Recap #238: The Last Vampire #8 | Thirst #4: The Shadow of Death by Christopher Pike (Part Four)
Title: The Last Vampire #8 | Thirst #4: The Shadow of Death
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 and Friends Try to Save the World By Killing People, Sita’s using the IIC’s Array, and specifically their extra powerful Cradle, to destroy the Telar before the Telar can release a virus on the world. Sita does this by infecting everyone at the IIC with the virus. Oh, Sita.
And now we are on the final recap of this book. Pike’s writing works much, much better in shorter chunks. Which you get in the recaps, but I’m writing them all in one big chunk over about a week (which is a real damn long time for me to write a recap, I have to say, normally I can get them out in a few hours), and I am tired of this book. And there’s still one more to go.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still glad to have more books in the series, to see what Pike wanted to do with the rest of Sita’s story, but it’s weird and weirder than the series used to be and looooooooooooooooong.
Note from the future: At the end of part three, I was sad I didn’t enjoy the book as a whole even though parts of it were great. I HATE EVERYTHING BY THE END OF THIS ONE.
This might be a good time to hit up the official Wing Drinking Game. Or not, because you might die.
We pick up with Sita deciding to introduce Umara honestly to the Cradle even though she knows the rest of the IIC will “eventually” hear about it. UMM, by “eventually” do you mean pretty much immediately? Because that’s my guess, considering they’re already curious about Umara.
Sita calls this deciding, but knows she has no choice but to be honest with the Cradle. As soon as they link up, they’ll know there’s something unusual about her. That doesn’t mean they’d know the truth, but you do you. Plus she’s using it to give them confidence leading into this next fight. Now that is a reason that makes sense.
Most of the kids are glad for this (especially when Sita says Umara will double their power), but Lark speaks up with some other points, which are pretty damn good: Umara isn’t a member of the Cradle, she hasn’t made a sacrifice to the Familiars, and surely she can’t be treated any differently. Before Sita can say anything, Umara says she’s ready to do their initiation and will give them a sacrifice none of them will ever forget.
Well that’s ominous.
Umara takes Lark’s position on Sita’s left and Shanti’s out in another nearby room; this time, Sita feels very little pain linking with the Lens. When Lark demands the blood from Umara, Umara asks how innocent her victim has to be; Lark snickers and says not as innocent as Alisa’s victim. Umara pretends that she doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and he adds that no one is truly innocent, just give the blood to Jolie and get on with it.
At which point Umara snaps Lark’s wrist, stuns him with one blow, and gives Jolie Lark’s blood. Jolie licks it off her hand, and Umara hands control over to Sita. Metaphorically.
Now that is a delightful choice of victim. Nicely done, Umara.
Sita’s pleased for a lot of reasons, including the fact that he got them all hurt during the last attack when he ignored Sita’s instructions. None of the other kids feel any regret or sympathy toward him.
Sita leads them in the invocation this time, and when she says the last line out loud (power destroying Lark), the pain finally hits her skull. She’s dragged up out of her body and she can see the Familiars again — all except for her own, of course, and she’s not seeing one on Umara at all. Well, I mean, Lark’s not actually dead yet, so she wouldn’t have one. Though at the same time, shouldn’t she already have one? From the Telar array? But okay, rolling with it. We’re almost to the end. (I say, looking at my Kindle which says we’re only 71% through the damn book.)
Sita doesn’t have to do anything to control what death comes for Lark; he’s killed so many people his subconscious provides his own form of death. Lark dies, the kids not only don’t mind but pretty much welcome it, and still a Familiar doesn’t appear behind Umara. This would be more of an impact if you hadn’t made the inane observation before that she didn’t have one yet.
When she hands out the last of the Telar blood, they are taken to the desert, but she doesn’t see the Nile or the pyramids, which throws her, because the Telar started because the great river. But then she realises that the river has moved quite a bit in 12,000 years and they’re at the place where it was back when the Telar actually began. The pyramids are buried and the river has moved.
Haru has gathered the last of the Source in one of the few remaining temples that haven’t been all the way buried. It goes deep underground, though, and that’s where Haru has gone.
They reach a big black chamber where the Familiars were originally invoked by the Telar. Haru is there with seven other members of the Source. WOW. I sure hope Umara can more than double your power, because you couldn’t take out four just a few hours ago and now you’re at double that.
The Telar sit around a stone circle. There’s a stone seat at the head of that table and a glowing red figure sits there. Matching ones are behind the Telar. These Familiars are more like human beings than the Familiars the Lens has.
I swear we just learned that in one of the chapters of the last recap, but Sita acts like this is brand new information.
The shield they have around the Telar is a shield of fire and Sita knows that it is impenetrable. Her despair comes on instantaneously. Umara sees exactly what she sees and they talk about her being wise to wait. The Source doesn’t know how it all began, the source of their power, how to gain immortality, etc., but they do remember how to link.
Hatram is at the head of the table, the one who raped Umara, because yeah, let’s just keep going with all this fun rape time in everyone’s backstory. You’re the best, Pike. Hatram apparently now controls the fires of hell. After he died, he was taken there and now he’s risen again. Maybe because of Umara being there.
There is one way to do it. Sita must find Hatram’s master. Sita asks if she means what Sita thinks she means, but doesn’t say anything. Because god forbid she name the devil or something like that in this book that’s been full of religious references otherwise.
Sita has to do it because you have to die to go to hell, and Sita has already died. She swears she went to Krishna instead, but she doesn’t actually remember anything, so. Umara tells her it is time to go back and she’s blocked it — Sita wants to know if she means because she couldn’t handle what she saw — but Umara is adamant that she has to get through the block now. And to do that, she has to die. She’s died twice (at fucking least), she can die a third time.
Sita’s afraid, and she knows that’s why she can’t remember. But it’s not her choice, because she starts falling into the flames, feels herself burning, feels herself dying.
She awakens standing in the mountains next to a beautiful blue lake with patches of drifting ice. Seymour and Matt are there. Seymour is crying and calling out for her; Matt is on his knees, holding a familiar body in his arms.
Aaaaand, she’s back to that day on the mountain. She asks herself if she’s dead, then thinks that is ridiculous, because if she was dead, she wouldn’t be talking to herself, she’d be talking to Krishna. She shouted out for him just a moment ago when Matt shot her with his laser rifle.
When he was going to shoot Seymour. When Sita jumped in front to save him.
Sita finally decides to accept that she’s dead on at least some level, that her body is in Matt’s arms, dead, but on another level, she can’t accept it, because it’s not death like she ever imagined, no bright light, no angels, no Krishna. Is … is Krishna supposed to come with angels and a bright white light?
She doesn’t know why she’s with Seymour and Matt instead of Krishna. Perhaps because you’re supposed to be remembering what the fuck happened when you died. Get your goddamn head out of your goddamn arse, Sita. Pike. Both of you. God. We’re already running with her holding the idiot ball.
…unless she’s the Sita back then and not the Sita now, and if that’s true, the transition has not been clear at all, but cool, I’m going to run with it.
