Recap #233: The Last Vampire #8 | Thirst #4: The Shadow of Death by Christopher Pike (Part Two) by Wing
Title: The Last Vampire #8 | Thirst #4: The Shadow of Death (Chapters 8-14)
Summary: I have returned to life, but it’s to a suddenly lonely world.
Alisa is a five-thousand-year-old vampire, stronger and more cunning than her adversaries. But now she’s trapped in the body of a newborn vampire and at the mercy of a terrible thirst. Worst of all, she’s facing enemies whose fierce desire for domination grows ever stronger. The immortal race the Telar is threatening to release a virus to decimate humanity. But Alisa and her friends can’t take down the Telar on their own, and they must turn to the mysterious organisation the IIC for help. But the IIC has secrets of its own and may have ulterior motives. With two rivals and no one to trust, Alisa must rely on her dark side to defeat them. But it could cost her life, or her soul… [Wing: How many goddamn times is she going to die?]
Tagline: Tortured Soul. Final Judgment. [Wing: Yeah, right. I’ll believe this is the end when I see it.]
Previously on Sita-has-a-new-body-and-the-world-may-end-soon, well, that pretty much says it all. Basically, half the team is off trying to come up with an actual working cure for that Telar virus that the Telar might use to end the world and half of them are off trying to learn more about the IIC and their Array which the IIC might use to end the world. Sita hopes to make the IIC an ally instead. Matt thinks that’s a terrible idea. I bet you can see who is leading which sub-team.
And away we go, picking up right where we left off, looking for Frederick, Freddy, who can tell them more about the Array and the newly mentioned Cradle.
They find Fredrick exactly where Sharp tells them to go, in Santa Cruz. Awww, Santa Cruz, I love you! (If you don’t know, it was used as Santa Carla in The Lost Boys, and Dove, Raven, Ostrich, and I went on holiday there a few years ago for one of the movie’s anniversaries. Us also takes place around there, and there’s a delightful, if quick, Lost Boys reference in Us that made me so, so happy when I saw it.)
On the drive, they argue over whether Sita was too hard on Sharp or not hard enough, whether Sharp helped them, whether Sharp should have used the Array to predict stock prices, etc. Seymour is pretty much a dick throughout. Still, Paula takes the time to explain that when the intention to use the Array became self-serving, things might have been opened that should not have been.
They then talk about how Brutran doesn’t look 65, which she should be, but she also no longer looks 20, so she has aged over the last 40 years. Seymour decides this must mean that the IIC figured out how to slow aging but not stop it because no woman would willingly put 20 years on her face. Fuck the fuck off, Seymour. And you, too, Pike.
Sharp called ahead of time and warned Frederick (Freddy) and his girlfriend Mary that they were coming. It’s nearly midnight, but Mary offers them dinner, vegetarian lasagna. Sita likes Mary immediately and spends some talking about how confidently she moves, how she’s a natural leader, how she doesn’t wear bra or underwear. We get it, Pike. We get it.
Mary tells them what Sharp did not, which is that Freddy scored correctly about 80% of the time during the ESP testing. Mary’s friendliness turns grim when they start talking about the IIC. Freddy has nothing to do with them even if he may still be connected to them legally, and they are ruthless people who need to be avoided. She compares Brutran to the serpent that killed Cleopatra, a simile that interests Sita, of course.
Freddy comes back, cleans up from his run, and briefly talks to Sita about the Olympics and her running. (Well, you know, Teri’s running.) They talk about why the runners from Kenya and Ethiopia dominate on the longer runs, particularly the marathon; he thinks it is genetics, that they are better runners because their ancestors were great runners. You don’t think any people outside of the African continent had to run from predators? Even if there are more wild animals there than anywhere else. (I don’t know if this is true.) He says she can’t deny the evidence which is that she was the only white runner to win an endurance race at the Olympics.
Vampire blood’ll do that for you, cheater.
Mary and Freddy invite them to spend the night, and after checking with everyone else, Sita agrees. Not even Paula seems to sense anything bad about them, but Sita does feel that there is something that keeps her on guard. Something that feels not like malice but like a mystery.
They don’t talk anymore that night. Paula and Shanti take the spare room in the house and go to sleep immediately. Seymour and Sita take the guesthouse and sit up talking for awhile. Seymour’s smoking in there without ever having asked if he could, which is one of the reasons I think he’s acting like a dick lately.
They talk about how Sita can even begin to take on Brutran, since in her own body Brutran basically kicked her arse and now she’s in a baby vampire body. He’s got a good point, Sita.
