There's probably something wrong with Chapter 5. It's the shortest one yet. I suspect I'm missing a scene. But I can't think of anything I want to put in there right now. I'll get back to it all in chapter 7. I think. Maybe my outline will help me.
*checks outline* HA HA HA HA HA! Whose idea of a joke was this outline? Um. So the novel isn't exactly following it.
I want to get to 40K before I go to sleep tonight. That means I need to go write chapter 6 real soon now. Gonna take a break first. I'm one of those people who visualizes their story as a movie in their head before writing it down. Well, maybe not a movie, but maybe an audio drama, or just running through the words mentally until it sounds (more or less) right.
Someday I will think of a better name for the town/city than "XXX".
"Kundun Goba!" An old woman's voice shouted a name that, in his dream, Chola mistook for his own. Then he woke up.
Two days after he had left XXX, Chola woke up in confusion, thinking that a spirit was gnawing at his ear again. Then he remembered that he was stretched out uncomfortably along the back seat of the Land Rover. The knocking and rattling came from the window, not his skull. He blinked up, seeing a head silhouetted against the brightness of the morning sky.
He sat up cautiously and rolled the window halfway down. "Excuse me?"
"It is you! Kundan! I knew you'd come back." The speaker pressed in closer, and Chola saw that it was a woman dressed in the thick layers of a typical mountain villager. The clothes were old, faded and frayed at the edges. The woman herself was perhaps not as old as he first took her for, though her face was clearly weathered by age. Not a demon, ghost, or a demon hunter, he determined after a moment's observation.
Chola opened the door gently, forcing the woman to back away. He stepped down and shut the door behind him. What was she doing here? He had parked a mile away outside the outskirts of the nearest village, and that after taking a less frequented road than the one he had used in going to XXX. "I'm sorry, but you must be mistaken."
"No mistake." The old woman grinned with unsuppressible glee. She looked up in his face, then looked away again, as if shy. "You don't look a day older. Not like me. All those years...but you found it after all, just like I knew you would."
"Found what?" Chola thought about jumping back in the Land Rover and driving away, but something nagged at the back of his mind.
"The Buddha's Ear, of course! I know I laughed at you for wasting your time for hunting the fungus of immortality, but I didn't really mean it. Kundan Goba, tell me you forgive me. Tell me you won't leave me behind again!" This time, when the old woman stole a glance at him, Chola saw tears in her eyes.
Why, in his dream, had he thought that was his name?
Then he remembered.
Chola T'hom reached out with both hands, grasped the old woman by the arms. He said quietly, "Didn't they tell you? Kundan Goba was killed by a demon thirty years ago."
"No!" The old woman shook her head. A tremor ran through her body. "No. That's a lie."
"It's the truth," said Chola.
"No. No, don't say that. My love, you've come back to me. I...I understand if you don't want to stay. You're still young, you don't belong with an old woman like me." The old woman tried to shake free of Chola's grip, but he held onto her.
Was this madness his fault? Were human minds so fragile? He had to make her understand. He threaded truth into the weave of her memories, but her thoughts rejected his name, his voice, and heard only her husband. If I am your husband, he thought, then you have to hear my words. If she was deluded, then let her delusion force her to believe him. "Would your husband lie to you? Listen to me. Kundan Goba is dead. You won't meet him again in this life. You have to let him go."
The woman began to weep. She dropped her head and twisted away, shoulders shaking.
Chola put his arms around her and held her as best he could. "You mustn't blame him. He loved you very much. I know. And don't blame yourself."
"We have a daughter. You would be proud to see how she's grown."
"I know," whispered Chola. He stroked her hair as gently as he could. "Hush. I know."
The memories came back to him in a flash. Memories, and new understanding. The Guru Achamo must have been on her way between her mountain and her school when she encountered a wild demon newly arrived in the world. The villagers had been lucky to have her protection. He thought he had only taken one life. Now he realized that perhaps he had taken two.
Startled, Chola and the old woman each turned at the voice.
A woman strode quickly towards them, coming down the village road. She shouted again as she came. She, like the old woman, was dressed like a villager, but her clothes were less worn and her coat flapped open in the wind as if she had run outside in too much of a hurry to fasten the buttons. "Mother! There you are!"
The old woman wiped at her eyes, then turned a smiling face at the younger woman. "Ah, daughter, you worry too much. Look who's come to see us! Greet your father, my dear."
If anything, the younger woman's forehead creased into even deeper worry lines. She nodded to Chola without really looking at him. "I'm sorry, sir, but these fits take her, and she wanders away before we can stop her. She doesn't mean to disturb anyone." She took the older woman by the hand. "Come on, mother. Let's get back home before you catch a chill."
"It's all right," muttered Chola. He patted the old woman on the shoulder. "Look, here's your daughter. She's right. You should be getting home."
"/Our/ daughter," insisted the old woman. She dug in her heels, refusing to be dragged away. "Daughter, you still haven't greeted your father!"
The younger woman darted an embarrassed glance at Chola. "Yes, yes. Ever since my father passed away, my mother sees his face in everyone." Then she blinked. "But...you /do/ look like...I mean...I'm sorry. It's just that you do look a little like my father. I mean no offense."
"None taken," said Chola. He wanted suddenly to hide his face from their scrutiny, but resisted the urge.
The younger woman dropped her gaze to the Land Rover behind him. She recognized Achamo's crest painted on the door. "Oh, is that a school car? I used to go to the Chancemet Friends School when I was a child. You're on school business? They don't usually pass through this village, we're pretty far out of the way."
"I was driving two guests of the Guru Achamo to the school," said Chola neutrally, as if that answered her question.
"Ah!" said the younger woman. She tried again to steer her mother back to the village.
"Then won't you come in with us? Have some tea, some breakfast? It would be our honor."
"No," said Chola softly. "I thank you for your hospitality, but I need to be on the road."
"Of course. Good bye! Thank you for humoring an old madwoman." The younger woman tugged more insistently at her mother's arm, and this time the old woman followed her.
"He's not coming? He's leaving again?" The old woman asked plaintively.
"No. No, mother. Now come on, let's go home."
Chola watched them leave. Only after they were long out of sight did he climb back into the Land Rover and drive away.