This week’s Sample Sunday comes from The Destiny of Shaitan by Laxmi Hariharan
Excerpt: The Destiny of Shaitan
Java, 3017—Present Day
Tiina wakes with a start.
The nightmare is fresh in her mind. She does not scream, though. Save her heightened breathing and an increased pulse, nothing gives away the horror and dejection the dreams evoke. Swept along by a tide of the inevitable, she faces her destiny.
After rousing herself, she pulls on her sturdy neoprene jumpsuit and snaps on a pair of sleek streamlined running shoes, and then hesitates before stepping out the door. She turns back toward her study table and picks up a sword from its place next to her laptop, running her thumb over the ruby in the centre of the hilt.
It has a three-foot blade and at five-foot-four herself, it is heavy enough that she has to use both her hands to secure it in its leather scabbard, which fits snugly across her back. Since her early training with the sword master on her home planet of Ka Surya, she feels naked if she does not have her blade. Royal blood runs deep. She tests to make sure it does not get in the way of her movement. Its weight feels good, reassuring.
Early morning frost greets her as she steps out of her small cottage on the outskirts of Java City. She jogs at a slow pace, then picks up speed, and reaches a steady sprint by the time she arrives at the canal. Within seconds, sweat pools at the base of her spine, and chills of anticipation crawl across her skin. The lush rows of suikerriet cultivated on both sides of the water offer the perfect chance to glimpse the leaves rippling in the breeze.
After a lifetime of greys and browns, the green is sheer joy. It is one reason she chose to live outside the rush of Java’s cities. This is her second time living on this planet, and she is happy to be surrounded by trees instead of crumbling skyscrapers, snarling air traffic, and humans and half lives fighting each other as they struggle through a working day.
The half lives were the result of cross breeding between humans from the mother planet Earth, and the non-human races from the other planets in the solar system.
Tiina smiles, her delicate heart-shaped face lighting up, relieved to be away from it all, and breathes in the relatively clean air. Why! I almost feel content. Her warm brown eyes sparkle as her slim body settles into a well-known rhythm, leaving her mind to wander. This is Java, her adopted planet, where she can shut down the chatter in her mind, and in that stillness, touch that silent space within. This quiet is nothing like the tossing, churning emotions, the only baggage she has from Arkana. The memories reignite doubt and despair. Not wanting to lose her contented state of mind, she tries to rein in the direction of her thoughts.
Deciding to treat herself, she flicks on the flying activator using a small button on the right sleeve of her suit, and goes airborne.
Most Javanese used spacecrafts to travel on the planet, but she loves the thrill of teleporting and prefers to use it whenever she can. Of late, she has taken to running to her destination whenever possible as a means of training. Gotta keep fighting fit, for you never knew what is around the corner.
She stretches her hands in front and with her slight frame as straight as an arrow, whistles through the air, making an arc before settling parallel to the ground below. Just as she recaptures the earlier feeling of well-being, something hits her from the side, bringing her to the ground with a jolt.
She lands among the shrubs bordering the suikerriet fields with a heavy weight on top of her. The shock of the sudden landing vibrates through her and pain lances along her side. Then the weight lifts off her and the breath rushes back into her lungs. Only momentarily dazed, Tiina swears and straightens herself. Thick shoulder-length golden brown hair waves before her eyes, and after pushing it aside, she looks into a familiar face.
Yudi helps her up, and then takes his palms off her shoulders. A black neoprene suit similar to hers covers him from head-to-foot. At six-foot-two, he towers over her.
She looks into his eyes. Not blue or violet, she has always thought of them as indigo. His thick black hair falls over his forehead, and in a familiar gesture, he brushes stray tresses away only to have them settle right back where they were. Somehow he manages to look attractive, even in the middle of the melee. Just as she thought that she was over him, he appeared before her.
“How did you—?”
“How did I find you? How many good looking girls of half human origin do you think there are on this back-of-beyond planet?”
“Well, it is not like I was trying to hide!”
“No. You just buried yourself where no one would look.”
“This is a beautiful planet.”
“Sure! A happening place making headlines across the galaxies.”
“It has its virtues…”
“Like what? The trees?” He gestures at the giant metasequoia trees towering over them.
Tiina is about to reply when he puts a finger to his lips, then angles his head as if hearing something in the distance. Following his example, she tunes out the nearby sounds, focusing on the larger space, and picks up a strange low-pitched buzzing, similar to the static on the main frequency of a radio transmitter.
Giant killer bees fly straight at the two of them. The insects are so prevalent on Java that they give the planet a characteristic reddish colour when seen from space. They come in a large seething swarm, an army with a one-track mind and disciplined ranks.
Each creature is massive, about thirty feet long, and at least thrice as tall as Yudi or Tiina. Their legs are coated in wiry hair, mouths dripping mucus, wings whirring like massive twisters and just as deadly if one were to touch them. Descended from thirteen queen bees released from the now-defunct beehives of Java, which were famous for their honeyed delights, the killer bees are an amalgam of the best of their home planets. The innocent beauty of nurturing Java fused with the murderous instincts of the warrior planet Mars. Their short lives are spent in equal parts killing all other species while mating in abandon. The survival of the species is almost guaranteed by their strange powers of reproduction instilled by generations of inbreeding.
With little preamble, the bees are on them. Yudi puts an arm out in front of her to protect her. Both assume a synchronistic defence manoeuvre. As one, they whip out their swords and swing, slicing through some of the zipping bugs. Others collapse on the ground. Each fallen insect explodes in a flash of white smoke, scattering its life force. Yet for each one that dies, others spring up to take its place. Every drop of fallen blood gives rise to new life, and the amassing hive stretches out into the distance; a sea of bright red.
The inherent horror of the situation dawns on Tiina. Legends and mythology, like history, have a habit of repeating themselves. There is no getting away from the past or from one’s destiny.
Inspired by Indian mythology and partially set in a futuristic Bombay, The Destiny of Shaitan is a coming of age story, painted against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world.
When Tiina accompanies Yudi on a mission to save the universe from the ruthless Shaitan, she seeks more than the end of the tyrant; she seeks herself. Driven by greed and fear for his own survival, Shaitan bulldozes his way through the galaxy, destroying everything in his path. Tiina wants Yudi to destroy Shaitan, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Shaitan being killed by his son. But she finds that Yudi is hesitant to do so. The final showdown between Tiina, Yudi, and Shaitan has unexpected consequences, for Shaitan will do anything in his power to win the fight. The stakes are high and the combatants determined. Will Shaitan’s ultimate destiny be fulfilled?
- The Destiny of Shaitan Origins (thedestinyofshaitan.wordpress.com)
- Guest post: The birth of an Indie writer – Laxmi Hariharan (theindieexchange.com)
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