Anyway, Sita wonders if her body is going to heal and she can get back into it, but then she sees that the cave where Teri is changing into a vampire is glowing with a faint silver radiance, and she can’t ignore it. She takes a moment to apologise to Seymour and Matt for dying and tells them that she loves them. So she has fallen all the way back into the Sita of that moment, which at least removes the idiot ball, but that transition really could have been cleaner.
Sita goes in to see Teri and finds the vampiric transformation going smoothly. Teri has nothing to do with the miracle that Sita sees inside the cave, though. The miracle is that she can follow the silver deeper into the cavern. Just when it disappears, she finds a burning torch in the crack in the wall. The floor and the wall are coated with a red dust that she thinks is iron oxide.
She finds another cave about an hour in, and smaller caves converging off the larger one. A middle-aged Japanese businessman walks out of one of the caves. He has a torch like Sita’s. She tries to talk to him, but he doesn’t respond whether she uses English or Japanese. There are more caves, more people. The kids are more animated than the adults (whom she describes as “lobotomized” of course), but they run away when Sita tries to talk to them.
After about another hour, she sees a black river with several thousand people gathered on its shore. Everyone around her walks faster toward the small boats that cross the water, ferrying people “God knows where.”
Are you fucking kidding me, Pike? Sita is thousands of years old. She knows all sorts of religious beliefs and mythologies. I do not buy for one cold second that she doesn’t recognise that the boats are ferrying the dead over into their afterlife. What. the. Fuck. DO BETTER THAN THIS, PIKE. DO. FUCKING. BETTER.
The people who are walking with Sita all mostly are able to get into the boats, but the people on the shore seem to have been there a long time and come not just from all sorts of countries but from all different time periods. People who have been dead for decades, if not centuries.
Sita climbs onto a boulder and shouts at them, asking if anyone knows what’s going on. Only one person comes to talk to her, Gregory, a man wearing a World War II uniform. But from what country, Sita? It’s not like everyone wore one goddamn uniform.
We do eventually learn that he’s from Virginia, because she can tell based on his accent. So she can tell based on an accent that has changed in the decades since WWII but she has no goddamn idea about the ferryman of the dead? JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, PIKE.
Gregory doesn’t know what’s on the far side of the river, but he tells her that this side of the river is a bad place for “a pretty girl like you.” He’s been there a long time, and he can’t get on the boat because he’s not been able to answer his riddle. It’s a riddle that stems from something they were supposed to have learned while they were alive. And, apparently, if you don’t answer it right away, you forget it immediately. He doesn’t know why, and Sita can’t seem to guess why, but DUH, it’s clearly so they can’t get help from anyone else, are you fucking kidding me.
Sita actually. fucking thinks. that she’s fallen into a Greek myth. when she looks at the river.
AND YET, EVEN KNOWING THAT SHE’S DEAD, SHE COULDN’T FIGURE OUT WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON WITH THE RIVER AND THE BOATS AND THE PEOPLE?!
GODDAMN IT, PIKE, I AM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT THROUGH THE END OF THIS BOOK.
Sita approaches one of the boats. The ferryman asks her a riddle: What’s the most useless human emotion? When she asks for a hint, he adds: Several words describe the emotion. They are all correct. Pick one. She asks if it applies to mean and women: yes. Who suffers more: depends on who raised you.
She thinks back to Krishna talking about the three qualities of the heart, love, hate, and fear. Hate can overcome fear. So can love. Love can overcome hate, too. So love is the strongest.
Sita says fear is the most useless emotion. She’s wrong, and he makes her forget.
She wanders around for awhile, until she finally runs into a thin young woman with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a winning smile. She looks familiar, but Sita can’t place her. She gives Sita a hint, which is to take a moment to think before she responds. They don’t rush people to answer (unless, of course, you ask too many questions, Sita). The woman got her question right, but she and her friend are with the same ferryman as Sita and they won’t leave until she’s ready to go with them. Sita wants to know why; the woman only says that the ferryman usually takes three at a time and her friend is around and waiting, too, after already giving a correct answer (on her first time, because she’s wise).
Sita goes back to the ferryman feeling more confident (and calling the people who haven’t managed to answer their riddles losers, which seems both out of place for her language and a real shit thing to say).
Her question this time: What’s the greatest quality a human being can have? That can also turn out to be the most dangerous quality? She asks for a hint again, but he doesn’t just give her one. She talks her way through it. Many human qualities are good and bad, blah blah blah. Then she asks what’s wrong with her answer; he says that her hypothetical answer (being a hard worker) is neither the greatest nor most dangerous quality. So she decides he’s speaking in absolutes and she needs to go for the one thing that can totally make a life or destroy it. He agrees and, when she asks, tells her that he gets the questions from her, she brings them with her, and she brings the answers with her, too. She brings hard questions because she’s going to need the answers when she reaches the other side.
She thinks some more about Krishna and all the things he’s said, until she lands on Krishna talking about love, the sweetest expression of life and yet also the thing that can bring out the darkest, most terrible side of people.
She answers love, that’s wrong too, and again she forgets.
Now she feels trapped and claustrophobic by the river, and spends some time wandering again. This time, she’s approached by a beautiful woman with copper skin, coal eyes, and a smile that makes Sita know she’s a friend even if she doesn’t remember the woman’s name. She wears a necklace and plays with it, a gold chain with diamonds and rubies. Something about the rubies reminds Sita of a cave she once visited, but she can’t remember anything about it.
She asks if this is the blonde woman’s friend, and she says they are friends through her. Sita introduced them in a manner of speaking; Sita doesn’t remember when, but the woman says that doesn’t matter. They talk about how Sita just failed, and the woman says that the ferryman is doing her a favour, she just can’t see it yet. The questions and answers will return when she needs them later. It doesn’t matter how many times she tries and fails, it just means she’ll leave with what she needs.
The woman saw what’s on the other side once, in a vision; it’s different for everyone, and Sita will see it when she’s ready to leave. Sita says she’s ready now but she doesn’t want to fail another test. It’s not a test, the woman says, but lessons she learned on earth that she wants to take to the other world.
The woman then tells her that she’s lived one long life, much like the woman herself.
Back to the ferryman. Third times the charm? The power of three?
Her riddle: What is the greatest secret in the universe? This makes Sita’s heart pound, even though it shouldn’t be beating at all since she’s, you know, dead. But she knows the answer to this one. She heard it from Krishna a long time ago. And yet she still asks questions: secret = mystery (yes), greatest mystery in the universe (yes), etc. She confidently says that the greatest mystery is that mortals wake up every morning knowing that they are not going to die that day even though they also know they are mortal.
Sita blocks him from wiping her mind and tells him that he made a mistake because Krishna himself gave that answer. The ferryman struggles against her strength, which is, quite frankly, fucking bullshit.
ANYWAY. He tells her that she came close with her answer, and it would have been correct if she had answered what was the greatest mystery in the world, but it’s wrong for the greatest secret in the universe. She gripes that she had him clarify the question, but he says that she answers about the world, not the universe. She demands a second chance to answer the same question; she deserves it because he tricked her and it wasn’t fair.
WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK A RIDDLE IS, YOU GODDAMN IDIOT. AND I’M TALKING TO YOU, PIKE, FOR WRITING HER LIKE THIS.
