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Contemporary Fantasy Urban Fantasy

Leaning against the windowsill, Tithi watched the glowing red orb rising ever so slowly over the horizon. The vermilion rays bathed the vast land of grey concrete and the gentle breeze whispered against her skin, caressing her long, messy braid. The haunting coos of Koyels and starlings far away surrounded the land while black kites flew across the land, the dark wings spread against a scarlet sky. A memory flashed in front of her eyes -

“Baba, why is the sun red in the morning?”, a small heavy girl with pigtails looked up to the beautiful face of her father.

The father smiled warmly as he placed her on his lap and rocked her in his strong arms, “Because sun is a tomato in the morning.”

“Then why is it yellow in the day?”, the girl asked with a frown,

“It turns into a lemon in the day.”, said the father with an indulgent smile.

The girl giggled as she took in the scent of cigars that always surrounded her father, “Then it turns into a tomato in the evening! Isn’t it?”

Her father laughed, the warm voice filling her with love and a sense of security. 

A soft hand upon Tithi’s shoulder pulled her out of the beloved memory, “Tithi, get dressed.”

Tithi turned back to find the heavy form of her aunt, closing the door behind. For a moment, she stared at the door with a dull throb of pain in her chest. Finally, she dragged herself out of the soft comfort of her bed. An hour later, Tithi descended down the stairs and found her aunt in the living room, sitting across from an unfamiliar man. 

When Tithi entered the room, the man rose from his seat and extended his arm with a friendly smile which was oddly vulpine, “Miss Das, I am sorry for your loss.”

Tithi knew the man was a vampire. Such beauty is not found among humans. Tall and dark, the golden rays filtering through the window bathed the man in aureate glow. The strands of silver hair near the temple shone in the light. The aquiline face with the high cheekbones and strong jaw would attract painters. The slender form might fool humans but Tithi knew of the strength that remained hidden under the dark skin. He appeared to be in forties but appearances are always deceitful.

Taking his proffered hand that was a few Fahrenheits lower than human body temperature, Tithi murmured a thanks. It was her Aunt Mimi’s deep voice, interrupting them, “This is Mr. Faruk Sextus.”

The interest in Tithi’s heart blazed but her face betrayed none of her emotions. Joining her aunt, she said, taking note of his dark skin which resembled hers, “Your family is truly cosmopolitan, Mr. Sextus.”

“You should see my mother’s family. They are the definition of cosmopolitan.” Faruk grinned.

Aunt Mimi said with an edge to her voice, her dark eyes hard and her brows furrowed, “What are you doing here, Faruk?”

Faruk said, “To pay my respect to an old friend. Mayuraksha and I had our differences but we respected each other.”

Aunt Mimi said with an arched eyebrow, “Really? I was never aware of any mutual respect. I remembered him calling you a lizard and you calling him a pig-headed baboon.”

Faruk chuckled, “The good old days!”

“Who is going to be the new commander of the army? Your brother will have to choose one.”

“Aeneas is hoping that you would take up the position. You have been the deputy commander and have the experience to lead a demon army.”

All these talks were futile and leading to nowhere. The problem with Aunt Mimi was that she takes her sweet time to take control of a situation. But Tithi never had her aunt’s patience and decided to rattle the hornet’s nest, “What was my father doing on E M Bypass?”

The question startled Faruk as well as Aunt Mimi who glared at her with clenched lips. Faruk stammered a little, “Sorry but...I don’t know.”

Tithi said, an eyebrow raised, “Really, Mr. Sextus? You can’t expect us to believe that! I don’t doubt that you are here to pay respect to my father. But that can’t be the only reason for you to arrive at five in the morning. Why don’t you do us a favour and tell the truth? I know he was working on something that had connections to you, your family and the vampiric Council.”

Faruk grinned foxily, his sharp canine winking at her, “Now who told you about your father’s work?” 

Aunt Mimi warned, “Faruk, remember that she is my niece. I don’t like the way you smile at her. She is not a prey.

Tithi answered before Faruk could open his mouth, “It is alright, Aunt Mimi. I can handle the old fox here. As for your question Mr. Sextus, I am a police officer. I know how to investigate.”

Faruk smirked, impressed with her, “My mother told me once that Mayuraksha is blessed with a splendid child. She was not wrong. Very well! I’ll come clean. Mayuraksha was working with me on clearing my younger brother’s name. Certain members of the vampiric Council are trying to sully my family name. They are looking for an excuse to attack us.”

Tithi said, remembering an old gossip she had heard from one of her demon friends, “I have heard about your scientist brother Charles. He created a vaccine for the Disease that comes every five hundred year as a pandemic and decimates one-third of the vampiric population. But he hid the data regarding the side-effects and many of the vaccinated vampires died because of it. He is being charged with murder.”

