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Fiction

There Will Be a Question and Answer Period After Your Inevitable Demise

[/]PLEASE WAIT. THE MEETING HOST WILL LET YOU IN SOON.[/]

. . .

[Not_the_voice_of_god]

We hope the manner of your death has been pleasing to you.

You’re confused, perhaps. Uncomfortable? This period of adjustment is necessary—optimal—for your full post-life experience. Contrary to your expectations, there are no angels here, no mead hall with feasting warriors. Did they tell you fair maidens awaited you? I have not been a maiden in quite some time. And I have never been fair, which you said made me foul.

[/]YOU ARE ON MUTE. PLEASE REQUEST AUDIO PERMISSION FROM HOST.[/]

[/]VIDEO ACCESS DENIED.[/]

No, no, you don’t need to see us. You didn’t see us before, when it would have mattered. Alas, it will do you no good now, and anyway, monsters are at their best in the dark.[/]

[h] . . . [/]

[nobodys_mama] What do we want? You sound afraid! We ask only that you listen. We are here to tell you about yourself.[/]

[witchbitch] YOU AIN’T SHIT.[/]

[Not_the_voice_of_god] Thank you, Medea. That was perhaps more of a summary than an explanation, but the end is the beginning, and all beginnings an end.

[h] . . . [/]

[snakes_on_a_dame] Who are we? What a sudden and unexpected interest in something that isn’t you. [/]

[h] . . . [/]

[h]![/]

[h] . . . [/]

[nobodys_mama] Our names . . . well.

What did you call my son after you killed him? Grendel? That was not what I named him. That was not the word I whispered into the coil of his ear when he slept against my chest, soft and milk-warm.

You did not give me a name when you killed me, mad with the grief of seeing my child split with your toy knives. [/]

[original_owner] Nor I. [/]

[all_i_do_is_weep] Me either. [/]

[Not_the_voice_of_god] Sycorax! Pasiphae! We get ahead of ourselves. The point is that we are many, and—

LAUNCH{same_query_as_always}

No. This is not hell. Please stop interrupting.

You invented hell. Perfected it at the end of a chain and the bottom of a ditch. This place we have scraped from the abscesses of the universe. Oh, we are quite used to making do with the spaces where things should have been. You have slashed and stabbed and stomped and shot so many holes in things. Did you not think of the accumulation of those rendings?

Of course you didn’t. Well. We have made use of this space that you tore out of us. Built a home in it. A purpose. And —

LAUNCH{the_names_you_have_forced_on_us_which_are_lies}

Language such as that will not be tolerated.

You are no stranger to us, although we are a mystery to you.

We were raised in the shadows of your halls and castles, by mothers who warned us of your fathers. And of you, with your pyre-bright future ahead of you. so dark and foul were we yet you pried open our legs to make sure of it, just as your father did I spied the gambols of your play at a distance, understanding the sharp edges of your desires as dangerous to me and mine. I studied what made you, in the way that warm seas beget hurricanes. But storms and wildfires have more reason and thought in them than you ever did.

You are ignorant of your own origins. Your purpose. But we are not. We know why you do it.

LAUNCH{rhymes_with_witches_and_punts}

This is not fair? You killed our children for a story.[/]

[all_i_do_is_weep]Your father and his fathers (some of them were also our fathers oh did we forget to mention that? Now seems as good a time as any) crafted the mirrored shield upon which you affixed my daughter’s dead head as a talisman and weapon. You skinned her as you skinned all whom you named dumb beasts and used the souvenir of your crime to turn your enemies to stone.[/]

LAUNCH{wails_and_lamentations}

[not the voice of god] Who are we? Why do you ask questions you do not deserve the answers to? You never listen.

We are:

the monsters you needed; the mothers of monsters; the nest-tenders of nine-headed super predators; the no-angels and obviously-single-mothers thereof; the very useful boogeyman underneath your bed of oleanders; your too-dark-to-rape heirloom fetish; the pull-apart-monkey-bread to feed your flaxen handmaids; the bruise between your desires and your hatred; BUT absolutely never people. DOES THAT ANSWER YOUR QUESTION?

LAUNCH_FAIL

And you?

You all come bearing the same name, death in one hand and a looting sack in the other. You have been told a story. It says that you are good and all that is good is you. You learned that if you desired it, you deserved it. You were given a sword and a badge, pointed in our direction, and told to kill yourself a glorious destiny. What you won was defended with burned bodies swaying in the breeze of your laughter (don’t forget to take a picture for the family!).

You are a hero.

You will be, perhaps, relieved to know that we have brought you here not to take from you, but to share.

This is the Hall of Heroes, and we have made it just for you, sweet belly-soft-murder-child. Lay back in repose. It may be dark, and you may not be able to move, but we have made you comfortable. We would not want any lingering awareness of your former body to distract from our gift.

You, me, we, she, they, him, and them, we’re going on a ride together baby love, right down memory lane. We’re going to see all those times that bond us together for eternity. Oh yes. The moment of our destruction. Every last plucked eye, poisoned cup, burned cross, scream-​cut-​off-​by-​your-​hand-​over-​our-​mouth, forty-one shots fired, nineteen finding their way true . . .

Remember those glory days? We do.

You will live it again, just as we did. Feel your skin turn to crackling, bile filling the space breath should go, the sound of your child calling your name as they die.

No one understands your greatness as much as we do. You will be great again. We will relive it together. Every moment of your glory and triumph.

Isn’t that what you wanted?[/]

[/]PLEASE WAIT. YOU ARE BEING TRANSFERRED TO A BREAKOUT GROUP.[/]

Marika Bailey

Marika Bailey is an Afro-Caribbean author and illustrator. Her work has previously appeared in FIYAH Magazine, Strange HorizonsBeneath Ceaseless Skies, and Apparition Lit. A childhood obsession with mythology led to her current habit of writing stories. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and the softest cat in the world. You can find her tweeting about drawing and 80’s sitcoms as @Marika_Writes_.