He asks who said death is fair, and Sita doesn’t know. She says he’s afraid that she will know the answer if she tries again. He says again that no one ever gets a second chance, and she throws a temper tantrum, she’s tired of being there, she’s tired of the zombies, she’s tired of him whine fucking whine.
I swear to god, Pike, if this fucking works, you’re going on the feud list with Stine, even though you were one of my favourites for a long, long time.
IT. FUCKING. WORKS. GODDAMN IT, PIKE.
The greatest secret is the universe is that the lord and his secret names and his mantras are all the same, so when she says Krishna, Krishna is present. And, of course, she’s correct.
I am ready to bullet point the hell out of the rest of this book, but we still have at least 20% left, so … god, I guess I’ll keep recapping as normal. But fucking hell, Pike, we are feuding now. FEUDING. You may have even surpassed Stine.
Sita’s two new friends join them and the ferryman pushes off the shore. Their minds begin to clear as soon as they leave the shore, but the wise one (as Sita calls her) says they shouldn’t count on it to last, because this is a place of transition and they may not see the same things.
They’re on the water for about an hour when they see a massive mound dotted with thousands of red lights, torches, each hanging at the end of a tunnel. Most are at water level but some are high, out of reach from the river. The wise woman goes to a tunnel about two feet above the water. The other one, we don’t know where, but she goes next. And finally, he takes Sita to one five feet above the water. She easily jumps up into it and doesn’t say good-bye to him. He made a fucking exception for you, you jackass.
She carries a torch with her, the flames more red than orange, and walks for what seems like hours before she comes to the end of the tunnel. There’s nothing there, just a cliff edge, but about 100 yards across the abyss, she sees that her tunnel does continue, but there’s no bridge, no rope, nothing to help her across.
If she was alive and feeling like her normal vampire self, she’d try to make the jump, but since she no longer has a beating heart, she doesn’t think she’s strong enough to pull that off. She spends some time praying for help, but when she gets frustrating, she yells that they could at least send someone to give her a riddle.
A few minutes later, someone appears at the end of the other tunnel. She has no torch, but glows with a green light. Her eyes are green, her hair long and black, and her skin incredibly white. She’s absolutely fairy tale beautiful.
She asks Sita if she wants to come across; Sita asks her for a rope, and fairy tale laughs at her. She steps over the edge, and though Sita expects her to fall, instead she stands as if on an invisible bridge. Wherever she steps, there are green sparks. She crosses to Sita quickly, easily, and when Sita stares into her eyes, Sita’s thoughts start to swim. She does want to cross, but fairy tale tells her that Sita can’t just walk across, she needs to be led. Fairy tale asks for a kiss, and Sita draws back because she doesn’t know her or know who she is. Fairy tale says they’re both women and there’s no rules there. I’m hoping what Pike means is that the rules of first meeting don’t count, even though that itself would be weird because Sita’s never given a fuck about waiting “appropriate” time for anything, but it also reads as if the “normal” rules of “heterosexuality” don’t apply here, even though we learned waaaay back in book one, I think, that Sita’s also had women lovers.
Fairy tale promises that if Sita gives her a kiss, she’ll then be safe with her. The way she says it makes Sita cringe, and her touch feels “moldy.” Oh, cool, we’re going to get an afterlife thread based around homosexuality. What the fuck, Pike.
Sita talks here again about being primarily heterosexual but has no inhibitions about “swinging the other way,” which, as I’ve pointed out for a few phrases, seems very out of tone for Sita. There’s something about fairy tale that disturbs Sita: her mocking demeanour makes Sita feel like nothing she says or does is genuine, that Sita’s just a pawn to play with and then discard, and then she’s doing that whole “Emerald City green-glow thing.” (That made me laugh.)
She tells fairy tale that she doesn’t believe her, and she stares at Sita as if she’s “the best thing to come along since Hansel and Gretel.” Okay, Pike, you’re leaning a little too far into the fairy story thing here.
Belief doesn’t matter, fairy tale says, and tries to lick Sita’s face.
Now fairy tale’s face changes; her features are no longer flawless, but she was severely burned and has a scar from her mouth to her right eye. Oh, cool, not only do we have the homosexual threat but now we have scarred people are evil. Jesus, Pike, just because that’s a fairy story trope doesn’t mean you have to use it, too.
Sita says she won’t kiss her, and when fairy tale asks why, Sita says that here and now, there is no why. Fairy tale draws out a silver needle, the tip stained with blood, and brings it near Sita’s right eye.
WELL THIS IS ESCALATING INTO A PLACE I DON’T WANT TO GO.
She calls it Sita’s destiny, her last and future sin; it is her last sin even though she hasn’t committed it yet because her course is set and she’s caught in a circle. She’ll damn her soul for eternity with the needle.
This is why I sometimes struggle with stories about fate and destiny. I want to believe in free will. I don’t believe that things are destined or meant to be or whatever. I can see why it is comforting for people who do believe, but it also takes away from our drive to do things, to try things, to take risks. Or maybe for some people it supports that. Thoughts?
Sita says she’s lying even though she’s pretty sure fairy tale is not. She’s also pretty sure that fairy tale is a witch. Fairy tale scratches the needle across Sita’s jugular and says that Sita knows what she put in the needle and who she chose to give it to, but Sita doesn’t have any clue what she means. Fairy tale’s breath is like acid, her saliva burning her from the inside out; when she licks the tip of Sita’s nose, Sita feels the sting.
She says that if Sita kisses her and follows her across the bridge, when she reaches the Scale, she’ll be under fairy tale’s protection. Oh, good, another needlessly capitalised word. You’re all over those lately, Pike. The Scale of right and wrong, fairy tale tells her, of good and bad. Not her karma, which is what Sita thinks, but now and what happens after. There’s poison in the needles and Sita will put it there herself.
Sita asks about her protection, and fairy tale lies to her about it; when Sita asks how she can trust her, fairy tale says that Sita failed that question, the second question, what’s the greatest quality a human can possess, the one quality that can be the most dangerous. Sita thinks fairy tale must know the answer and remembers that the wise woman said the ferryman would only ask things that Sita needed to know later.
Sita calls the fairy tale a liar, and fury tears open her wounds, showing off the sharp teeth waiting inside. Sita suddenly knows the answer to the riddle, because apparently talking about having faith and then the riddle coming back to her still wasn’t enough of an answer at first. The answer is, of course, faith. I can do good things, allowed her to trust Krishna, her friends, to go to John for help, but it also leads people astray, into darkness and hatred, etc. She has to trust her heart.
Fairy tale stabs at her, but Sita manages to escape. Barely. Sita decides it’s time for a leap of faith and jumps over the edge. She falls for a long way, in darkness, until she hits something hard and passes out.
Not quite an Indiana Jones moment, but that’s certainly the feel of it.
She wakes lying on her back on large gray marble tiles, staring up at the night sky between two cliffs. The stars are faint and far away and confusing because isn’t she still in the underworld? The silver needle lands next to her, the blood gone from the tip. She tucks it into her pocket for later and heads for a white building in the distance. Again, it takes her an hour to reach it.