Talk turns to Freddy and Mary and how they’ve taken them into their home without question. Sharp did the same because he wanted to be acknowledged before he died. Freddy and Mary aren’t like that. Sita admits that she had a similar feeling about them that she had a long time ago when Krishna was on earth.
Seymour’s struggling with the blisters, so Sita gets the vaccine and Yaksha’s book from the trunk of the car, because that’s always where I keep my priceless nearly one-of-a-kind possibly world-saving books.
Sita thinks that there may be more to the book than what is just on the surface. He writes some sections in great detail but in others, he skips around, like when Krishna told him about the story of the Hydra and how to kill the Telar. The important parts are missing. He never writes about meeting his wife, Umara.
Seymour swears it’s in there, but Sita pushes that Yaksha doesn’t clearly describe things like the day he met Umara. As she’s talking about Umara, Seymour hears her emotions and reassures her that Yaksha loved her just like she loved him. She hasn’t accepted to herself that he had a wife because she had 5000 years of daydreams about him.
Did she? When? Because I certainly didn’t get that impression from the first few books.
Seymour wonders if Yaksha put the other stuff in code; Sita thinks that’s clever, but Yaksha wouldn’t dare because he knows how smart the Telar are and they would have eventually broken the code. Instead, she thinks that he wrote it in a way that only a vampire could find it.
She puts some of her blood in a spray bottle of water and gently sprays it across the open pages. Of course, this works. And I’ll admit, it is both a clever way around the Telar finding out and something that Sita would have figured out both because of how she knew Yaksha and because it is something that she would do, too.
She sends Seymour off to bed and takes the book outside to read it under the moonlight. Once the blood reveals the hidden passages, they are permanently revealed. Gotta keep this book away from the Telar then. Sita swears she gave Shanti a copy, not the original, but here we are. She decides that Teri’s memory must be playing tricks on her. Right, it certainly couldn’t be something twistier and far more dangerous.
Yaksha is thinking about the Telar when he first sees Umara. He talks about her great beauty, how she dressed like a gopi, a female devotee of Krishna, but her skin was lighter than everyone else’s. (Man, Pike has a thing about light-skinned people worshipping Krishna.) She read as Yaksha came closer and doesn’t stop for awhile. When she does, she calls him the demon warrior. She embraces the dark the same as the light and knows so much about him that it makes him feel exposed when she looks at him. This is because they met a long time ago, in Vrindavana, that day that Yaksha challenged Krishna and went into the cobra pit. (Which we’ve read about before from Sita’s perspective.)
She teases him and he hates that in a woman but wants to stay near her. She’s reading a copy of The Lord’s Song, the Gita, probably the very first copy. He demands to know how she got it; she wrote it down herself after hearing what Krishna said before the battle. He wants her to destroy it because what Krishna taught was a secret not meant for “common man.” Well goddamn, Yaksha, did you actually learn anything from Krishna? She calls him on that and asks why, if Krishna wasn’t there for the common man, would he ever come to “this godforsaken planet.”
Well okay then.
Yaksha doesn’t know the word planet, of course, and she tells him a little about the solar system. She learned of it long before she came to India, not from Krishna. She’s from Egypt and her culture is more advanced than Yaksha’s. She’s a teacher and a priestess. She teaches about Isis, the Universal Mother, but now that she’s met Krishna, she will teach about him as well. Yaksha questions how she can worship two gods because there can be only one; she talks about how Krishna said the one are the same as the many.
She finally admits that she is Telar and he draws his sword. He’s vowed to destroy her kind. She talks about how he also has a vow to kill vampires after what Krishna told him in the pit. She talks about how he saw Sita at the great battle and how Yaksha hasn’t killed her though he’s killed thousands of other vampires. She offers to kill Sita for him, to help him keep his vow, since he can’t kill Sita. She is far older and more powerful than Yaksha knows; she is one of the first Telar. The stars in the sky were different when she was born. He’s a child to her.
Well, I love her already.
She’s here to help Yaksha fulfill his vow; she’s the last original Telar and the only one who still knows the secret of their origin. The Telar who know about her have ordered her death because they fear her, and they will fear her even more if she returns to Egypt with Yaksha. Krisha never ordered her to do anything, she volunteered to help Yaksha because it is the right thing and she likes him. If he wants to give Sita a long life before he kills her, he should leave her be and go to Egypt with her instead.
Sita stops reading there. She’s not jealous. She’s happy that Yaksha had the opportunity to be with such a wonderful soul.
