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Story listed as: Fiction For Adults | Theme: Science Fiction | Subject: Coming of Age / Initiation | Published here : 11/17/2016
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Your Skin A Womb (Part 1 of 2) 
 
By MONGIWEKHAYA
Born 1981, M, from Johannesburg, South Africa
Author Profile
There are darker actions abroad and more often than not, their intentions are unequivocally opaque. In this age of massive technological strides there is a rise in moral ambivalence and rampant decadence. Technology is a tool to bring about prosperity, yet it has become the breeding ground for most of the world’s problems. Some fear it may one day raise a crisis too virulent to solve. In short, we are at risk gentlemen, a world held hostage by its own creations. We must find individuals of a high moral standard to investigate these events and give them powers of Executor—powers of discerning judgement and absolute execution.—Dr. Mistry Koukei, member of the Technocratic Society (TS)and avid champion of The Technocratic Agency for Singularity Control ( TASC)—June 2081

It is hard to see the city through the thick film of rain. It’s not cold; it’s heavy and warm and relentless. The neon lights of restaurants and shops run from your vision as if diluted by the sweaty water, and anyone walking about is bent crooked as they lean into the wind, trying to save their view of the world from melting. Above in the rich tender centre of the city of Varanasi, on a giant holo-board, the Indian musical star Rajesh Duji thrusts his pelvis back and forth to the tune of thunder and lightning.
And the wind howls in pity.
The Hotel stood in the old quarters. A dilapidated building, once occupied primarily by VR shut-ins, and implant junkies. Now even such clientele was rare due to the partial collapse of the South-eastern portion of the building, into the Ganges river.
The monsoon rains had swollen the Ganges beyond its shores, scaling the foundations of the Hotel, occupying the basement and several rooms on the first floor. On the west side of the building, someone huddled close to the front door banging away in desperation.
An old woman opened the door to see a forlorn figure of a human being, drenched through. The clothing sagged lacking shape, the hair plastered across the face, mascara ran down the cheeks in thick lines—ah, mascara. A woman then. The old woman opened the door wider. Charms woven into the grey dreads of her hair, chimed when she moved.
‘What brings you in such weather, dear?’ she asked. The young woman walked into the centre of the room, forming a large puddle. Her face was altogether extraordinary; strong cheekbones, rich ebony skin, green eyes.
‘My name is Grace Kelly, a Dosojin of the TASC agency,’ she said, ‘I’m looking for Rahasia Kahn.’
‘Mr. Kahn no longer lives here.’
‘What room was he in?’ the old woman looked away.
‘He packed up and left.’
‘What room.’
The old woman trembled slightly—whether from cold or fear Kelly could not say.
‘Floor 14, room 1407.’
‘A friend of mine and I will inspect it,’ Kelly said. The old woman tilted her head, as if to ask, ‘what friend’ when a long trench coat appeared next to Kelly. It was almost 7 feet tall, with sleeves that ended in large spidery hands. Hi-top sneakers covered the gargantuan feet. Not much could be seen of the face save for the glittering eyes and the semi-sentient nose twitching to scents the old woman could not discern. That nose.
‘Mordare,’ the old woman whispered. Mordare grinned.
‘Haven’t been to India in ten years,’ said Mordare as he took a twinkie from his pocket and bit into it, letting the soft cream squish out the sides of his mouth,’ still a shit hole though’.
‘Sorry,’ he said licking his lips, ‘we were so anxious to visit you, we skipped dinner. Want a bite?’ Mordare held out the twinkie as he looked up the stairs. His eyes glowed gold.
‘Sensors indicate you have a lot of children up there, ‘said Mordare turning to the old woman, ‘you wouldn’t be catholic by any chance?’
‘How did you appear like that,’ asked the old woman.
‘You still have implants in your eyes,’ said Kelly, ‘which makes you susceptible to manufactured hallucinations or, as in your case, erasures of details before your mind can register them.’