There’s a crowd of people, very orderly this time; the line leads straight up toward the dimly lit interior but there’s no one pushing to the front. There’s a beautiful melody of chimes sometimes and a wailing noise of despair. Sita soon figures out that the chimes mean heaven, the wailing means hell.
Sita wishes for a lot of things, including the comfort of the two friends she made and that Yaksha had never made her a vampire, because if she’d gone through this place, the Scales, thousands of years ago, she would have been fine, she was a good mother and a good wife, but now, she’s a vampire. She’s done so much more.
She hopes that Matt accepts Teri as a vampire and that he’s able to find his mother and wishes that she could have met Umara.
Oh, Sita, this strikes me in my heart.
Finally she gets inside and sees that two groups, one in white robes, one in red, direct the people. Someone calls them the Caretakers, because of course another capitalised word is just what she needs. The ones in white are the good guys. Because of course white = good. Damn it, Pike, maybe think about the tropes you’re leaning into and the bigger picture that can be read from them (e.g., racism and white supremacy). A white robe puts her in a small area behind a dozen people. The room has a black marble table with a gold Scale on it the size of a desk. That isn’t descriptive at all considering how many sizes tables and desks come in, Pike.
(I have typed Stine so many times in this part of the recap because I’m so damn frustrated with Stine right now that it’s worse than the absolute worst of Stine’s most terrible books.)
The Scale has its own luster, and is two circular plates hanging by three sets of chains each attached to a sleek pole on a square bar. To the right is a doorway filled with a golden light. On the left is the red doorway, of course, and it hurts Sita’s eyes to look at it.
Sita watches as a young African (because it’s all one country, yo, and also a black person could only be from Africa?) walks up to it and introduces herself as fourteen-year-old Batu Sangal. She closes her eyes and holds one hand above each plate. After what feels like forever to Sita, jewels begin to appear, diamonds on the right side, black pearls on the left. (Blood diamonds for a girl from “Africa” huh, Pike? Interesting choices that you put zero thought into the bigger repercussions, I think.)
Next up is Sharon McCloud, seventy, from Los Angeles; Sita recognises her accent. That’s interesting, because LA doesn’t have just one accent, so I’m curious as to which one it is. Anyway, Sharon goes through the same thing; Sita thinks she’d want to watch the jewels fall. Sharon gets six bright diamonds but so many black pearls that the left side of the Scale actually hits the table.
Sharon screams that she’s a Christian, she renounces Satan and his works, they’re making a mistake, etc. The red robes carry Sharon off into the red light. Dark arms with burned flesh reach out from the light and drag Sharon inside. Sita thinks she’s seen the arms before. I mean, yeah, you probably have, though obviously this Sita doesn’t know that part.
More important, WHAT THE FUCK, PIKE, JUST GO FULL OUT WITH THE DARK = EVIL, DEFORMITY = EVIL. FUCKING HELL, MAN.
The next guy “looks like an Eskimo” with a heavy seal coat and raw fish in his pocket. I mean, sure, just go for all the stereotypes, Pike, why the fuck not god what is wrong with you. Think about what the fuck you’re writing, goddamn.
His case frustrates Sita because it takes so long to balance, an equal number of diamonds and pearls fall, but eventually it settles on the diamond side.
That young blonde woman from earlier comes up finally and tells Sita she’ll be okay, she can tell Sita’s heart is good. Sita wants to know if the Scales weigh everything in your life or if the more recent events are more important. Of course blonde friend doesn’t know, and she hasn’t gone through it but has been waiting for Sita and the wise one. The wise one said her case is different, though, her path depends on what Sita decided.
Blondie says she’ll go first if Sita wants, and that relieves Sita.
A European businessman goes next, Roberto Vion, forty-nine years old. Blondie says she heard that if you are older, the Scale expects more of you. Oh, Sita, you’re going to be entertaining. Roberto starts with fast diamonds, then a whole stretch of pearls, but then more diamonds. It wobbles, but eventually settles under the pearls. The room is silent, though, but for the Caretakers talking. Finally, the wail begins; Roberto is quiet as he is led away.
Sita says there is no mercy, but the wise woman shows up just in time to tell her there is.
Blondie goes next. She’s Teresa Raine, nineteen years old. Sita gasps that it’s Teri but how did she not recognise her? The wise woman says that Sita knew her even if she didn’t know her name. Sita claims she’s not dead because Sita just made her a vampire, but there’s no before or after here, only now.
Things go slow for Teri, a few diamonds, a few black pearls, but then the diamonds grow and grow and grow, and the chimes ring louder than ever. Teri tries to wait for the others, but the Caretaker won’t let her. She yells back that she loves Sita and is gone.
Sita’s crying because she’s so happy for Teri and so scared for herself.
The wise woman tells her that her path has always been difficult and she can’t falter here at the end. It reminds Sita of something Krishna might say and Sita carries that with her on the way to the Scale. She introduces herself as Sita, five thousand one hundred and fifty-two years old. That makes the people behind her start murmuring, but a tall red Caretaker orders them to be quiet. His voice sounds familiar; Sita hates him because she can tell he’s not indifferent like the others, he’s evil.
She keeps her eyes open and holds out her hands, palms upward. Diamonds collect on the right side, small ones, but then black pearls start pouring out, that point where Yaksha made her a vampire and they killed everyone they came across. And then a giant diamond hits on the right side, and she knows it’s from the day she met Krishna and vowed not to make more vampires. She starts to feel good about her chances.
And then pearls and diamonds pour out at an incredible speed, enough that they fall off the plates onto the table. She has no idea how she managed to do so much good or bad when all she tried to do for most of the time was keep her head down and hide that she wasn’t aging. When it starts to slow down, the pearls take over, but then a few more extra large diamonds land.
More than half of the jewels are on the table, no room to measure all she’s done or failed to do. The Scale wobbles back and forth, back and forth. The thing holding her at the Scale lets go and she finally closes her eyes, but puts her hands actually on the Scales now. She can feel her heartbeat back now, can feel it breaking, especially when the red and white Caretakers start talking again.
When they stop, the room is silent, and Sita prays for Krishna. The screeching wail begins, though, and that evil Caretaker grabs her arm. She tells him she knows what door to take; when he speaks to her again, she finally recognises the voice that spoke to her right before she skinned an innocent woman and ate her alive. He tells her that she has been judged and there is no escape from the judgment, she is damned, and a word from him will send her through the red door to fire and pain. She cowers and can feel the pain as if it’s happening to him. She tells him that she’s listening, because she can feel that he has the ability to postpone her fate. Sure enough, he says he can give her respite from her judgment, though he won’t tell her how long. He will do so if she kills the Light Bearer, and Sita will know her when she meets her. He’ll send her back to do that.
Sita is torn, because she can’t just murder the Light Bearer, because that’s not who Sita is anymore and also she sounds like someone the world needs, like John, but Sita also can’t go through the fire because she’ll never be herself again after that agony.
Her fear is so great that she agrees to the deal.
It’s the C I R C L E O F L I F E and it moves Sita’s sooooouuuuuul.
