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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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Madeleine

Madeleine

In our third session, Madeleine revealed that she was a god eater.

Born with a precocious tongue she nurtured to maturity, it began as a quest for extravagant meals. She dabbled with cooking endangered species, savoring the aftertaste, which overtook the body like no other meat. When that tired her, she began obsessively searching for the last of a species. She grew a team – biologists, hunters, a young anthropologist – and explored the world for species that were by definition almost impossible to find. She spent years on interminable hikes through untouched forests, bringing back her prey for culinary events that soon became legendary.

And then she learned of a goddess. There existed a cassowary that the New Guinean Kaluli tribe venerated and worshipped as their deity. None of this generation had seen it, but the legends spoke of Her piercing eyes and the blue aura that surrounded Her. They believe she controlled the weather – and desire in men's hearts. When Madeleine was taken to the tribe she hid her purpose and they adopted her. She spent months living with them, gaining a knowledge of their land, hunting methods and rituals. Nights she would escape and hunt. She had, at this point, more experience hunting animals than most, and within the first season was already on the trail of the goddess.

After disappearing from the tribe for two weeks in the thick heat of August, she caught the deity late on a moonless night. Overcome with mad desire, she slaughtered it and immediately cooked it. Ravenous, she devoured everything save her bones. She then slept for three days, and awoke with a new hunger that would never leave her. 

Her next prey was human. A 900 year old man in the desert. She braved a month of sandstorms to find his hut. He welcomed her and brought her peace and told her everything he knew. She stayed for a year, befriended him, married him, spent every waking moment beside him month after month. To whet her appetite she began manufacturing accidents. His finger while cooking. His small toe while sleeping – a snake she told him. A year in, she could no longer stave off the desire. His left arm had already sated her for a month longer than she had planned. 

She never revealed how she killed him. Only that it was protracted – it took many attempts and a great deal of creativity. She wouldn’t describe the look in his eyes when it happened. I asked, and she inhaled, ready to answer – then let the question sit in front of us for a long time before exhaling emptily. Was she now a goddess – had his celestial office now passed to her? She shook her head, holding up a hand with four fingers on it – she was sure it had not.

Twenty-three gods ingested. Animals, humans, the last existing megatherium hidden by the Sioux for millennia. She had stopped eating save for godflesh. Gaunt and paranoid, she watched the sky, the clouds, the earth, warily – as if an attack could come from anywhere, at any time. To be out of favor with your god is one thing. To be the enemy of all gods, something entirely different.

We sat for a long time in silence as I studied her eyes meticulously. There were chambers fat with ennui. A certain light revealed a deep jealousy poisoning the corners. Fear and hunger hunted each other across her iris. And her pupils were empty chasms. After what seemed hours, she spoke. “I am waiting for it. Just like the rest of us. I am waiting for it.” And with that she left.
 

Illustration by Leslie Ann O'Dell

MARTHA

MARTHA

Hettie

Hettie