Señors and señoritas, the long hiatus is finally over. I present to you *drum roll* part 8.
If you’re not enthralled, that means you’ve missed out on stuff. Catch up here on the previous parts.
“Al, Al,” I nudged him hard in the ribs. “She’s the one. She’s the creator.”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” he said, pushing my elbow away. “Don’t be so loud. People are looking at you.”
“Loud? I’m merely whisp-”
“Okay, shut up. She’ll slip away if you don’t do something soon, and then happy searching again.”
“Fine, fine. What should I do? Should I go and talk to her? Befriend her, like?”
“Befriend- what? No! Spruce, you’re not here to hit on the Creator.”
“When did I-”
“You know what, leave it. Give me your yo-yo. I’ll do it myself.”
“What- you’re gonna murder a girl in a public place?”
But Al had already pulled my DLRY off my belt and was advancing towards the Creator. She was oblivious to her impending death coming at her from behind, still engrossed in conversation with her partner about brainwaves.
I broke apart from the crowd to run at a moment’s notice, my muscles tense, my mind focusing on my inexperienced DLRY-wielding friend.
When Al was directly behind her, he jerked his hand. The shiny metal ball flew out like a comet, its white tail behind it, its numerous tiny gears clicking and turning it into the deadly weapon it truly was. It flew towards the inconspicuous girl’s back, wicked-looking spikes and blades and poison-needles sticking out from it like a porcupine’s quills, its potential victim right in front of it.
And then it hit her.
But not as an assortment of blades and needles.
As soon as it touched her, it turned back into the shiny harmless ball it formerly was.
The Creator turned around and looked straight at Al. He placed his hand behind his head, embarrassed. He seemed to be apologising to her. After a few minutes of constant apologies, he walked back to me, more confused than dejected.
“Did you see that, Spruce? I threw it at her and then–” he shrugged, handing me my DLRY.
“Yeah, I saw. I don’t know, I’m pretty baffled too. I mean, it’s never done this before. Ever,” I turned the little sphere around in my hand. I fired it at a plant nearby, just to be sure, and it wasted it in a second. Why had it not worked on her?
“We can’t afford to lose her again,” Al said urgently, walking towards the girl.
“I told you we should talk to her. Let me,” I said, following him.
“Oh please, what’re you gonna do? Ask for her address and get slapped in the face? Let me do this. I’m better at forming camaraderies. Besides, I’m cuter than you.”
“Cuter? You are the very antithesis of cute. And the fact that you just hit her with a DLRY isn’t gonna help your ‘camaraderie’.”
“Okay, so you’re a shitty conversationalist, I’m a yo-yo whacker, and we can’t kill her here. Any bright ideas, protag?”
“We follow her home and see what we can do.”
“Isn’t that stalking?”
“We’re out to kill a girl and you’re questioning the morality of stalking?”
The Creator lived a long way from Pragati Maidan. She and her elder brother (as we learned from the English bits of overheard conversation) walked into a metro station.
To board this train, we first had to buy tokens from a counter. We bought them as soon as our pursuees were out of earshot so as to prevent them from realising that they were being followed. Before we boarded, we had to walk through two black pizza-slice shaped doors attached in the middle of two silver cuboids. As we learned by observing other people go through, they opened only when you scanned your token on a little rectangular panel on the right-side cuboid. They’d open, you’d walk through, and they’d close up again. Some people were scanning blue plastic cards instead of the tokens, which I could only assume to be some kind of membership cards.
The metro train was a long silver thing with automatic sliding doors every 2-3 metres or so, a blue stripe painted all through its length. There were narrow black windows in the front. A special symbol of the Delhi Metro was emblazoned between them which also repeated itself every two carriages- a circle with two parallel horizontal lines in the centre, a transversal cutting through them, all of them outlined boldly in red.
The doors opened and the train vomited some people, but more got on than the leaving ones, all of them returning from the day’s book haul. We got on too, being pressed against a young man with bushy hair and glasses, inhaling the mixed smell of his perfume and his sweat.
