I sat on my bed, eating my dinner in silence. Liam was sitting on his cot, eyes closed, listening to music. Lillian had given me instructions to meet her for a ritual the following evening at midnight. We’d need to grab a few materials to help with preparations. I hadn’t told any of this to Liam yet, though.
A large part of me wanted to believe Lillian. I wanted to receive her instructions and obey immediately. I couldn’t explain that feeling, other than an unspoken level of trust. Maybe it was because of her connection with Katherine that she knew what I was going through. She seemed like the only one who was interested in helping me out of my situation.
But Liam made a great point. This woman had never been a part of our lives— much like the Sisters—and her presence now didn’t mean that we should trust her any more than anyone else. If it weren’t for his desire to see what we could learn from the Sisters, I would have been out of this place as soon as I woke up. But since I was here, I needed to get as much out of them as I could.
Which started with speaking to Sister Julia about what she knew about one of my ancestors.
After I finished eating, I decided to seek her out. I wasn’t sure where she lived, but I figured I’d start with the building I received my training in. I walked through the quiet town center and noticed a few younger women placing bouquets of flowers at the large statue of Amali. For a brief moment, my heart warmed, and I wanted to thank them, but then realized how delusional that would seem – for them, and for me. I was not the Goddess Amali. I was just an unsuspecting victim in Amali’s desire to connect with humans. That was my theory, anyway —and I certainly didn’t need to draw any more attention to myself. I could barely handle the abilities that I had. And I mean barely.
I opened the door to the North Wing and scanned the directory posted on the wall in front of me. Each wing had one that listed the quarters of the instructors in each building. I found Julia halfway down the list:
Sister Julia Knotts, Room 163
I followed the signs to her room, and went to knock, but hesitated. What was I doing? It was around eight o’clock, and I hadn’t even considered her schedule. What if she went to bed early? Or was deep in meditation or study?
Before I could let my worry take me any further, the door cracked. Julia smiled, and opened the door wider.
“No need to lurk outside my door. Come on in.” Her honeyed voice beckoned me into the room, and before I knew it, I was seated on a floor cushion, cross-legged, with a cup of hot cocoa. It made me think of the stories I read about sailors on the seas, hearing a Siren’s call, and being unable to resist. That was how I felt when Julia spoke.
I took a sip, letting the liquid warm me from within. Julia’s energy was the most comforting and healing I had encountered since I arrived here. If I didn’t have anything pressing to discuss with her, I’d probably just lay down and get a great night of sleep in her room.
“So,” she began, placing her mug down next to her. I just nodded.
“Are you sure you want to know?” she asked.
“I have to. I have to know, Julia,” I said. She smiled briefly, and then looked off to the side.
“I know the Sisters are only trying to protect you. But the way Amali is moving within you tells me there is more at stake this time.”
Julia ran her fingers through her long black hair, twirling a tendril around her finger. It was one of the most human movements I had seen since I arrived here.
“The Conduit I spoke of during your training. The one who came before Katherine. Three generations before. Do you know of her?”
I paused for a moment, considering the family tree that our grandmother used to share with us all the time as children.
“Um…Florida?” I asked.
“Yes. She was part of the flight to France by your ancestors. And from what I’ve learned, she was a real firecracker. The first to stand up for anyone who was being mistreated, and she was a willing vessel of Amali. Excited, is how the Sisters saw her. She had great insight into what her role would be on this Earth.”
“Yes. That was the reaction of all of the Sisters during that time. Unlike many previous incarnations, she was not just an Oracle. Krystal, she was a fighter. I mean that in the literal sense.”
“I heard something recently about Amali being more than an oracle,” I said. Julia nodded with a sad smile.
“It’s true. And while I love my Sisters, they are some of the worst offenders when it comes to making known the full capabilities of the Goddess. They discuss what they think is safe for you to know. But I strongly believe that it’s a disservice to your lineage to not always know what you will be truly capable of while joined with Amali.”
Joined. That was the first time I heard this whole journey described that way.
“Yes, Krystal. Joined. I’m not sure what Farrah told you, but your bloodline is in a partnership with Amali. You are family. You need her as much as she needs you.”
“Family.” That’s right. Our bloodline descends from her. I felt a stir in my lower abdomen, where the energy from before had been sleeping soundly since that afternoon. I suddenly had a strong desire to protect whatever was lurking there, but I shook my head. I needed to focus on answers right now. Not emotions.
Julia sipped her tea, waiting patiently for me to finish my inner dialogue. As I looked at her, I could see that her eyes gave way to more knowledge than her age showed, much like Farrah. Except Julia looked to be in maybe her early 40’s. I idly wondered if her real age was closer to 80.
“So what happened? With Florida?”