Sita wakes up back in the room in Malibu, Umara watching her, the rest of the kids in a deep trance, still in Egypt, in the temple. Umara says that she’s been gone only a few seconds, and that she remembers what happened when she died. She wants to cry, because all of her life has been a sham. Umara pushes and Sita admits that she failed at the Scale. Sita doesn’t want her sympathy, though, because Umara knew something terrible would happen and forced her to remember her death anyway. Umara says that she knew the answer to the Telar was there and that since Sita blocked it out, it was probably traumatic, but she didn’t know. She also tells Sita that she only saw a part of the truth in that memory.
Sita wants to know how Umara knows about the Scale when she’s never died; Umara tells her there is no before or after in that place, which makes Sita think that the wise woman was Umara. Umara admits it might have been, but all their brains struggle with time paradoxes. The visions Sita had are mysterious and she really shouldn’t jump to any conclusions.
Sita brushes this away, because she knows she is damned even though she did not actually go into the inferno. They talk about the deal and how Sita thinks that the Familiar who haunts her now was the one who offered it to her. That’s a decent theory, I think.
No matter what else, Sita has come back with the knowledge that Umara is the key to destroying the Telar. She anchors the light to the world, that original light that came and made them immortal. Umara is the Light Bearer. If the Light Bearer dies, the Telar become vulnerable.
But Sita also knows that the demon is a liar, and he tried to confuse Sita by casting Umara in his place. Still, the light she carries protects the Telar and that much is the truth. Sita’s not going to kill her, though. She tells Umara to leave so Sita can fight the final battle with Haru and the Source.
Umara refuses to leave. She believes that it was Tarana who offered Sita the deal, and Sita cannot doublecross him. Plus the Telar must be destroyed, so Sita needs to kill Umara. Sita cries that she’s not strong enough to do that, and even if she wasn’t damned before she died, she is now, with this, and she cannot.
Umara comforts her and asks what Tarana asked for. Sita says her head on a platter, and Umara references it being like John the Baptist. You know, for a series that started with almost everything Sita did turning around Krishna, there sure as hell is a lot of Christianity in it now.
Umara was there when Herod took John captive and demanded he renounce Christ, and Umara thought he was brave for not doing so. She also knows that Sita would never renounce Krishna and that is why Tarana didn’t ask it of her, because she would not.
Sita talks about how she called for Krishna when she stepped in front of Matt’s laser rifle, that she focused on Krishna and nothing else, and yet Krishna was not there and when she was finally judged, she failed. Krishna’s name proved useless in the end.
Oh, damn, Sita’s got herself another crisis of faith, and this one seems to be the worst yet.
Umara reminds her that knowing Krishna’s name helped her cross the river and that where there is life, there is hope. Sita’s still not having it, though. The children are her final testament. Any who survive the fight with Telar will find that they have been infected with the virus hardcore and they’ll die in agony. Therefore, Sita’s karma isn’t going to improve in the short time she has left. Umara says she can still give them the vaccine, but Sita likens that to Hercules walking away from the Hydra and saying she should kill it another day.
Umara tells her to be Iolaus, not Hercules, but Sita snaps that Umara is Iolaus, at least when it comes to Haru and the rest of the Source, but only if she’s dead. Hatram doesn’t protect them, Umara does. And Umara knows that. That’s why she joined with Sita, so she could follow in John the Baptist’s footsteps. When she saw his head on the silver platter, she knew it would be her destiny, too, eventually.
Still Sita refuses. She doesn’t want to please Tarana, she doesn’t care about delaying what comes next, she wants to know why Krishna didn’t save her when it mattered. As annoyed as I am with Pike right now, this is pretty compelling, Sita shaken so deeply in her faith, in her trust in and love for Krishna. She then points out that there’s no way she can kill both Matt’s girlfriend and his mother. Umara told him that she was going to die, though, and made him accept it.
Umara is ready to die, she says. Her life has gone on too long. She’s lonely without Yaksha. Sita misses him too, of course. Umara tells her that death is the greatest gift Sita can give her, and once Sita learns all she needs to know, she can follow Umara home.
Sita tells Umara that she understands why Yaksha loved her; Umara comforts her more about the death, telling her that Sita’s face was the last one Yaksha saw, the last one Umara will see. Their destinies are entwined. Krishna hasn’t forgotten her; she cannot lose faith.
Sita doesn’t know how to thank her for her kind words, so she breaks her neck, fast and efficient, and Umara dies instantly.
Immediately, Sita is back in Egypt. The Cradle waits to attack. The kids don’t know that she’s been gone, can’t tell that anything has changed even though their power is less now that Umara is gone.
Sita goes to talk to the Telar’s head Familiar. She bows to Hatram and makes niceties. Since she’s talking to a demon, she thinks it is natural that she lie. She claims she has come to set him free from the tedious task of guarding the Telar. She was with Tarana, and they came to an agreement. She killed the Telar who kept this group alive, and in return, Tarana said Hatram would help her people.
Since her people are children, Hatram is not impressed. Sita sways him a little when she tells him that Umara is the one she sacrificed to Tarana for Hatram’s help, and even moreso when she says she did it by gaining Umara’s trust and then betraying her, which, of course, is exactly what Hatram thinks Umara did to him.
He has heard of Sita, the Last Vampire, and has heard that she’s not to be trusted. She tells him that she understands if he is reluctant to help, but she delivered the message Tarana told her to give, and if he wants to bother Tarana again, he’s on his own with that. Which is a pretty good play, since it’s clear that Hatram fears Tarana.
He wishes he could have seen Umara’s execution; Sita promises him that it was bloody and painful and that if he drops his protection, what they do to the Source will be creative. He says he will help (and is aroused at the thought of the violence, apparently, because that’s definitely a detail we needed, Pike), but only if she will give him Umara’s head. She promises him Umara’s heart, because it was her heart who betrayed him. That is acceptable, and he makes her appear in front of Haru’s table.
Their eyes are closed, so they don’t see her until she speaks to them. There are four men and four women present. Haru demands to know how he got in. She’s there and she’s not leaving until she gets what she wants, which is revenge.
She can tell they are all scared of her. She and Haru posture at each other in really boring ways. Part of what drags this book out too long is so many conversations, over and over, that go on longer than they need to and do very little to help the pacing.
The rest of the group blames everything on Haru, Sita talks and the Cradle makes things happen, first that they are all paralysed from the waist down. She tells them that she’s given Kram the order to fire cruise missiles at the temple and they will arrive in 10 minutes. She also says that they should thank her for her mercy considering what the IIC would do now that the Link is shattered if they were in control.
Haru tries to bargain with her, Sita ignores him and stays long enough to see the missiles arrive and the temple be engulfed in flames. So you really gave the kids basically nothing to do, huh. I wonder how they’re going to feel about that.
Sita returns to the room in Malibu. The majority of the kids are still in the trance, the Cradle attacking the Telar who protected Haru and his people, those who are related to the blood that they are using. Sita leaves Umara’s body next to Lark’s and runs upstairs. She wants to get out of the building before the children start dying; she doesn’t want to see them suffer.
She runs into Matt, first, though, and learns that Seymour is looking for her. He discovered that she had switched the vaccine for the virus. He got suspicious when the kids didn’t immediately start feeling better, so when Sita took the kids for the attack, he talk to Charlie about what it was.
