Have you ever come across Déjà vu anytime in your life? Sometimes people tend to think they know something that is going to happen before it happens. It might be a slight premonition in form of a dream or it might actually have happened with you already. Such occurrences can make a person amazed or they might make him unsettled. I, living in a whole different sort of community; obviously fell into the latter category.
“Wake up dude! You are going to miss the breakfast!” A loud voice rattled me out of my fitful slumber. I was huddled in a corner of my room with a blanket wrapped around me and my table was positioned like a bunker wall. I had had one of the nightmares which compelled me to hide in the corner of the room to hide from the collapse. The problem was that there was no collapse. “Do whatever you wish man. I did my job.” There was a last bang of Utkarsh’s fists on the door and then receding footsteps told me he had left. I sighed and slowly got up to get dressed for the day.
A good six months had passed since my imprisonment in Lord Varun’s prison dimension. On my second day here, I had the bad luck of coming across a screaming banshee, and it resulted in a nightmare so severe that I still can’t sleep without waking up in sweats. The eeriness of the similarities between my arrival in the Veil and the Blue Hell was quite unsettling. I was enrolled in an almost army like institution, was provided accommodations; and finally I was given a loan. The prison city, which I came to know was called the Blue Hell by its inhabitants; was slightly different from the Veil. Just slightly. The credit system in the Veil was based upon slightly different things than that of the Blue Hell. But the similarities were bold enough to wake me every night expecting Natasha on my chest or getting startled whenever somebody called for me fearing it would be Lord Varun. I knew very well that I was being absurd and it was all psychological. But it’s even harder to overcome a fear which has you in its clutches psychologically and you know about it.
The shower water was lukewarm on my skin and only then I realized the coldness of my own body. Huddling in the corner was definitely not good for my health. I was in constant unease as I expected the dimension to collapse as it has done in the veil and it was taking quite a toll on me. Going through the exact same chores as that of the veil disturbed me further. I had repeatedly tried to meet Natasha and ask for her help but she was rarely available for any kind of business other than helping in the workings of the Blue Hell. The immortals were quite happy to have another immortal to share their responsibilities with. The result was a distraught me with a severe case of Déjà vu, and my life was a complete mess with this new system of working society.
When I reached the mess hall, it was half empty and the other half people present were about to finish their meal. I quickly went to the counter and let the vendor scan my aura. Things worked here quite different from the Veil. Unlike the place between Heaven and Hell, the Blue Hell held a fair quantity of common-everyday-normal human beings. The supernatural community outnumbered them two to one, but still it was a fair number of prisoners who couldn’t do anything to help the society significantly. The production of food was the responsibility of several apprentices and seniors who worked under the personal supervision of one the immortals. The sandwiches I took were their product and I shortly joined Utkarsh. “Sorry for the delay. I didn’t sleep well.” I said to him in an attempt of a nonchalant voice. He had his mouth completely full with boiled rice and gravy and it took him some time to chew and reply. “Why don’t you visit the medical wing? It will definitely offer a great deal of entertainment to us. Or you might go to the builders to build back your brain from scratch.” He finished with a laugh.
The construction and maintenance here was handled by another group of apprentices and seniors working under another one of the immortals. Then there were the medical services. No one grew ill in the Blue Hell, but skirmishes between the two factions of its inhabitants resulted in quite a few injuries. The training and instructions took its own toll on the apprentices and they also piled up a huge number of hurt people. A different similar team of apprentices, seniors and an immortal looked after it. Another such group was devoted to the production of necessary products like clothes and other materials, and yet another such group created the main body of the force protecting the city; and sometimes raiding the other faction.
We were the last two to leave the mess hall and he kept talking cheerfully as he took me to my classes again. It was his duty to take me through my basics before I could join the regular classes and he certainly enjoyed ordering me about. We left the tower and he raced me to the survival grounds. “Okay hero. Take a bamboo stick & a couple of stones, and make a nice little fire. Your time will decide if you get your lunch or not.” He was taking me through basic survival which was the last of basics I had to learn. We had already done combat in which he took pleasure in beating me senseless, aura manipulation in which I surpassed him in the first hour and the heavenly arts, which were not necessary for the basics. “Why don’t you try to make it?” I replied under my breath as I started scraping the side of the bamboo for dry kindling. There were a lot of people going through different tasks in the grounds and it reminded me of the fact that some people chose not to go under apprenticeship.
