To Hunger, As with Perfect Faith

Content note: sexual violence, abuse, ableism


Every morning I clear the virgins from the stairway.

It is common that one or two offerings don’t make it through the cold of the mountain eve or fall asleep in death midway through the journey up to our distant frigid peak. Their relatives or escorts leave them regardless, dead or alive, girl or corpse. Every morning I wake to beautiful frosted bodies, elegant hillocks of alabaster curled shell-tight into themselves. Some shiver the last of the heat from their bodies, others lie still as headstones. They’re beautiful huddled in the snow but more lovely lifeless, winter-sculpted art, failed sacrifices. I must find my satisfactions somewhere, you see.

Sweat needles through my robes as I lift their snow-glazed bodies onto the woven stretcher. My mangled body makes its usual protests as I drag the dead cliffside. The glacial peak I reside does not make for easy grave digging and so the virgins are dropped off our holy peak, down through the clouds to feed the lower beasts.

Every morning is the same.

From chattering teeth and lips blue as larimar, the ones that survive ask for their boons: victory in war, a year of peace, a rich yield, a son, riches, protection. Never for themselves, of course. It is for their families, their empresses or dukes, their homelands. I don’t answer these requests; my role is to make them ready. I paint their brows in warm ram’s blood to baptize them, watch it run down their eyelids, catch like garnet dew in their lashes. They plead and shiver and catch my red hands in theirs.

“Grant me Her blessing,” they beg. “I am pure of body and heart.”

They echo the same ritual words that have been spoken for generations, a key to the doors of the abbey. A key that I cannot deny though I find them weak-willed and stupid. I have no power here. I am only a nameless novitiate and in a day, so they too will be.

Behind me, Sister Veradh steps softly down the stairs, her long fingers sudden on my shoulder like a curious spider. Her touch always makes my stomach clench and cool but I ignore it. I raise the bowl of blood above my head and tell the postulants the same thing I was told upon arrival, the sacred words that will be their passage to warmth and a portent of their impending deaths:

“Pray your purity abides. The Goddess will answer you in Her own time.”

This holy place has pulped me of time.

I arrived at the abbey a foreigner and a war orphan, my leg bent into hideous angles, my body tainted by the cravings of hungry soldiers. My nomad family was captured by the Chosen of the Goddess and executed and I was taken as left on the abbey steps as a sacrifice. It was in the cold I learned how there was power in stillness; that was what conquering was, a refusal to move, a claiming, the incessant marking. That was how my people died, powerless and in motion, their shadows passing over the grateful land. That day I was laid half-frozen on the steps with the dawn’s offered virgins but no request left my mouth as I did not know the words. In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered if I knew them or not: I was impure, an unacceptable postulant.

But Sister Veradh took me in despite my spiritual state, found use for me as a cook and cleaner, a tender of the hoary geese and the snowy sheep. The other sisters—horrified at my foreign presence—would beat me when Veradh was occupied, tie my hair to the posts of my bed and drip candle wax on my stomach. It was only when I turned fourteen seasons that I grew strong enough to defend myself. I even braved a confession to Veradh but in her eyes, their rage was just; after all, I was not a Chosen of the Goddess. My people worshipped wolves and thunder and ancient ashen firs. At least, I am told, for there are few, if any, of us left. Anything the virgins did to me was the correct punishment for my inherited spiritual estrangement.

I remain that same crippled child in Sister Veradh’s eyes but my body makes my maturity a truth undeniable. My foal-blonde has darkened to brown and my daily work has roped my arms and legs in muscle. Still, it is true my leg refuses to release the ache of its ancient breaking and my brown skin is scarred gray from chafing shackles, an arrow, the nick of knives. I limp when I should stride, grimace when I should smile. I’ve learned all of my captor’s customs but my performance still lacks. I am nothing like the sisters here with their youthful purity, clean and unblemished skin. When I bathe, I stare into the used water and imagine how the Goddess sees me: damaged, dirtied, the rotting dark around unsullied stars.

Sister Veradh was given to the Goddess as a young woman after being raised in isolation; the ideal postulant. Sometimes it feels as if she has lived here as long as the stonework has existed. No lines carve the years from her face, no yellowness flecks her teeth. But her hair is white as deep winter. The Goddess has swallowed age from her skin as easy as holy tea down a penitent’s throat.