From somewhere above came the sound of shattering glass. Kelly darted back into the street. She looked up. Glass showered down amidst the heavy rain yet she just could make out the shapes that jumped from a window onto the building adjacent.
‘Somebody knows we’re home,’ said Mordare.
‘I can run them down,’ said Kelly.
Mordare laughed and winked at the old woman. ‘Ms. Kelly is over zealous. To chase anyone in this weather is a fool’s errand’ He looked meaningfully at the old woman. ‘Why chase a running suspect when we have all we need right here, eh?’
The old woman frowned but would not meet his gaze.
‘On with the mission!’ with that, Mordare started up the stairs. Kelly followed.
‘Wait a minute!’ shouted the old woman who hobbled to her ascending chair. Mordare did not pause a second for her, so Kelly was obliged to keep up to his pace.
Room 1407 was tiny and the rain lashing through the broken window sent up a flurry of papers. The curtains billowed. Mordare stood in the centre, scanning the room. He grabbed one of the sheets floating in the air.
‘Can’t read this.’
Kelly, strode over, took it from Hound.
‘Its notes. A journal.’
‘A journal?’
‘paper for writing down thoughts, something people used to do back in the day,’ said Kelly, snatching more pages from the air, ‘it’s a philosophical treaty—‘
‘We don’t have time for shit like that,’ said Mordare, ‘besides who uses paper these days?’
‘Someone off the network,’ said Kelly. Mordare rolled his eyes.
‘Everyone wants to be on the network darling. It’s just a question of economics.’
Kelly walked to the desk. A bottle of ink was spilt, soaked into the wood. She picked up an ornamental box, opening it. Inside was a BCI chip with tendrils of a neural interface. It was smashed. Kelly tilted the box to show Mordare.
‘Like I said, not everyone wants be on the network. ‘
Mordare opened his large trench coat to reveal his workman’s belt. From it he produced a plunger, a mallet and chisel, as he entered the bathroom. Outside the door they could hear the old woman wheezing as she came hobbling over. Mordare stopped.
‘She has served her purpose,’ he said, ‘get rid of her.’
‘What do you mean?’
Mordare glanced at Kelly. His irises glowed gold.
‘Ordinance 357 approved,’ said Mordare. He nodded and closed the door behind him.
‘As I said, Kahn is gone,’ said the old woman as she brushed her fringe from her face. Kelly’s eyes lingered on that hand; frail, pock marked with a web of blue-green veins standing in sharp relief to the sickly skin.
At that moment there came the sound of heavy blunt object striking porcelain. Both women were taken aback by it. Kelly recovered quickly and pretended as if it was natural.
‘What’s your name?’ asked Kelly.
‘Cassandra,’ she said, ‘Nadia Cassandra Ivor.’ Kelly unholstered her gun. Cassandra’s eyes glanced down at the weapon. She sighed, turning her back. Kelly lifted the gun, aiming for the base of Cassandra’s neck.
‘Do you mind,’ asked Cassandra, ‘if we convene in my room? It’s down the hall.’
Cassandra’s room was sparse yet tasteful, reflecting a soul that had learned to pare down her necessities.
‘Help and we can work a deal,’ said Kelly, ‘tell me what you know of Kahn and the Indian Solution.’
‘What do you know of the Indian Solution?’ asked Cassandra.
‘That it’s a miracle cure to the aging-problem.’ Cassandra shook her head.
‘It does not cure old age,’ she said, ‘it is the act of returning to the stream of life. To receive the gift one must already be changing. The person who steps in is not the same person who steps out. It’s a second chance.’
‘I’d like to talk to Kahn,’ said Kelly, ‘to learn more of this Indian Solution.’ The old woman laughed backing towards the window.
‘Why are you protecting him?’ asked Kelly.
‘I do not protect him. I buy him time,’ said Cassandra, ‘The migration is almost upon us. Thus the children of Kahn might be saved.’
