The three women stood patiently on my porch while I tried to process this moment. I couldn’t even think of where to begin. I had questions, I had reservations, I was overwhelmed by that damn calamus, and I was freaking starving.
The center one spoke again, her striking green eyes twinkling beneath the yellow porch light.
“I’m sure you have many questions, sister. We will answer all of them in due time.”
“How did you find us?” Liam asked. The women seemed to jump a little, looking over at him as if they hadn’t noticed him standing there. The one closest to him spoke.
“We are always aware of the conduit’s presence and location. It is a gift bestowed on the Sisters of Amali.” I wasn’t sure if it was her slight British accent or not, but she seemed annoyed by his question.
“Why have we never met before?” I asked. The center one spoke again.
“Because there was no need. Until the Goddess touches you, we cannot be of service. But please, forgive my rudeness. My name is Farrah. I am High Priestess of the Sisters of Amali, and these are my acolytes, Loreyn and Hannah.” The two women nodded to us.
“Krystal. And this is my brother Liam,” I replied.
“It is an honor, sister Krystal. Brother…Liam.” Farrah’s hesitation was not lost on either of us. I could sense her general discomfort with him. Was this one of those man-hating matriarchal groups?
“Uh…I’m Jared? Here to deliver…your, uh…” Our eyes followed the sound of a skinny teenager standing behind the group of women. He was weighed down with multiple thermal bags, and sweating.
“Come on up, Jared, I’ll take those bags from you,” Liam said, gesturing to him. The women parted for him to pass through, and Jared’s wide brown eyes ran shamelessly across all of their faces and then to me and Liam. The two men walked inside the house, and I turned back to the sisters.
“Uh, forgive me for not inviting you in, but I’m still a little freaked out by all of this. I’ve only heard of you vaguely, through stories.
“Ah, yes, from Patricia, your grandmother. What a darling and curious child she was. She certainly kept us all very busy while Katherine was undergoing the Transition.”
“Wait, you were there?” My grandmother passed away only a year or so ago, and she was 87. How old was Farrah? The woman standing in front of me looked no older than 65.
“You have many questions. Let’s just…have a little chat, and see how you feel afterward.” Farrah said, gesturing into my house. I pursed my lips, and looked at all of the women again. Hannah, the one who hadn’t spoken yet, looked younger than the others. She stared at me with wide eyes, and put on a nervous smile. I saw her shoulders shiver as a breeze passed by.
“Okay. Come on in. You can sit in the living room.” I said, stepping aside to let them in. As they walked in, Jared walked out with empty delivery bags, once again staring at the sisters. Liam handed me a sealed bowl of ramen. I sat down in my armchair, across from the women and unwrapped my chopsticks. I felt strangely under-dressed and out of place in my sweater and leggings, balancing a bowl of noodles on my knees, but decorum had no place when I was this hungry.
“So. Why are you here?” I dove into my noodles as soon as I finished the last word, hoping I wouldn’t fling ramen broth on any of their shawls.
“To assist you, of course,” Farrah answered, cocking her head to side with her hands clasped in her lap.
“In what way? What is your purpose?” Liam asked, saving me from talking with a full mouth. Farrah glanced over to Liam, and I could have sworn I saw a flicker of irritation appear on her face. But it was so quick, I questioned how I had noticed it at all.
“Well, during the Transition of the Channeling, the Conduit—that is, sister Krystal—will encounter many ailments, ranging from mere discomfort, to supernatural maladies. The Sisters of Amali are trained in protecting her from herself and others during this trying, but Blessed time.”
“Protect me from others?” I repeated.
“Oh, not in any malicious way, I assure you,” Loreyn said. “But as your new abilities manifest, it may be difficult to control them at first. Which can become a hazard to those around you.”
“How exactly can you help? Do you have psychic abilities as well?” Hannah shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
“We are attuned to the ailments of the Conduit, and can ease many of them through simple touch. Think of us as a salve to your wound; it does not cure, but it does promote healing,” Farrah answered.
“Oh, so like Neosporin in a meat suit?” The 3 women snapped their heads toward Liam, and I hid my snort with a cough. I knew he was trying to annoy them.
“To put it crudely, yes,” Farrah answered. “We can also provide guidance in controlling your newfound abilities, and show you ways to use them for the betterment of humanity. As you know, the role of Conduit is a life-long dedication. The remainder of your years will be spent in the presence of the Great Goddess Amali.” Her eyes closed as she muttered the goddesses’ name. Loreyn and Hannah both clutched at their stones, reciting “Amali” three times. There was no mistaking the devotion heard in their voices; these women were absolutely dedicated to their positions.
I used their devotional break to take in another mouthful of noodles, trying to ignore her statement about me living with a Goddess inside me for the rest of my life. Who would be excited about that?
This deity is pretty much squatting in you until you die. Enjoy!
Perhaps when I was a child, and anything out of the ordinary seemed like a great adventure, I could be as excited as these women. But now – just getting to 30 – the idea of my life suddenly taking a turn for some divine calling (and not my own fucking choice) seemed an awful lot like being dealt a shitty hand.
What about the things I hadn’t experienced yet? Or the things I wanted to experience again? Could I drink? What if I wanted to try drugs? How would relationships work? Sex? Would Amali just…look the other way or something? Or would I feel some weird mix of shame and ecstasy every time I had it? Or not be able to enjoy it at all?