As a youth, I thought the Goddess to be an anchorite. A holy recluse, old and mythologized. Even as a child, I had heard tales and fables of deceivers and false prophets. Why was this Goddess true while all others were false? Despite my mistrust, I never spoke my doubts. After all, what did I know? I was not one of Veradh’s people, I had not studied Her scripture, made pilgrimages to Her altars.

Despite my ignorance, Veradh took time to teach me and turned the ash of my faith into a fire proper. She showed me where the Goddess rested deep beneath the abbey, a cavern waxy with rows of flickering candles, tallow greasing the air. The cave stone was as amber as guttered flame. She placed my hand on the sealed entrance, a stele carved in glyphs I could not read. I could feel Her warmth through the smooth rock, hear the rattle of Her breath like a thousand sucking lungs. The candlelight leaned in with each inhalation, away with her scraping breath. Even my own heart felt the pull of Her.

“Do you see?” Veradh asked, the white tips of her hair curling towards the stele like coaxing talons.

I pulled my hands away, clutched at my chest where my lungs seemed unable to draw in air.

“Yes.” She smiled, placed a chilled hand on my back. “Now you see.”

The sisters are given to the Goddess at the change of the seasons. Two equinoxes, two solstices; four willing sisters washed and sung over and delivered down into the monastery’s depths. It is said in Her scripture that She takes the sisters to serve Her in the Court of Endless Light and to witness Her glory is enough to sate any woman’s soul for eternity. Many remained fearful even as they vanished behind the stele but others were exultant, striding into the Goddess’s secret room with a candle in hand, a smile on their lips.

“Where do they really go?” I asked once, curiosity finally blossoming from my awe, my faith strong enough to produce questions. I knew the scripture often contained metaphor, deeper allusions that I had yet to learn. And Sister Veradh trusted any queries I might have would only fortify my love for the Goddess, no matter the answer.

“To fulfill the blessings they ask.”

“Doesn’t the Goddess fulfill them Herself? What need has She of the sisters?”

“The Goddess needs nothing but that is how they pay for their boons. A sister must work in harmony with their prayer. The Goddess is not simply an instrument for their fulfillment. There is a wage for Her miracles.”

I have never asked for a blessing from Her. I cannot.

The sisters given to the Goddess are all virgins, untouched and healthy, weaned on a diet of sweet milk and red meats. Veradh had said my body was too impure for the Goddess to bless. And now it is too old to survive the price she demands of those who receive Her works. I was raised on fox blood and sweet thistle and many men had touched me before I even knew there was something to touch.

So I serve the Goddess in other ways. I scrape the stairs of ice. Tend the animals, stoke the dorm fires and oversee the sisters’ health, physical and religious. When they transgress, as is the nature of those reared in abundance, it is up to me to flog the virgins back into spiritual harmony. When I was a child, I had tried to befriend the virgins, for they were always young, a commonality we once shared. But they spoke in a dialect that, even to this day, I find difficult to parse. Royal tongues, the dialect of the rich and learned. There were no friendships to be found among people who found the simplicity of my language offensive and so I remained alone with Veradh.

But even alone I had my small contentments. My favorite task has always been cleaning Her chamber. Every fortnight, I scrape away as much of the old tallow I can before lighting new candles for the night. Occasionally there are mice I must empty from our traps or blood smears to mop up from a house cat’s catch. When I finish, I am allowed to meditate alone in Her chamber until dawn. I place my hand on the stele and listen to Her breathe in and out, the tug of it on the hairs of my arms, the hem of my dress. When I put my cheek against the stone, it is warm as an old coal. If I touch it long enough, it heats and sweats like skin.

Night after night, I cleanse this holy place. Night after night, my curiosity grows. When I try to slip secretly into Her chamber to watch the virgins present themselves Veradh always finds me and ushers me out. When I try to sneak after Veradh to witness her long and private mediations before the Goddess, she locks me out of the chamber. So I sit at the sealed entrance and meditate on Her:

Did the sisters pass through the stone into Her most private place?

Did they cast their eyes across Her form, savor the power of her presence?

Did She touch them before She offered them Her miracles?

Season in and season out, I contemplate Her and watch the sisters vanish clutch by clutch, clean and shining like polished opal. And in their absences my envy sits and churns, a mass of roiling want, hungry as ghosts.

My desire to see Her grows every waking moment.

I read Her scripture, the tomes of priests and prophets and prior abbesses. She is a being of justice and passion, power and will, blessing those whose supplications are pure of heart, whose bodies are undefined by the ravages on worldly sin. She has broken kings over Her littlest finger, razed cities and their crops with a single blink. It is said She spoke a single word to a past emperor and wiped his entire lineage from history.

