The following is a short story that preludes a series of novels entitled HIGHSIX:
Beneath The Desert of Nails, the young girl shivered. She was not used to the chilled air of the underground and was still dressed nicely for the dinner party she wouldn’t be attending tonight.
“Look at me,” said Mother Devusi. She raised the young girl’s eyes with her chin and forefinger. “No matter what happens, I am your mother now. There are trials in life. You have had many and this will be just one more. I will be right here waiting for you. Trust in Nithya. She has chosen me to choose you. You are special and The God of Hands has recognized that and sought you out.”
The girl knew it was obvious she was crying, but Mother Devusi showed no care.
“You are finally home, child. Now come and wash,” she said. “Your face and hands must be clean before I present you.”
The young girl used her knuckles to rid her eyes of tears and sniffled back her drippy nose. She noticed then that the room they were in was wall to wall and floor to ceiling stone. Etched into the surface was letters she couldn’t connect into words.
Mother Devusi brought her before a raised pool of water the girl mistook for a bird bath. Hundreds of hands were masterly cut from the same piece of stone as the rest of the room and looked as if they all gripped the wine glass shaped structure. Beyond it was a stone throne which too was composed of hands carved from the same rock the room was. It was empty, but still commanded her attention anyway. Her eyes didn’t leave until Mother Devusi spoke again.
“Wash and then kneel before Nithya’s throne. I will leave you to Her.” Mother Devusi reached in to the pool of water. It was opaque, but the reflecting candle light made the surface look like it was covered in a swirling rainbow. She opened up her sleeve and the girl couldn’t understand her new mother’s next quietly spoken words. A reptilian head rose from the liquid and crawled in to her sleeve swiftly, but the girl saw enough to notice its scales were a bright yellow, not reflecting light but shining its own from beneath.
The doors closed behind Mother Devusi and the young girl thought to not touch the liquid. She bit down on her tongue to stop more tears from coming. She was at the Mother’s mercy. If she disobeyed, there was no telling what they would do to her. She had been brought to this place so few had seen and if she refused she doubted they would let her leave. Even if they did and she got back home, come the night she would already be wishing herself to be back here.
‘You don’t have to,’ she heard. ‘Leave and you can go back to everything you once were. Stay and you can be what you never before could.’
The voice sounded like hers, but confident, and so she exhaled, preparing herself to obey.
Her tears were dried and she relaxed her jaw from gritting her teeth down in to her tongue. She ignored the taste of blood and then inhaled deeply before digging her hands in to the swirling rainbow liquid. Her cupped hands splashed the liquid into her face. She did it over and over until she was rubbing it in. She pushed through until she felt the slippery bottom and then rubbed her hands together. She brought them out, satisfied she had done what she was instructed to and ran her wet fingers through her hair. She wiped the wetness from her eyes and walked around the standing basin to kneel before the stone throne.
When her knees touched the ground she tried to close her eyes, but found them frozen. She shook her head, but her eyelids stayed still. The room looked as it had before. She looked down to her hands and they too were the same. She looked up to the throne and inhaled a gasp. There was no throne, but in its place a door. She recognized the pealing black paint and the bronze handle. It was unmistakably the door to her home, even the circle window at the top with the stained glass letter J in the middle.
“No,” she said aloud and rose to grab the handle. It turned and she walked in to the entryway of her home, the same as she’d left it this morning. The maroon carpet was the same, her father’s boots and her mother’s sandals sat as they always did in the corner. At the end of the hall was the portrait she remembered sitting hours for to be painted. Her father’s face stern with pride, her mother’s coarse duty stricken face and her own face, quiet and simple, but ruined and sad.
She heard a yelp and once again was moving before it had registered in her mind to. She turned the corner in to the living room and couldn’t breathe. There she was, wearing the same dress she wore now, but hiked up over the top of her hips, with her uncle, slacks to the floor, ramming his pelvis in to her. She backed away in to the dining room and stopped as she bumped the table. There she was too, her cousin’s hands over her mouth, wearing the same dress hiked up with her limp legs bouncing as he pulled her in to him. She ran through to the kitchen where she was on her knees in front of her neighbor, choking and crying. She turned around again and had to cover her ears as the sounds of herself squealing, weeping, suffering wouldn’t dissipate. They reverberated within her home, bouncing back and forth off the walls, but never escaping.
“Sweety doll!” she heard. “Come here. Come to Daddy.” Her body moved against her will and she was then in front of her father. “You’re filthy,” he said. “How dare you. You don’t deserve these clothes if you’re just going to ruin them.”
His mouth opened wide and his teeth wiggled.
“Take them off,” he said and his teeth fell from his mouth. “Give me your clothes.”
The teeth clinked against the floor, bouncing but never settling, the sound repeating over and over. She looked back up to him and more teeth grew in their place.
“How dare you disrespect me,” he grumbled, but before he could finish, his new teeth were falling and clashing to the ground with the others.
“Fuck her,” growled her uncle from the living room.
“Fuck her,” grunted her cousin from the dining room.
She was dead on the couch and she was dead on the table and their teeth were falling too, hopping across the floor and never stopping.
“I’m going to have to. You need to learn your lesson.”
The teeth were all over, covering her sandals, chattering against her skin and then their mouths were raining teeth. They rose to her ankles and then calves and she couldn’t move to back away.
“Show me yourself,” her father said as his tongue hung passed his chin, teeth sliding down with dripping saliva.
The teeth climbed to her knees and then thighs and the noise hurt more so she covered her ears. The teeth reached her waist and she could feel them consuming her, making her disappear.
Her father said something, but his tongue hung to his chest and the fluttering teeth made it unintelligible. He ripped her dress, his fingernails tearing skin away in stripes, and her hardly budded breasts were frozen exposed.
Then the sound was gone. The teeth still rose passed her tailbone and up to the bottom of her rib cage, but she could hear nothing. She lowered her hands in front of her and in her palms were her ears. She looked up to her father who no longer looked human, only a slobbering and flailing man, his skin sagging, almost melting.
“No,” she said. She was gone from the couch where her uncle’s head was all that was visible above the teeth. She was gone from the table where her cousin stared at her in bewilderment. Her father screamed, but it didn’t matter. She might as well have been watching him with a telescope blocks away.
Her father raised his fist, her uncle climbed over the teeth toward her and her cousin swam atop the teeth to her.
“Nithya,” she said and as soon as she did she felt the heat in her hands. The teeth receded from her and she raised her hands in front of her. They glowed so bright, but she was done with surprise and so clapped them in front of her. The teeth crumbled away into dust as her father exploded and disappeared under the teeth. She outstretched her arms and squeezed her fists, not even watching as her uncle and cousin showed their ugly innards. She remembered her neighbor and it was all that was needed as she could feel his life extinguishing behind her.
The teeth retreated, leaving a path to the door. She took off her dress and opened the door to neon yellow light. She fell in and welcomed unconsciousness like never before.
Her nightmares were gone and so instead she dreamt.