Blessed Omeka

Omeka dreamed, and in her dreams she was entirely her own.

Omeka dreamed of dancing in the clubs to swirling, skirling music, joining hands and parting them to the rhythm of the music, of lifts and flourishes and twirling.

Omeka dreamed of Duc, who ran all the extralegal establishments in this District, waving her over, bending down to murmur in her ear, giving her an assignment, an errand, a name, a task to complete.

Omeka dreamed of dressing in her colorful draperies of synth-silk, of dying her hair in many hues, of giggling with the other women as they prepared for the evening’s labor.

Omeka dreamed of drugs, the drifting bliss of jollie, the bubbly jitter of hopp, the sweet drowse of resin.

Omeka dreamed of hard lips and gentle hands, of the press of a body against her own, of the noise and sweat and rhythm of sex.

Omeka dreamed, and in her dreams she was entirely her own.

* * * * *

Omeka woke alone in the narrow bed. She wanted more than anything to bury herself under the covers, hide from the room’s rising light, but she knew it was hopeless. She wasn’t a child anymore; she had to wake up and deal.

The door chimed; Divine Prax come to rouse her. “I’m up!” Omeka called to forestall the Divine from entering.

“It is time for prayers, Blessed.”

“Yes, thank you. Give me a moment.” Omeka slipped out of bed. She peed, then stood in front of the basin, running a damp cloth over her body, staring in the mirror at her close-cropped hair and pallid skin. She heard the outer door slide open.

“I have brought vestments, Blessed.” Everyday clothes; creamy pale shipknits that clung closely to her form covered by a loose robe in pale aquamarine. Omeka dressed quickly—she hated being naked and vulnerable in front of the Divines, although none of them seemed to care—and allowed Divine Prax to escort her into the corridor.

The Order of Our Lady Rain had never been large, nor wealthy, nor respected, and was located in an inner ring of the Station’s religious District, where the spin gravity was weaker and the coriolis was strong. The minuscule chapel was crammed of late with worshipers for every service, even two hours before the start of the early watch. Each one stood as Omeka walked past, bowing from the waist, then folding to kneel on the bare decking. Omeka, at least, had been given a cushion to spare her knees.

She lifted her eyes to the Lady’s image projected on the chapel wall and kept her face carefully neutral as Divine Prax raised his arms and invited the congregation to bow their heads in prayer. All right, You bitch, Omeka thought. I may have no choice but to believe in You, but damned if I’m going to worship You.

The Lady’s image shifted to look down on her, the movement visible only to one person in the chapel. Omeka, my Blessed, you know better than to say such things to me. The Lady extended an insubstantial hand into Omeka’s chest, grabbed her heart, and squeezed…

It was all Omeka could do not to scream in agony as her mind was once again washed in the ecstasy of the Lady’s Presence.

* * * * *

When Omeka came back to herself she was seated at the head of the refectory table, a spoonful of gunge in her hand, the bowl in front of her mostly empty. Omeka loathed gunge; the brown paste was engineered for complete nutrition and to be easy to digest, and was often prescribed to infants and the seriously ill. The Lady’s Order favored it because it was cheap—distributed at low cost or freely to the Station’s down-on-their-luck who had run out of other options—and because some past Divine had stipulated it. Omeka reserved judgement as to whether said Divine was a sadist or simply dyspeptic.

The Divines seated on either side of the long table had been chatting among themselves, but quieted when Omeka put her spoon down and pushed the bowl away. They aimed fourteen pairs of eyes at her. She stared back, uncertain what to say.

“The Lady’s Presence was strong in you at prayers today,” Divine Micah informed her. “Did she have any particular messages for us?”

Omeka shook her head. “This was a… private revelation.” Omeka didn’t like talking about her periodic epiphanies; how the Goddess’s Presence filled her mind, sweeping all that was Omeka aside. The only way to avoid triggering an episode was to be very still, very quiet, very respectful, very obedient, and try to avoid the Lady’s attention.

Omeka had never been very good at being good.

“What are we doing today?” she finally asked, if only so they would stop looking at her.

The Divine Prax practically clapped his hands in glee. “Today, oh Blessed, you will perform your first miracle!”

“I already perform miracles, Prax. That’s how you knew I hold the Lady’s favor.” The Lady’s curse.