‘Saved?’ asked Kelly.
‘From your precious agency.’ Cassandra looked up at Kelly, past the barrel of the gun.
‘You’re a servant,’ said Cassandra, removing her jewellery, ‘of a dying empire. There is no choice under its governance. Lift up the few, at the cost of many. I will not help you in your quest.’ She finished laying out her jewels on the table and stood in front of the bay windows, back to Kelly, hands folded across the waist. They stood that way for a minute. Outside the rain continued its relentless point of view.
The hammering down the hall stopped and was followed by a triumphant shout. Kelly and Cassandra listened to the sound of wet hi-tops on wooden flooring as Mordare arrived. In his hands: a clump of white hair.
‘Got him!’ he shouted, ‘Bleach down the sink and bath pipes, but it didn’t obliterate all evidence of him!’ Mordare held the clump of hair to his nose and took a deep sniff. The nostrils flared and quivered as its heightened sensitivity took in the full spectrum of the hair’s DNA. Mordare’s eyes glazed over for a moment as his mind searched the catalogue of smells he had gathered since they’d arrived in India.
The old woman opened the balcony doors and the wind swept in, swirling through her papers, obliterating the candles in the room. Cassandra climbed onto the ledge. Her clothes and hair were thrown in disarray, but she stood at peace with it. She breathed in the heavy air and looked down the sheer drop. This side did not end in a street but into the Ganges River itself, swollen and churning.
‘I’ve done all I can Kahn,’ she said to the storm, ‘now it’s your turn.’ The old woman leaned into the wind, slipping off the balcony into the angry depths, 14 stories below.



The Law, despite its principle functions, is only a guide. It cannot replace morality and conscience, the truth seeking mechanisms of the flesh.
The Novum of Technology by R. Kahn, former Agent of TASC 2093

Time passed and the rain kept coming.
Mordare satiated himself on a meal for two. Kelly ignored her food, gorged herself on the wine. The Hookah bar was a tiny abode strewn with Persian rugs and pictures of divine beings lining the walls.
‘She jumped,’ said Kelly for the 6th time. Mordare grunted and poured them more wine. The outside neon lights glowed green, blue and red, playing off their faces.
‘Why does her death shock you?’
‘She committed suicide!’
‘The woman was old,’ he said, ‘so no loss on her part. Besides she was a fanatic and a fanatic is capable of anything. What concerns me though, is you disobeying a direct order.’
‘I don’t kill just because I’m told to.’
‘Who’s your Handler?’
‘You know that’s classified.’
‘They’ve delayed my access. But I will find out.’
Kelly said nothing.
‘Heard you once was a 100 percenter,’ said Mordare. Kelly groaned audibly. No matter how deep a hole you tried to drop the past, the network always found a way to hyperlink it back to you.
‘What changed,’ asked Mordare, ‘you stopped believing in the purity of the human experience? ‘
‘That person doesn’t exist anymore.’
‘Fine. But it would help to know what skills you are outfitted with.’
Kelly shook her head.
Mordare licked his fingers. She wasn’t going to make this easy. Like all agents her personal information was classified. Normally a scan and cataloguing of her implants and upgrades could help him draw up a picture of her. But she possessed some kind of shielding. All he knew was that she had an abnormally large Nano-graphene interface chip lodged at the base of her spine. A thick tendril extended from it down the spine splitting into several thousand tributaries distributed through her body in place of a missing nervous system. Mordare had a guess as to what happened to it. As for her new bio-digital nervous system, it was still growing. What it did beyond the obvious…? Shit. He didn’t know.
‘Makes no difference whatever you are. TASC sent you to me. I give an order, you follow it.’
‘What I am is a human being.’
‘Course you are darling. We all are.’ Mordare’s condescending smile irritated Kelly.
‘I don’t kill without a good reason,’ said Kelly.