The next morning, Sita has three messages on her cell: one from Teri’s parents, one from Lisa, that member of the group back in Missouri, and one from Matt. She knows she should call Matt first because he’s the boss now that she’s not — what the fucking fuck ever no he is not — but he intimidates her and so she puts it off.
Lisa wants to talk about her and Sita puzzling over why Brutran wanted to kill Shanti when Shanti was helping the accuracy of the Array and that Lisa came up with mathematical data that showed Shanti both helped and hurt it. Lisa’s been studying the IIC data she got when she worked for them and discovered that Shanti gave a high percentage of correct answers when she joined the Array, but her connection to it caused it to falter. Lisa doesn’t know why, just that when Shanti started, the Array dropped 4.3% when it came to picking successful stocks, which sounds like a small number except when you think of how many thousands of kids are in the Array.
The IIC clearly thought Shanti was the problem since they tried to kill her, but there was a second kid who started the exact same day and who also scored high numbers. She only has the designation for them, M3014, but hacking the IIC’s system isn’t such a hot idea considering when her boyfriend did it, he was killed.
She’s really called to let everyone know that the Array can be weakened, but Lisa’s not 100% sure that Shanti’s the one who weakens it. Sita really wants to find that other kid, and she’s decided it’s a boy.
Teri’s parents are next. This isn’t the first time she’s talked to them, but it’s always awkward. They’re upset because Detective Treach called them looking for Teri. Of course he did. Sita’s annoyed that her hypnotic suggestion didn’t work. I mean, are you surprised, though? Because you really shouldn’t be. Sita tries to write Treach off to them as someone after his fifteen minutes of fame by trying to pin a disappearance on a gold medal winner, but Teri’s parents aren’t buying it and also Sita likes him and doesn’t enjoy putting him down. Talk then turns to everyone after Teri for endorsement money and whether she should really be traveling all over the country with Matt when there are so many people who want to honour her.
She calls Treach next to see what’s going on with him, whether she’s broken his brain in some way. Immediately she’s worried, because he sounds tentative and like something’s bothering him that he can’t explain. He tells her that he no longer thinks she had anything to do with Ken’s disappearance, using the exact words she used in her suggestion, which is a bad sign, but he wants to talk to her about that guy Gary at the hospital who says he saw someone who matches her description. Treach doesn’t really believe she stole the blood or especially that his wife would help her, but he has to investigate. Sita flat out says, “I’m not a vampire. I have no need to go around stealing blood.” What. the. Hell. Sita.
Anyway, Treach’s partner wants to talk to her because he’s heard of this thing endurance athletes do, blood doping. They store up their blood for months before a big race and then inject it into their veins to boost their red blood-cell count to heighten their endurance.
Is that … is that a real thing?
Anyway, Sita says that she knows athletes who have done it but, as it says on the tin, they use their own blood, they don’t steal blood. That could kill them if the blood types don’t match. Treach warns her that Gary is pressing charges against her and that if he talks to the press about blood doping it can damage her name even if she’s innocent. She says she’ll sue Gary for slander and then puts the detectives off for two days, buying herself some time.
Sita’s annoyed that she spent centuries not drawing any attention to her feeding and now she’s built a mountain of suspicion in like forty-eight hours. The only good thing about all of this is that the mistakes are mistakes Teri would have made, too, as a new vampire.
She finally calls Matt and tells him the truth about what’s going on. He has his sources and already knows, but doesn’t spend much time scolding her. You’re not her fucking parent, Matt. Fuck the fuck off. I’m really starting to hate him. Still, she knows he can help by making Treach and Gary forget who she is.
Matt called her earlier because Charlie may have fixed the vaccine to work on humans and he really wants to try it on Shanti and Seymour. He did it so quickly because (a) he’s a genius and they underestimate him and (b) the Telar already did experiments on plain humans when they developed the violence, mostly in “backward villages in Africa where it was easy to hide the atrocious results.”
Jesus. Fucking. Christ. I hope they burn the Telar to the fucking ground.
Sita promises to get Shanti and Seymour back to him the next day or two days at most because they’re following a promising IIC lead. Sita then asks if Matt’s mother, Umara, has contacted him. She has not and he tries to hide how afraid he is that she’s avoiding him or, even worse, already dead, but Sita knows. Finally, she pushes again about that time the Array took over Matt and had him kill Sita, because Sita believed the IIC needed blood to target the Array against her so they must have needed it to get him as well. He swears that no one connected with the IIC has his blood because he was taught from a young age to guard his blood carefully and he’s never let anyone close enough to him to get the blood.
…except Teri. But surely Sita would have found that memory already. And maybe except Sita and the rest of this motley group.