“But these miracles will be public! You must go among the people, the wretched and downtrodden, and perform your miracles for them, to ease their suffering and show them Our Lady’s beneficence.”

Omeka knew a scam when she saw one. “How much will Her beneficence cost them?”

“Nothing at all! Merely a love offering from those who can afford to give.”

It wasn’t the money, Omeka thought. Sure, the “love offerings” would pour in, to swell the Order’s accounts, but the real payoff for the Goddess was the belief of the crowd. Gods were sustained on belief, and flourished on actual worship. The Lady would grow strong enough to bestow more blessings on Her Order. Blessings such as money and power.

“We have prepared a place, oh Blessed,” Divine Micah assured Omeka. “We have registered a series of announcements on the Station’s feed, and our lay comrades assure us that turnout will be good. The people are eager to behold the Blessed Omeka.”

* * * * *

There were new vestments, the first new clothing Omeka had since being brought to the Order weeks ago. The colors were the same—the Lady’s white and aquamarine— but reversed; shipknits in a pale hue, the robe a soft cream embroidered with the Lady’s symbols. The sash was a deeper blue than the knits, spangled with diamond crystals. Up close it was tawdry, but Omeka knew that from a distance, in the right lighting, she would glow like a star. Perfect for shilling the rubes.

The Divines had rented a conveyance to take her through the Station corridors in state. As they processed, Omeka recognized the District they were entering.

The public park where she had her first kiss, the tall frames of the oxygen-producing vines providing cover and privacy for the young lovers.

That narrow passageway that didn’t lead anywhere in particular, but appeared on the station maps as a shortcut between two prosperous Districts. It had always been a place to find a lost tourist and relieve them of their small valuables.

Anso’s food cart at its usual intersection, the man’s younger son scooping spicy grilled protein into pockets of flatbread. The aroma made Omeka’s mouth water, and she desperately wanted to stop for breakfast, as she had so many times before.

The tall block of rooms-by-the-hour, the site of many a childhood afternoon playing in the corridors while her elders plied their trade behind closed doors.

This establishment, where they offered a silky fruit compote mixed with jollie, and you could then ride your troubles away on a pink cloud. That one which served tiny vials of looner, bitter as regret.

Brun, Duc’s head of enforcement, nodding collegially to an armored patrol from Station Security. He watched the procession pass with a hard, dispassionate gaze. Omeka tried to catch his eye, remembering his hands on her body, hard enough to bruise, tender enough to bring joy. His face remained carefully, professionally blank, and he turned away without a gesture.

This had been Omeka’s home District until now. She know its people, rhythms, the passages and hidey-holes. She scanned the gathering crowd, finding familiar faces. Auntie Bor, with her usual wares spread out on a mat. Troy, who also ran errands for Duc, and had probably taken Omeka’s place. Carine, with whom Omeka had danced and laughed and nursed hangovers and plotted and shared lovers. None of them would meet her eye, either.

She glanced back; the conveyance was now at the head of a parade, proceeding who knows where. People with tired, desperate faces; the addicts, the raddled, the mutilated, the despairing; looking towards her with hope and need. They frightened her.

“Blessed, we have arrived.” Divine Prax helped her from the conveyance and ushered her into a room she had never seen before. It was decorated in soft synth-silk draperies in cream and aquamarine. Someone had erected a metal rail dividing the room in two. There was a silver throne placed behind the rail.

“What do you think?” Divine Prax asked eagerly.

“Prax, I don’t—where are we?”

“The place of your Sanctification, Blessed!”

This had once been her secret place, her private place; the Lady’s Divines had defiled it by turning it into a place of public worship.

* * * * *

Late in the dead watch, early watch still a few hours away. Omeka left the noise and press of the club, a late dose of hopp still sending bubbles coursing through her bloodstream. She was not nearly ready to rest. So she went to the old storeroom, filled to the cubic meter with bins of forgotten cargo and old salvage and unregarded bric-a-brac. The lock, as always, was ridiculously easy to defeat, and she squeezed by feel through the dark narrow gap between crates until she reached the clearing in the center of the room. A transparent panel was mounted flush in the decking; the inner door of a decommissioned airlock, welded shut long ago when the Station closed this maintenance dock.

