Themis

Lynn bit her lip and gripped her hands so tightly she could smell blood from them. Or maybe it was her lip. Or both. Brenda was weeping in her sleep again. Begging. "Please...please don't! Petey please!" Lynn had heard it before. Several nights before.

Too many nights.

She knew how it would end, when Brenda would jerk awake, mid-scream, and then muffle it in her pillow, hoping no one would hear. Or at least, that everyone would pretend they hadn't heard. Like her parents pretended every night.

Like Lynn pretended, too, because what could she do? Lynn squirmed in her bed, her sheets tangled as she wrestled with her own rage and fear, anguish and helplessness, listening. She'd tried getting up once, crawling into her sister's bed, but her sister had just given her a hug, turned the other way and then stifled her sobs so Lynn wouldn't hear. Lynn had felt worse than ever.

Her big strong sister, beautiful, brilliant, star of the chess club and President of the Honor Society, National Merit scholar, anime cosplayer, cinnamon waffle fanatic, lay weeping in her nightmare, reliving something that no one wanted to know about. No one wanted to believe. Brenda had been reduced to a scared shadow of herself in a single day and a single night. A single day where someone she should have been able to trust destroyed her sense of self and power. A single night where her parents, who bragged about her intelligence and accomplishments, flatly refused to believe Brenda's uncle could have done anything like that. Not Pete. Not good ol' Pete, married Pete with a daughter of his own—just turned seven. Not Pete who directed the church choir where Brenda had once been a favored soloist.

The part that killed Lynn is that she knew her parents knew Brenda wasn't lying. They knew. When Brenda had bowed out of choir, her parents hadn't tried to talk her out of it, had pulled Lynn out of the choir with asking if she wanted to stay. When Uncle Pete's daughter was having a birthday party sleepover, Mom and Dad made up excuses so Lynn wasn't staying overnight, just for the cake and presents. Their annual joint camping trip with Pete and his family had been canceled with a vague excuse about Mom's workload.

They knew.

They cared enough about their own daughters to protect them from another episode, but not enough to tell Brenda they believed her. Not enough to bring him to justice or protect anyone else's girls, not even his own. Not enough to admit Mom's own brother was a monster. Admitting it would make it real. Better to sacrifice Brenda’s honor than admit Pete was a predator. Even if that cost Brenda her heart.

Brenda jerked awake before the scream had gone on a second and stifled it in her bedding. Then she wept, big raucous sobs that sounded like they tore her apart. Only here, in the middle of the night where she felt completely alone, did the passion and emotion that made up Brenda find tragic voice. During the day, she'd be blank, her eyes as hollow as her smile. Once the sobs subsided, she'd curl up the other direction and whisper "Just two more months. Just two more months," over and over until she could find her way back to sleep. It had been three months then, back when her uncle had raped her. Now, it was two more months until she could go away to college.

Lynn wondered if the sister she loved more than anyone, loved more than all the world, would come back home at all? Would she ever see her sister again? And if she did, would the sister be Brenda or just the shadow of Brenda her parents, her uncle, had fashioned from the vivacious sister Lynn had grown up with? Lynn was afraid of the answer to those questions.

Lynn was heartbroken. She wanted to weep, but knew it would only hurt Brenda. She wanted to scream, but who would care? She wanted to rage to the skies, but she was twelve. She'd lost her only sister, with her uncle the killer of her sister's spirit and her parents accomplices. What options did she have?

What could bring her sister back?

She sat up. Her father kept a gun in his nightstand. Loaded. He'd made sure to tell her so she could be protected...the irony didn't escape her.

It couldn't be that hard to shoot her uncle. He was out until ten with the adult choir on Wednesdays. She could sneak out the window, after going to bed, and wait for him to come home...

"Lynn," a voice said.

Lynn sat up in case her sister had wakened, wanted to talk to her.

But it wasn't her sister. A woman, clad in a white dress that hung to her feet, stood at the foot of the bed. Her hair was curling gold and bound with a red ribbon. In one hand, she had a strange contraption, a couple of dishes suspended by chains and a bar. In the other, a sword glowed red.

"Who are you?"

The woman, her face impassive but surprisingly beautiful, bowed her head. "I am Themis." The voice was musical but had an odd accent.

"Why are you here?" Lynn wondered why she wasn't frightened or didn't cry out. Maybe she should scream, but she didn't feel frightened. More, she felt curious. Maybe comforted, as if this was an angel in response to her prayers.

"Judgement has been made. The gods who begged for clemency and mercy, time and forgiveness, have had their chance to correct the wrongs that are as old as the race of men. And they have failed. Now, they must make way for Justice. For my companions and daughters to right what they have failed to right. As I predicted. As did my daughter, Dike Astraea. Now will they feel us, Nemesis, Eunomia, Dike, spreading the fates that the Moiroi say are long overdue."

Lynn blinked. "I didn't understand any of that."