“What happened? Well, Florida was an activist before becoming the Conduit. She made enemies of many people thanks to her… “style”, and she was able to hold her own for quite a while. During her era, supernatural pursuits were making a major resurgence in various governments; greedy leaders were using it for their own gain. So she stayed busy. The Order of the Mighty also had a lot more involvement back then.”
“Is that how the Order operates? Subversion, manipulation?”
Julia shrugged. “Their history is a bit more convoluted. They weren’t always on the wrong side of morality, but they were always in opposition to the practice of deities aiding humans. They felt that gods should never intervene; it only caused an imbalance. And so they did what they thought would even the scales. Sometimes they went farther than necessary.”
“So how did Florida-er-Amali…fight?”
“Mainly through her psychic powers, of course. Telekinesis, and wielding the energy around her. It made her a formidable opponent. But Florida was strong in her own right.” I nodded.
“My grandma told me she was raised by her four brothers. And she was always fighting with them. She had a knack for it. Even studied some martial arts when she got to France.” Julia raised her eyebrows.
“So you do know about the strong women in your history.”
“My grandma was more than an admirer. I’m starting to believe she worshiped them more than Amali.”
“You could say that about some of the Sisters here, the way they go on about your family,” she laughed. I could understand; they certainly seemed to know more about my family than I or Liam or even our grandma could. An uncomfortable thought, the idea of strangers knowing my lineage so deeply. I had to know as much as possible.
“Has there ever been…anyone in my family who didn’t…survive the Channeling?” the words brought a chill to my spine as I said them. Julia’s face softened, and she looked down at her hands. I could tell she was trying to figure out how to phrase her answer.
“There are…a few. Only a few.”
“They…resisted. They resisted the Channeling… and paid with their lives.”
My heart double-timed in my chest.
“What do you—”
“Krystal, this process is not to be taken lightly. You, a human, are tasked with being the vessel of a being far more powerful than you. Yes, Amali takes great care to be gentle, but if you resist, she must push. She must.”
“And sometimes she just…pushes too hard.” I didn’t try to hold back the ice in my voice. “So what I went through today—”
“—was a push, yes.”
“And I could have died.”
“But you didn’t.”
“What kind of a fucking deity says ‘My way or the Highway, Fam. Assimilate or Die?’ What is this, the Old Testament?”
“It’s not that simple, Krystal, she is fulfilling a Mission. A Blessed—”
“Again with that word Blessed. I didn’t ask for this. And the women who suffered and died didn’t ask for this either. And because I’m not some lemming following the herd, I will probably lose my life over it. Some blessing. Why can’t a more willing participant of my blessed fucking bloodline do it instead?”
Julia’s eyes squinted as if I were crazy for asking that question.
“Because you’re it, Krystal.”
“Florida, as you know, wasn’t able to have any children. In order for the line to continue, it must be passed through the women. So her sister Frances, back in the States had moved up North and had 5 children. 3 boys, 2 girls.”
“Right. But one of her daughters died as a baby, so that left Hannah. And Hannah had two sons…and Mary.”
“Katherine’s mother. So you see, Krystal, you’re it. You’re the only option.”
The only option.
I felt the edges of my vision fall away as the words sank in. So that was it? Whatever was happening was my burden to bear, no one else’s? And if I refused, if I resisted? If I tried to get out of this… I would probably die.
More than that. The words popped into my head in that…voice. The voice of Amali.
“Oh.” Was the only word I could manage, though it was more of a grunt.
“I know this is a lot, Krystal. But the reason you came to me today was because I saw something more.” I looked up at her. She had moved closer to me, and held her hands out.
“May I touch you?” She asked. I nodded, still half-dazed. She placed her hands on either side of my head, then placed them on my shoulders. A tingling sensation lingered whenever she lifted her hands.
“Yes…” she whispered, her eyes closed as she picked up my hands. “Yes. This is different. This isn’t like Katherine at all.”
“You were with my great grandmother too?” she fluttered her eyes open, and I again tried to search them for signs of age, of time, of hidden decades of life experience.
“There’s so much to…” she trailed off, and held my face in her hands. “…and we don’t have the time.” She searched deeply into my face, examining my mouth, my forehead, my eyes, and her mouth twitched as if she might say something else, but decided against it. She dropped her hands and sat back, smiling at me.
“It’s time for you to rest, dear one. You have a lot of thinking to do. No thanks to me,” she said. She stood up and opened her door.
“We’ll talk soon.” I stood up and walked out of the room, unable to take my eyes off of her. I couldn’t think of anything to say. Everything that came up felt trivial compared to the feeling in my chest.
I walked back to my room in silence. Julia’s words echoed in my head, and with each step I fought against them. By the time I was back to my door, I was determined to follow through with meeting Lillian for the ritual.
Damn this Goddess. Damn this Destiny.