|Art by Foldyart1980 / Fotolia|
“Jade, Blood” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (1557 words)
This story finds a nameless woman, a nun at a small convent, standing before a cenote—and not just any, but a well that was sacred to the Mayans, a sort of eye where people used to make sacrifices to a now-unknown god. For the woman, unwanted and unloved, pushed into the convent because she was inconvenient and bothersome, despite being attentive and dutiful. The story is short but packs an awful lot of suspense and power into the space, facing this woman, who seems like she could be so many, any unwanted woman discarded into the church, who cannot find peace there, who cannot find the love that’s supposed to shine eternal there. Instead she finds boredom, a slow rot that threatens to destroy her. It’s only when she finds this cenote that things begin to change, that she feels something, and though it is painful and dark, it is also intense and immediate and aimed directly at her. And for someone always overlooked and unwanted, being so important is strange, almost bewildering, certainly painful, but also addicting. The story explores how the world fails this woman, and so she is drawn into something else. Instead of finding the benign Christian father or son, she finds something more mysterious, and more present. Something that desires blood and sacrifice, but will at least give her the dignity of love, of importance. It’s a rather uncomfortable story, like the cenote itself a rather still pool that promises a shocking and inky depth. It’s an awakening and an ecstasy that the story reveals, and it’s beautiful even as it’s terrifying, showing the power of this woman finally able to make noise, to scream, to reach for power. What comes next is bound to be violent, dark, and disturbing, but that only contrasts the slow horror that the woman had to endure, the suffocating reality that she is finally shaking free. A great story!
“No One Prays to the Goddess” by Ashok K. Banker (7175 words)
This is a bit of a strange story about the ocean and about deals with gods, about faith and lineage and loneliness. It’s a story that finds Harry, who grew up in Bombay but moved to America as a child, returning to deal with a bit of inheritance, a small piece of land he hopes to sell to firm up his life and his future. While back home, though, he seeks to reconnect with a part of himself that has been largely dormant since the move—his faith. Because while he’s kept up with his faith he’s been severed from the source of it, from the temples to the Fisher Queen. And as luck, or providence, would have it, he finds one directly in his path. What he doesn’t know is that it will start him on a path of temptation and revenge, magic and storm and loss. It’s a story that begins with magic, with luck, and begins to explore what it means to believe in fickle gods who can seem all too human at times. For Harry, the horror of the story is in the power this past, this part of himself, is able to leverage against those parts he thought were safe and separate, namely his family back in America. And yet as he moves he finds that it’s not all doom and gloom that await him back in Bombay. The magic, as long as he rejects it, remains something dangerous and vengeful. But it’s not his only option. And embracing it allows him to explore new avenues of himself. I love how the story doesn’t really come out and say what happened, how the land deal in Bombay went, but it certainly feels like, given everything, it’s what caused all of this, Harry contemplating cutting himself off from that part of his heritage, his lineage, and knowing that, for his sake and the sake of his family, he might have to make the decision that is not the most financially sound. It’s a fun story that moves quickly and builds to a satisfying conclusion. Another interesting read about gods and worship!