“We Call Her Mama” – Fiction by Natalia Theodoridou

Adoration of the Madonna - Jacek Malczewski, 1910
Adoration of the Madonna – Jacek Malczewski, 1910

When you’re a god, or a goddess, or any other kind of immortal being, death’s cold embrace can be the ultimate– and most elusive– high. Read all about it in Natalia Theodoridou‘s “We Call Her Mama,” one of the many flappy lits contained in our Fall 2014 issue.

{ X }

“IF I TAKE ENOUGH, WILL I BE ABLE TO DIE?” I asked.

She looked at me, with her boundless eyelashes sparkling under the club lights.

“I don’t know, baby,” she said. “No one has tried that before. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Here.” She held out her iridescent hand. I buried my face in her open palm and snorted the golden dust. My heart imploded right then, I swear. And then we danced, danced, danced like the gods that we were, until there was no club, no dust, no Father (Who art in heaven), just her and me, her unworthy, unfashionable, forever moribund Son.

{ X }

We called her Mama. She was no-one’s mother, but she was Mama to us all.

“Come on, boys and girls,” she would say. “Gather round.” And we did. We rushed to her feet to taste the golden dust that fell from her heels. Who was she? She was the joy of life when dying was but a party trick, and she was the face of death when we were sick and tired of living. And who were we? We liked to say we were fallen legends, desperado gods and renegade dreams, but really we were just a bunch of lost children, trying to forget we were immortal, looking for love. And she gave it to us; I don’t know what was in it for her, but she loved us all, and loved us plenty.

Before love, though, there was the drug. We thought it was the fairy dust that would make us into real boys. It almost did, too; the golden drug makes you laugh hard, and fear hard, and hurt as if you were human. But that’s it. Can’t make you mortal.

We all took it for different reasons, of course, but Mama accommodated each of her children without judgment. We were equals in her eyes. She danced with us, lay with us, dressed our wounds and licked the blood hot off our skin. And then, when we were done, when we had gotten what we needed, she let us go.

That’s how I know I’ll never leave this place. I can never have what I need.

{ X }

“Look at the pretty lights,” I said to the girl sitting next to me. She was wearing a silver crucifix around her neck. Was that a joke, I wonder. “What was your name, again?” I asked her. “Mary, was it? All the women in my life were called Mary.”

“No, it’s Justine,” she said and laughed, her voice barely audible over the music.

On the stage, I saw Mama hold out her palm–her giving, bountiful, magnificent palm–to the demigod children gathering around her. The dust flowed freely and endlessly.

“Don’t you need a fix?” I asked the girl. Justine, she’d said. Probably a lie.

“I just had one. I’m sky high, love. You go ahead. And then let’s dance.”

I got my fix and came back to her a scared boy, hungry for her humanlike skin, trying to ignore the goddess that shone underneath.

“Let it all go, love,” she said. “Let’s die together.”

“We can’t die,” I said.

“I know. But let’s try anyway.”

I like to say that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” I carved it on the headboard of our bed. We tried a different ending every night. Poisons, knives, asphyxiation. Pain was our garden, and death was the forbidden fruit, just out of reach. No grace to fall from.

Sometimes I’d wake up at dawn feeling that an iron nail was being driven through my wrist. The pain was excruciating but it was the hope that hurt worse: please, please let me not rise this time. Please, please, let this time be the last.

The dreams left me soaked in sweat and freezing. I opened my eyes and touched the round scars on my wrists. So long ago and I could still feel the pain. But then I’d shoot up some gold and all was well again. Justine was there, the sleep erasing all the humanity that her face feigned by day. I wondered who she might be. A Sumerian goddess, perhaps. A thing from a myth, an Arabian night, a jinn? Who knows. All I knew was she fucked like a fiend. She loved like one too. She might as well have been one.

{ X }

Justine left the club a few years ago. I found her calligraphed note on my pillow. It said, “Remember what the drug can and cannot do for you. I did. Love, J.”

I stayed. I gradually became part of the surroundings. People came and went. The club was filled with new faces every week. There was this guy who could make all your wishes come true (all except mine, apparently). And another who could change his skin colour, like a chameleon. The chameleon-man. We truly are the stuff of dreams, aren’t we? And Mama loved us all. She loved us plenty.

I tried to leave once. I did leave. I think it was an attempt to convince myself I had all I needed to go on. I made a living doing graffiti in churches for a while–I was all the rage in Spain. Without the dust, I grew numb. It wasn’t a completely joyless existence, though, I have to admit that. I enjoyed desecrating His House in small ways. One time, I gave St. Francis two left hands; another, I scandalized an entire village with St. Anne’s enormous bosoms. But then I was commissioned to paint Judas hanging from his neck, and I couldn’t escape the image of his body swinging back and forth, back and forth, under that fig tree. Lucky bastard.

I broke down. I came back to the club. The golden dust welcomed me. Mama welcomed me.

{ X }

Father never intended me to save anyone, by the by. He just wanted me gone. So I never went back to Him. I was resurrected, sure, but all the rest? I made it up, and then sort of went with it. It made sense at the time. Judas was the only one who truly got it. And the only one who got away.

I sit at the bar and fantasize that Father walks into the club one night. I find out we are more alike than I thought. In my fantasy, He envies me. “At least you got to die once,” He says. He falls to His knees and begs me to go back home. He’s lonely, He says. Lonely and bored and sad.

I used to wonder what I’d do if that ever happened. I don’t anymore. Now I know: I’d tell Him to sod off. Because I have a Mama now, so I can send Him away and it won’t matter, not even a bit. For she will come to me and say, “It’s no big deal, baby. Just shoot up some dust and dance with me. We can kill your regrets later. We’ll kill them one by one. We have all the time in the world, you know?”

I know, Mama. Mama, Mama, Mama, I know.

{ X }

Theodoridou BWNATALIA THEODORIDOU is a UK-based media & theatre scholar. Originally from Greece, she has lived and studied in the USA, UK, and Indonesia for several years. Her writing (prose and poetry) has appeared or is forthcoming in such publications as The Kenyon Review Online, ClarkesworldSpark Anthology IV (Grand Prize winner of Spark Contest Three), and The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women, among others. She has been nominated for the 2014 Rhysling Award. Her personal website is www.natalia-theodoridou.com.

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