There was an edge to Faruk’s voice, “My brother doesn’t make a mistake. He has many flaws but he is a brilliant scientist and doctor. He respects life - human, vampire or demon. It is a lie to malign my family’s name and add to their coffers. There is another vaccine which profits from my brother’s maligned name and they stand with the enemies. Mayuraksha was on the verge of a breakthrough. He wouldn’t tell me because he disliked me.”

“He hated that foxy smile of yours!”, Aunt Mimi interjected.

Tithi rose from her seat with a smirk, “Sorry old fox but his car blew up on the street before he could meet me. If that is all, I’ll leave now. I have drug rings to bust.”

Tithi left the room, the scent of jasmine and petrichor gone before Faruk could take his last fill. Faruk smiled inwardly, This is a novelty.

****

Dressed in a green blouse and black trouser, Tithi entered the doctor’s chamber with a grim face. The harassed-looking, bald doctor in his white coat was sitting behind the glass desk and looked up with his beady eyes. To Tithi’s relief, the dark red drapes behind the doctors were drawn. Holding the back of a steel chair, she said, “You are a Rakshas.”

The doctor asked, “I am sorry?”

“You are a Rakshas - a demon who works for the Gaius family.”

The doctor said with narrowed eyes, “Miss, I think you are in the wrong department. The psychiatry ward…”

Tithi raised her arm and with a flick of her wrist, silenced the doctor. The doctor leaned back into his chair with violence, holding the arms of his chair and his nails transformed into claws, cutting into the upholstery. His dark eyes went pitch black with no iris. Tithi closed the distance between them and perched on the desk, “What did you steal from my father?”

The doctor said through clenched teeth, “Swine...I’ll kill…”

“Save your breath, monkey! You’ll be dead when I am finished with you. Now, tell me, what did you steal from my father? He left the restaurant with you and gave you a lift. You were the one who put him to sleep while he was behind the wheels. Then, you stole from him and left him to your friends who blew up his car. Tell me, where is it.” 

The doctor moaned as his breath became harder, “You are … an illusionist.”

Tithi grinned, “I am very good at it. You are not only witnessing but living your worst nightmare. Your senses are overwhelmed with it. You can taste the horror, feel it on your skin and hear its cackling laugh. I can end it for you if you give me what I want.”

The doctor moaned when a voice from behind startled Tithi, “It must be small and inconspicuous like a USB drive. Check his pockets.”

Tithi turned around with a scowl to find the foxy smile of Faruk’s, directed at her, “What a delight to meet you again!”

Faruk said with a grin as Tithi checked the pockets of the doctor’s coat, “The pleasure is all mine! I must say I am intrigued. An illusionist! I never expected it out of you. You would be an asset to the family you swear fealty to.”

Tithi produced a grey USB drive from the doctor’s coat. Ignoring Faruk, she diverted all her attention to the doctor. Placing her palm on the doctor’s chest, Tithi said, “I would have liked to blow your head but I’ll settle for a heart attack out of sheer fear.”

The doctor spasmed as his breath became harder and his eyes grew wider with fear. His mouth widened with horror but no sound escaped him and his claws tore into the upholstery. A minute later, the spasms stopped.

Tithi stared at the doctor whose eyes and nails turned back to human form. Death stared out of the dark eyes of the doctor, mesmerising Tithi when Faruk broke the spell, “He’s gone, Miss Das.”

For the first time, Tithi noticed that there is a hard edge to his silky voice and it irritated her. She turned around and said, visibly annoyed, “What is the matter with you? I barely know you but I still want to use a machete to hack your head off.”

Faruk shrugged, “I have that effect on some women. But, in most cases, they tend to love me.”

“Who would want to love a fox like you?”, Tithi said with disgust.

Faruk laughed, the peals of laughter reminding her of the ripples in still waters when a pebble is thrown, “You are fun, Miss Das and it is a high compliment from a vampire who has a four digit number for an age. It is tragic that you have given up on your species and chosen a life among humans. If you hadn’t, I would have offered you a lucrative position in the family army. Now, let’s get practical. Hand the drive over and we can all return to our previous peaceful existence.”

Tithi smiled, her eyes full of cold anger, “For a man who acts as the second to one of the most powerful individual in the world, you are awfully dumb. Do you think that I could ever return to my previous peaceful existence? My father died for your family.

Faruk said, his light brown eyes hard, “I am genuinely sorry for that. I never wished death on Mayuraksha. But I need that drive to save my brother.

Tithi said with an edge to her voice, her dark eyes shining, “And I need it to find my father’s killer.

Almost instantly, Tithi vanished from the desk. Faruk went to the spot where he saw the Rakshasi a few seconds ago. His eyes went to the door when he heard the door slam. Rushing to the door and wrenching it open, he came upon the deserted cerulean corridor, lit with innumerable LEDs embedded on the ceiling. Smiling to himself, Faruk murmured, “Invisibility and illusion? Nice!” 

****

Faruk pounded on the door and hollered, “MIMI! OPEN THE DAMN DOOR OR ELSE…”

The door flung open and he found himself staring at Mimi’s angry heavy face. “What’s the meaning of this?”, she hissed.