Matt says that Sita’s theory must be wrong and no matter how much Teri idolised her, she wasn’t perfect and wasn’t always right. Sita is certain he’s wrong, though, and they must have his blood. But … why are you so certain of this? It was just a theory. Why are you so driven by you being right? Odds are high that she is correct, but it’s too easy a story to tell like this.
Matt pushes her to bring the others back immediately, but she is determined to finish this research into the IIC first. Matt, you sure are demanding. Yes, it could just be concern for your baby!vampire girlfriend, but it’s looking pretty goddamn suspicious, too.
Talking to him, even from a distance like this, is exhausting for her, trying to keep up the facade of Teri. She’s worried about him. A single mistake and he could snap and kill her before she even realised she’d stepped wrong.
They have to wait until after lunch before Freddy is ready to settle down and talk to them. As soon as Sita tells Matt’s news to the others, Seymour and Shanti are much more interested in Charlie’s research than the IIC, which makes sense what with that whole terrible black blister thing they have going on.
When they all do finally sit down, Sita starts the conversation by asking about how powerful Freddy is as a psychic. He met Sharp when Sharp was looking for people to volunteer for his experiments; the first time Freddy gave it a try, Sharp had him on a midnight to one a.m. time slot. And Cynthia was the one who held the cards and worked with him through the test. He had a hard time focusing because Cynthia was pretty and flirtatious, but he still managed to get 65 out of 75 cards correct, better than 80%. Sharp kept testing him and he kept doing above 70% regularly.
At the time, Freddy was finishing a chemistry degree. He wanted to be a doctor. Sharp gave him a full scholarship to get his master’s in parapsychology instead, and Freddy gave in. Well, plus, he was dating Cynthia.
Talk turns to using the Array on the stock market, and he says at first it seemed like just a clever way to test it, but they all of them except Thomas Brutran needed money and were often broke. Cynthia showing them how to make money was like a miracle. They kept it a secret from Sharp at first, and when Sharp found out, he freaked out on them about how this would make the other academics refuse to take them seriously. Freddy thinks he was looking for someone to blame for why he couldn’t get his results published.
Cynthia kept the experiments going even after Berkeley shut them down, which Sharp didn’t mention. Seymour, getting impatient, then breaks in to ask about the Cradle. This makes Freddy shut down for a bit, until Mary encourages him to tell because he’ll feel better if he does.
He says it’s hard to talk about because it’s his fault; Mary blames Cynthia instead. Two different events, unrelated, led to the Cradle. The first is on him: when he heard that Thomas and Cynthia were making out at a restaurant, and learned it right before they were going to have a full gathering of the Array, in person, he couldn’t focus on anything else and couldn’t help them focus. Instead, Thomas started having trouble breathing, like he was having a heart attack. Freddy is certain that it was his focus, backed by the Array, that hurt Thomas. He felt “a huge magnetic web” cover him when he worked with the Array, like he was linked to all of them, including the other scientists, and he felt both horror and power. It magnified his anger into something evil.
Sita is terrified, thinking back to what she did to Numbria while under control of the Cradle (the Array she thought at the time).
Thomas did have a heart attack even though he was in excellent shape. Freddy’s mind, when connected to the Array, nearly killed him.
Freddy did tell this to the others, but Sharp didn’t blame him and thought it was a fluke. He still added a new rule that no one could join the Array if they felt emotional. Freddy also did not confront Cynthia and gets angry at Seymour when he pushes. Sita defuses the situation a little and then asks about the other half of the Cradle.
Six months after the heart attack, Sharp had a stroke and had to retire. The group disbanded for awhile, no more experiments, no authority to bring thousands of people together. Freddy was glad for that after that whole thing where he hurt someone.
Wendy and Noel had a kid, Angela, who was five when Cynthia got pregnant. This was before routine sonograms and when Henry was born, they had a surprise condition where his liver, gallbladder, and portions of his intestines were outside his body. He went into surgery immediately, put his organs inside, and for awhile it looked like he would survive, but a few days later he died from the trauma of it and broke Freddy’s and Cynthia’s hearts. They had Henry cremated, as was their belief, and sprinkled the ashes in the San Francisco Bay.
(Random Wing Fact: I want to be cremated and shot into the stars. Ostrich wants to be cremated and spread to different seas.)
That night, Freddy had an idea that many of the things the Array predicted, the stars did too (i.e., astrology). He wondered if there was a sign in Henry’s astrological chart that would indicate he would die because it was meant to be. That’s fucking tragic, Freddy. He decided that as computers are spreading around the globe, it gave access to a wealth of information that could be harnassed, somehow, to prove whether astrology was real or not.