No, Seriously, how would that work?
“You seem lost in thought, sister.” I flinched, looking up to find everyone watching me. A strange ripple of energy washed over me, as if I was suddenly coming out of a deep meditation. Like I had lost a moment or two of time. But I was pretty sure I hadn’t done that; I was in my living room, eating ramen, and these women were sitting across from me. Did I zone out that hard? It was as if my mind had disconnected for a moment.
“I’m—” I started to say “I’m sorry,” but quickly closed my mouth when noodles began to fall out. I had also apparently been mindlessly eating during my weird mind/body separation.
What a strange sensation, to not be aware of my own body, and then suddenly aware again. Did I say anything? Was Farrah talking to me before I…lost myself? My own thoughts were starting to confuse me. What pills had I taken for that headache?
I quietly chewed the noodles and swallowed, placing the bowl on the floor beside me.
“I’m sorry, what were we talking about?”
“Your role as Conduit, sister. Once the Goddess has integrated, she will send her messages through you,” Hannah’s small voice chimed in. “We will record every word that is channeled through you from The Great Goddess.”
“So that’s why you all were around my great-grandmother all the time,” The sisters nodded.
“That has to be weird. How would Krystal be able to work, or—” Liam began, but he cut himself off, letting the reality sink in a bit more.
We sat in silence for a few moments. That’s right. Work would be a thing of the past. Along with my friends. My autonomy. My mouth was too dry to speak. This was feeling too real.
“The Sisters of Amali have been around for some time, sister Krystal. You could say that we have our own version of a…Vatican city, as it were. It is where we all reside, as well as most devotees to the goddess. While there you would be well taken care of, enjoy your modern freedoms, help the locals with your abilities and of course, have the opportunity to learn as much as possible about the rich history of the Sisters of Amali and The Great Goddess Amali herself.” Her eyes closed again as she finished her sentence, and Loreyn and Hannah repeated their ritual of clutching their stones, reciting “Amali” three times.
Another wave of energy washed through me as they chanted, followed by a small, tingling sensation behind the center of my forehead. It tickled as the sensation spread wider, surrounding my skull. Was a bell ringing somewhere? I forcefully shook my head and clapped my hands together.
Keep it together, Krystal.
“Look, can’t she just…not be a part of this?” Liam asked, placing a hand on my shoulder. Farrah looked up, and the corner of her mouth twitched.
“What do you mean? She is the next conduit.”
“Okay, but can’t she–I don’t know–pass it on to someone el–”
“She. Is the Next. Conduit.” Her tone let us know she wasn’t interested in discussing it further.
“Okay. Well, thank you for visiting,” I said, rubbing my temples. The room was starting to get too warm, and I wanted nothing more than for the Sisters to leave. I began to stand up, but stumbled, my knees feeling too weak to hold me. Liam caught me, and I steadied myself on his shoulder.
“Hey. You okay?”
“I am. I just need some space,” I said. The Sisters stood, and Farrah took a step toward me. “I believe I can help with your balance,” she said, placing two fingers on my forehead. Within a few moments, the weakness in my legs began to subside.
“We will be by again, sister Krystal. It was an honor to meet you, and I look forward to assisting you through your blessed transition,” she bowed lightly, and the other two followed suit.
Blessed, my ass.
“Goodbye,” I said, as Liam and I led them toward the door and closed it behind them. We lingered at the window, watching as they all loaded into a silver SUV and pulled out of my driveway. I suddenly felt my stomach rumble.
“Is there any more ramen?” I asked, walking into the kitchen.
“Yeah, I ordered two bowls,” Liam said. I sat at the island and pulled the sealed bowl towards me, my mouth watering as soon as the aromas of green onions, pork and shiitake mushrooms hit my nose.
“So, what do you think of the Sisters?” he asked, sitting across from me and grabbing a slice of pizza.
“I don’t think they’d take too kindly to me declining this blessed transition.”
“Of course not. But do you really think you could get out of it?”
“Well I sure as hell am gonna try. And they have information that we don’t.”
“I don’t know. They seem two punch bowls away from a Jonestown incident,” he said, rubbing his head.
“Yeah, that chanting…” I said, shuddering. He got up and grabbed a bottle of wine from the cabinet.
“Well either way, we should definitely get drunk after strange women whom we’ve never met before show up at your house offering to help ypu.” I nodded as he poured two glasses and sat one in front of me.
“Definitely creepy. But what other leads do we have? It’s not like this shit is written in some reference book in the library,” I said.
“Yeah. I’m sure they have a tight lid on it. Unless…” Liam and I suddenly looked at each other, clearly sharing the same memory.
“Grandma’s Journal!” we said in unison.
Grandma didn’t mention it often, but she pointed out a few times that she kept a journal while growing up with her mother, thinking she would turn it into a book. She changed her mind as we got older, and kept it “safe, from curious eyes,” which she would say directly to us with a raised eyebrow and a finger wag. We tried a few times to sneak into her bedroom and search for the journal, but never found it. When our grandmother passed away, all of her belongings were placed in a storage unit, and I kept the key.
“Do you think we’ll actually find it at the storage unit?” I asked.
“Only one way to find out,” Liam said, clinking glasses with me.