TBOTSG-Chapter 21

July 10, 2024

I was ready to leave. Ready to return home to my people, those who revered me, those who probably still prayed to my image with hope alive in their souls that I would return to save them, without knowing that I too needed to be saved at different times. Ironic. Everything seemed ironic to me. And stupid.

I pushed open the gate with a surge of energy, almost knocking it off its hinges, and Filip, who had come to open it for us, jumped back just in time. M and Ofelia were a few steps behind me. I think Andreea stayed behind to help tidy up. I felt frustrated. When I closed my eyes in exasperation at Filip’s comment, circling around me like a puppy, I saw scenes from Second Home. I saw the carnage again. And I couldn’t help but blame everyone, but mostly blame myself. Maybe this human form was to blame for all the emotions I was feeling. I haven’t felt neither guilt nor frustration for a long time, but now they hit me so hard that I almost wanted to scream, to pull my hair, to roll on the floor kicking things at random. I took a deep breath in an attempt to calm myself.

‘Reeza’s rage is not something mortals can witness…’ M said to himself, and then signalled to Ofelia to take Filip away from me.

I felt their fear, and that calmed me down.

‘M…’ I started, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say. Maybe I felt powerless like never before in the last few millennia. Yes, I had regained the ability to absorb power, but I had nowhere near enough to make a rupture in the fabric of spacetime to go back. I didn’t know what had happened, why such carnage had occurred, but I knew Fiiuea. I felt her pain. She was a pacifist. A war, even for the sake of saving the gods, would have been avoided at all costs. So whatever had happened meant she needed me. Urgently. That was what the war was about. The people I had saved, who had grown up, developed, and become such a beautiful and complex society… my children were in danger, and here I was, helpless in the middle of a poor courtyard full of dirt and chicken shit. The pungent smell of bird droppings irritated me so much that I vaporised two chickens. I saw out of the corner of my eye M signalling for the man who had suddenly risen from the chair where he had been completely motionless until then to stay put.

I heard the car engine. Ofelia had opened the gates, and Filip was manoeuvring the car through the gate. I took a step toward them, but then I saw M looking at me. The concern on his face was not for me, but for what I might do, so I let them go.

‘They managed to break the seal,’ he said after a while.

‘Yes, but it doesn’t solve anything. I can’t open a portal with this power.’

‘But you can absorb power.’

‘And you can control it,’ I heard Andreea say loudly from the gate. She was panting a bit. When M saw her, he relaxed a bit, then tersely told me he was going inside to meditate.

‘Reeza,’ Andreea said my name so softly that for a second, I thought I was back home with the people who loved me. ‘You have everything you need to get the power you require. We just need to figure out where to get it from. Would a power plant be enough?’

‘To return to my form… without killing this body, it takes a lot of energy. And then to make the rupture in spacetime, even more.’

‘What if we go to Cernavodă? M,’ she shouted loudly. ‘Come on! We’re leaving in 5 minutes.’

I got into the car and waited quietly. I could feel the blood still boiling inside me, and my temples throbbed. What I had seen when I connected to Fiiuea blended with events from our past. I remembered Fiiuea when she had come to me scared, seeking my help. How I had given her the pendant and how I hadn’t felt alone since. How I had been connected to her for so long and how sometimes I had lived through her. Distant, but as fascinating as ever. Gentle Fiiuea. Fiiuea who had always been determined to make a better world. A world that I had refused to change because I wanted people to manage on their own. A just and somewhat utopian world. Without wars. Yet Fiiuea was now commanding a world war. A war that had probably decimated the planet’s population, brought everyone great suffering, perhaps even hunger and disease. A shiver ran through me when the door on my right opened, and M gestured for me to move over so he could sit next to me on the backseat. Outside, Andreea was handing something to our host and she seemed to be thanking him over and over again, which irritated me enough to roll my eyes. People should grovel at my feet, a god in the flesh. I rolled my eyes again, and M took my hand. I felt a wave of calmness flow through his hand and envelop me. I saw him close his eyes and enter a meditative state again. Andreea got behind the wheel, and in a few minutes, we were back on the county road.

For over three hours, the duration of the journey, M’s thoughts calmed me, kept me grounded. Initially, he just held my hand, but after a while, I felt my mind starting to wander again, thoughts about Fiiuea resurfacing deep within, unstoppable even in a meditative state. He gestured with his eyes for me to stretch out on the seat and lay my head in his lap. He squeezed towards the door, and I curled up, but I managed. He gently stroked my head, softly. Softly… that made me think of Fiiuea again. And for a moment, I wanted to tell him that it still wasn’t working, but then I realised he was the one thinking about Fiiuea, and he meant to share his memories with me.

