The Goddess that Lives in Cremation Grounds / Shweta Taneja

There are ancient powers even older than the oldest of daevas. Tantriks know of them, just like they know, or at least the smart ones do, that they need to be left untouched. These spirits have always been here to create and destroy, provide life and take it away. The goddess of death is one of them. She lives, floats and breathes in the outskirts of every village, every civilization, waiting in the darkness, waiting for the world’s time to end so that she can feed on it. Shamshana Kalika is her name, but don’t say it aloud. For she will hear and answer, and come to you and the ones you love. Shamshana Kalika was the only power that could possibly prevent the holocaust tonight. The only problem was that this goddess loved death too much to stop it.

‘Doing shava sadhana to control a danava is like putting out a bonfire with burning lava,’ said Dhuma as soon as I had told her about the plan. Her ash-covered, pendulous breasts swung as she rubbed a potion into the wounds on my back.

The skulls suspended from the thatched roof tinkled like wind chimes as a boiling waft of air drifted in through the window. The sun was dark and ominous. It was some hour of the evening.

‘But it might work, right? She’s the only one who could possibly stop Kolahal. Dhum, we are desperate. This is the seventh night. The new-moon night. The danava will devour half this city. Think of the countless people who could die. You once told me, poison fights poison best!’

‘A pinch of poison is enough for a snake-bite. Not a whole vat of it,’ replied Dhuma, hitting me hard on the head with her jhaadu.

‘But we can control her, right? We can put her in me, in a shell, and that will keep her powers contained.’

‘Control? Hah! You are talking about Shamshana Kalika here! She cannot be controlled by the living. She will swallow your soul before you can even close the door.’ Thwack! She hit me again. ‘Foolish girl! To her your life is like that of an insect. If you fail, she will gobble you up and not even belch. If you succeed, she will still eat you. You want to die?’

Excerpted with permission from Shweta Taneja from her novel Cult of Chaos, an Anantya Tantrist Mystery. 

Shweta Taneja is a bestselling Indian fantasy and science fiction author and scriptwriter. Her work is described somewhere between feminist, horror, experimental and humorous. Her latest novel is The Rakta Queen, an Anantya Tantrist Mystery (HarperCollins), an occult thriller set in contemporary Delhi. Find her online with her handle @shwetawrites 

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