Freddy drew up Henry’s chart and found four clear markers that he was fated to die from the moment he was born: Mars, the planet of death, in the eighth house, the house of loss; both of those were in Scorpio, a powerful negative influence; and he was born during a solar eclipse.
This made Freddy wonder if it was possible to create a far more accurate astrological system than anyone had come up with in the past. Trillions of bits of data on millions of people would drive that, having computers scan charts, search the lives of living people, match patterns to what was going on.
In the long run, Freddy was looking to discover the perfect place and time for an infant to be born so they would embody exactly the qualities their parents want them to have. Someday, he could make it so every parent could choose what kind of child they wanted.
That is fucking terrifying, Freddy. I know you look at yourself as the good guy compared to Cynthia, but in some ways, you are just as horrifying here as she is elsewhere. This is one small step away from trying to breed out “flaws” from your children. Goddamn.
Freddy and Cynthia grew apart after Henry’s death; Freddy was driven to his astrological work, Cynthia was driven back to Sharp’s experiments and created a far more powerful Array using all the money from her stock market work to identify kids that were the most psychic and then pay them to do her work. Freddy flat out ignored what she was doing because he needed the funds she brought in to fund his own work.
Cynthia stole every single computer disk, hard drive, piece of paper, everything related to the Cradle. Even the backups. He said he had no reason to hide anything from her because she was supporting his work. I say you were a naive fool lost to his own grief.
Cynthia is a monster, Freddy says, and she used the Cradle to create more monsters. She, of course, noticed that someone with strong psychic gifts could use the Array to cause physical harm. Freddy claims no one else realised this back when he caused that heart attack, but my dude, you’ve spent pages talking about how you and Sharp, at the very least, realised those strong emotions could drive something dangerous.
Tom helped Cynthia do all this, and once they had it, they started seeking out kids with psychic strength and looked for qualities that caused love and compassion so they could avoid people with empathy. They even managed to identify future astrological charts that produced psychic, cold children and made sure that the child was born in the right place at the right time via cesarean section. There are probably 20,000 kids in the Array and another 300 in the Cradle.
Sita finds it interesting that Freddy knows how many kids and other details and finally calls him on how much he knows. Plus she met that five-year-old child at Cynthia’s house that looked a lot like him.
Mary reminds Freddy that she told him not to lie to Sita. Sita asks if he sees the kid, Jolie, for what she must be, one of those preplanned super-psychic children for the Cradle. Freddy swears not even Cynthia would go that far. You naive idiot.
He also admits that shortly after Cynthia learned he was seeing Mary, she used the Cradle on him and used him to try to stab Mary to death, to torture her. Mary woke before he could and swears she saw something in his eyes, something not human. The devil. She sensed it craved her pain.
She survived by running outside and pushing him into the well. The shock of the water knocked him out of the control of the Cradle. Sita thinks a huge piece of it is missing, but lets it go for a moment. Freddy wants to expose the IIC because that’s the only way to stop them since they have all that money and a tool to control anyone they want. It’ll be hard, though, because they also own several major newspapers and TV stations.
Freddy says that he kept silent to keep Mary safe, and Sita realises that she’s missing something very important in the conversation, something right in front of her, but she can’t figure it out and it is annoying her to no end. She asks if they can stay another night, and Mary is both genuinely happy because of the request and shrewdly analysing Sita at the same time.
Seymour is furious that they’re not on the way to New York to try the new vaccine. If you want to go so bad, take Shanti and fucking go. It’s not like you’ll be able to really do anything if someone comes to attack you all. You’re not much of a fighter.
Sita talks to him about her feelings of them being anxious to keep the group there and what that could possibly mean. Seymour says they want to use them to expose the IIC, but Sita’s not convinced because they didn’t really ask for any credentials behind that writing a book story. Seymour’s leaning back toward being on Matt’s side in their priorities, but Sita still wants the IIC as a powerful ally.
He calls her on being a different person now. She used to see a problem and deal with it. She points out that she is a fucking different person, at least in physical form, and she doesn’t have all the abilities she used to have. God, why can’t any of you fucking remember that? She’s very clearly in Teri’s body. Come the fuck on.
Sita brings up the fact that there’s no way Mary freed Freddy by pushing him into the well and whether Freddy’s under Brutran’s control. He still loves her, that’s clear, and he has to be super attached to Jolie after all that pain with Henry. (Jolie gave Sita the creeps, remember.)
