That’s because I am being slack with my nano novel and keep having to catch up again. I’m 5k off! Well, by the end of today I will be. I have 777 words to write before I will be 5k off! Of course, there are only three days left, so I really need to behave and stay on top of things now. Anyway, I haven’t got anything particularly interesting to say, so here! Here’s my prologue! Please be gentle, it’s very rough. Also, I am aware that a few of you have read this already. Sorreh!
Actually, no I’m not. ha! Suck it up!
Rajasthan. 234 B.C
Lakshmi knelt beside the body of her husband. She was 13 years old, and he had been 40. Terror seized her heart, she knew well what was expected of her. The practice of Sati was prevalent in her city and there was no doubt in her family, or her husband’s family that Lakshmi would burn upon her husband’s pyre. They had only been married for a few months when he had become ill and died, and his family blamed her. He had been strong and healthy, and had outlived two wives before her. How he had died was a mystery to everyone, but not to Lakshmi, she knew what had happened. She had been a dutiful wife, even though she had not loved him in the slightest. She was only 12 when her family married her off.
A month ago, she had turned 13 and still had not managed to grow pregnant. She tended her husband’s many other children, some very close in age to herself, as if they were her own. She had never complained, never admitted how much she loathed her husband. But Lakshmi had prayed for his death. She had given libations of milk and honey to the Lord Shiva in hopes that he would answer her prayers. This is why she felt such deep terror. Her husband was dead. She had prayed for it, and Lord Shiva had answered her call.
Lakshmi had not truly believed he would. Lord Shiva heard the prayers of all the people in the world, why would he make hers come true? She looked at the body of her husband, her eyes wide and fearful. She knew what this meant, what she would be expected to do as a dutiful wife. But she did not want to follow this man, this old man that she did not love, into the next world. Lakshmi would rather run away. She would rather be an outcast, a woman that no one would come to. Perhaps she could go and join the Sadhvis in another town. Surely, there must be a way to live. Soon, their families would come and the funeral rites would begin.
Time was running out, and Lakshmi had to move fast. She rose from the side of her husband, and left their hut. His children were with their grandparents, it was Lakshmi’s time to grieve. To prepare, to cleanse herself and be ready to burn in Sati as his side. That would not happen. Not to her. Lakshmi left. She fled, barefoot with nothing but the sari she wore. For days she walked, head down, away from the villages that she had once known. Closer, and closer to the burning grounds outside the village where the Sannyasis dwelt. Ascetics who had renounced all. Who lived in the burial grounds and partook of dead flesh.
It would take her many more days before she could find the women that may take her in, give her a new life and save her from the burning pyre of her husband’s body. Lakshmi had witnessed Sati before. The women screamed and screamed and begged to be released. Held down with ropes so that they could not escape the consuming flames, or kept in place by men who thrust poles into them every time they tried to flee. It was not a wonderful religious experience. No one would suffer if the Gods truly believed in the ritual of Sati. Would they? Perhaps it was her punishment. Perhaps she should go back and let them do that to her, after all, if she had not prayed, her husband might still be alive today. Lakshmi was lost in thought and did not hear her brothers in law as they came upon her walking close to the burning grounds just outside her village. They caught her easily, she was weak, and tired and as they pushed her to the ground and began to kick her, she started to cry.
“Please! Please! I just want to live!” But the men were brutal, they kicked her prone form until she stopped crying and passed out in the pain. When she awoke, she was in the middle of the burial grounds. Her brothers in law were seated with a Sannyasi. A man who wore nothing but the white ashes of the dead. Her eyes were puffy and it hurt to look out of them, she tried to move but everything ached. The look in their eyes was cold, hateful. Lakshmi had no idea why they had not just continued to beat her to death, and then she realised the Sannyasi was speaking.
His words were low and his eyes had rolled back in his head. She could not understand what he was saying. Terror pulled at her lower belly and she soiled herself. Humiliation tore through her and at last, the chanting was over. Everything was silent, before the Sannyasi pointed his bony finger at her and said “Virvrika!” His eyes white and as dead as her husband’s. Lakshmi screamed, her throat was on fire and her body convulsed, everything hurt but she could not stop the convulsions that tore through her body.
When at last she was still, her brothers in law left her, but the Sannyasi stayed. For three days and three nights, she lay amongst the charred remains of the dead, blind and deaf to the world, in a pain that left her throat seared with her own screaming, and then it was gone. No more pain, no more screams.
Lakshmi opened her eyes…