The inside of the train was wide, with silver-grey seats attached to the walls, holding more people than they could carry. Metal poles every two metres ran down the middle of the corridor, with even more handles hanging down from the ceiling for passengers to hold on to. Bright white lights illuminated the carriages and wide glass windows looked out on the platform outside.
The train started and I’d been thrown off my feet on to the besuited man behind me had I not clung on to one of those handholds. Soon, an announcement came on- ‘Next station is Mandi House.’ Two announcements, rather. First, a man’s voice announced what I believe was the same thing in Hindi, and then a woman’s voice announced it in English. Both spoke slowly in a clear, polished way.
When the train was about to stop, the two voices came on again, first the man’s, and then the woman’s. “Mandi House. Station. Change here for the violet line. Doors will open on the left. Please mind the gap.” Our pursuees got off at Mandi House. We heaved a sigh of relief, not wanting to get on to the crowded train again.
But we’d jinxed ourselves.
This station was teeming with even more people. One thing different about this one was that there were blue paper footprints leading off from the counters in one direction and violet ones in the other. We followed our pursuees, who followed the violet footprints. Going through one of those doors again and taking a flight of stairs, we reached the platform where the train arrived in a few minutes. Pushing and shoving, Al and I found some standing room, holding on to a pole for dear life.
I fingered my DLRY. Why had it failed? My loyal weapon, which had killed dozens of vicious Hela mutants, had cowed down in front of- or rather, in the back of- an ordinary girl. One of the coolest, most badass weapons in the history of mankind hadn’t given her a scratch. Why?
“You’re all scrunched up,” Al pointed out, snapping me out of my thoughts. “What’re you thinking?”
I relaxed my brow, which hadn’t realized had been knit all this time. “I was wondering why my DLRY didn’t hurt her. What do you think?”
“On that again, are we? Well, buddy, you tell me; after all, you know more about it than I do.”
“I dunno, man. I’m beginning to think you panicked and pressed the retract button at the last minute.”
“Wha- panic? Spruce, you didn’t even have the balls to wield that ball. I did, and now you’re putting your yo-yo’s blame on me?” Al looked genuinely offended.
He was right. He wasn’t stupid enough to commit such a plebeian mistake.
Still, I wanted to see for myself once. It’s not that I didn’t trust Al; your brain just refuses to accept things like these sometimes. I was fairly sure it won’t work again, and even if it did, no one would ever believe that a yo-yo killed a girl.
I toggled the DLRY into the high-precision mode and slid my index finger into the ring at the end opposite the ball. Aiming it straight at the Creator a few feet away and fixing my eyes on the business end of the DLRY, I jerked my hand. It expertly flew through the crowd, heading straight for its target. Again it expanded, and once more contracted on reaching her, hitting her head.
I quickly retracted it and latched it on to my belt again, trying to duck behind a tall woman, hoping she won’t see me. But I was not so lucky.
“Oi! You!” She elbowed her way through the crowd towards me, even as her brother told her to let it go. “What’s your problem, huh?” she looked at me, somehow managing to look intimidating despite the fact that she was shorter than me. “Wasn’t your friend the one who hit me at Pragati Maidan?” she said, looking behind me at Al. “Do you not understand that yo-yos are not to be played with, in public places? Or is that how you do it in- America, is it?”
Of course, we didn’t have countries in our world, so I didn’t know the name of any, and thus decided to play along with it. “Yes, ma’am. I’m terribly sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“Huh. Your friend said that the last time. Indians follow the principle of Atithi Devo Bhavah* but that doesn’t mean the Atithi should insult the host. You better keep your word this time, boy.” And with that, she turned and walked back to her brother, her long black ponytail swinging.
“Sassed by the Creator,” Al whisper-laughed.
I was still thinking the same thing, though. Why had the DLRY not hurt the Creator?
As soon as I had that thought, I realised why. Up till now, I had only thought of it failing on an ordinary girl. Although she didn’t have any superpowers of any sort, she was still the Creator. Why would a weapon created by god hurt god?
*roughly translated, ‘guest is god’