I suppose I should elaborate on what exactly my relationship with the goddess of destruction is, if for no other reason than to explain why I prefer to refer to her by her title and not by her name when I know it perfectly well. The plain and simple fact is that she and I were once lovers, though the relationship tends to be rather on-again-off-again. Not by any willingness on my part; if I haven't made it absolutely clear, the woman is completely insane.
But I didn't always used to think that way. When I met her, I was mortal and in the flower of my youth, as it were. She was lovely, and I was just a young man that had the usual dreams of fame and glory. And I had hormones, obviously. The idea of mating with such a beautiful woman was intoxicating. If I could go back in time… well, I would probably still bed her. The me of then was a complete idiot that preferred thinking with his dick, what can I say. But I would be a little more cautious about establishing a relationship with her.
But we mated, we courted, in the fields far away from my family's gaze. My mother and father were what you would call "working-class" now, farmhands that worked with animals. They didn't own the farm, but we were paid fairly enough back then, and it was expected that I would follow them in the same profession. Which, given that I was an adventurous young man, was a sentence worse than death.
Life was not so hard, though. I had the love of my family, whatever our disagreements. I also had Jyoti and Rajnish; the two neighbors only a few years younger than me, but who looked up to me with such ardent admiration, I couldn't help but place myself as their big brother and protector, watching over them whenever their parents couldn't. It may have been a burden, but it was one which I accepted willingly.
And I had Haine. The beautiful, mysterious silver-haired woman who met with me in the wilds. She enticed me with her body and her words, promises of taking me away from the drudgery that I went through daily working on the farm, of bringing me somewhere far away where I would be a prince among men and she would love me dearest of all.
I could have lived forever in that fantasy, but life, as it does, changed, and the true nature of that woman was revealed. It started innocently enough; Mother became pregnant with a child and was unable to work as her condition advanced. I had to take up further responsibilities, and as I did so, I grew and understood the foolhardiness of my dreams. I met with a young woman, and then I thought that perhaps my future would not be as gloomy and miserable as I thought.
Then I made the mistake of telling Haine the same.
I can still remember how she became incandescent with rage—literally. She caught fire. And that was when I realized that I had gotten in over my head.
"You insipid lizard," she hissed to me, her voice as raspy as a dry animal skin rustling over rough stone. "I could have given you anything you wanted, and you still choose these filthy creatures over me? I am the goddess of destruction! My sister and I are the glue of creation, we are what prevent the world from falling to pieces! I will not stand for this insult!"
And before I could run, before I could even blink, she was standing before and lashed out, her hand glowing with energy. I was vaguely aware of being on the ground and my torso hurting, and some kind of ropy thing stretching out from my stomach. The pain hit after, but I could only dully feel it, the shock of death already clouding my senses.
But I could still hear her hateful, horrid voice. "Oh, sh, sh, my darling," she whispered, as loving as she had been before with our limbs intertwined. She knelt by my side petted my face, unmindful of the blood that she smeared on it. Reaching into my chest, she pulled out my heart, and it began to change colors, turning into stone and beginning to take on a harsh blue glow. "If you cannot sever these ties of yours, then I will sever them for you." She delicately replaced my heart into my chest and then began to walk away.
Perhaps I tried to crawl after her, or beg her to come back, but at the time, I was only aware of the searing pain that began in my heart and spread out to every one of my limbs, and from thence to every cell of my body. I would later understand that the process Haine had initiated requires the body to die and then be transmuted into some other kind of tissue with the brain being affected last, and the firing of nerve endings into mutilated tissue is incredibly painful.
As it was, when I came back to myself again, it was late at night. I found myself covered in blood. It was some time before I remembered what happened, and then what direction Haine had walked in.
The direction of the village. Had she done something? Faintly, I could smell something burn, and fear seixed my heart. I stumbled to my feet and began making my way to the village as quickly as I could.
There was no point, of course. By the time I had arrived, Haine had long since annihilated the buildings, the land, the animals, and the people. It was on unsteady legs that I made my way to the house I had grown up in. It had been reduced to rubble, but not thoroughly enough; I could see, more clearly than I would have as a mortal, the outlines of my parents' bodies, crushed by the stones that had composed the walls. The smell of blood was heavy in the air.
I stepped closer, but my new senses told me what I didn't want to know—that my parents were long dead and cold, no stirring of feeling or emotion in either of them. There was no quickening in my mother's womb, the child crushed with the rest of their bodies. In despair, I stretched my senses as far as they would go, and had there been a flood of information, it is likely that I would have crippled myself that first time; as it was, though, there was nothing to report. All was still; what few fires were kindled on wood were already dying. There was no stirring of life remaining.
No; there was, and at the first touch of their minds, I recognized who it was that I had felt—Rajnish and Jyoti. By some miracle, they had escaped the worst of the attack. But they were dying, and I could feel their life ebbing away with their every breath. There was little time—for what, I knew not—but I sped toward them as quickly as I could. Luckily, they were with one another. In the aftermath, I would learn that they had sighted the crazed goddess as she entered the village and had taken cover when she had made the first shots. She had passed close enough at one point that she brought the surrounding buildings down, and that was when they had been struck by the falling rubble—not enough to kill them instantly, but enough to mortally wound and hold them down, forcing them to simply lie and wait to bleed to death. It was probably at this time that my parents were killed as well.
At that moment, though, my only concerns were the two who had been as younger siblings to me. "Jyoti, Rajnish," I called out to them, my voice echoing faintly into the night. I dropped to their sides, reaching out to grab hold of their hands. "Thank the gods. Thank the gods you live."
"Big brother," Jyoti murmured, so softly that I knew she was on the verge of joining my parents. Rajnish had no words; he merely twitched his fingers, the closest he could come to taking hold of my hand. I could hear the death rattle beginning to sound in their throats.
And I thought, No. This will not happen.
And the alien knowledge crept into my brain, as though it had been there since I had been transformed. And I knew what the terrible thing was that I had to do to prevent any more of my loved ones from leaving me.
And I did it.
Their hearts were warm in their bodies, not hot as they should have been, and the slickness of their insides turned my stomach as I thrust my hands into their chests, moving under the rib cage, sliding past the still-moving lungs to touch my targets. And then I focused, and what magic had been placed into me, I pushed into them. Only the fact that they were so close to death kept them from screaming freely into the night air.
But they tried.
I couldn't have told you then how I knew what it was I had to do, or how I knew exactly how to do it. All I wanted for my brother and sister not to leave e, and so I condemned them to the same kind of curse that I would suffer under for the next seven thousand years. Just so I had company.
When the sun rose again, I was lying among the rubble with them, completely spent. I could hardly say I was aware of the world around, even with my new powers, but under the light of the dawn, I could see our skin was taking on the same look—strong, whole, and carrying the same gleaming cast of smoothed stone. We were smeared with blood and surrounded by death, but we three were alive. We three were the only things that we had left of our old lives.