Oooh, Seymour does suggest he and Shanti fly back, but Sita doesn’t want to break up the group just yet. Look, either you want to lead or you don’t. You say you don’t want to lead, not in this weaker body, but then you don’t want to let anyone else lead, either. Make up your goddamn mind, Sita.
Seymour goes to bed, Sita takes the book out into the garden again. It reminds her of where she knew Krishna. She asks him, into the night, why he didn’t take her when she called his name at her death, but gets no answer. She feels cheated even with John saying her duty is unfinished. I don’t blame her. Being promised something transcending after death and being ripped back to life has to be as much overwhelming and terrifying as it is a miracle.
She follows the scent of jasmine, which reminds her of Krishna, to the well. It is strongest there, coming out of the dark, out of the earth, out of the night. She drops the bucket into the well so she can hear the noise it makes when it splashes. The well is at least 50 yards deep and when she hears the sound of the splash, the noise dissipates without echoing.
So, of course, she climbs down, putting Yaksha’s book back into the car. Teri’s body is perfect for rock climbing even before she became a vampire, so Sita’s not worried about that part letting her down. About ten feet from the water’s surface, the walls vanish and there’s a faint red glow off to one side. The source of the water is a cave, not a normal underground stream tapped by a well. She swings until she can land on the bank she hopes is there, and sure enough, there is dry stone, narrow but walkable.
She’s drawn to the red glow, winding through the cave. It’s a series of torches, and soon she reaches a well-lit cavern. That part is human-made, a smooth dome-shaped roof, perfectly balanced in size, etc. There’s a stone altar on the other side of the stream. Three steps to an oval platform. Over that, an inverted triangle, six feet tall, encrusted with glowing rubies, a large pearl in the center, a symbol of Mother Kali. There’s a bonfire at the bottom tip of the triangle and on a white cloth in front of that is Sita’s body.
Sita launches herself across the stream. The wound on her chest still looks fresh, and the body looks almost alive. She asks Krishna for an answer again and weeps, though she’s not sure whom. Eventually, someone comes to stand behind her, someone breathing and alive, and she realises what she’s probably known from the beginning, what she hadn’t been able to see.
Mary is Umara.
I legit did not see that coming, y’all! I thought Mary might end up being tied to the Telar stuff, but not that she was Yaksha’s beloved Umara.
Umara tells Sita that she took the body to protect it because Yaksha died once and came back, so Sita’s body can as well. Now that she’s not hiding, Umara stands with power and coiled energy, the oldest living creature on the planet, and Sita’s not sure she could have taken her even at the height of Sita’s power.
Sita says she didn’t see that story in Yaksha’s book, but Umara knows she’s using her blood on it, knows that she will find it eventually.
The Native Americans built the cave for her more than 3000 years ago. The Rulan, though that name was lost to history. They tried to worship her, but she wouldn’t let them. They were simple people, at one with nature, and she taught them about Isis, the Great Mother, and they were wide enough to understand all gods are the same.
There’s some Magical Native American stuff going on here, Pike, and what with your focus on white white white Sita as this historical avatar of India, I have concerns.
They talk about their travels, Umara offering to kill Sita (she was joking, and Yaksha never would have allowed it), Krishna, their love of Krishna and Yaksha, etc. In the end, they separated because of the threat of the Telar and because of Sita. There’s some ridiculous bullshit fighting over Yaksha (very peaceful fighting, really, but still), because of course two women who are thousands of years old and in the middle of an apocalyptic situation would absolutely focus on who Yaksha loved more. WTF Pike.
Matt contacted Umara as soon as Sita was killed, and she flew out to watch over them. She knew the second she saw Teri that Sita was in her body. She’s kept Sita’s body in the water, near freezing, to preserve the body, just like she did for Yaksha. There was a Rulan legend that the water flows from a source in a chamber filled with massive crystals that shine with their own light and it has healing properties. It gave Sita’s body a chance to recover, and with Sita’s blood, Umara thinks nothing is impossible. Sita has Yaskha’s blood, and Kalika’s, and John’s. That’s a remarkable trinity.
Sita says Umara can’t possibly resurrect her because she’s not Krishna, but Umara knew him, spent years with him, can’t draw a breath without feeling his grace and when she’s with Sita, she feels it from her too. Krishna is with them.
When Sita reclaims her body, Teri’s will die, because she’s dead. She died the day she was supposed to die. This is fucking heartbreaking, even though we knew that there was no getting Teri back. Sita admits why she didn’t tell Matt that she was in Teri’s body and talks about the day that Matt shot her in her own body, while he was controlled by the Cradle.
Umara says that couldn’t possibly have happened because Brutran can’t have a sample of his blood. Sita says she thought of that too, and that she thinks somehow Brutran got a sample from him, though she doesn’t know from where.