Matt agrees that using Seymour was clever (Seymour loves kids and was genuinely happy to give them the shots because he thought he was helping them), but now Seymour’s causing trouble. He’s demanding that they give the kids the vaccine immediately and Charlie is sort of supporting him. Even Matt is leaning toward just leaving the Lens infected but saving the rest of the Cradle, who should be harmless without the Lens.
Sita points out that there’s no guarantee that the IIC won’t come up with another Lens in a few months. They have to destroy all the heads of the hydra just like Hercules. When Matt talks about that one head even Hercules couldn’t destroy, Sita waves it off because she doesn’t have time for that kind of, you know, logic and honesty.
When Sita keeps pushing to have the building evacuated, except for the infected kids, Matt figures out that the Source has actually been destroyed. He doesn’t know that Umara is dead, and when Sita tells him, his rage and sadness makes her feel helpless. He’s horrified when he learns that Sita broke her neck, even though Umara had warned him that it was time for her to die and even though breaking her neck was probably the easiest way for Sita to do it.
(I realise that Umara didn’t fight back, but it seems weird that it was so easy to kill the last original member of the very first Link.)
Matt reaches for her, and Sita wonders if he’s about to kill her, but she won’t stop him, no matter what, because she deserves it and the “fiery damnation” that she knows will come after.
And then he tells her he’s proud of her. He would never have had the courage to do it all. I definitely hoped he was going to reveal himself as tied to her Familiar, a part of the judges at the Scale, etc., but nope.
They quickly split up the last of the work. Sita will get Shanti, Seymour, and Charlie and help get the IIC out. Matt will do that as well and control security. He also has a Telar grenade pinned to his chest. He fills her in on the van he has waiting outside, equipped with cell phones and weapons. Sita knows he’s hiding something, though.
Shanti comes looking for Sita, worried about Umara and the kids. Sita sends her to the van. She runs into the Brutrans next, and they are armed. They’ve placed Charlie and Seymour under guard because Sita’s gathering her people and trying to leave.
Sita tells them that the Source is gone and their business is finished. They talk about the kids, Jolie’s showing symptoms now, and Matt’s collected all of the vaccine. The Brutrans refuse to release Seymour and Charlie until they get the vaccine.
She adds that the kids are assassins and she can’t just leave them in the IIC’s hands. When Tom asks if she’s going to kill them, Sita turns it on Cynthia to decide because Cynthia is Jolie’s mother. Even though she cares for Jolie, as Cynthia points out.
Sita says she’ll save the kids as long as they separate them around the globe and make sure they have no contact with each other. If they don’t, she’ll hunt the kids down and kill them, after she kills the Brutran’s, first.
Tom says she’s in no position to tell them what to do, but Sita keeps turning to Cynthia, who holds her gun right between Sita’s eyes. It’s a hard decision, and Sita is sympathetic. That’s why she dumped the decision on Cynthia, because Jolie is both a monster and a little girl, she is what they made her to be.
Aww, I miss Kali too, Sita.
Cynthia starts to pull back the trigger, but doesn’t fully fire. She’s thinking about love; Tom tells her not to fall to pieces on him now, because he needs her, Jolie needs her, to get the vaccine. Until then, they’ll be at Sita’s mercy. (“The witch,” he calls her. You wish.)
Tom keeps arguing with her, angry when she talks back, and she shoots him in the forehead. That’s pretty great. Cynthia turns the gun back on Sita and says that she’s made her decision. Cynthia and Jolie will leave with Sita. Sita will give Jolie the real vaccine, and it had better work fast.
Sita wants to know why she’ll follow Sita; Cynthia and Sita both know that their work is not yet done, not with CII still out there influencing the people playing it. Cynthia will release Seymour and Charlie. Sita will decide what to do with the rest of the kids.
I … I am 100% here for a Sita, Shanti, Cynthia, and Jolie teamup. Did not see that coming.
A short time later, they’re in the black Mercedes van that Matt put together. Matt drives, Sita’s in the passenger seat. Behind them are Cynthia, Jolie, and Charlie. Jolie’s been vaccinated, but is still groggy from the pain meds. Behind them are Shanti and Seymour. The “last session” (I assume Sita means with the Lens and the Cradle) has left Shanti weak.
Seymour, meanwhile, is furious and doesn’t want to abandon the kids. What Seymour doesn’t know is that Matt rigged the place to blow. I mean, he did have that grenade earlier and all.
Cynthia sides with Sita because they’ve lost control of the Cradle in many different ways and they need to start over fresh. So, pretty much exactly what Sita was worried about earlier when talking to Matt. How, exactly, are you going to deal with that, Sita?
Seymour begs to be left with the kids, but Matt tears out of there at 80 miles an hour. Even then, the explosion is huge behind them. Sita knows she’s damned them all, but still thinks it was the right thing to do.
A little later, Cynthia, who has been working on her laptop, finds out that their pictures are now on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Do … do you guys make up pretty much all of it, then?
Oh, no, just Sita, Matt, and Cynthia, in that order, with Seymour in a small row at the bottom of the page.
They’re not on the list because they blew up IIC, though; Cynthia knows that someone higher up the food chain made the list and put it into place to make it difficult for them to travel. Seymour suspects the Telar. Matt says no, because the group is not only in disarray right now but also delighted that Haru and his inner circle are dead.
Cynthia and Sita are on the same page: the Cradle’s internet program activated because they killed the Cradle. The only question is how; Cynthia’s certain that all the kids were in the facility when it blew up, but maybe they designed the program to take over if they ever stopped feeding it.
Matt scoffs, because they can’t possibly know anything about computers, they’re just kids. Which goes to show that Matt is completely and totally out of touch with pretty much everything. Willfully obtuse, I think is the phrase I want.
Cynthia even suggest that the program might be alive; Seymour calls that science fiction because humans are decades, maybe centuries, away from intelligent machines. Impossible, Seymour? You’re literally in the car with an immortal, a vampire who has come back to life at least three times now, a psychic who can kill people with her mind, and another psychic who could partially block the thing used to kill people with minds. The fuck, Seymour!
Besides, this isn’t just about human programmers. Tarana is the one who was the real president of the IIC, he might have taught the children things that predate the birth of our sun.
Sita agrees with Matt and Seymour, though, that the computer can’t be conscious. Uh, really? AGAIN, look at who is in the car with you, much less everything else that has happened over the past few days. Years. Centuries. Millenia. And it just keeps going.
They discuss different possibilities: there were other children in the Cradle, but Sita thinks they would have come in to help destroy the Source and also she didn’t sense any; Tarana, but he’s just a Familiar, if powerful — but then Cynthia sort of believes that the Familiars have a hierarchical organisation and the ones at the top may have evolved into something even more than what humans can imagine.
A cop turns up behind them, trying to get them to pull over. The ID Matt used is clean, he swears, but Cynthia says the van might have been caught on IIC’s cameras. She suggests that they stop and see what the cop wants but be ready to react fast.
Two officers get out of the car and come up on either side of the van. Sita’s surprised that they have their weapons already drawn. I mean, clearly you walk through the world in white skin and don’t usually have to worry about such things even after you’ve been killing people.