‘12 years ago, our kind did not exist. Then…’ Mordare made a small explosion with his hands, ‘bang! Hivemind was created. Interface chips changed the colour of the future. You could link Minds into networks, instant telepathic communication with your Facebook friends. How’s that for a hallelujah? Then some fundamentalists tinker with it and hey presto! Swarm. Zombies. Fantomas. The terror with the many faces.’
‘And so the technocrats sanctioned serial killers?’
‘We serve one purpose: to usher in benign Singularities. The world’s become a technocrat’s playground, manipulating the fabric of space, time, nature—just to see what comes out. There is no singular singularity. They are Legion and they all bring change. Our job is to keep humanity from the brink of self-annihilation.’
‘You think killing the old woman saved humanity,’ asked Kelly.
‘She was bloody camouflage. I never said collateral damage wasn’t a side effect of this business. The things I’ve done…,’ Mordare chuckled at the distant memories, ‘well they’re my trophies. My burdens. And one day I’ll die on the job or they’ll send someone to take care of me. There’s no retirement, no holidays, no friends, no family, no after work hours. Anyone in this line of work is necessarily alone. We’re orphans darling. Loners, the damned, whatever you want to call us.’ Mordare poured the last of the wine into his glass. ‘So… let’s get to the Quantum point: No one will miss you when you’re gone. But your actions have relevance. Either do your job or hurry up and die.’
‘An old woman died tonight.’
‘Darling, every night an old woman dies,’ said Mordare, ‘And in the morning a baby is born. Sometimes we’re lucky. Tonight it was just an old woman.’
Mordare stood up.
‘Be a dear and pay the bill,’ he said, ‘also we’ll have to wait out the rain. No good trying to sniff about. Kahn isn’t going to get far in it.’
‘He could buy a ticket out of the country.’
‘No that’s not going to happen.’
‘Why not,’ asked Kelly. Mordare walked out of the booth to the front door. He opened it staring at the rain.
‘Kahn will make his stand here. He’s got children to worry about.’





…To become ever more masters of the world, to advance from power to power, even if only collectively and perhaps no longer by choice, can now be seen to be the chief vocation of mankind.
Towards a philosophy of Technology, Hans Jonas, 1979

Mordare vanished into the storm.
So Kelly took to wandering the rainy streets. Occasionally she would enter a bar to refill her flask of whiskey. The Holo-flicks bored her. The food tasted awful. The nights and days blurred together in the monsoon weather as she oscillated between aimless wandering and sitting in her rented room staring out at the city.
She missed her old life as a ‘freedom fighter’ in the Anarcho Primitivist Militia, orphans trained to preserve humanity, born obsolete in an inhumane world. A kind of family. Most of them were probably dead. Besides who would accept her now, with that prosthetic in her neck?
TASC said she was lucky to be alive, to have a second chance. Kelly told the technocrats she couldn’t feel anything. They said her new bio-digital nervous system was ‘state-of-the-art’ technology. Once it reached maturation, she could switch it on with a thought and be able to feel again. She left it off. It was one of their ‘state-of-the-arts’ that destroyed her original nervous system.
100 percenter. Those were a dying breed. The collar they kept on her was her duty to the Technocratic Singularity Agent’s Oath: For the evolution of Mankind, I stand ready. For no one and no belief, save the species whose gifts are also their curse. I judge all, to save all even to the end of my own life. The future cannot be stopped. But it could be controlled. Something could be preserved.
One day the rain and the waiting stopped. She awoke to a fresh day in late September. The air was clear and there was a knock at her door. No one ever knocked on her door. Kelly rolled out of bed silently and drew her gun. She rose slowly to peek through the peep hole.
The door kicked open as Kelly flung herself back rolling to a crouch, gun aimed at—
Mordare.
Who laughed. He stooped under the door frame and entered.
‘You were easy to find,’ he growled.
