was soundless save for her labored breathing.
She was a child again. Her little vest, her little shorts, her cabbie hat, all there.
Her wandering eyes were soon transfixed on the region before her.
It seemed like a mirror fashioned out of the dark.
She saw her reflection; it was the child cursing her when she was last stranded here.
Her appearance had changed. She was not merely a girl dressed as a courier. That was Madiha’s role now. Her antagonist was clothed now in an extravagant dress, with a sari that was lined with gold and jewels. Each of her fingers was encircled by a golden band, and gold, jewel-encrusted bracelets adorned her wrists. Her neck was adorned by a golden choker, and set into each of her ears were small black diamonds. She was suddenly incredibly beautiful, her clean, shining face done up with luxurious cosmetics.
Empress Nakar? Empress Ayvarta III? What was the real name? What did it mean?
When the other Madiha opened her face was briefly contemptuous.
Her eyes burned with the ancient fire.
“Do you understand now?”
Her voice resounded with crushing power.
“Do you realize now? Why we should have gone with the last cycle of violence?”
Madiha shook from head to toe. She stepped back, but there was nowhere to escape to.
She could not turn away from the sight.
A cruel grin spread the other Madiha’s face ear to ear in a sickening expression.
“Do you realize that we have no place in this world now?”
She felt taller and grander than ever before. Invincible. Fire swirled around her arms.
“Do you understand? So many times, we should have died. We should have gone. We are removed from this world a dozen times over. Our existence is a travesty of fate. We ought to die Madiha. We are a poison that everyone seeks to drink. We are as the undead who cling to the world their lives will only ruin. We, too, are the Majini.”
Madiha’s voice was trembling but she found her footing and stood solidly again.
She felt her physicality exerting herself again. She was growing taller and stronger.
Her uniform was returning to her body a garment at a time, replacing the courier clothes.
“No, you are still fake! You’re still not me!” shouted Madiha.
“Are you still living in denial? Pathetically clinging to unlife?” mocked The Other Madiha.
“I’ll live in denial so long as I’ve reason to distrust intruders like you!”
She stared straight on at The Other Madiha, at her eyes.
She found not the fire that she knew within them, but a viscous, green fluid.
The Other Madiha’s features twisted into a monstrous scowl.
Under her bountiful royal garb the skin started to turn green.
There was a scorpion’s tail rising from under the back of her skirt.
“Be quiet! You are nothing without me! Accept the truth!”
Like lightning the tail struck in a flashing instant.