One of the cops orders Matt out of the van. Cynthia tells him that by law the officer has to tell them why he stopped them and why he wants them out of the vehicle. Matt calls Cynthia a lawyer and demands to know why they’ve been pulled over. The cop puts the gun to Matt’s head; Cynthia turns to Sita to fix things, because she doesn’t know the extent of Matt’s power.
Sita starts with the cop on her side, sending him back to the vehicle and making him forget about them. The other cop gets even more worked up at that and Sita turns to him, catching his brain and getting him to tell them what they want to know. Everyone has been warned that the van needs to be stopped and that the people in it are armed and dangerous. He doesn’t know what crime they are allegedly tied to, though.
Sita’s extra grumpy after she does this because she hates using her psychic abilities right now; Tarana feels attached to everything she does and she feels like she’s being watched constantly.
And it’s time for them to go off the grid. Shanti doesn’t know what that means, so we get a brief breakdown (avoid cameras, away from internet connections, only cash, change how they look, etc.), and Shanti is fully dismayed at the thought.
They end up in Baker, Nevada, about 30 minutes outside Las Vegas. That doesn’t seem very off the grid, y’all. Sita thinks the people who live there are preparing for hell because in the summer, the average temperature is 100 F, and right now, in the fall, it drops to 99 F.
Wing aside: A few years ago, Dove, Raven, Ostrich, and I had a holiday in Vegas during the summer. They hated the heat. I was thrilled with it all the way up until about 115 F, at which point it got a little warm even for me. I love the heat, though, especially when it is dry like in the desert. I’m pretty much a snake, I guess, always cold unless I’m warming myself on my environment or basking in the sun.
They’ve stolen a truck and rent three rooms in a crappy hotel. Shanti and Sita share one with a queen bed. Sita offers to get Shanti ice to cool her off, but Shanti laughs, because she’s from India and doesn’t mind the heat. The same could be said for Sita, you know, but I love you, Shanti.
Sita’s still upset about how things have gone so wrong, over and over, but Shanti is more optimistic. Maybe the computer program is the immortal Hydra head that never dies and they have to bury it somewhere. A mainframe in Antarctica, Sita suggests, and I both love that idea and want that horror movie.
Sita also wants to figure out how it happened so quickly. Someone must have tipped off someone else (the program itself, maybe) in order for it to happen the way it was done.
Talk turns to that last session with the Lens; Shanti did link with them, though she didn’t see things as clearly as Sita did. She heard Umara and Sita exchanging thoughts, though doesn’t have everything clear. She did also feel like she was back on the mountain where Teri broke her leg. Sita tells her a little about her journey through the underworld, which was like a Greek myth.
STRANGE since from the beginning, her story leaned hard on Krishna and his teachings, not Greek myth, but okay.
When Sita talks about the witch, she talks about there being things wrong with her, her face scarred — and, of course, she says this to Shanti. FUCK YOU, SITA. She rushes to say that she didn’t mean the scars made her a bad person, but (a) that’s exactly what you implied and (b) PIKE THAT’S WHAT YOU KEEP FUCKING WRITING.
They talk through the riddles (Shanti guesses discipline as the best/worst thing that was actually faith), and Shanti is disturbed by what Sita says about Krishna’s teaching. Shanti believes that he taught faith in the way that you don’t prove God, you just believe. Sita argues that Krishna was more scientific about it, you should uncover small proofs along the path you follow so you don’t chase illusions. Shanti doesn’t believe it would say anything like that in the Vedas.
Sita doesn’t want to get into a religious argument, she says, she just wanted to talk about the witch and how she was saved by jumping. Sita doesn’t want to tell her what’s next even though Shanti is actually fascinated by the rest of the story.
When the air conditioner kicks off, even Shanti is upset and says it would be hard to live there because it’s like it is surrounded by fire. That strikes a chord with Sita, something she’s heard before, something about a world filled with fire.
Shanti goes to bed, leaving Sita to read Krishna’s version of the Hydra myth again. She thinks about how she destroyed two Hydra, the Source and the Cradle, but only with the Source did she follow Krishna’s directions, killing Umara and removing the Telar’s protection much like Hercules removed the Hydra’s immortal head and buried it. She hasn’t done the same with the Cradle, but she can’t think of what would be their immortal head, unless it’s the computer program.
Shanti’s still awake, and they talk a bit about her being glad Sita found Krishna’s book. Sita’s still curious about how Shanti had the original when she was sure that the Telar took the original back and Sita gave Shanti a copy. Shanti says she was given the original to protect the secret messages inside. Seymour told her about them, she says when Sita points out that she never said anything about them.
Shanti thinks it is sad that the Telar will start to die now that Umara is gone and their protection gone; she says goodnight and tells Sita that she loves her. Something stops Sita from responding the same, because she’s certain that she gave Shanti a copy, not the original.
Goddamn it, Pike, if you make the one brown woman you keep around the bad guy, I am going to burn things the fuck down.
Sita thinks about this as a mystery she can’t solve, and then that mysteries are pretty close to riddles. She suddenly feels like the answer to this mystery can be found in the first riddle that the ferryman asked her. She doesn’t even remember it, really, until the heat washes over her and it helps. The first riddle was what’s the most useless human emotion. Sita said fear, of course, but it’s wrong. She still can’t figure out the answer.
She wakes Shanti enough to apologise again for comparing her to the witch. When she says that Shanti’s face looks great, Shanti hesitates before she agrees. When Sita asks about that, she admits that sometimes she feels like all the work done to her is an illusion, she still feels ugly inside. She then asks if Sita ever feels ugly inside, and Sita tells her that she did that day. Shanti asks if it was when she injected the kids, and Sita says yes after her own hesitation. She has lots of guilt, regret, remorse, all synonyms, and she talked to the ferryman of death about synonyms, too.
Shanti asks if she can sleep now, and Sita says yes, but only moments later she wakes Shanti again after she thinks of Tarana talking about pain and fire and burning. Sita finally flat out asks why Shanti lied about Yaksha’s book. She’s certain that she gave Shanti a copy; Shanti asks if she’s accusing her of stealing it.
Shanti puts her robe back on even though it is so hot in the room and sits next to Sita. Her plastic surgery isn’t so great when she’s tired and not wearing makeup. Her scars are more visible. She reaches for Sita’s hand, but Sita doesn’t take it.
Shanti says that it seems like Sita doesn’t trsut her suddenly. Sita asks how Shanti blocks the Cradle; Shanti doesn’t know. Sita tells her that the first time the Cradle attacked Sita, they used Shanti as the focus object. They put her on the TV and made Sita watch while she put a gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger, blowing away half her face and making her look like the day they met.
Goddamn, Pike, are you really fucking doing this?
Sita asks how long Shanti was outside the London motel before she rushed in and saved her. Shanti says that she and Seymour had just arrived. Sita’s always been curious, because that was the worst time the Cradle hit her and Jolie wasn’t even there like she was at Cynthia’s home. She wonders if Shanti and Seymour were outside the hotel for an hour. She asks how Shanti got Matt’s blood. Sita asks if she took the bandages after Lisa cleaned up from Matt’s fall; Shanti says no. Sita says she can never tell if Shanti’s lying even though she always can with everyone else.