The people left were mainly those who couldn’t, or didn’t get under apprenticeship, or the normal human beings. They were quite a problem to the elder immortals who organized everything in the beginning, and thus they chose to make the most powerless the most powerful ones. The humans were led to become the ruling part of the community. All the major decisions and judgments were made by them. They served as Blue Hell’s governing body, and they coordinated with the immortals to handle the matters. Other prisoners, mainly those who couldn’t get under apprenticeship worked as the police. The production of food and stuff was fairly limited, so everyone had a definite quota for what they could take. Contributors to the storehouse also got a little extra ration of things to take, and so got the humans by default. There was no currency and the normal commerce proceeded as exchange of rations in the storehouse. It was the extreme of completely virtualized economy.
I was much impressed by the workings of the educational system too. All the students under apprenticeship had four definite courses to complete. Just like the apprenticeship in our dimension, these four were survival, combat, aura manipulation and heavenly arts. What I knew in our dimension came up close to being a pitiful copy of this system. A few eons ago, lord Varun had released an immortal from the slaves and he had carried this idea with him. The slaves didn’t follow this way and they only knew what they could find by spying. The apprenticeship here was on a whole different level than in our dimension. On the whole, it was a surprisingly well coordinated system for a society of a prison.
I managed to get a pitiful flame growing as the second hour approached and was about to point it out to Utkarsh when a sudden draft smothered the flames. I looked helplessly at him and he burst out laughing. Utkarsh was a jolly fellow and he kept the mood light wherever he went. But once I had witnessed him getting angry and his student still flinches when she spots him. Agnishikha had little time for meeting with me and days went past without us talking. Natasha had called upon me a couple of times to check on my progress with Utkarsh. Of course she had undertaken my apprenticeship but she was quite happy to let Utkarsh do his work and point just a little bit when she thought necessary. I had asked her about the veil but she had obviously refused to discuss it.
“Don’t bother to do it again. I’ll let it pass. I think it might be the time you are approved for your introduction in the class.” Utkarsh told me as I got up wiping sweat from my face. Agnishikha had joined her official apprenticeship a week ago and she had immediately grown an admirable group of friends due to her skill in combat. She was devious with a quarterstaff and hand to hand fighting & Utkarsh seemed to regret his many attempts to offend her when she was still under training. “Shall we go on for lunch then?” I asked him and prepared myself for his denial. He was about to say something when his face jerked towards the tower.
I looked at it too and my jaws dropped to find a glowing nimbus of blue light on its top. My body froze in shock as the memory of the collapse reeled back to me. The faces of my friends and the distortion of the place as it crumpled swam before my eyes. It was as if my eyes had glued themselves to the glowing nimbus and it was quite some time before I was aware enough to feel Utkarsh shaking me. “…all right dude? Do you need to sit down?” I jerked my face from the nimbus and asked Utkarsh. “Is that… Lord Varun?” Somehow, instead of feeling scared, I was strangely numb. I realized that I was shaking with anger. As time had passed, I had slowly let go of my belief that my friends survived the collapse. The only person to blame it upon was Lord Varun. I didn’t know the punishment of assaulting a god if you live long enough to receive it. Nonetheless I was determined to make Lord Varun pay for what he had done.
