I’ve always found that women have a high tolerance for physical pain. When I gave some thought to how a matriarchal society would view afterlife in the land of the damned I decided it would never be a place of fire and brimstone. No, their land of the damned would be an afterlife ruled over by the goddesses that represent the worst in women’s nature: the Goddess of Wrath, Retribution, Unforgiveness, Lost Hope, Bitterness and Hatred. The woman’s version of hell is subtle, insidious, wearing on the soul and sanity. In Evlantis women only speak of the land of the damned in whispers and are quick to make the sign against evil whenever it is mentioned. Here is a glimpse into how the women’s version of hell was taught when Rachel was High Queen:
“Come, children,” said the teacher-priestess. “Today is the day we must talk about a taboo subject. We sent letters home to your mothers late last week. Is there anyone here whose mother wants them excused from the topic we must discuss today?”
Three hands went up and the priestess nodded. She sorted through scraps of papyrus on her desk looking for confirmation. She dreaded today’s lesson as much as the children did and she envied the girls who were being dismissed. She found the list she had been looking for. “Stamen and Lexia, you will join Sister Regina’s class debate on the merits of treating the slaves as assets and not as chattel. An equally taboo subject, by the way,” she said, raising her eyebrow as she perused the class. The priestess turned her eye upon the third student that had raised her hand. “Nellie, you must stay with us today.”
Little Nellie’s eye’s brimmed with tears. “Please don’t make me stay, priestess, I’m afraid.”
“So am I child, but facing the truth is an important element in growth. Knowing what the consequences of our actions in life could be helps us all to choose our paths wisely. Learning about what awaits the wicked in the land of the damned is every bit as important as learning of the harmony and joy that awaits us in Sector afterlife. No, not another word from any of you until this is over. Line up single file and follow me out into the courtyard.” The priestess lowered her voice. “We will sit in a circle in the sun, so as not to attract the attention of the hellion goddesses as we talk about their realm.”
The children sensed the anxiety of the teacher-priestess. The normally bubbly and energetic class of seven-year-old girls responded by somberly following her instructions to the letter. It wasn’t until they were seated in a circle under the bright mid-day sun that the priestess spoke again.
“I caution you only to speak of the tortures of the land of the damned in full daylight and in whispers, as we are about to do. I will speak the horrors into the ear of the girl on my left, one suffering at a time, and she will turn to her classmate and repeat it in a whisper and so on.” The priestess looked up at the sky. “If a cloud should cover the sun, for the sake of your soul and those around you stop speaking immediately. It is said that in ancient times one little girl died while speaking of these mysteries while she was in shadow.” In spite of the bright sunlight, girls shivered.
“The sooner we begin, the sooner we can finish,” said the priestess-teacher, making the sign against evil. The little girls copied her movement. The priestess drew a deep breath and began, sentence by sentence, to impart the knowledge of the Land of the Damned to her students.
“It is a place where you can always here the feeble cry of an infant in pain, an infant in need, but no matter how hard you look you can never find them.”
“A place where the lectures of your shortcomings by your mother never cease.”
“A place where the things you could not provide to your daughter(s) are a constant reminder.”
“A place where hunger and thirst are never sated.”
“A place where there is nothing you can do to make yourself beautiful.”
“A cold place where no matter how long you search, you will not find a place to find a hearth to call home.”
“It is a land of no privilege, no comforts, no companionship, no kindness.”
“It is a land of division, derision, debasement, and defilement.”
And so it went until the priestess-teacher had finished the catechism of the land of the damned. All the little girls were crying by the time she had finished. She let them wail and weep, well aware that her class had ended long ago.