Sita’s worried about how Matt will react when he learns that Sita’s been using Teri’s body and Teri is gone. (I’d say long gone, because this feels like it’s taking forever, but it’s only been a short while, really.)
Umara promises that Matt won’t hurt Sita, because Umara is his mother and she will talk to him and he’ll listen to her, but they can’t keep hiding it from him because he can’t stand being lied to.
Sita flat refuses because she doesn’t trust Umara and there’s no way she’s down for them telling Matt about Teri while she’s still in Teri’s weaker body.
Umara says that Matt keeps trying to reach her, to warn her about the Telar and the supervirus. She already knows about that, though. She still has contacts among the Telar, people who report to her, people who don’t trust Haru and the Source. More than Sita would imagine. Umara says she’s been waiting for Sita to arrive to stop Haru. She doesn’t have intuition like Freddy’s, but she does have things like waking dreams, which she can sense the truth of. When she considers attacking the Telar, she remembers a vision she had the night after the Battle of Kurukshetra ended, the first time she saw Sita across the battlefield. She saw Sita chopping off the heads of a Hydra. Sita pushess, because she thinks Umara is hiding something still. Matt doesn’t know that Umara is one of the first Telar; none of the Telar alive today know how old she is, apparently not even Haru, though gossip has that he’s her brother.
The original Telar also developed an array, she admits, but she won’t talk about whether they have a cradle or what happened back then. Further, Umara won’t tell Sita what she needs to know to stop Brutran or the Telar until she’s back in her own body. Sita, of course, asks why.
Umara kneels next to Sita’s actual body and puts a hand on her head. Sita can feel it in Teri’s forehead. She tries to write that link between the bodies off to them sharing similar blood, but I’m guessing it’s more than that. Umara whispers, dark and low, that what she knows could destroy the planet, could “unleash a power so great it could detonate the earth’s core and transform this world into a second asteroid belt.”
And until Sita’s not back in her original body, she’s not strong enough to protect that kind of secret.
Sita agrees to let Umara put her back in her body, but Umara can’t do it until the next night under the full moon, when the energy of the Goddess is the strongest. Sita agrees but doesn’t want her to bring Matt; Umara says she must, because if Teri was the love of his life, he deserves the right to say good-bye.
Sita finally agrees, but she wants Paula and Seymour there, too, and John if he’ll come.
Umara has heard of him; the Telar and the IIC are searching for him everywhere. She doesn’t know if the prophecies are true, though, and Sita can’t really tell her yes or no. She doesn’t think that he’s Krishna, but there is something wonderful and powerful about him. He helped Sita anchor in Teri’s body, maybe he can help the other way, too.
In order for Sita’s body to live again, the body she’s in must die; in order for Sita to get her body back, they have to kill Teri’s body.
The next night, Sita sits with Seymour and waits for Matt to arrive. He will either come give Seymour a shot of the vaccine or he will kick the door down and snap Sita’s neck. While they wait, Seymour talks about Umara in some shitty, sexist ways. I wish Matt wouldn’t give you the vaccine. Give it all to Shanti. Seymour’s a fucking dick.
He does stand by her while she calls Teri’s parents to say good-bye, which is heartbreaking and such a good thing for Sita to do and for Seymour to support.
Two hours later, Sita’s alone. Seymour’s in the main house with Paula and John. Sita’s listening to Umara and Matt approach. Matt comes straight to the cottage. He doesn’t attack her but does come to sit down. She tells Matt she never wanted this to happen and had no conscious role in it, though John says that her soul wanted to remain alive.
Umara told Matt that John told Sita that she still had a task to accomplish. (TELEPHONE WEIRD VAMPIRE AND IMMORTAL STYLE.) He wonders if that means that if he kills her, he goes against the word of God. Sita tells him John isn’t God and if Matt wants to kill her, she won’t fight him. She can’t win in this body, he points out, so that’s not saying much, and maybe he’s here to wait until they can have a fair fight after the switch.
They talk about how Teri’s dead, why Sita lied to him about it, how they both felt Teri there the night they had sex, so Matt thinks there’s still hope to get Teri back. Sita breaks that bubble of hope and then they fight over who is to blame. They both contacted Teri, both interfered in her life without telling her the truth. They then both break down a little, holding each other and sobbing, mourning their loss.
Finally it’s time to put Sita back into her body. The body is on the altar. Sita sits near the head, John beside her, stroking the body’s hair. Umara is on Sita’s other side with a puja kit. Matt is at the feet. John stopped Paula and Seymour from attending. No one asked why.