Shanti’s the mole. I am going to burn everything down. WTF, Pike. WHAT. THE. FUCK. You literally just talked about how Sita didn’t mean to imply that the scars = evil, and yet here you fucking are writing the exact same goddamn thing again but this time with a heaping dose of racism because you can’t keep a fucking brown woman alive and good.
Shanti is, in fact, Tarana.
Tarana sends Sita into an expensive hotel suite overlooking a large city. She doesn’t recognise the city, though. Tarana comes to her, a young man around thirty. She knows he’s the source of the feeling of being watched, the very powerful Familiar, the one standing behind her.
Oh, cool, and Shanti’s been lying from the beginning, of course. She didn’t actually read the Gita, she wasn’t actually following Krishna for good, she was on “the left-handed path” and tried to raise the dead, etc., much like how Yaksha came to earth.
Goddamn it, Pike. I can’t even with this casual bullshit racism. Like, yes, Shanti could be just an interesting character, someone we thought was good who is actually bad. And that’s a great story. But here’s the thing; when the only brown characters you have end up dead or evil, there’s racism baked into the very essence of your storytelling. Those don’t have to be intentional racist choices. In fact, they’re probably not. It’s that racism that is so deeply embedded in our society that causes those sorts of choices to be made. All the reasons that Tarana (well, we’ll get back to who he is in a minute) chose Shanti could just as easily have been put on a white girl, and we wouldn’t end up with one brown woman dead and one brown girl evil.
I fucking hate everything right now.
Anyway, he keeps pushing Sita to think of him as Tarana; she wonders if he’s doing that so she won’t guess who he really is. They talk back and forth about the Scale, whether Sita could have redeemed herself with it if she hadn’t decided to kill all those kids, Sita continues to not accept that there is no fucking before and after when it comes to the Scale, just always all at the same time, and she asks for more from him. She wants the Cradle’s program destroyed, but he says he can’t.
He won’t. He wrote the program, and the Cradle were his children and now she’s killed them. Sita says she’s glad to surprise him since he hates boring people, and that sets off his anger. She wiped out years of preparation. The Cradle were his strongest link to the world but for that program, and it won’t be easy to replace them.
It’s his turn to offer her more, because she’s damned, she either plays by his rules or burns in this whole city surrounded by fire. He’s pleased that her greed grows. Sita asks for the answer to the first riddle the ferryman gave her. He refuses at first, until she offers to help create another Cradle for him. He thinks the ferrymen and the riddles are a waste of time and can’t believe she’s asking for so little in return for such a huge thing.
He continues to refuse to answer her riddle even when she tells him what the riddle is; she’s not supposed to remember it, but she does. She then turns talk to his riddle. She has two aces to play against him and is trying to step carefully. Pride going before a fall is the answer to his riddle, the answer he accidentally showed her in the London hotel room. He wanted to take her all the way to hell to break her, but in taking her so deep, she saw who he really is and discovered his little secret.
He throws his glass at her; it shatters and tears a three-inch gash in her face. She’s worried she’s already pushed him too far. You certainly don’t seem to be trying not to push him, Sita.
She keeps going, telling him that he must have wanted her to see. He wasn’t talking about Umara when he ordered her to destroy the Light Bearer. He doesn’t need to hide between the Tarana anymore. If humility is out of his reach, as he claims, and he has to be proud of something, he should be proud that he is Lucifer.
Because of course he is. Of course we’re deep into Christian mythology again. Good times, good times.
He tells her that this is her last warning. She continues, calling him the greatest of the great, the one given the divine light, and in his greed, he fell into it and learned he and god were the same, which made him run and hide.
She gets close enough to whisper in his ear, the bravest thing she’s ever done: that is why he ended up in this hell, because he was too proud to admit he was no different than god, but he also never told the truth to his followers, who damned them for no reason. He fell for nothing. That makes him nothing.
He grabs her throat, preparing to decapitate her. She manages to get out her last words: You no longer have any power over me.
Okay, Pike, we all saw the Labyrinth. Fuck.
Sita’s last words: You no longer have any power over me. You never did. You see, I remember the answer to the riddle, and what it means for me.
That surprises him, and his spell breaks. She’s back in the motel room with Shanti and she grabs Shanti’s throat. Guilt is the most useless of all emotions, Sita says. No matter how many people she saved, she still felt guilty over the ones she killed. That was what made her feel like she didn’t deserve to see Krishna. But it was a lie and Lucifer, the father of lies, exploited her weakness and made her only remember part of what happened when she died.
Sita calls Shanti a bitch, tears off her head, and throws it out the window.
Goddamn it, Pike.
Epilogue. Thank god, because I have to get to burning things down.
Sita’s back before the Scale. Judgment has passed. The wail continues. The Caretaker gives his speech again, makes her the offer. She then realises she’s holding down the left plate; she unconsciously pushed it down after the invisible force released her hands. Guilt made her do it. She lets go and the side with diamonds sinks down. Chimes sound.
The Caretaker, Lucifer, releases her arm and tells her he almost got her. She tells him to go to hell, and a white-hooded Caretaker (white hooded is maybe not a descriptor you want to use, Pike, especially considering all your other goddamn racism) takes her toward the room on the right. The wise woman joins her for a moment, and Sita almost remembers her name. She promises to join Sita soon.
In the golden light, it becomes one with her and she enters a long tunnel. She sweeps through it easily this time and sees different colored caves: white ones that make her amazed, green ones that reminds her of everyone she ever loved in life, multicolored ones that draw the majority of people.
Finally she reaches a tunnel filled with blue light. She’s wearing a blue gown with a yellow sash at her waist and a gold chain around her neck holding a single indigo jewel. It reminds her of the Kaustubha gem Krishna wore on earth but is even darker. It hangs over her heart and emits energy that fills her body with joy.
Krishna greets her, and she still feels afraid and unworthy, at least a small part of her. She begins to weep, happy and sad at the same time, and asks him if she really belongs there. He tells her that the choice is hers. She feels like she still has to atone but there is a time when even the last vampire can leave the world to their own destiny.
Sita looks deep into his eyes and sees some of the things that have happened in this book, hunting Haru, etc., but it all feels like something that hasn’t happened and has all at the same time. Because, Sita, for the last goddamn time, there is no before and after here. GOD.
She also finally realises that the wise woman is Umara.
Krishna offers her the chance to return to earth, to extend her life, not Lucifer as she thought before. Krishna is infinite and past and future has no meaning to him, but they have meaning to her. She cannot decide whether she should ask to go back or if she should stay. Leaving him feels impossible.
Before she can ask, he tells her that it doesn’t matter, whether she stays or she goes, she will always be with him. That heals her last shred of doubt, and she knows the truth: what she decides doesn’t matter because she has faith.
And this book finally fucking ends. F I N A L L Y.
Goddamn it, Pike. Goddamn it. This could have been fun and interesting, if bloated and unevenly paced, and it was all those things, but also, god, you fucking suck. Fucking racist storytelling, and sexist, and ableist, and I cannot even deal with the fucking bullshit here.
And there’s still one more goddamn book.
I have both ebook and physical copies of this series. I may have to burn the physical ones to purge myself of this rage when I finally finish the damn series. Goddamn it, Pike.