But none of the accounts speak of Her image. The sound of Her. How She warms the entirety of Her chamber with a simple breath.

Sister Veradh spends the most time in the Goddess’s chamber in deep meditation. Often times she does not emerge for many nights and even when I knock on the entry down to the cavern, it remains locked and silent.

I know she is communing with Her.

Does Veradh get to behold Her, as well?

Breathe in the breath She exhales?

Touch Her?

One evening I decide I must see for myself. See Her. Sister Veradh has been in her chamber for hours now and I pick the lock open, creep barefoot down the worn stone stairs deep into the abbey’s cavernous underbelly. I hug the dark recesses of the cavern, hide behind flowstone where the candle flames cannot catch my shadow.

Sister Veradh is kneeling, forehead pressed to the stone, a chant on her tongue in a language I do not know. The Goddess’s breath pulls in and out, steady as a heartbeat. Hours pass in the same manner. My bad leg aches from crouching, my eyes dry from my vigil.

Her breath stops.

Veradh freezes, the chant halting in her mouth. She stagers upright and slowly slides the stele asides, unsealing the entrance. My heart writhes and thrashes with covetous anger: who is she to behold Her? To enter Her domain?

When she enters, I crawl forward in the darkness, keeping myself hidden behind the high stones and fences of stalactites. Closer now, I see within: a round room with an unseeable ceiling, raw black walls and black floor, shiny as polished obsidian but uneven as if She had licked the chamber into shape Herself. A thin column of pale light drops into the room’s center from above, the source of which I cannot see. The sound of Her breath rushes out of the chamber, loud as a high tide over a rocky shore. A smell follows the exhalation, sugared offal, cloying and heady enough to make my stomach clench. Veradh walks inside a candleholder in hand, and I crawl closer, eyes straining in the dimness. The weak flame rims her in red and soon finds more edges to bleed.

The virgins hang like split fruit.

Four stand in various states of decay, some fresher than others. They stand in a circle facing outwards, arms linked loosely. Their hair is tightly braided together into a single weaving, combing into a single rope-like plait that looks to be strung up above. The plait holds their bodies erect while rigor mortis keeps them in their sacred pose. Dry blood scales their legs. The contents of their abdomens, precisely opened, have been removed. A crescent of holes mars their shoulders; a resolute bite. Veradh stands before the altar of virgins, whispering once more.

Making a request? Asking forgiveness? What did one say face to face with divinity?

From the dark, She evaporates into being.

Red as rape, an avalanche of viscera and weeping humors and infernal vapor. I choke on a simmering breath, miasma filling my lungs. She reaches out to Veradh with a limb more arachnid than human, more talons than fingers. It is wrapped in skeins of wet red thread, tendons and muscle-like fibers. It bends without pattern as if boneless, too many articulations in its flexing fingers, the runged moist ribs of Her body. There is no mouth, no movement that suggests breath, but it begins to emit the sound of biting from inside itself. A wet tearing, muffled and everywhere. The Goddess emerges from all directions and none and in the shadowed walls, a constellation of white points glow and blink in the dark, near and far like fireflies. Her eyes, Her gaze.

Bile wells up in my throat but I crawl to the edge of the entrance. The narrow pillar of moonlight slides down from an opening high above, douses Veradh as she steps into the lunar glow. She peels her robes away, drops them to the ground. Veradh is bare and the Goddess looses a ream of guttural sound. The Goddess serpentines low near Veradh’s legs, Her face passing into light.

Or where a face should have been. At the end of the snaking neck there is only an impression. A red face like a woman’s and then, with a great grisly ripple, it’s swallowed by another countenance, a bestial one with countless teeth, then a masculine visage, an elderly one, a child’s and again a woman’s. All red, all woven out of venose ribbons. Like a rose forever blooming and losing, revealing and concealing, each face swallowing the next.

Finally, Her face settles into abstraction, a glossy cage of needled fangs and then a feminine mien, coiling filaments of blood in place of hair flowing in a false breeze. The Goddess rubs the seam of Her mouth up against Veradh’s knee, her inner thigh and then bites into the meat of her. Veradh’s head tips back, fingers flexing at her sides. The Goddess sips delicately from the tapped vein, nursing the wound until Veradh makes a sound of perfect wounding. But I know she is not in pain. Or if she is, it is the pain I want.