Faruk entered the living room without invitation. Closing the door behind her, Mimi followed him and the two creatures faced each other with fury.

Faruk accused, “Your niece is betraying my family - the family her father loved. Mayuraksha was Aeneas’s best friend and you are my mother’s best friend. Yet Tithilekha has betrayed us!”

“Don’t be foolish!”, Mimi spat at him, “She is a child and not even a part of our world! She interacts with humans for god’s sake!”

Thirty-nine is not a child and your niece is a Rakshasi - a demon like you and your brother. She is a bloody part of our world!

At that moment, the clear brown eyes of Faruk turned pitch black as he caught the scent of Jasmine and Petrichor a little late. He said through clenched teeth as the blackness engulfed the whites and iris of his eyes, “Tithi!

Faruk fell back on the floor to reveal Tithi, her arms raised. Mimi closed the distance between them, leaving Faruk twitching on the floor and shook Tithi by the shoulder, “Why did you do that?I had it under control!”

“He saw me, Aunt Mimi. He knows that I have the USB drive. He would have torn down our house to find it. Baba didn’t trust him because there is a traitor in the Sextus family. I found a report on the drive, written by Baba. Charles was being framed by someone in the family. I haven’t studied all the files in the drive. He must have found evidences that could lead to the real traitor. My money is on Foxy here!”

Tithi stared at the gorgeous face, twitching on the floor, his dark eyes staring at her with challenge and his mouth slightly open to show his sharp canine.

Mimi said, rubbing her forehead with the back of her hand, “No! Not Faruk! We have our differences but Faruk is not a traitor. He is sly and crafty but not traitorous. He loves his family, especially Aeneas and Charles. But he could be deeply involved with the traitor. Maybe he doesn’t know that the person he is involved with is a traitor.”

“Who would want to be involved with Foxy?”, Tithi asked as she stared at the twitching creature on the floor who grinned at her.

Mimi said grimly, “We have to find out. But this is an act of treason, Tithi. From here, there is no going back. We can’t kill him. Not that I want to. No! Don’t look at me like that! He is Lucretia’s favourite child and I can’t allow you to kill him. We’ll leave him here. I’ll put him to sleep. By the time he wakes, we’ll be gone. There will be search parties, looking out for us. There will be orders for capture. We’ll be fugitives, Tithi. Are you certain that this is the path for you? I can do it on my own. Mayuraksha won’t think less of you if you walk away.”

Tithi stared at the glowing red orb, descending ever so slowly, the scarlet rays of light filtering through the window and illuminating the yellow room. Murmuration of starlings and flocks of Koyel danced across the horizon, creating a dark whirlpool. The dull throb of pain once again rose in her heart as she remembered the soft embrace of her father. Tithi said, her onyx eyes hard and her heart shredded with grief, “This is the only path, Aunt.”

****

When Faruk rose from his nightmare, he found himself on a soft bed. His coat was on a nearby chair and his shoes and socks were on the floor, near the foot of the bed. He turned around, studying the room. Painted in pale cream, the heavy scarlet drapes were drawn, refusing entry to the early morning light. A grey floor-to-ceiling wardrobe, attached to an ornate dressing table and a plush white dressing stool, took up most of the space of the room. To the left of the bed, a silver cheval mirror gleamed. Faruk stared at his own reflection. The grey and white hair tousled from thrashing his head on the pillow, thanks to the hellish nightmare, courtesy Tithilekha, his eyes were bloodshot and his face was drawn. Turning his head to the right, he found a small bedside table, carrying a lamp and a photo frame. Faruk picked up the frame and found himself staring at the smiling face of the lithe creature who had put him through a hell of a night.

A message was scrawled at the bottom of the photo -

In case you forget me, Foxy. 

XOXO

His mobile phone vibrated loudly, cutting into the silence with unwarranted viciousness. Sluggishly, he left the soft comfort of the bed that smelled of Jasmine and petrichor and pulled the phone out of his coat. With a swipe of his finger, he answered, “Aeneas, any new updates?”

The crisp voice of his eldest brother replied, “Charles fled.”

Faruk sighed, “That is bad. The prosecution will use it against him.”

Aeneas said grimly, “Yes. But it will also give us time to clear his name. He is very good at hiding. It will take the Council, especially the Gaius family, years to find him.”

Faruk scowled, “I wish to end this in six months.”

“I am of the same mind. Have you found anything from Mimi?”

“No. She fled with her niece. But you were right. There is a traitor in the family. Mayuraksha found it and that is why he eluded me. The traitor is deeply involved with us.”

“No one in the direct bloodline is involved. My guess would be the cousins or friends. You say Mimi fled? Too bad. I wanted her to be the new commander. Should I order a hunt for them? It’ll be only capture and no maiming.”

Faruk stared at the smiling picture of Tithi that he was holding in his left hand and said with a grin, “No. I’ll find them.”

  ****

June 21, 2021 16:39

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