‘I was never lost.’ Mordare strode to the table by the window, brushing aside the empty liquor bottles and Kahn’s Philosophical Treaty that Kelly insisted on saving. He placed down two steaming cups of coffee, a tub of honey and a wrap of rare roast beef.
‘One coffee is for you.’ Said Mordare, eyeing Kelly who was in her underwear.
‘What’s the honey for?’ asked Kelly.
‘Got a lead. The police found an old man in a dumpster,’ said Mordare, ‘guy was arrested for acting crazy. Won’t eat, won’t sleep, and won’t stop screaming for Kahn.’
Kelly sauntered over and picked up the coffee.
‘And the honey?’
‘For the old man,’ Mordare smiled. ‘Hard to scream with honey in your mouth.’
Mordare unwrapped the strips of rare beef, rolled them into a ball and proceeded to tear off pieces between gulps of coffee. Kelly stood there in the centre of the room, gun in one hand and drank the coffee.
‘You still haven’t activated that rock in your head,’ Mordare said.
‘It’s in my neck, not my head.’
‘You waiting for a special occasion?’
‘Something like that.’
‘You smell like a brewery and you’re covered in filth,’ he said, ‘Go clean yourself up.’ Kelly cocked one eye at Mordare. He was immaculate in his white button up and bomber jacket, a handsome Swedish face. Mordare was a certified surgery junky. He’d had everything altered, upgraded, removed, implanted, tightened, manipulated, slashed, stitched and multiplied. He had scalpels as retractable finger nails like he was some damn feral machine beast. Maybe that’s why she considered him the filthy one.
‘I wasn’t employed by the agency for my good looks,’ said Kelly dropping the empty cup and gun onto the table. She strode to the bathroom.


Once all of man was here. Then he started to learn the art of having things, too busy to remember to be here. Now he builds other realities and is the master of appearing everywhere except where he belongs: in the here and now.

The Novum of Technology by R. Kahn, former Agent of TASC 2093

The police officers of Adampur station kept the madman in solitary confinement. At first they placed him in a group cell. But the old man kept throwing himself on the others begging them to get him out of there right now. Worse, his bled from every orifice. So it was reasonable to transfer him into a private cell. By that stage the old man could not move, such was his agony. He continued screaming and gibbering, inducing such terror in the inmates in the adjacent cells that the police feared a riot on their hands. Desperate, they placed him into the farthest corner of the station, a solitary chamber with no bars or windows. Thus it was that Mordare and Kelly met the man known only as Bhai Sahib, naked save for a soiled loin cloth at his waist, his arms and legs shackled, inside a chamber that was moist with his sweat and blood.
Bhai Sahib was lying on his side, his breath raspy, and only his eyes seemed to move. When he spoke, it was with careful articulation so that the consonants of his words would not require too much of him.
‘I have no skin,’ he said to them. Mordare looked at Kelly.
‘What do you think?’ said Mordare. Kelly shrugged.
Mordare pulled out the small tub of honey. He studied the old man and his pale skin. Clearly not a local. Probably one of them despairing souls who found no solace in the religions of his own country. Probably took yoga in his twenties and ended up vanishing into the mountains of India for 40 years in search of meaning.
‘So… let’s talk Mr. uh…’ Mordare worked the top off the honey, ‘someone said your name was Buy Sausage or something like that—‘
‘Bhai Sahib,’ said Kelly. Mordare paused in his work and smiled prettily at her.
‘Thank you dear,’ he said turning back to the madman, ‘But these foreign words do trip my tongue up. Mind if I call you—‘ He waved a hand around as if thinking, ‘—Dingleberry. Mr. Dingleberry. It’s a term of endearment where I come from.’ Kelly sat stony-faced watching the madman’s reactions. He seemed to be focussed on the jar of honey as one of Mordare’s long Stonehenge fingers dipped in and stretched out a glob of the sticky stuff to catch it on that lazy tongue of his.
