Queens of the Universe

by Allison Pinkerton

The popular girls at St Zelda’s had spiritual gifts—healing, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, prophecy. But, they were bitches, so they spoke in tongues to gossip. They interpreted tongues to spread more gossip, and they only healed each other’s cramps. When the school nurse asked for help, they laughed. When the ESL teacher asked for help, they laughed harder. Racist, they said, and tweeted about it. They got her fired in a week. Because the internet. Because racism.

The girls hid their gifts. They kept secret the real prophesies they’d understood, (like Jesus might return in fifteen years) and the healing they could do. (Sunburns, sprained ankles, and some STDs.) It was too much pressure. Instead, they lied, and their God-flecked gossip went viral. Mary Katherine and Katherine P. are doing it, Ingrid posted. (They’d barely kissed, and only once.) Head Pastor Tim has a secret family. (He’d been single for years—too much grant writing.)

In between lies, the girls binged videos of their idol, a teenager famous on YouTube for faith-healing. They loved her vibe. We love your vibe, they commented. They trolled the girl’s haters with Googled Bible verses, with pictures of stones and splinters: John 8:7, Matthew 7:3. The idol’s healing phrases became their inside jokes: “Let me be a healing balm,” they posted beneath a picture of a fatty applying sunscreen in the cafeteria.

Nasty girls. Even touched by the Spirit.

Head Pastor Tim emailed home. The girls’ mothers prayed for them—lips to clasped hands, clasped hands to shaking knees, they knelt in alcoves. Hail Mary, Our Father, Hail Mary. Peace fell over the mothers when they prayed to Mary, who knew them—a mother who’d been a daughter, a woman altered by His divine power. They worried about their daughters misusing their gifts. They were confused girls with a divine responsibility.

The mothers visited for Parents Weekend.

Baby, the mothers said. How are you?

The girls looked up from trolling people on Twitter. They envied their mothers’ bright lipstick, straightened hair—plugging in multiple hair straighteners blew the decrepit electrical system at St. Zelda’s, so the girls didn’t bother. Last winter, they’d passed around the same plum-red lipstick and tongued canker sores for weeks.

Fine, they said. They tweeted each other. “Ingrid’s mom, Jesus, she’s a hottie.” “Jessenia, you gonna end up with those crow’s feet?” “Look at that ice-queen glare!”

We want to help, the mothers said.

The girls snarl-smirked. None needed, they said.

Yes, needed, the mothers said.

The girls couldn’t be sincere, because the internet. They couldn’t be vulnerable, or serious. They could make memes, and so they did: a picture of Dumbledore, with the white block letters. A photo of a burning trashcan. But, even shared widely, none of the memes went viral. The girls felt empty.

The mothers didn’t understand—the girls were battling here, warriors for their idol, who they worshiped just as much, more, than any man they’d been taught to pray to.

Use your power for good, the mothers said.

The girls laughed. Sincerity was hilarious. They wouldn’t admit this, but they weaponized their power because it scared them. They couldn’t fail if they only healed each other. If they only interpreted each other’s prophetic dreams, they wouldn’t be trolled. They didn’t want to be responsible for people finding out the world was ending. They weren’t here for that panic, that guilt. News cameras didn’t have filters, and the girls couldn’t handle that.

Heal us, the mothers said. Prophesy over us.

The girls bit their lips. “A trap?” They DM’ed each other. “A trashfire,” they responded.  The mothers insisted. The girls shared secrets in new languages. They put their hands on their mothers’ shoulders, exploring what their future bodies might have been—soft, but not too soft. They prayed over their mothers’ pain.

The mothers closed their eyes, joined in in whispering the practiced prayers—asking God for healing, forgiveness. Inside, the mothers petitioned Mary: Teach us to shoulder this burden. Show us how you smiled through the miracles at Cana. You must have known what was coming.  How you did stop from collapsing on the side of the road to Golgotha?

The girls stilled their tongues and removed their hands. The mothers pulled them close before the blue-white light of their phones aliened their faces.

Allison Pinkerton was the 2017 Kathy Fish Fellow at SmokeLong Quarterly. Her work is forthcoming from Passages North, and can be found in Image, Mississippi Review, and elsewhere.