She lay flat on the cool glass and watched the stars wheel beneath her nose with the Station’s movement. The drug-induced jitters slowly receded as Omeka slid into a peaceful reverie.

She was alone. She knew she was alone—nobody else ever came here; nobody else ever had reason to come here. She felt the urge to sit up, call out, look around behind her, but she was frozen in place.

A presence—no, a Presence—surrounding her, engulfing her, penetrating her. The world left her perception in clouds of blue and white. The Presence spoke without words.

Greetings, child. I am the Lady Rain.

Omeka had never paid much attention to any of the Gods, much less the Lady Rain, a minor Goddess with a hole-in-the-wall Order tucked away somewhere in the upper rings of what Duc had always called the God-botherer’s District. Lady Rain the Merciful, Lady Rain the Compassionate, Lady Rain the who-the-fuck-cares because her Divines seemed no better off than anybody else, and far worse than many.

I have chosen you, my child, to be my Blessed, my personal representative on this Station. Together we shall shower bounty on the deserving.

Omeka struggled to form words. I am not a child.

All humans are children in my eyes, the Lady replied.

Oh yeah? Then fuck you, Lady. Omeka struggled to push away from the decking, to get up and walk away, but the Lady’s Presence held her body unresponsive.

Lady, you don’t want me. I’m not your type. I’m no candidate for Sainthood. I’ve got a past. I’ve done things, and I liked doing them.

Oh, but that only makes you more preferable. The Saint who was once a sinner is an old story, and a powerful one. My Presence will reform you; my followers will be guided by your example.

No! Not me! I refuse! I will not—

You will. Your consent is not necessary. The Presence swelled, crushed Omeka down, filled every nook and cranny of her psyche. Omeka struggled and wailed, but the Lady’s divine revelation overpowered her. It was ecstacy; it was utter bliss—better than drink, better than jollie, better than sex or the rare approving word from Duc for a job well done. Omeka still resisted in vain.

* * * * *

She lay for a long time on the airlock, drifting empty. She felt the Lady’s absence and a tiny, shamed corner of herself craved its return. The rest wept in grief and violation and utter helplessness.

When she finally opened her eyes it was only to watch the stars on their stately orbit. She wished she could join them; that this airlock still worked and she could cycle herself through it. She wondered if hard vacuum would hurt. There was a soft glow reflecting off the transparent panel, just barely bright enough to blot out the faintest stars, the color of radium salts.

The glow came from Omeka. Her skin shone, her hands left tracers of light as she turned them over. Blue light. Divine light. The sign of Sainthood, of a God’s favor.

Voices, and the spear of a hand light through the gaps between crates. “Is that?” “I can’t tell.” “Here, shift this…” “Thank our Lady!” “Divine, we have found her!” “Blessed, we have come so that you may take your rightful place among our Order.” “Blessed? Will you please come with us, Blessed?”

They took her away. They discarded her bright synth-silk clothing and gave her plain vestments to wear. They cropped the long curls she had dyed in streaks of amethyst and teal and ruby, leaving her head light and cold. They gave her a bare room to sleep in with a narrow bed. They gave her routine; prayers six times a day and lessons in theology, followed by meals of gunge and distilled water. They brought the Divine Clari to her, a hundred years old and doddering, and with a touch she cleared the cataracts from his eyes and the confusion from his age-addled mind.

After that healing, Omeka could feel their strengthened belief pulsing over her in waves. She felt the Goddess within her luxuriate in their worship, and her stomach roiled.

Every resistance, every minor act of rebellion, and the Lady’s Presence would crash into her, exhausting her, stealing away hours where she had no memories of controlling her own body. She learned that if she went quietly small, simulating obedience, the Lady would grant one small corner of her mind as her own.

* * * * *

Omeka took a place on the throne, watching the Lady’s petitioners as they filed into the room. There was pain and poverty and desperation, but also hope. One or two miracles, and their hope would harden into belief, three or four more, and belief becomes worship, and the Goddess would grow in strength and power.

It all starts with their hope. Give the people reason to hope, and they will believe. But subvert their miracles, strip them of their hope, and their belief will wither.

You want miracles? I’ll show you some God-damned miracles.

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