I don’t sleep. I touch myself until I feel inside out. I dream of Her, the liquid flow of Her face, the puncturing teeth so tender on Veradh’s tawny skin. Does She drink only virgin blood? Or will a heathen’s taste just as sweet? Will she kill me for the transgression of existence? Or the transgressions made against me? I dip my fingers into the grave of my want, bite my forearm like Her teeth in my skin, not my own.

Another night. I find them together once more.

Veradh straddles the Goddess’s imitation lap, the spidered spread of Her red legs wide beneath the Sister’s. Teeth as long as forearm pierce through the slope of her shoulder like a line of well-placed arrows. Every pant pushes out the latticed bones of Veradh’s chest, an agonized keening thrust from her lungs as the Goddess roots Her fingers between Veradh’s legs. When She withdraws them, they gleam, numinous, holy and Veradh’s cries out, ecstatic like the saints of old.

When I search Veradh’s face many mornings later after she’s emerged from Her chamber, I can see new vigor in her body and the smug self-assurance of someone divinely touched. The confidence of a glutton with her next meal promised. I flog the virgins harder than I ever have before, leave their rumps beaded with blood.

I want Her.

I want Her more than Veradh ever could. She was born into blessings, raised in Her embrace. She did not know the agony of being so removed from Her love. Born an infidel. Alienated from Her blessings by a pack of mongrel soldiers’ hunger. During evening meal, I ask her again though I know the answer already. I want her denial like a flint wants stone.

“Sister, please tell me again why I cannot ask for her blessing? Why am I not worthy to see her as the other sisters are?”

“Dear child, you know you have been sullied by the world through no fault of your own.” Veradh strokes my cheek with her thumb, smooth as river stone. “Why make me say it? I do not wish to hurt you.”

“I serve obediently. I am faithful. Is my flesh such an impediment?”

Veradh’s eyes harden on me. I see it then: avarice.

“It is not for you, child,” she says softly, a tender veneer over the possessiveness in her face. “Don’t diminish your faith with desire. Remember your place.”

I dose Veradh’s evening tea with white valerian. Wait until her body goes still on her bed, the rise and fall of her chest barely perceptible. When she’s deep in a dreamless sleep, I steal down to the Goddess’s chamber and move the stele aside. My body is a belfry for my pulse, heart a bell tolling under my skin as I step into the moon-bathed den.

The scent of rich rot shocks my senses, blinds me for a breath. The bodies have withered down to smeared palettes of black and green, skeletons clinging with gray skin but melted free of their offal. In the bony bowl of their abdomens, a nest of limbs coil and squirm. They are intestinal in length, sprouting from the gristle like carrion lilies.

One of the arms rises alabaster, upright like a straining sapling and crowned in an elegant hand. I do not know if it means to gesture but I feel a coaxing. I touch it, fingertip to fingertip and find it warm. Our fingers interlock, it’s movement so slow I wonder if it is proceeding cautiously for my benefit. So as not to frighten me.

“You’ve been watching us,” She says from the dark.

I try to move away but the hand holds mine tighter, firmer, until it feels like my knuckles may rupture through my skin from the strength of it.

“Goddess?” I choke and Her voice rasps out a laugh. Pained, spurned, I continue, “Please. I seek only to offer myself.”


“Like…like Sister Veradh does. Even though it goes against the scriptures.”

“Not at all, daughter.” Her voices come from behind and before me and the air shrinks in, turns creamy. “What we do is prayer.” Hands, hands with too many fingers, dense as a tangle of millipedes. “This is how one may receive my divinity.” She finds my throat, slides a long limb between my thighs. “This is what it’s like to be near to the celestial.”

“What—” my voice ruptures as She glides wetly across my breasts, “—are you truly? What you do to the sisters but not to Veradh…it means you are not what they teach.”

“Aren’t you perceptive.” There is amusement in Her voice, a tremble in Her snaking touch. “True, I am something else but for you, I might as well be a goddess.”

Her face, a face of faces, peel forth from the shadows ahead of me. She occupies all space and none and my eye slips from the edge of shadows to what might be Her body.

“Goddesses need nothing. Want nothing,” I rasp. “But you…you want.”

“And what if I want?”

“Then I…I want to give.”

“Ah yes, such generosity.” Claws like needles slip into the seam between my legs. “You want to pray with me as Veradh did.” That mock lilt in Her voice stirs seething heat in my belly. “To be anointed by my teeth.” My pulse moves outside my skin as Her shifting face drifts closer with the weightless ease of smoke. “Crying out psalms on my tongue.” Her mouths on me are blazing, velveteen. Everywhere, everywhere, ready to be an open wound.