Between M and Fiiuea, many things had happened. They had been secret lovers for years and years. Nothing had been more dramatic, though, than the moment when Fiiuea had been sentenced to death for disobedience. Before Fiiuea came to ask for my help, M had been with me. He had looked at me with furious eyes. Furious as if I had condemned her myself. He was angry at the world. Angry that he was my sole servant and had expected, perhaps, that in a world like ours that would mean something, but it hadn’t meant anything, and he could do nothing but come to ask for a help that he was sure he wouldn’t receive. He knew I wasn’t interested in human problems. But how could I possibly ignore his plea, when he meant so much to me. Of course, he didn’t know that, so I let him stew for a bit. I remember feeling his thoughts asking me over and over to save her, yet his teeth were clenched. Probably if I were in my current form, I would have smiled and put an end to his suffering. But then, I just looked at him and waited. When he finally opened his mouth to speak, he practically told me everything. He told me he loved her and couldn’t conceive life without her and that if I refused to help him, he would fight the system himself, even the gods, and he wouldn’t let her perish. After such a passionate speech, not even I from back then could remain indifferent, so I warmly smiled at him and told him that Fiiuea was now under my protection. With a gesture of my hand, I materialised her in the grand hall of the temple. She fell to her knees, exhausted. She was dirty, much thinner than I remembered, and had chains on her hands and feet. M took her in his arms and looked at me with questioning eyes. He didn’t understand. Then I made a pendant and handed it to Fiiuea. M wanted to carry her in his arms to me. I could feel how hard his heart was beating. I felt it as if it pulsed through the entire hall. Fiiuea raised a hand to M so he would let her do this alone, and she made a huge effort to come to me. It was only a few steps, but it seemed like an eternity for both me and M because we both felt her pain. When she reached me, she wanted to kneel. I didn’t let her. I gestured for her to come closer and placed the pendant around her neck myself. It was as if I had breathed life into her.

‘You’re so dear to me, M,’ I said aloud without opening my eyes.

‘Excuse me?’ he responded after a while, slightly hoarse and confused, then cleared his throat.

I felt Andreea’s attention completely shift towards us. It was almost palpable.

‘Always. You’ve been dear to me. And Fiiuea was dear to me too. Why do you think I saved you? Why I saved her too? Perhaps my emotions back then weren’t as they are now, but I cared for both of you and for the relationship you had. It brought me joy when you were happy. And it hurt when you suffered. And now I realise many were dear to me. The people from the villages near the temple, who always brought me small offerings, even though they knew they wouldn’t receive anything in return. The children playing in the greenhouse who cheered when a particularly beautiful flower appeared. Those who felt that only Reeza was just. And those who revered me. I realise people were dear to me because I was once human, but also because they were my children. And as their goddess, I finally had found my place in the universe and a purpose in this endless life. I can’t let them perish, M.’

I stood up.

‘Something is happening there. A world war that Fiiuea started. One she is fighting with all her might, as if the purpose of that war is more important than annihilation itself. At the same time it seems she’s fighting against extinction. I don’t understand what happened, but every fiber of this human body tells me I have to go back. I have to help them now. I can’t wait another second.’

‘But, Reeza,’ he replied after a while, carefully weighing his words, ‘it doesn’t actually matter how much time passes here… You’ll go in the moment you need to go whether five minutes or a century have elapsed here. It only depends on you.’

‘Yes, and I’m telling you it needs to happen now.’

Finally arriving, I told Andreea to stop a bit further so I could get out. Andreea tried to protest, but M nodded at her. After we both got out, I embraced M, and waves of energy and emotion passed between us. M understood, even though he didn’t want to, that he needed to leave too.

‘It’s my home too,’ he said finally.

‘Your home is here. Take care of Ofelia; you’ll lose her if you go on like this… show her how much you care.’

He wanted to say something, but I stopped him.

‘And tell Filip that without him, I wouldn’t have realised what it means to be human, nor how much I love the Second Home.’

I kissed him on the cheek and gestured for him to leave. He got into the car, and for a moment, they hesitated. I gestured once more, and they drove off. I knew what I was about to do concerned only me, and there was no need for witnesses.

The man at the entrance asked me what was up with me.

