Last week’s piece of weird fiction being discussed at LibraryThing is from Gemma Files, a writer I should read more of given that I’ve liked the few stories of hers I’ve read.
Review: “This Is Not For You”, Gemma Files, 2014.
This is an interesting play on the feminist myth of an old, female centered religion suppressed by the patriarchy. Except the Goddess in this case demands sacrifices of males.
When the story first opens, you think it’s in the past or in some post-apocalypse future.
We have a group of women chasing down some men they have lured to the country (sometimes into areas with pre-dug pits) and then killing them and eating their flesh. The Greek myth of the Maenad is specifically mentioned latter in the story. By surprise and greater numbers and those traps, Files doesn’t employ the unrealistic warrior babe cliché though she comes close with one woman.
The main character is Gorgo. That’s an obvious allusion to Gorgon, but it’s not her real name which may be Susan. That name is discovered by another woman in the group, Phoibe. She works in the tech industry and is the one that finds and lures the sacrificial victims to their annual meetings.
Gorgo is a literature professor. We also gradually discover that she is a serial killer, a sociopath who simply likes killing men because it violates the norms of serial killers being mostly men. Files puts in some thoughtful observations that, when women kill, they tend to prey on those in the space of the home with victims who are weak or trusting, killing through poison or neglect.
There is something of an internal struggle within the group precipitated by luring, to its meetings, the son of the leader, Aglia. She is, as Gorgo notes, a true believer who waxes, in sincere, ecstatic manner early in the story, about how what they are doing is necessary, serves an old tradition, is not a crime. Phoibe, in a realistic depiction of the jockeying for dominance in a female hierarchy, hopes to embarrass Aglia and perhaps supplant her. Aglia either kills her son to remain true to the creed or fails to honor it.
Since Gorgo doesn’t like Phoibe, she kills her.
Aglia tells Gorgon that she is now a saint to the group, that she has done something even Aglia would have trouble doing: killing a woman because it serves the Goddess. Gorgon’s murderous sociopathy serves the Goddess too.
The story ends with Gorgo feeling trapped in the cult now, “forever changed”. She comes to feel the cult of the Goddess is real, and she is frightened by it since she felt possessed when she killed Phoibe.
The story seems to suggest a sort of sympathy by Gorgo for the trapped boy about to die. The last paragraph is
No God here, little boy, Gorgo thought, as close to sadly as she was capable of. And closed her eyes.