But even licked, kissed, the hint of fangs on my skin, I do not miss the disgust in Her voice. “Why do you stay here of all places? With her.”

Silence dethrones the hissing hum of myriad throats. “I do not stay. I am kept.” Something like hands close over my shoulders, the texture of them like cat’s tongue, and turn me towards the entry. “The glyphs on that cursed rock keeps me. Your sister Veradh oversees my stay.”

Kept. Kept. “Then you’re not the Goddess,” I stammer, a chilled sweat breaking anew down my back. “You’re a demon…”

“Nothing of the sort. Just a thing old and starved.” A stray hand unfurls from the darkness, squeezes my throat with a learned delicacy. “To renew myself, I need them, your pretty girls. Demons have no sense for order or ritual. Those require patience. A virtue I have in excess.”

“You need them?”

Need them and not me? The denial I have been dreaming of is coming true. My skin frosts over.

“Veradh lets me have them when I weaken.” She drags a hand through the mounds of dead, catches hold of the pale new growth. She pulls the arm up and a boneless body unfurls; arms, legs, the full expanse of a well-fed torso. She picks them all up and puppets them into place, floating each segment into a facsimile of a human form. “And then I make myself new for a time. I make myself perfect.”

Her face thaws into the light from the black, every face and no face, many mouths, fanged and toothless, curved in a smile. “Veradh thinks something of you. More than those blank-faced girls with altar-bruised knees. She tried to save you.” Her breath skates across my mouth, “And still you came to me, didn’t you?”

“Yes. I want—”

“I know what you want.” Fingers slink silken on my lips then on my tongue, sliding past the blunt edges of my teeth. Her laughter is falling crystals, starlight ringing through the den. “You want your god.”

I kill Veradh before she wakes with the blade I use to butcher our rams.

I startle myself with how easy it is to make someone so still. Memories of war once rimed by my purposeful denial flood back to me. The angry swarm of arrows pinning my family to the ground, our horses bristling with fletching. The dark blades that cut my cousins’ throats, their warm shale skin parting to reveal spatters of red quartz like a geode opened.

I can understand now why wars begin. The simpler path is to turn everyone into nothing and take your place in the void.  The harder path is what Veradh does here; sow the void in the heart and mind, weave scripture around wrists and eyes so every move, every vision, is hers.

But I know scripture, too.

There are hours more until daybreak so I bring Veradh’s body down to Her for a meal, then burn the evidence of my Sister’s slaughter. The sheets go up like moth wings, white and yellow and gray. When the fire dies and the gore-soaked bedding is ash, I rouse the sleeping sisters for breakfast and parcel out their portions of gruel and bread, a sliver of sour apple. They murmur amongst themselves after the morning goes by and Veradh makes no appearance; they know it is not time for one of her long, sequestered meditations.

So I tell them the end of the truth: Veradh has gone to be with the Goddess and left me as their caretaker. Urgent whispers fill the dining hall and some even stand to challenge me, the crisp flourish of affluence making music of their insults. But I do not need their high tongue to teach them, I only need to echo what they already revere, regurgitate the sacrosanct back into their minds, mother bird to hatchling.

“The Goddess has deemed it her time. A blessing has been granted.” I keep myself still as I speak, hands folded, back straight; an echo of Veradh’s poise. “If you wish to question Her will, by all means. But do not forget that doubt can blemish one forever.”

I set them to praying, to cleaning, to tending the animals and reading her Word. The only way I know time is passing, that the day is shuffling into night, is my need for Her grinding its teeth against every thought.

As soon as the sun sets, I lock the sisters back into their rooms with their supper. I hurry to Her chamber, shed my robes halfway down the stone stairs because there is no one to stop me now. She’s mine.

My pulse percusses in my ears and my skin stings like a burning shroud. She is already there waiting for me in the center of Her den, the corpses gone. She is clad in Her new unbody, skin fresh as milk, bright as erasure. In the seams between limbs, the claret of her infernal flesh seeps and slinks like famished worms.

In the shadow She unravels, sloughs into all places at once. Her mouth on mine is petal-soft, fingers slicking a passage between my legs. The first bite turns my eyes heavenward, the first drink blacking out all vision.

Goddess or demon, I will worship Her alone.

When she is sated, I am near dead.