The woman smiled. She lifted the contraption on chains that glowed gold. "See how the scales cry out for justice long denied? You and your sisters, your rage and grief, have called us and we will answer. Those who are marked must atone. Those who are beyond atonement will be punished. Rest well, my child."

Weirdest dream she'd ever had, Lynn thought, but found her spirit lifted. Not happy. But hopeful.

*

"Peter McKay," a voice said, waking him from a sound sleep. He turned from where he was spooning his wife and blinked at the glow beside his bed.

A woman, glowing palely gold, returned his stare, her face grim. "Peter McKay, it is time to answer for your crimes. What say you?"

"Who are you? What are you doing here?"

"You stand accused of forceful rape against your niece. What say you?"

"I never."

The woman closed her eyes. "Is that all you have to say?"

"It wasn't my fault. She wanted it." Pete didn't know why he was saying anything. Why wasn't he smacking this intruder, calling the police?

"Is that all?"

"It was a momentary lapse. It didn't mean anything."

The woman's eyes opened as the scales in her hand tipped to one side. "You can lie to yourself but your soul knows the truth. Speak, now, soul. Can this man be spared?"

"He has harmed those who trusted him," Pete found himself saying. "And will take no responsibility, though he has seen the harm. He refuses to learn and has not atoned." Pete hung his head, and wished he could stop his own voice. "His niece was not the first."

"The soul always knows," the woman said, lifting another hand, this empty but with a palm that glowed red. "Your soul has judged you." She slammed the palm against Pete's forehead and he screamed as the fiery pain seared through his skin, charred his bones and, finally, scorched its way into his brain.

*

In the morning, Lynn woke to the sound of weeping. She rubbed her eyes, afraid to see the state her sister must be in, but it wasn't Brenda. Instead, her mother and father huddled together on the floor, begging their bleary daughter for forgiveness. Lynn felt she must be dreaming for there, on their foreheads, written in what appeared to be blood, the word "Betrayer" glowed red

The night before, Lynn thought, it had just been a dream, right? The woman in white with the sword for Crissake, the dream of another woman, dressed similarly smiting Petey, leaving him, eyes open in shock, the word "Rapist" carved so deeply into his forehead one could see charred flesh beyond the skull...

Themis, she'd said. She'd come back with a vengeance.

Not just for Uncle Pete, but for pastors and priests, for coaches and cops, for politicians and others in positions of power who thought they were untouchable. No one guilty was safe.

*

"And that changed everything. No one could pretend they were innocent any more, not with their guilt visible for all to see. If they lived and they tried to cover it up, it burned again until it was visible. Many politicians lost their jobs, many entertainers and sportsmen. And women began to take on those jobs, determined to make sure we never returned to the way it had once been."

"Grandma," said Jo. "That is not what happened. I'm not eight years old, you know. I can read."

The seamed face beamed at her as Grandma Lynn rocked in her rocking chair. "Such a smart child. Were you there?"

"No, but they had this unit in school already. Someone—you—invented a recorder that would record nerve impulses that could be used in a court of law. Social services started with them on foster children and children who seemed to be at risk. After a few videos went viral where the public could see and hear what really happened, saw the faces leering and looming—my teacher actually said that—and a few creeps were caught in government, women and other elected Dems agreed that children, women, and others at risk could ask to have the recorder installed by doctors. The recordings could be activated to transmit to the cloud. False accusers, which were the excuse trotted out all the time to go soft on the rapists, were caught as easily as rapists and were fewer and further between than anyone had guessed. Then, Mom became the 48th president. Aunt Brenda became the first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Many types of violence, that happened almost everywhere when you were a kid, became almost unheard of. Domestic violence. Hate crimes. Crimes against gays. Crimes against blacks. Even police brutality that had spawned a whole movement and yet continued unchecked finally came to an end—since the police were required to have the recorders and couldn't turn them off." Jo chuckled. "And their behavior to some victims ended up changing once they had to answer for it."

Grandma Lynn nodded. "That happened, too. Accountability is a powerful tonic." Grandma Lynn's face went hard. "There are still a few diehards who prefer to think women are dishonest rather than admit that some men used that reputation to shield themselves from the consequences of their own misdeeds" She smiled down at her granddaughter again. "You are so bright, Jo. And you really can be anything you want. Now we mean it, when before, when I was your age, it was just lip service. But that doesn't mean my story isn't true."

Jo rolled her eyes. "Some goddess from ancient mythology came down and smited—smoted—marked the wrongdoers?"

Grandma Lynn shrugged, her face still wreathed in smiles. "Perhaps not that exactly. But twelve-year-olds can be inspired in odd ways. Sometimes, you have to believe in justice even if it seems unattainable." She stroked Jo's chin. "And I got my sister back."

Stephanie E Barr

Stephanie E Barr

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Recent Articles
Back Seat Driver Pt 2
Why I Don't Hate Men
Back Seat Driver Pt 1
The Monster She Lives With
Overkill

  • No comments found