The Empresses' Secret
The Empresses' Secret9 mins 303 9 mins 303
Question Addressed: What is Sheryl's motive to save the earth?
Present: Fort Kochi 2021
"Covid 19 has left destruction in its wake, wiping out families overnight. Fort Kochi is believed to be one of the worst-hit places in the country, with almost 73% of the population infected and casualties of more than 20000, the most in any region in the country. Reports estimate that there has been at least one death in almost every household", the reporter on the TV spoke in a grim and somber tone." Charu immediately switched off the TV partly out of disgust and shock. She felt silent tremors running across her body, elevating her heartbeat. It was the same feeling of dread and foreboding that she had been experiencing over the last few months. The sword, Sheryl, Yuvaan's disappearance, and now the pandemic were intrinsically connected. She knew it. Her premonitions or "episodes" of extended deja-vu surely meant something. The visions of a devastating stretch of light like that after a nuclear explosion or an atomic bombing were a recurring affair. There was also a woman with a heavily disfigured face covered with a golden mask. Three ravenous and gruesomely mutated bats rested on her arm. She exuded a dark engulfing aura, and her mannerisms suggested a deathly kind of devotion, except the devotion was directed at something unholy, dark, and sinister. She would magically transform into Sheryl Verghese in every dream. And there were these flashes. Flashes of the undead. Flashes of unspeakable evil, under which the skies trembled, and the ground gave way to the pits of hell itself. The world would be overrun by it, consumed in its entirety, leaving only death behind. Briefly between these flashes, for a handful of seconds, she could see Sheryl trying desperately to communicate with her. What did she want to convey? She had no answers, only burning questions, that set her dreams and waking reality ablaze.
She was to be discharged today. Over the past few months, she had mastered the art of hiding her secrets in a secure sector of the mind, with the ability to unlock it only when she wanted. The doctors had told her that she had been admitted at the request of her father Oomen. She had been found screaming incoherent phrases and names in the middle of the night. They had attributed it to the shock of losing Yuvaan. She could go home now, for she had shown significant signs of recovery. Only one question tormented her. If dad had been so concerned, why hadn't he visited her even once? She would have to find out on her own.
Journal entry 57, Date: February 2nd, 1937-Sheryl Verghese
It's been five years since we have been married, and these have been the happiest years of my life. Anthony is a doting husband. The way he looks at me makes me believe that there is no darkness in this world and nothing can ever go wrong. All of my family's wealth and riches are nothing compared to his smile. Though he pretends to smile all the time, I know he doesn't wholeheartedly. The only grief I have is the fact that we haven't had any children. Though we have tried, the gods haven't been kind to us. I know it kills him inside. He has promised that he shall find a way. He has a special surprise in store for me. Oh, Him and his childish tricks. I guess that's the reason that I fell in love with him in the first place.
Journal entry 58, Date: February 3rd, 1937-Sheryl Verghese
I am over the moon. Yesterday Anthony gave me the most beautiful thing I have ever laid my eyes on. It is a sword so beautifully crafted with such exquisite craftsmanship and finesse that it feels royal and regal like that fit for an empress. Anthony says it's Cleopatra's sword. It traveled the world to rest in my hands, he says. I am destined to carry her legacy forward. Local legend suggests that the sword is the sword of destiny itself; it possesses the power to bend fate and time. Cleopatra used this very sword to seize control over Egypt by defeating her enemies and vanquishing the dark plague. It has magical secrets hidden in them, granting the bearer of any wish they want to fulfill. There is a book with strange symbols and diagrams that was found with it. Maybe that can unlock its hidden secrets? Oh, I am overjoyed. Can anyone love someone so much that they end up going to the corners of the earth just to make the other happy? The only thing that I want now is to make him happy. I am going to use this sword to ask for a child and fulfill his heart's desire.
Journal entry 60, Date: February 3rd, 1937-Sheryl Verghese
I have had the strangest dream. A priestess with a mask of pure gold came into my dream today. She says that she's been Queen Cleopatra's personal priestess. It is she who bestowed her with unparalleled beauty and strength to conquer and rule Egypt. She even showed a glimpse of the royal queen in the crystal ball she carries. So regal, charismatic, intoxicating is her beauty that I swooned in my dream. Imagine the irony! If only I could look half as good as her. Though half of my face is burnt and scarred due to the hot vat of oil that spilled on me when I was four, I know I possess beauty. I am beautiful. Anthony alone sees it. Even the queen sees it now; she has promised to impart her beauty once I have fulfilled my desire of bearing a child. The priestess has instructed me to chant some hymns and read the strange golden book every day. I would need to drink an elixir of strange concoctions until the next 36 full moons and ensure that the sword is never within touching distance from anyone else apart from me. Not even Anthony. Only then will the angel Apopis bless me. Apopis- she says is the imparter of wishes and the fulfiller of dreams. Everything I do going forward should be to serve his cause. She says that I will understand the true meaning only after I surrender my soul to the cause. I am elated. I have hope now.
