When that didn't work, he started slapping her. Methodi cally, hard, back and forth right across the face. It had no effect. Jena fought weakly to pull away from him so she could continue dancing with the goddess, her smile blissful, her eyes focused on something he could not see.
I am your true mother.
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Accept me, and I will release you to act fully and freely, release you from the nasty, restraining constraints of pretense, practicality, and rationality. It was missing its little finger. This reminded Jena of something, but she was too far gone to make the connection. I will be your mother, as I am mother to all. I will protect you. I will do it. You stupid bitch, do you want to OD? Wake up.
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Come out of it! I'm not taking you to the hospital! I can't risk getting arrested again. Crimson began to trickle from one corner of her mouth. Reaching up, she touched the flow and gazed down at her red-stained fingertip with childlike wonder. Mother Kali would be pleased.
It's moder ating. Do you know how hard it is to get rid of a dead body in this town?
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How is it done? So he told her. It gave him yet another opportunity to play the big man, the knowledgeable one. Later, they made love on the old mattress on the floor that served for a bed. Later, she killed him, wielding a kitchen knife with all her weight behind it, plunging it so deeply into his chest that the tip passed between two ribs to emerge from his back.
She dedicated the slaying, the first of what she hoped would be many such sacrifices, to Mother Kali, who had finally shown her the Way. The next day she made arrangements for the disposal of his corpse, scrupulously fol lowing the directions he himself had described to her the previous afternoon. Then she sold what she could, packed a single suitcase, and bought a one-way ticket to India.
To Sagramanda, where the most prominent temple of Kali in the entire country was located. It seemed the logical place to begin looking for the missing finger of a goddess. She considered placing a farewell call to her parents. She had not spoken to her father for years, to her mother in months. But there was really no need, she assured herself. She was no longer part of their world.
Besides, she had a new mother now. One who would look after and protect her in ways she had never imagined. She shook the last of the old thoughts out of her mind as she approached the museum. She had visited here many times before, searching the corridors, the less-visited rooms, for signs of the Mother's missing digit. Always without success.
The ticket-taker recognized her as a regular and did not even ask to see the annual pass she had bought. Neatly, even primly, dressed, she attracted no more than the usual attention.
Sagramanda : A Novel of Near-Future India by Alan Dean Foster (2008, Paperback)
Years living beneath Sagramanda's sun had turned her skin the color of weak tea. Youth kept it free of blemishes. In her lean, tall, almost model-like slenderness, she was moderately attractive without being eye-catching. Her height alone was enough to draw the atten tion of those local men brave enough to approach her.
Whenever she felt too many native eyes on her, she would don large, ugly glasses. Maybe it was the bookish look that drew the young couple to her.
They appeared to be about her age, certainly no older. The man smiled hopefully and addressed her in English. When she had first arrived in Sagramanda, Jena had spoken only a few words of that language. Now she was as fluent as the stockbroker from New York she had encoun tered several months earlier. He and his wife were Australian, but their accent was not impenetrable. She ended up giving them a tour of the museum, whose contents were intimately familiar to her. By the end of the afternoon, the three of them were chatting together like old friends.
But to really appreciate it, you need to see it from the water. From the river. Where do we find a tour boat?
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Believe it or not, there aren't any tour boats. But you can rent small electric watercraft by the hour. But taking a boat out here, with all this commercial river traffic—I don't know Even the small boats have collision-avoidance electronics built into them. At least, the one we'll use will. At minimal cost they were acquiring a boat driver and a knowledgeable guide all in one. Seven o'clock. Any taxi driver will know where it is. The small, slightly tubby craft's batteries were fully charged and waiting for them.
The sheila was surprised to see Jena wearing a veil. With a nod in the husband's direction she added, "I don't have a mate to shoo away the obnoxious. They're worse than flies. We have your man to pro tect us. Under her practiced hands the boat backed out of the slip and spun away from the docks, humming smoothly upriver as its driver acceler ated. Along the way she pointed out one sight of interest after another.
Ensconced in the padded double seat situated forward of the wheel, husband and wife relaxed in each other's arms, content to let Jena do all the driving and most of the talking.
They stopped in midriver to enjoy a late supper, unpacking the takeaway meals just before nine o'clock. Around them, river traffic had slowed out of respect for the darkness. The Hooghly was still a highway for traditional boatmen who could not afford running lights, not even solar-powered LEDs, and who were reluctant to venture out into the busy watercourse after the sun went to sleep.