Sita is afraid, even though the Kali symbol reminds her of Kalika and how brave Kalika was in protecting John. Sita wants to be like her daughter, but is struggling. She can’t stop thinking about what’s going to happen next, the strange abyss in front of her. Sita knows who she is and wants to continue to be herself. She doesn’t like Umara’s odds, since Umara’s only done this one other time, but Sita watches close.
Uh, Sita, did you go read Yaksha’s book and find the story of when she brought Yaksha back to life? Because right now, it sounds like you didn’t even though you had 24 hours and that is ridiculous.
It starts with Umara having Krishna’s blood. She was with Krishna at the end of his life. Sita argues that she was in Egypt with Yaksha, but Umara is adamant, then shushes her because Krishna is there.
Umara’s puja kit, used to perform Vedic ceremonies, contains a brass candleholder with a narrow white candle, two small brass dishes (one for rice, one for water), a tiny vase with a burning incense stick, a small dish filled with camphor, and a plate smeared with sandalwood paste. She also has fresh fruits, flowers, and a handkerchief at her side.
Sita saw that often in India but doesn’t know why Umara’s using them when she’s originally from Egypt. Umara sings a language Sita doesn’t fully recognise, though some words are familiar, some combination of Egyptian and Sanskrit mantras and hymns. She sings until Sita, John, and Matt are nearly transfixed, and Sita can’t tell the exact moment that she stops. Sita does feel like someone else is there with them.
Umara drips blood from the vial onto Sita’s body. Instead of spilling into her hair or eyes, it is immediately absorbed into her skin. As if her dead brain hungers for it — or as if her body hungers for life.
Umara brings Matt from his trance and tells him it is time for him to help set Teri free. Most of her is gone, only a part of her is trapped. He can free her with his love by killing her body. He swears he can’t hurt her, and Sita is willing to do it herself even though it’s like killing herself, but Umara orders them to do it her way. Sita has to lie on her back with her left thigh near the head of her actual body. Matt needs to lift her left leg and kill her with a single, swift crack. Umara refuses to answer questions or let them delay any longer because they have a limited supply of Krishna’s blood and a limited time to do this.
Matt begs to not have to hurt Teri’s leg because she was a runner, to not have to hurt her at all because he loves her. It’s pretty heartbreaking. Sita finally puts a stop to it and says that Umara’s asking too much of Matt. Sita loved Teri too, she can do it and together they’ll let Teri go.
Umara allows this and says it must be a fatal blow. Sita sits up to do it, but then Matt breaks her leg, tearing the femur through the flesh. Sita’s in agony and decides this is a terrible ceremony and she made a mistake in letting Umara talk her into it. Umara orders her to lie down, she must be on her back, and Sita lashes out at her. Matt follows his mother’s orders now, holding Teri’s body down and turning Sita’s body’s head into the blood.
Sita feels faint, Teri’s body rapidly bleeding to death. Her vision leaves, nausea hits her, her body aches in every cell. Sita falls into darkness, into despair, into death — and then she hears a strange sucking sound and feels a weird tickling.
Oh, gee, I wonder what that could be. Hey, it’s Sita’s body drinking the blood she gave Teri. Shocking. I’m shocked.
Teri’s body dies, Sita floats into a dark galaxy, and then someone calls her name like a holy mantra, a sacred word. She opens her eyes to Krishna’s blue eyes, but he looks like a boy she knew once, John. And then John blinks and the eyes are brown. He cleans blood from Sita’s face and helps her sit up. Matt is holding Teri’s body, and Teri is actually in it, actually there. She thanks Matt for this moment, and he promises her she can heal and live, she has Sita’s blood. Teri tells him it’s her time to go and the body dies but their love is forever. She doesn’t want to be a vampire. She wants this chance to say good-bye and then she wants him to let her go. He begs her to give her body time to heal; she promises they will meet again in a world without time, and then she dies even as he tries to kiss her.
Sita has turned to life once again, but it is a lonely world. Her child is gone. Again.
Part Two Final Thoughts
I know that the Sita-in-Teri’s-body thing probably wasn’t pointless, but it certainly feels pointless right now. We spent half a book with her trying to adapt and now she’s just back into her own body so easy? Feels like wasted time. I hope it has more of a point later, because yeah, I’m not seeing it right now. I am super into Umara joining the story, though, and excited to learn more about things like, oh, how the IIC used the Cradle on Matt (if they really did at all!) and whether Yaksha’s going to somehow come back and whether Matt has a heel turn and whether Sita finally gets to kill Brutran, etc.