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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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The Vanske

The Vanske

The Vanske are born rarely, in batches of thirty, to different mothers in different towns. Even in infancy they are beautiful beyond compare. Invariably though inexplicably, every mother names their Vanske child similarly – a simple name, often monosyllabic and slightly musical. The worry comes months later, when the child seems possessed, crawling into walls and grabbing at the air. Yet, just when the worried mother thinks their child is mad, they have a moment of lucidity – a day, in fact, when they are completely normal and present. This pattern persists and is eventually realized, and every mother deals with it differently. Some lock their child in a room until they seem in control of their body, some give them freedom and pray for the best. 

The thirty Vanske sisters scattered across countries share one mind, and it controls all thirty of their bodies. It isn’t a constant tug of war for consciousness – each sister has control of her mind and body for a single day, after which it is passed to another sister until each one has had their day. Then it repeats. They share memories, but do not understand their true nature. Instead, they usually speak of their other selves as dream sisters, their memories of twenty-nine other lives extremely vivid dreams.

Though one sister is in control at any one time, all thirty of their bodies move in perfect synchronicity. It makes twenty-nine of them seem possessed or mad, eating invisible food, having conversations with the air, undressing in public. And yet, they are never institutionalized or burned at the stake. It might be their unrelenting beauty, the kind that starts wars. Or it might be their disarming once-a-month sagacity and eloquence in movement and speech. Because they only seem to live in their town’s world once a month, it is a memorable, often unforgettable event that is celebrated.

There have been many recorded instances of a Vanske sister being deified by her community. In each case, they suspect that she lives in a separate plane of existence most of her life, speaking to angels and gods that can only see each other. Vanske sisters are often courted by many and marry royalty – their otherworldliness is seen as less a disease of the mind and more a holy gift no one is wise enough to understand.

A Vanske’s life is a dangerous one and they are prone to fatal accidents. Each time a Vanske sister dies, the rotation of consciousness becomes a day more frequent. This often gives their friends and families the illusion that, over their lives, the Vanske sister becomes more sane. The last surviving Vanske sister is completely present in her own body and mind, often delighting her dying husband.

There has been one case of an especially perceptive mother realizing the true nature of her Vanske daughter, stringing together the twenty-nine life stories she was pantomiming each month. This mother dedicated her life to finding her Vanske sisters, traveling country to country, seeking reports of mad princesses or angels walking the earth. One by one she collected the Vanske sisters, finally bringing all thirty of them to her town and building a large round room where they all slept. 

Together in the same town, they moved like a kaleidoscope or tessellation, a poetry of movement so overwhelming that the citizens were put completely under their spell. They were quickly put in charge of their hamlet, which soon grew under their leadership to become the capital of a vast and varied country. Under the rule of the Vanske sisters, the country saw a golden age that made all other countries and eras pale in comparison. And when they were buried, they were canonized. In fact, they became that country’s religion for the rest of time.

Illustration by Lucie Salgado

Three

Three

Somnia

Somnia