My sister-in-law swallowed a god.
She says the god is Loki. Not at all like the Loki in the Marvel movies — she doesn’t like Tom Hiddleston much. Her Loki isn’t some brooding brunette, but a bright, manic carrot-top. She says that Loki wants her to have goals, that he gives her dizzy spells when she doesn’t stand up for herself, that he has a smell, a perfume, like pure fire.
I’m not sure where my sister-in-law found him, but I doubt it matters. It’s probably not a place, anyway. She’s long been into astral projection, multiple souls, metaphysical bordering on schizoid stuff. It’s how she copes, living with a witch. The witch is her mother. Not her step-mother, her real mother, the woman who birthed and suckled and raised her. That’s how you know this is true, and not some fairy tale. There are some tough life lessons in the Brothers Grimm, but the good brothers knew better than the make the witch anyone’s real mom. Because how do you cope with that? How do you make her dance in red-hot shoes when she’s that close to you?
Anyway, my sister-in-law swallowed a god, and she told my husband and me all about it on the phone. Honestly, it sounded like a good idea. What else was she supposed to do? My husband had never found a way to block his mother’s curses, so he moved a thousand miles from her and never talks to her if he can help it. Distance and time and a delicate pharmaceutical balance has weakened her hold on him. I still catch the witch at it sometimes, probing at my husband’s mind, and there’s not a damn thing I can do but hold him and wait for her to leave. I don’t come from a line of power like that.
But my sister-in-law wanted to fight the witch. Or maybe it was Loki inside her, giving her will and power both. Prodding her onward with dizzy spells when she didn’t stand up for herself. So she stood up. When her mother the witch demanded that she stop studying for a big test and take her out thrift shopping for clothes she didn’t need, she said no. The witch threatened her, and she still said no, wreathed in the hot, dry smell of pure fire.
I was so proud of my sister-in-law when she told us about it.
But the witch got her back. I can’t prove this part happened, but I think she must have hurt my sister-in-law’s dog. Kicked the poor animal, and then let him outside. So he ran right over to the neighbor’s kid who was playing in the street, and bit his leg. The kid needed sixteen stitches, and the court ordered the dog be euthanized.
Well, Loki wouldn’t stand for that. Wouldn’t stand for my sister-in-law losing her dog because the witch manipulated the dog the way she manipulates everyone. When the witch took the dog to be executed, he told my sister-in-law to get the toolbox. She went through the house making minor mayhem. She took the hardware off cabinets and drawers, the knobs and locks off of doors. She took the mirror off the wall in the witch’s bathroom, and then dropped it.
That was an accident. The dropping. The mirror shattering into a hundred silver knives on the bathroom tiles. But then worms and flies wriggled out from between the shards. My sister-in-law opened the window to let out the flies, and swept up the broken mirror and the worms. The vermin freaked her out a bit. That wasn’t normal, even by the standards of someone with a god in her belly. So she put the broken mirror in the neighbor’s trashcan, so it wouldn’t even be on the property any more.
By the time the witch got home from from murdering the dog, she was old. Old and ugly. The mirror had been a source of her power, and wrecking it had wrecked her. She chased my sister-in-law around the house. She told her to get out, only to have my sister-in-law remind her that she was still seventeen, wouldn’t be eighteen for weeks yet. Legally, the witch had to keep housing her until then.
So the witch picked up the toolbox herself, flipped around the still-working privacy lock on my sister-in-law’s door, and locked my sister-in-law in from the outside. Then she called the phone company and had my sister-in-law’s smartphone deactivated. We didn’t hear from her for five days.
When we did hear from her again, she was in a hospital. They thought she was crazy. She might be crazy, but she’s probably telling the truth. She said that Loki didn’t like her being locked up. That Loki told her to focus her will on the door, and picture him, the bright, manic carrot-top. Picture pure fire.
So she did, and the door caught fire. And then the whole house caught fire. And the witch danced in burning shoes across the living room as it all fell down.
The witch is in a medically induced coma right now. Tubes running in and out of her, like a sci-fi voodoo doll. But she’s still at it, even like that. She probed my husband and me both last night, and all we could do was hold each other and wait for her to leave.
And my sister-in-law? We’re still not sure what will happen to her. Whether there will be criminal charges, or a long stay at a psychiatric hospital, or if she will come live with us once her burns are healed. But whatever happens, she says, she’ll be okay.
She swallowed a god, after all.