‘Are you hungry Dingleberry? It’s damn good honey, non-irradiated.’ The madman opened his mouth slightly. A short groan came from his lips. Mordare spooned him a bit of the honey. The madman’s tongue worked the honey deeper down his throat.
‘It would be easier to talk if we could sit you up, Dingleberry,’ said Mordare.
‘Please no,’ whispered the madman, ‘I have no skin.’
‘You have skin,’ said Mordare.
‘This,’ the madman struggled, ‘painful cocoon. Real self lies within. Must endure.’
‘What must you endure,’ asked Mordare.
‘Transformation.’
‘Transformation. Into what?’ The madman closed his eyes. Mordare placed the tub of honey on the floor.
‘Come help me move him,’ said Mordare to Kelly. The madman screamed at the idea, blood, spittle and honey issuing from his mouth, his nostrils. Kelly paused, but Mordare was adamant. They took an arm each lifting him to sitting position. His skin cracked and bled. It was rigid to the touch and movements caused it to rupture. The madman sobbed quietly to himself. Mordare and Kelly had to call the police again for tissues to wipe the blood from their hands.
‘What transformation do you speak of,’ asked Mordare.
‘You know. Everyone know.’
‘Consider me ignorant.’
‘My skin a sheath,’ he said, ‘soon now. It will harden. Won’t be able to talk. I will be as the dead. Then I will emerge fresh. New.’
‘Fresh and new?’ asked Kelly.
‘Kahn promised end. To suffering.’
‘Then you know where Kahn is.’ Mordare stood up, ‘We need to move him to a secure location, get a brain scan on him.’
‘Wait. Don’t you get it?’ said Kelly, studying the old man’s body, ‘this is the Indian Solution. We are witnessing it.’
‘An old man gets conned into taking a dangerous drug that will likely kill him.’
‘Moving him could kill him before we have a chance of knowing what is going on here.’ said Kelly.
‘Agent Kelly, an experiment in human metamorphosis is occurring outside of laboratory protocols. That’s all we need to know to act. We move him.’ Mordare banged on the door and exited the room.
The madman whimpered, his eyes rolling in his head. Kelly lifted up the honey, offering it.
‘Don’t let him move me,’ whispered the madman.
‘Bhai Sahib. If it were up to me,’ said Kelly spooning honey, ‘I’d leave you right here. Get you all the comforts of home. But you know how life is. You want to eat, you got to pay.’ She gave him her most sincere smile.
He looked terrible and a horrible smell wafted from his body. Maybe Mordare was right. This process caused human suffering and who knew what would emerge all fresh and new.
‘You do not find Kahn,’ said the madman, his head lowered to his chest, ‘he find you.’
‘What do you know of Kahn?’
‘He is one who carries people across river from here to there.’ Kelly sighed, scratching her head in irritation.
‘I got a killer hangover Bhai Sahib,’ said Kelly, ‘do you think you could be a bit more explicit?’
The madman closed his eyes, as if falling asleep. Kelly stood up and knocked on the door to be let out.
‘Wait.’ Kelly looked towards the madman.
The madman lifted his head and said, ‘what if I told you… Cassandra Ivor not dead?
Cassandra Ivor. The old woman who jumped into the river.
‘She is transforming. In a secret place. I tell you where.’
‘I’ll speak to Mordare to leave you here,’ said Kelly. The madman wept in relief.
Kelly found Mordare standing outside the police precinct smoking a cigarette staring at some street kids loitering across the street. Mordare glanced down at her and said:
‘Sorry. But the smell of the man was becoming unbearable. I think his body is rotting from the inside.’
‘Cassandra Ivor is not dead,’ said Kelly, ‘He gave me her current location in exchange.’
‘How can she be alive,’ asked Mordare, ‘she fell more than fourteen stories into a churning river.’
‘I asked the same thing. He claims the sacred waters of the Ganges bore her body to Kahn for rebirth. She represents something holy to him.’ Mordare spat on the ground.
