Andhora had only worn white her whole life.
Pure and colorless, without any trace of suffering— completely white.
Her skin was like a thin cloth stretched over her bones, and her complexion was chalky and pale. Her nails grew till they curled and her hair reached until just above her silver anklets.
Sometimes Andhora looked transparent. Perhaps when she stared at her hands, she saw right through them.
But to the people she was their salvation, the holy goddess with no impurity. Widows lay at her feet wallowing for their lost husbands, liars begged for mercy, and great kings washed her feet in pious display.
One day, upon her palanquin she was brought to a sudden stop. A chaotic havoc came from outside, so she pulled open the curtain with her doll-like fingers.
Having no words to say, because her mouth was sealed shut by wax, Andhora could only gaze around, monotonous eyes reflecting flickering flames and hysterical men.
She stood there, till her silk skirt caught slowly alight, but even when the fire licked at her toes, she did not move.
If she became ash under the glowing full moon, would that ash still be the same unending white? If her skin burnt and her bones charred to dust, would her remains stay undiluted?
A shrine would be built atop her corpse, and the people would sing to her, buy thread for good fortune, and preserve her remains because even in death unbreathing, she would be transcendent.
But Andhora did not burn, or melt into the whispering flames. She was doused from above, in a thunderous rain.
The people lay at her feet again, begging for death as their punishment. And Andhora raised her palm, closing her eyes to bless them, because their sins brought her to no end.
They doused her in milk, pressed clay to her skin till it dried to stone and her limbs would never crack. They adorned her with gold and jewels, fragrant garlands and bright diyas.
Now her eyes were forever peeled to be awake, her feet cemented to the earth, and her hands always turned to grace.
Some eternity passed. But Andhora had everything sucked out from her; what clear purity the people retrieved from her eventually became foggy.
Doubt spread like infection, and unrest rooted itself inside her abode.
After an abandoned prayer-song, Andhora realized that the priests had forgotten to dress her, and the breeze carried the scent of faded incense far away from her pedestal. The wind didn’t tickle her nose and the stench of her wilted lilies bothered none. Her arms were sore and her limbs were weak, but they had already been deeply entombed in the white rock.
Even though serenity followed her, immortality drained her.
What use did she have, forgotten by her followers to whom she gave everything yet received nothing from in return. All that Andhora had really amounted to was a beggar disguised as an all-knowing giver.
Like the blaze of the fire that incarcerated the townspeople before, an ember ignited within the hollow statue Andhora called her body. Destiny had bound her to the life of a celestial, but the whispering of the flames called her to a truer fate.
In the three-hundred thousandth toll of the wishing bell, something escaped from Andhora, painting her the unfamiliar color of her forbidden mortality. It splattered everywhere, blending with the fury of her eternity, gruesome and unforgiving.
It was unrecognizable when it flowed down her pressed white blouse, her starched white skin, and her old lily garland.
No longer was Andhora a girl. No longer was Andhora a deity.
The aging clay broke to pieces with a deafening rumble, and from there emerged Andhora, forever-changed.
Instead of empty veins and a phantom’s expression, she bled with a pulsing, beating heart.
Fresh poppies were strung through her hair and a veil draped over her forehead marked with pigmented paste. Her lips shone the same color and the auspicious strings criss-crossed her body forming clumpy knots.
With this form her unearthly aura returned. Andhora’s eyes set aflame, her dark hair grew thick and plentiful, with strong bones and sharp nails she wielded the cosmic trident. Rage overflowed from her pores, bubbling out of her eyes and her ears.
The people would face their well-deserved anguish. None of them were worthy of Andhora’s mercy. But in a sudden revelation, she recalled the name of the color she now wore.
The day she departed from home, her mother pinched her soft cheeks till they flushed red for good luck, yet all Andhora could see were her mother’s grieving eyes soaked with wet sorrow.
Red was the color of Andhora’s fury, just as red was the color of her mother’s woe.
She loosened her grip on the world-splitting trident, realizing it was time to put her lonely wrath to rest.
She released the fire gently into the thousands of lights outside her abode. She tossed her lavish ornaments and priceless anklets aside. She forsook her heavenly throne.
And before Andhora took the final step off her pedestal, she glanced behind one last time. The expression she held was akin to her mother, identical eyes rimmed with a weary red.
Shreya Gupta (she/her) is an Indian-American writer from the Chicago Metropolitan Area. She is a high-school sophomore who enjoys writing about experiences that resonate with her– catching momentary interactions and weaving them into webs of stories. Shreya is an avid reader of manga, free-verse poetry, and short-stories; you can find her on tumblr @hercathexis.