I am no sister, I am a goblet emptied by Her many mouths. My body is wet with blood, flesh lacerated with rings of punctures where her new teeth have found purchase. My body hisses and steams where she has bitten me, holes melting closed. My scars turn to vapor and the lifelong ache in my bones subsides for the first time. A gift for a gift, flesh for flesh.

“She trapped you here,” I murmur, drawing my hands down the line of Her arm, across Her palm. Her false body is so pale I imagine cutting it would yield nothing but air.

“She fed me,” She says noncommittal, looking down at me between the fullness of her breasts with a freshly cultivated face, a mask mulched from virgin visages. It shifts as soon as it arrives, a new appearance smoking through the last. “And what will you do? Trap me, too?”

The moonlight is almost gone, my vision of Her almost absent. I trace the pulseless skin, the counterfeit heat possessing me still.

“Keep you. Feed you. Let you go.”

The black skeins of false hair rise and writhe like ink drops in water. “Just like your dear sister Veradh then.”

“No. But I need you before you go.” I run my tongue along my lips, taste the indents of bitten flesh. “I need you to destroy them. You’re the poison waiting in their wells. You’re the plague they’ve already caught.” I pet the softness of her stomach but it blooms away like a veil on the wind, divulging the demonic unshape beneath. “You’re a blasphemy in their throats. I only need to skin away the Goddess to show them. And when your Chosen see, they will break by their own hand and the hands of their enemies.”

A chuckle leaks from her jaws. “How can you be so sure?”

“Because their weapon is mine now,” I say, skimming my hands into fibers of faux muscle. “And I have seen its true form.”

Her face congeals in a jackaled smile. “And is that all you need from me, little sister?”

Desire compounds itself into an intoxicant, heady as leopard’s bane and foal’s foot. “I…want to be like you. Make me like you,” I say, the words tumble out of their own volition and I bury my face into Her writhing neck.

“Like me?”

“You can be anything,” I say. “You can be nothing.”

Scarlet fissures from white, the raw truth of her peeling out to cup my jaw.

“To be like me is to be alone.” Her claws prick my cheek then slide deeper, lifting the veil of my skin easily like it’s always been ready to pare from the muscle. Her face flows off to the side, a tapestry in a noiseless breeze. “To starve perpetually.”

“Then I’ll be alone with you,” I say, gripping her moist wrist and forcing her hand higher past my temple, into my scalp, my face loosening with every inch she transgresses. “I’ll starve at your side.”

Her mouths slits into a smile before she latches onto my throat with a myriad of teeth, leering from the dark with an army of eyes. My skin cascades away from me in one fluid agony, sheeting free from muscle and bone.

It is euphoric. A great lancing of the boil of my soul, the festering ichor of my life pouring out of me, away, away, away—

Every morning I clear the virgins from the stairway.

The dead I toss cliffside for my family’s gods to eat. The dying I dump into boiling baths, rub them raw until the blue fades from their skin and blood beads through their pores. They stutter out ritual words and recite their requests as I paint their brows in ram’s blood.

“Grant me Her blessing,” they beg. “I am pure of body and heart.”

I smile, serene, and don’t bother to correct them.

I don’t tell them the story of their purity is only a tool to keep Her fed, a lure studded in diamonds. The Goddess will always be the perfect bait to the slavering crowned and wretched rich. To them, She is their divine right to conquer, forged in gold and silver. She is easy victory bought in spare virgins and memorized hymns.

But anyone could exchange their flesh for blessings, defiled or no, just as I had. They only had to be pure enough to walk into the dark, to distill their fear into want as I did. And now I would show the gilded gluttons that they gave their daughters, not to goddesses, but to devils. That the foundation of their rule was demon-built and demon-bought. I would lance the boil of their pride and spill out the godless truth of their atrocities, one by one by one.

Beneath my feet, I feel Her stirring at their presence, the invisible touch of Her hands on my nape, beneath the ladder of my ribs. Our souls churn and coil, ready to fly free of old flesh and embrace new. To crawl into the appetite of the other.

“Sister?” the sacrifices ask, trembling under my gaze.

And in my holiest voice, I tell them: “We will answer you in Our own time.”


Radha Kai Zan

Radha Kai Zan is an artist and author. Their visual art indulges in the aberrant and strange, centering often on the body and its mutable, mortal nature. Their fiction skews towards the speculative with a particular leaning towards the horrific, romantic, and adventurous. You can find more of their work at

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