Surprises are an important part of our daily life. If everything would have been previously planned and we were aware of every upcoming thing, then our lives would have been mechanical. I don’t think we would be different from robots. But it doesn’t mean that you come across such a surprise that your heart chokes or you die laughing about its incredulity. As I am a part of a very unpredictable preternatural community, the chances of coming by such surprises increase exponentially. And to die of laughter is a very bad way to die.
I was staring wide-eyed at the scene below me. The people were crazy to go near the limo, and the only thing keeping them from toppling the car was the mass of people all around it. Natasha was beaming foolishly and waving arms at the mob below her. They didn’t seem to mind the twigs and leaves sticking out of her pink frock and hair, or her rumpled appearance. Maya was also looking at the people in shock and she didn’t even notice when I pushed her off the bike. There was no sign of Agnishikha anywhere near the car, and it was impossible to find her among that mob.
Suddenly people started parting to make way for a group of people on the far side of car and the cheering and shouting lessened first, and died downed completely. I couldn’t that far with my naked eyes but I was sure there were two men and three women marching towards the car. Natasha noted them too and slid off the car. The party stood there for a moment and then marched back the way they had come, this time with Natasha. The crowd cheered at their departure and kept murmuring for a while after they left and slowly dispersed thereafter.
Maya cleared her throat loudly behind me and I slowly turned to face her. She had been as cold as frost with me for no reason I could comprehend. She was staring at me tapping her left foot. I tried to grab a chance of escape before her onslaught began. “Why didn’t you tell me an immortal is a celebrity?” Somehow I managed to lace my words with accusation without cracking my voice. She was caught off guard and fumbled for words before speaking. “There are only four immortals in this prison. The complete workings of this place are watched over by them and we bide our time while them teaching us. One more immortal means more chances of learning something new because one immortal has about 5000 students to teach. Got it?”
The woman should have been a lecturer. The way she droned on and on and on would have put her on the list of the best lecturers ever. She was looking at something behind my back and before I could have a chance of opening my mouth, she said “Now would you please stop staring at me like a madman and take us to the city?” She made it sound like it was me who was snapping at her. Women truly are weird. I shook my head and got on the bike. She followed me with a reproachful look and settled herself with her hands on my shoulder. I thought better to say anything about she saying me not to touch her and drove off towards the city.
It was a very strange place. The buildings were made of concrete, brick, stones, steel and glass with no particular arrangement. They were at most 6 stories tall and the roads were well placed in a grid. There was no sign of asphalt on the road. They seemed to be made of entire blocks of stones. As we moved further into the city following a main road, the buildings got much simpler and simpler. All of them were brick or stone with hardly any sign of glass. A tall tower made of shining blue stone seemed to be our destination. The closer we got to the tower, the shorter the buildings got. Now I could have seen a few huts as well. More than a few people called to Maya and she waved or yelled back at them. Everything seemed to be like a normal town, except for the wide variety of creatures.
Half of them were of Indian origin, and half belonged to other Pantheon. There was a group of manticores and once I saw a red demon with horns and forked tail. An original demon. More than a few coyotes roamed the streets and a whole lot of vampires were hanging out near a butchery. There were fairies and a lone banshee, a centaur couple with their foal and once I got a glimpse of a mermaid in a pond. Overall the ride through the city was as much as exciting for me as my first use of telekinesis was. I had no idea what animosity these creatures had with Lord Varun and why had he kept them prisoners.
A lot of thatched roofs could have been seen now, and they suddenly gave way to a spectacular ring of glass and crystal buildings. The ring was about half a kilometer across, and in its center, stood the sparkling blue tower. Sunlight falling on its surface made it appear like clear, blue water. There were a lot of people milling about, and immediately my attention went to a red limo. It was the same Natasha had ridden, which was being led into an unseen ramp to the basement of the tower. A red carpet was being rolled in and there were a lot of people clearing what appeared to be glittering ribbons from the ground.
“Take the right ramp into the basement.” Maya spoke flatly in my ear and I obeyed without any ado. The doorway to the ramp was half under and half above the ground, built into the wall of the tower. I slowly dragged the bike through and parked on an empty spot. Maya quickly got off and I handed the keys to her. She smirked and shook her head. A silvery glow surrounded her and she pressed the key on the tank. Silver sparks enveloped the tank and a small flash forced me to avert my eyes. When I looked back, the key was molded into the tank like a sticker. Maya took in my wide-eyed stare and snorted in obvious contempt.
“Stop gaping like a fool. I simply bonded the key to the bike. Now only an apprentice or a senior can remove it and take the bike. Everything is public property here.” She was pleased with herself and motioned me to follow her. We crossed the parking lot which was full with a wide assortment of vehicles. There were buses, trucks, bikes, cars, a whole lot of SUV’s, and quite a few sport cars. There was a door built-in the far wall without any handle to open it or any keyhole. Maya simply channeled a wisp of her aura into the are where a keyhole should have been, and the door opened to reveal a staircase.
It was as if the system here worked just like the veil. There must have been a sensory system which recognized auras. We climbed up a few flights of stairs and on the third landing, Maya undid another door to let us out in a brightly lit corridor. Its two ends were transparent blue glass and they let in a blue-tinted light which created and illusion of being underwater. We were a little higher up than the adjacent ground and I guessed it to be second or third floor. The basement had different scale of floors than the upper stories. She led me to a bright reception area with no one but a sleepy teenage guy sitting on the counter.
“Hey Chris. Can you register him? He is one of the latest arrivals.” She said with such a warm tone that I jerked to look around if someone else was present. Her voice was completely different from when she was shooting bullets at me. Chris yawned and blinked to clear his eyes. Then a wide smile split his face. “Hi Maya! Did the slaves caused any problem?” He asked while shuffling the papers on the table to pick up a paper-thin tablet. It was a casual question and she replied just casually. “Nope. As always whining about licking our creators’ feet.” Chris nodded without looking at her and his fingers danced on the tab’s screen. “Your name?” He asked me without looking up from the tab. It was weird the way their tones changed when they addressed me. I decided not to point it out and replied as warmly as I could. “Akshat”. He looked up from the tab at my face for just a moment and asked “Akshat… what?” It was as if he was being forced to move his legs backwards while walking forward. He had to be cold to me due to whatever had passed between him and Maya, and he was also befuddled by my friendly tone.
“Only Akshat. No surname, no title.” I replied with a bright smile and a goofy shrug. He nodded while he typed and asked me for my other credentials. I kept replying as warmly as I could, and his tone grew much friendly towards me with a building frown on Maya’s face. It went on for quite a while as he took in my aura for the levels and shook his head understandingly on me being unaware of my godly ancestors. Finally we were done and I departed with a warm handshake. Maya had a permanent scowl on her face and she kept trying to snarl at me on one thing or another. She let me to the fifth floor and knocked on a door in a corridor with a dozen others similar to it. A shuffling of feet came and the door opened to a red-eyed grumpy Agnishikha. Maya smirked at me and departed with a sneer.
Agnishikha had gone back in the room and I followed her in. It was a small sitting room with three doors leading to two bedrooms and a kitchen. She was slumped on the chairs and I hesitantly sat across her. She glanced at me and sniffed loudly. I raised my eyebrows and she sat a little straighter. “I have bad news.” She said in a creaky voice. The way Agnishikha used to behave, it was clear it was either something as simple as a broken nail or the earth colliding with the moon. I nodded despite of my desire to laugh and she said in a dead flat voice.
“Time doesn’t run the same here Akshat. The eldest immortal trapped here is here for 11,986 years. “One year here is equivalent to three days on earth.”