Journal entry 80, Date: February 23rd, 1937-Sheryl Verghese
I can't believe it. My face has started to heal itself. The scarred tissue has magically now transformed into flawless gleaming skin. Only a small portion of burnt tissue remains. This is a sign from above that everything is going to turn out for the better. I now possess the power of beauty. It's the most incredible feeling in the world. One I never had a chance to experience before. The mirror, too, blushes at my sight. Anthony can't get his eyes off me. I am forever indebted to the great queen and the priestess for bringing joy into our lives again.
Journal entry 124, Date: April 29th, 1937-Sheryl Verghese
It has been 36 full moons. My face has completely been transformed. Not a single scar or blemish remains. The great priestess has been true to her word. I possess a beauty of a goddess. My stomach, too, feels heavy. I can sense a silent beating heartbeat growing inside me. I never believed in miracles, and now I do. With both of my wishes fulfilled, I feel I can achieve anything now. Anthony will be overjoyed, knowing that this large mansion will now be filled with the innocent cries of a child. But yet, he doesn't have foresight. He doesn't understand. He keeps suggesting that I seem to have drifted away and that I am not Sheryl anymore. Nothing of my former self has remained, he says. Doesn't he realize that all this is being done for him? The priestess has told me not to worry about him and instead focus on the greater goal. I have now started reciting those hymns throughout the day. Total dedication and devotion is what she asked for, and This is the least I can do.
Journal entry 134, Date: June 29th, 1937-Sheryl Verghese
Last night I stumbled upon a torn manuscript hidden in one of the pages. It contains a scribbled note in a language that seemed like ancient greek. I know it because my ancestry is of Greek origin. We migrated from Greece many generations ago and settled in India. I have been taught by my late grandmother how to read and write Greek.
It is written by her- Queen Cleopatra!!!
"The sword is the scourge of darkness. How have I been tricked into selling my soul to the devil itself? Apopis is no god. He is the angel of death!! An angel who was banished from the heavens to serve eternally in hell. This sword is a fragment of his soul, forged from the souls of the fallen angels who fell in hell from the heavens after the great war. The priestess is a demon in a woman's form and has been his most loyal disciple. She vows to bring him back to the land of the living by doing his bidding. She is always on the lookout for special beings who possess the ability to travel between both worlds when asleep. These unique beings are born once in a generation. I have had this "gift" from childhood, and hence the demonic priestess found a way to get into my dreams. She offers these gifts of beauty, immortality, and eternal youth to tempt the living into giving their soul away and then goes onto possess the mind and body. The black plague that sprang up during my rule was a consequence of being possessed and my body being used to open the portal of hell. I, with great difficulty and sacrificing a number of lives, escaped from its evil clutches. I have hidden the secret to escape its grasp and defeat it safely from the prying eyes of the world. Trust no one. Throw the sword in the deepest ocean. All it can cause is death, despair, and destruction."
I am aghast. Can this be true? How do I escape its clutches?
Journal entry 135, Date: June 30th, 1937-Sheryl Verghese
The revelation has opened my eyes. But I can't break free. My mind and my body are in the priestess's control. I am a prisoner in my own body. The priestess has dark powers of such magnitude that ensure that my mind or body is totally in her command. How do I save myself? More importantly, how do I save my child? The priestess says that I would need to sacrifice my child to please Apopis!! How am I to get away with it? What is its fault? It is destined to suffer a cruel fate being born in darkness and black magic. How foolish was I? The only time I get to be myself is when the priestess travels to the land of the undead when I am deep asleep. I have mastered the act of feigning deep slumber. When she leaves for the land of the undead, I try to document these dark and sinister happenings. That's the only strength my weak and feeble body possesses now- To scribble my fears away. I can't even walk a mere step or shout aloud to alert anyone, for the priestess travels at the speed of light and may return to kill everyone I know.
I need to find a way to end this once and for all. The sword needs to be decimated, blown to smithereens. It's the only way to save my family, this land, and the world we live in.