Happiness runs through the crowd like a strong, silent wave, brightening up each face that it passes. There are tears of mirth, there is a giddiness that overcomes all. Smiles, bright ones. But there are tears just as well, the misery of separation shining through the eyes A new bond forged with the divine blessing, coddled with hearts full of love. I vow, he says. I vow, she says. The stars engraved on the ceiling of the holy place where they stand before God burn, some like fires of hell, others like the fire of the Lord. Their vows bind them together. The deed is done, from two, they have become one. Us. One for sorrow, Two for joy.
The thunder signals the savage storm that approaches with the speed of a tornado. The rain beats down hard against the slick pavement, the sea is overflowing with water, almost flooding the houses on the far end of the beach. High up, on a cliff, inside a resplendent house with spires of grave black stone reaching for the sky, a woman screams, loud, like it is agony’s own cry, her voice louder than the storm. Somewhere in the distance, calamity can be heard in the call of a ship lost at sea. But not inside the house, where its hushed. Three for a girl. It’s a girl.
Elsewhere in a steep valley, a gorgeous melody, the scent of the lush Queen’s flowers and Vanillas, the soft zephyr and the benevolent night sky, sprinkled with a thousand stars sparkling like Creation itself – all suffuse together in a magical yet terrifying tapestry woven with threads of exultation. The sharp wail of a woman pierces the seemingly perfect night. Its deafening, imbued with anguish, parallel to which is a hint of ecstasy. Four for a boy. It’s a boy.
The little girl was born by the sea. The little girl lives like a princess far away, nearer to the steep valley. Her world is marked by magnificence of every kind: exquisitely beautiful, every bit heart- warming, swimming in unconditional love, drowning in indulgence, laced with mystery, stained with a dark undercurrent. Laughter echoes across the walls and curtains the hushed whispers of dread. The little girl dresses in shimmering silver silk, like an angel. Her childhood is blessed with plentiful sunrays, their glow making her transform from an infant into a girl. And now she glows herself, her beauty radiant, saturated, taking over the dark as it drips over the edge. In its wake, it leaves shadows just as large. Five for silver.
The woman born by sea stands in the same holy place with the starry ceiling where her mother did all those years back, facing the man born in the valley. It’s her turn, to say her vows, to surrender her individuality as she gets bound for life in a shared identity. Deep terror that had sown a seed in her heart long ago, now grows, unfolds as if aware of a fate that awaits it. But the terror is dethatched from her, at least at present, so she smiles from ear to ear, though she might or might not be particularly happy. She is moving towards a new dawn, a new beginning. The gifts her mother presents, with eyes full of tears, are in gold. So much gold that it momentarily blinds her. The gold changes hands, from her mother to his and just like that its purity vanishes into something stygian. Maybe she is moving towards a new dusk, a new ending. They take their vows, they are one. Six for gold.
Years hence, the terror has latched itself onto her. She has had reasons for it to grow, an maybe, just maybe it’s the man she lost her identity to. Maybe she would lose herself to him too. The fear is now a constant part of her heart, ruling it, residing in it like the heartbeat, quickening with it and slowing with it. They are now inseparable companions. So much so, that she has the risk of feeling incomplete in the absence of the jitters. And the jitters get more frantic when he approaches. Not every time though, no. Only when he approaches in anger, scowl on face, or in anxiety brows tightly pulled together. And in those times, he makes her nightmares come to life, more vivid, more horrid than ever. The scars, the bruises, the cuts. The apologies, the guilt. The concern, the love. The pleading, please don’t tell. The threats, keep it a secret. The blackmail that seals the deal, one word and next time it will be worse. Then, repeat. Like a vicious cycle. Seven for a secret never to be told.
When she is on her own, the fear and the tears transform. They turn into rage, a deadly bitterness. A thirst for vengeance, a thirst to kill, to overpower the flames of the hell she lives in with the fire of her fury, to obliterate the man who commands her hell. To tear into shreds, the one man, she was supposed to stay with in harmony for seven lives as dictated by those vows. The vows that were taken, what feels in her mind, a million years ago. Co-existing with the terror, something else has taken seed in her heart. A wish. Eight for a wish.
And then, in a life she thought couldn’t get more happening, there comes a twist. An extremely handsome, utterly irresistible, unnaturally charming twist. A man carved with perfection, dipped in mystery, covered in darkness. A man come to steal her very heavy heart away. And steal he does. Maybe she is naïve, maybe she is looking for love. No matter the reason, she hands her heart over to him. And despite the plenty times she thinks him unreal, she brushes it away, believing it to be his perfection that makes him seem so. And she gets her kiss, sweet like honey, bitter like vinegar. It warms her, it chills her spine. She is exhilarated. She is left hurting. No pain, no gain. Nine for a kiss.
She is alone once again. But her heart is getting filled up with something. It’s his darkness. All the darkness makes her negative emotions grow stronger than they should ever have been. No human could possibly survive them. And the thirst, the thirst to kill is much more profound. As she reels with confusion, bordering on insanity, realizations cracks over her like a whip, stealing her breath away. She kissed the devil. Now she has become one. He stole her heart and he left his there. An eye for an eye. And then it comes to her, the song. The song of the magpies directing her life. Nine for a kiss. It’s time for ten. Wrong timing, some would say, seeing how her bitterness dictates her heart and soul. Before she knows it, she is one of them. One of the devil’s birds. She is black and blue and white. And she is spiralling towards the man who kept her in hell, ready to unleash the full force of her anger on him, she swoops in a dive and goes straight through his heart, and it explodes like a rain shower his dirty blood spattering her beautiful cold, colouring her in red. Ten for a bird you must not miss.
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