“Everything with his aura isn’t him buddy. Lord Varun has not enough time to visit us. We despise him and the feeling is mutual. That is the signal of another arrival. Come on, let us continue to lunch. It is going to be quite a while to our turn at escort.” Utkarsh replied in what could have been considered as a half mocking, half envious tone. We shuffled with other people on our way to the mess hall. Lunch was still a couple of hours away, but I wanted to eat well due to my hasty breakfast. We were joined with Ileana and Rachel when they left the combat grounds with Rachel limping slightly. “You are still stuck at that?” Utkarsh asked her as she tried to walk straight and winced. “I think Akshat will learn to kick faster than you and he took a whole week to break that bamboo.” Ileana was trying to stifle her smile as Utkarsh howled with laughter. Rachel scowled at him and replied back. “If you can kick that good, why haven’t you passed apprenticeship yet? Oh yes! I forgot that the most you could do with your aura is turn a page. Too bad, huh?” Her voice had almost an acrid acidity and Utkarsh immediately lost his smile. His lack of aura manipulation was a sore spot for him.
Most of the preternatural prisoners here were demons. The living world contributed as all of the human population and a few other creatures. My suspicion about our teachings in our world had confirmed itself. The demons were simply another kind of population with a lot of non vegetarian appetite and slightly extreme customs. They believed in living out loud and never cared for their well being. It was all given in the booklet we were provided and there was a whole lot of other information in it too. Description about lord Varun’s prison, the boundaries between the two factions and the basic introduction to each captive species were a few articles at the beginning and I had simply forgotten to read further.
The day passed slowly as I waited for my official introduction into the class. All of my friends were in it and Utkarsh was the oldest student. He was still stuck due to his inability for the manipulation of aura and he had achieved a honorary position among the other students. It was the duty of the oldest students to teach the new, and Utkarsh had the bad luck to train me. If other candidates for apprenticeship appeared then they were taught by the next senior-most students and so on.
I waited patiently in my room as the consistent blue haze lulled me into a light slumber. The light was almost fading when a knock came at my door and woke me up. I rubbed my eyes and trudged to the door. It was one of the apprentices with a sign of the army faction and he certainly seemed irritated. “Come with me. The Devi Natasha wants to see you.” His tone was as sharp as a whiplash and I left my room after locking the door with a gesture Utkarsh had taught me. It was a gloomy journey up to the 17th floor where Natasha had established her working quarters. I asked him as we walked another set of staircases. “Do you know why am I summoned?” I worked hard to keep my voice polite and firm enough at the same time so that he couldn’t overlook my question. He glanced at me and grunted. “It has something to do with today’s arrival. That gargoyle said he is a friend of yours.”
My head jerked up as I caught what he had implemented. There was only one gargoyle who was my friend – Liam. A lot of possibilities appeared to me and I was lost among them as I kept walking up the stairs. Liam’s presence here meant he was also captured by Lord Varun. This relieved me as it meant at least some of my friends were safe. But wait a minute, Liam never left Rocky. He was alone here that meant… I negated the possibility and hastened my steps. When we reached Natasha’s quarters, I was panting badly. Six months of hurrying up and down these steps had allowed me a lot of stamina. But climbing 17 floors at once was still a great deal tiring. The apprentice knocked at the door and Natasha’s familiar voice chimed out. “Send him in!” He looked puzzled by her command but immediately followed it and I hurried inside.
Yep. It was Liam alright. But he had half of his left arm in bandage and a good part of his left ear looked cut off. He hurled him at me when I entered and clung to me tightly. I was buried in his fur for some time so I couldn’t see the other person present in the room. When Liam moved aside and perched on my shoulder, I saw that Agnishikha was in the room too. She had her face in Natasha’s lap and was crying with a lot of tears. All of my senses went on high alert and I fiercely asked Liam. “What happened?” Natasha gave me a look devoid of all expressions and turned back to comfort Agnishikha. “it was not Lord Varun Akshat.” Liam replied in his wheezy voice. “It was Decain. He had spies among us. And when the time was right, he sent two of his generals with your brother to annihilate the veil. We tried to fight back but the attack was too furious. We had many casualties. Seth was taken.” He finished with a croak. I took him in my hand and put him on the table. “Tell me all of it.” I said to him as his ears drooped. “We were cornered but we fought back. All of us were holed up in a storeroom. Then a golden fireball struck the roof and it collapsed.” He looked directly into my eyes and said with a tone of finality. “Rocky and Lisa are dead.”