‘Superstitious and insane. Typical,’ he said, ‘and the answer is no before you ask. We are transporting him.’ Mordare moved to cross the street.
‘Why do I feel you have a separate agenda in play,’ she asked chasing Mordare, ‘Hey I’m talking to you. Where are you going?’ Mordare walked up to the children who idled in front of the police station. The oldest amongst them stepped forward to meet him. There was a roguish grin on his sunburnt face and he cocked his head to one side. The light diffused through his white hair like a halo. Even his thick caterpillar eyebrows were white. The boy leaned towards Mordare, sniffing the air. He pulled back quickly, wrinkling his nose.
‘You are truly Puthujjana,’ he said. Mordare found the definition quickly on the Network and was not impressed.
‘What is Puthujjana,’ asked Kelly. The boy turned to her surprised.
‘I thought your kind gained information in an instant,’ he said, ‘why would you need to ask?’
‘Information,’ replied Kelly, ‘is not knowledge.’ The boy laughed and clapped.
‘Well said Sotapanna! This will please Kahn to know.’
‘You also know Kahn,’ said Mordare. The boy winked and swept his hands outwards.
‘Everyone knows Kahn, Puthujjana,’ said the boy, ‘even the Ganges has come to serve him. It protects him, even if you were to put a branch to your nose.’ The boy winked and tapped his own nose.
‘What is Puthujjana,’ asked Kelly. The boy slipped his hands into the tattered remnants of his jacket pockets and hopped from one foot to another.
‘Oh you know, there’s one standing next to you,’ said the boy, ‘he has information of all that has past, yet cannot see the pattern,’ The boy twirled on one leg and was grabbed by Mordare. Mordare lifted the boy off the ground, brought him to his nose and sniffed.
‘This Puthujjana,’ Mordare said, ‘would be most honoured to have young Buddha educate him in the wisdom of his teachings.’ The boy laughed hard before answering:
‘Oh Puthujjana. Do you not recognize that I am Skadagami? I can change the patterns you do not see. What have I to fear from you?’ The boy stuck a finger into the right nostril of Mordare. They stood that way for a moment before Mordare screamed in agony, dropping the boy who skipped back to his comrades. Mordare fell to the floor, clutching his head, shivering and shaking. Kelly looked up, angry.
‘What did you do to him?’ The boy lifted his index finger, wiggling his caterpillar eyebrows.
‘Cadaverine. With just a touch of Beta-mercaptoethanol. A most potent smell in a sensitive nostril.’
‘You have something special in mind for me as well then?’ Kelly’s voice was soft.
‘I bear you no ill will Sotapanna,’ said the boy who called himself Skadagami, ‘I only ask you to release Bhai Sahib. He is a Sotapanna and in need of us.’ Kelly unholstered her gun.
‘I’m afraid that’s not an option,’ said Kelly, ‘neither can you leave. You must come with us.’
‘That gun will do you no good.’
‘Gun?’ Kelly pointed the gun at him, ‘This is no gun. This is death, Skadagami. Do you not fear death?’ The boy raised his hands.
‘you cannot return to being Puthujjana,’ said the boy, ‘To kill without understanding the pattern, it will haunt you. I do not fear death. I fear becoming your ghost.’
Kelly pulled the trigger and blew a hole in the street pavement. The other children scattered into side streets. The police behind Kelly unholstered their guns, training them on her. She didn’t turn, though she knew where they all stood and formulated a plan of how to kill them should it come to that. Please don’t let it come to that she thought. There were enough ghosts trailing her.
‘I must leave you now Sotapanna,’ said the boy, ‘but I promise you this. We will meet in the middle of the river once more.’ Kelly stepped towards him, lowering her gun. The boy’s comment about the river reminded her of something the madman said.
‘Wait,’ she said, ‘Are you… Kahn?’

The boy smiled, turned and ran into the alleyways.

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