“A long time ago,” says Tina, “there was a woman named Prajapati, who made two demons named Rahu and Ketu.”
It is 2002, the year of the horse.
“They helped her to accept what was happening to her. But they were very sad.”
Iphigenia listens. She is dressed in a nightgown. Tina is brushing her hair.
“When she took sick, because she’d been hung too long in her monster’s garden, Rahu and Ketu went looking for someone to help her.”
Iphigenia says, “Couldn’t they heal her?”
“Demons are filthy creatures. They aren’t good for very much,” Tina says. “They can plead. But they cannot heal.”
“So they went to the moon,” says Tina. “And they asked the moon, ‘will you heal her?'”
“Is the moon driven by someone like me?” Iphigenia asks.
Tina’s brush pulls on a tangle in Iphigenia’s hair. Iphigenia suppresses a yelp.
“There is no god of the moon today,” Tina says.
“The moon said, ‘I shine my light on her every night. Isn’t that enough? I won’t help her more than that.'”
Iphigenia frowns. “I think I’m glad that she is gone.”
“And then they went to the sun,” says Tina. “And they asked the sun, ‘will you heal her?’ And what do you think the sun said?”
Iphigenia frets. The brush moves gently through her hair. “I think that—”
“I think that the sun could not help them,” Iphigenia says, “because demons are filthy creatures, and because the sun had a higher purpose.”
“Yes,” says Tina.
“Yes,” says Tina. “The sun and moon had a magical elixir that could make Prajapati immortal. But they did not share it with her. Because she did not deserve it. But what were Rahu and Ketu to do?”
Iphigenia thinks. “They had to save her, because they were her demons.”
“They might have just wanted her to accept her death,” says Tina.
“Maybe,” says Iphigenia dubiously.
“But instead they snuck into the houses of the sun and the moon, and they stole the elixir, and they took a sip for themselves and a sip for Prajapati. And when they were gone, the servants in those houses raised such a ruckus as you could not imagine. They cried to every god in all Heaven, even Lord Vishnu, that the elixir had been stolen. So with one cut of his blade, he chopped off their heads. The elixir they wanted to bring Prajapati dribbled out through their necks and was gone. But ever since, whenever they could find the sun and the moon, Rahu and Ketu ate them—just like that! That’s why you have eclipses.”
“That’s a sad story.”
“One day,” Tina says, “Rahu will find you, and he will eat you up, and you will be gone, and I will be alone.”
“Everyone will wear black,” says Tina, “and they will be very sad for me; but I think that even the monster will be hiding pleasure behind his eyes.”
“I won’t die soon,” says Iphigenia.
“See that you don’t!” says Tina, crisply. She helps Iphigenia stand up. She turns her around. She places a ribbon in Iphigenia’s hair. “There,” she says. “Go to bed.”
Iphigenia sleeps, and dreams of Rahu’s gaping maw.