‘What’s such a beautiful lady doing in such a god-forsaken place? Did your friends play a prank on you?’

He gestured towards the departing car as I approached him.

‘I am Reeza.’ I introduced myself simply and extended my hand to greet him. He collapsed when I touched him. I drained his energy, but I stopped in time. I could see he was still breathing. Then I moved on. At each checkpoint, I did the same thing. It got more complicated when I encountered two people. That’s when I had to take their energy from a distance. Not impossible, but harder to accomplish. And harder to control. I left some of them lifeless. The central facility wasn’t well guarded and everything looked dilapidated, yet it was teeming with people. People from whom I took energy bit by bit until someone shouted that I needed to stop. That I had done something to the guards at the entrance.

Someone grabbed me from behind and then fell. People around him called his name and asked if he was okay. He wasn’t. I had just killed him. And as I could clearly see, I needed to hurry.

‘Take me to the reactor and no one else will be harmed.’ That’s what I said, but it seemed like no one heard me. A few people had taken out their mobile phones. They were probably filming me. I remembered Filip had told me this was how people reacted here. And he was right. I closed my eyes for a second and visualised their phones, then screams started to echo. I had only heated them up, but it was enough to scare the people and make them run towards the exit. Maybe there’s no need to kill them all, I thought, realising only one person could help. The rest could leave. I approached the woman who was leaning over the man I had just killed and asked her if she knew where the reactor was. She didn’t answer, but I knew what she was thinking. I wanted to take her hand, but she recoiled. She fled towards the exit, so I sent a gentle impulse to her, just enough to throw her off balance. She fell, and I rushed to her. In a fraction of a second, I was above her. I wasn’t touching the ground anymore, and the woman thought she was hallucinating. I could feel her fear, so I sent her a wave of calm. Or rather, what I thought was calm, but it suddenly turned into impatience. And now, a woman who kept wringing her hands was leading me towards the reactor, urging me to go faster because she didn’t have all day. The alarm had been raised, and now we were moving to the deafening sound’s rhythm.

‘What did you do to Mircea?’ she asked as we exited the building and returned to the pathway towards the reactor. She was almost running, panting.

‘Was he someone close?’

‘A colleague… we got along well. He was an okay guy. And you killed him.’ Her voice trembled.

‘I don’t have time for that. I could have killed them all at once, but I didn’t. Your friend was a mistake. Like the others.’

‘The others…?’

I felt a wave of horror, and it disgusted and pleased me at the same time. Sirens began to blend with the alarm that I had started to get used to.

When I arrived at the building, the guards were waiting for me, ready. I pulled the woman behind me. I smiled in response to her terrified expression and then sent a surge of energy towards them. It was much stronger than what I had sent to the woman earlier, because I wanted to render them unconscious. I hoped I had succeeded, but I didn’t stay to check. And I didn’t leave her either. We reached an elevator that operated with badges, so I gestured for her to take one from one of the fallen men, when she tried to explain that hers wasn’t good enough. After a while, we reached the desired floor. There were also some people there whom I bombarded with a pulse of energy as soon as our eyes met. Then we turned left. Then right, and after a lot of convoluted corridors and more doors, all opened by the badges of the fallen people, we arrived where I was interested.

‘From here, we need suits,’ the woman said when I gestured for her to open the doors.

I gestured again for her to open them, and she complied. Then I proceeded further alone, and after the doors closed behind me, I sent a pulse to knock down those in front of me. I felt a wave of horror and regret that I hadn’t incapacitated the woman. I could feel all her emotions, and I didn’t like the sensation.

I had finally reached where I wanted to be. I could feel the radiation. I could feel the power, and I began to greedily absorb it. I started to sense it penetrating me and changing me. How my cells transformed into energy. How I turned from a mere human into something new. How the true Reeza emerged from this false and dirty body, and the energy I absorbed became part of my new self. I felt the joy of being Reeza. The joy of being myself and reconnecting my consciousness to the strings of the universe. The joy of vibrating with it once again. When there was nothing left to absorb, I looked around and realised I had nothing left of the human body.

I could still sense the woman trembling with horror somewhere far from me, and I felt sorry for her. But I also knew that back home, billions of people were probably feeling the same thing right now. Without further thought, I sent an impulse towards home. One so powerful that I tore through the fabric of spacetime. I hesitated for a moment. My thoughts went to M, to Filip, and then I crossed over.

And there I was in hell.