The Sistren is a collection of stories about seventy-two singular sisters. Every week a new sister’s story is told, accompanied by an original illustration. 

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She awakens into the same stagnant Sunday afternoon, the air fat with humidity, the sun slathered evenly across it in a mostly auburn hue. The insides of the squat suburban house are nearly sepia-toned due to the windows. Once more she has awoken into doing the dishes, into finishing the final plate and putting it aside to dry. She turns around and walks into the living room.

Her husband – yes, she nods to herself, that is her husband – sits on the ratty couch holding what she remembers is her newborn son. He is having a tired conversation with his own mother, who perches at the edge of the plush chair beside him. Past them and out the window she can see her two older kids playing in the backyard at the edge of the forest. And the shadow cast to her side signals the doorbell, which means her husband’s colleagues have arrived early. She will have less time than usual.

After an overly-warm greeting and a bit of small talk she retires back into the kitchen to assess her options. Searching the cabinets she finds a few potential poisons, but wonders how that would mar their bodies. She studies the positions of the people in the living room, runs through a few abrupt options and dismisses them – too much room for error and she absolutely cannot fail.

As she continues to mull over the different paths the afternoon might take, she walks lightly into the backyard and watches the children from afar for a few moments before approaching them with a warm smile. They mostly ignore her, caught up in their game, chasing each other, peals of laughter. Close up she begins to appreciate the small details she has forgotten – the way her son constantly moves on his tip toes, the dull luster of her daughter’s murky eyes. She casts these aside, refocuses, and at the exact moment that the two are inhabiting the same space, strikes. It is two quick twists of the neck, and it happens too fast for the children to be scared or even surprised. It is done cleanly and for that she is grateful. She drags their bodies into the periphery of the woods where they will be out of sight, and heads back towards the house.

Given that the guests will start asking her whereabouts before too long, she dips back into the living room and enters into quick conversation with them before excusing herself once more – she’s out of milk – stepping out the front door and driving down the block. She walks back, slips in through the back door and makes her way into the bathroom unnoticed, lying in the tub and spreading the shower curtain closed. It isn’t very long until someone enters, and she times it perfectly: emerging when their back is to her, turning on the faucet, immediately wrapping her hands around their neck (it is her husband, she now notices) and applying a firm, steady choke. The running water muffles the noise enough that she is sure the guests outside have no idea. She lays his body into the tub, closes the shower curtain, and makes her way back to her car.

Back in through the front door – there was no milk, not the kind she wanted – she takes a seat on the opposite couch and studies them for the first time as she fields inane questions. She is always surprised by the shape and dullness of these two, given their role in the rest of it. Her mother-in-law is perfectly frumpy with nearly half-lidded eyes that lack spark or even interest, and the man wears a glossy anxiety that robs him of anything resembling a personality. The old woman stands up now, worried that her son has been in the bathroom for too long. The host protests, then follows behind her. The old woman knocks, nothing, opens the door, no one, then there is a quick twist of the neck, a collapse and a call from the remaining guest – is everything okay? In moments the baby has been picked up from his arms, placed beside him and he has been delivered a resounding blow across the head from the fire poker.

Then there is just her newborn child, the only one that causes pause, that is never an easy task. Simple asphyxiation this time. A pillow. Still not easy. She cannot look at it yet, not for some time. She goes instead to the kitchen to sharpen the knives.

Now it is the messy business of dismemberment. This she tackles patiently and methodically. This is her great skill, and she takes pride in it, taking time to choose the right tools given the limited selection, not rushing her placement of the different corpses across the living room floor. She starts limbs-first, cutting cleanly and precisely, oldest first then working her way down. Then it is on to the organs, placed neatly beside each so as not to confuse. She chuckles to herself at the ramifications of a mix up as she lifts the heart out of her husband. The sun begins to set and she mentally calculates the remaining time she has before nightfall.

As the sky darkens she stands up finally to assess her work: corpses, limbs, organs, specific bones neatly arranged across the now-sticky living room floor. She takes a sheet off her bed and gently places each part on it, then ties it across her shoulder as a makeshift bag. 

Now she walks across the street, each step slicing backwards through time, and she ascends onto a roof, then the tops of trees, then the heavens, walking into the sky as the earth recedes below her, as time deflates in her wake. Arriving finally at nothingness, she begins the messy business of creation, reaching into her bag for her husband’s heart, then liver, then flesh. Each she places in the empty space above her creating the sun, the moon, the spangled sky. She plants the world as a seed: her baby’s body. The baby’s arteries become the rivers, its fingers the trees, its heart fuels the planet, its dreams the flora and fauna and eventually mankind. Then she is painting the sky with stars and planets as she dips into her bag and applies the proper organ or limb for each. The children’s pale skin forms the lactic stripe in the sky. 

Finally, when the six dissected bodies are all in their right place, ready to become the whole of reality, she takes a step back and then breathes life back into them all at once. The sun blooms, the stars flourish, the rivers and trees awaken, awaiting the creatures that will eventually inhabit them. She watches for some time at the first breaths of the universe, checking her work as she gazes at it all. Before long she is tired, leans a hand on the moon, yawns, and soon after collapses into a celestial heap. 

She will awaken again into a familiar room, or cave, or star, to start her work over – first the choosing of the hosts, then the gradual cultivation over generations, then another sleep and another waking and finally the grisly epiphany of creation.

Illustration by Daria Golab