Hi. It’s me, your narrator. I’ve been here the whole time through Vestal Phases and Stories from the Maya but I rarely break the fourth wall.
If you’ve been following me on this journey, it’s great to have you. I know I’m throwing a lot of info at you all at once. This story came to me in 2012 and it won’t stop. I’m having a hell of a time keeping up. Vestal Phases is Lawrence Padd’s story, and I’ve taken to removing anything that doesn’t have to do with his own personal journey. That’s where a vast majority of Stories from the Maya comes from.
There’s some stories that are just fluff (Treasure Quest, Batman Blues) and some that are background exposition for Vestal Phases (Make It Wit Chu, A Walk with Beasts of Legend, Tiebreaker, Cat Fight) and some that are glimpses into ancillary characters’ relationships (Time of the Season, Julie Layne and Cali Quinn Hang Out, Puddle Party).
I don’t like to come out and explain things in an obvious way unless I absolutely have to. I’d rather throw you in and let the current of the story pull you along and hopefully you pick things up as we go.
But for this story, I’m going to tell you explicitly how an Anodyne becomes an Anodyne. These are all regular girls and women, keep in mind, who’ve won the Palace Coronation to compete with each other as Anodynes.
I’ll focus on a girl named Mallory Stark. You know her already, just not by that name. She’s been my favorite since day one.
An Anodyne’s first public performance was called her Unveiling. The Madames select potential Anodynes from audition videos submitted by thousands. It’s possible to audition countless times.
Mallory Stark got in on her very first try. All the other girls are jealous.
She walks out onstage at the Auxiliary Theater, also known as the Madame’s Theater, where the Anodyne’s selection is held. The theater is made solely from white stone and jewels.
Mallory and her fellow Anodyne hopefuls — all of them female, male Anodynes aren’t Unveiled but Endorsed by existing female Anodynes— line up on the stage.
There are decorative carvings of angels and cupids and heavenly beings and strange faces all over the stage and proscenium, all alabaster and marble and ivory and pearl. The stage is made of a smooth white marble. The only color comes from the twelve birthstones of the Anodyne’s jewels, studded above the proscenium.
The contestants are all clad in plain white cotton dresses. They look like the world’s prettiest scullery maids. They’ve already received their makeovers, looking between the ages of 18 and 25, roughly, and their faces are made up and their hair and nails done and their bodies modded out to whatever the Madames decided would look most attractive.
The Madames call their numbers. One by one, each of the contestants step out of line, strip naked and sing a song of their choosing.
“Contestant Number 3223, Mallory Stark, of Caledon, Ontario, immersed at the Hamilton Hive!”
Mallory steps out of line and slips off her white cotton dress. She has long black hair and green eyes.
She sings without waiting for any further introduction. There’s no musical accompaniment. She sings without a microphone, her arms at her sides and her chest stuck out.
Oh, I got a new life
You would hardly recognize me
I’m so glad
How could a person
like me care for you
Her voice is like frost forming on a windowpane, chillingly in tune.
The Madames sit at a long table in front of the stage. Behind them is a vast faceless audience. All eyes watch Mallory intently, every ear turned to her. Some of the Madames scribble notes with quills on coils of parchment
why do I bother
when you’re not the one for me
is enough enough?
Mallory stands there in her nakedness, stock still, exposed in the white light. She doesn’t move, she doesn’t dance, she doesn’t perform. She just sings.
I saw the sign
and it opened up my eyes
I saw the sign
life is demanding
(“The Sign by Ace of Base, may their voices live on.”)
I saw the sign
and it opened up my eyes
I saw the sign
Her voice is pretty and elastic and has some real character, but it’s not the the flexible powerhouse you know from her other appearances. Anodynes are granted vocal enhancements upon selection for Unveiling just like everyone else who sets foot in the Palace, but they don’t receive training, and they aren’t automatically perfect like Coronated Anodynes. They have to learn how to hone their given talents.
no one’s gonna drag you up
to get into the life where you belong
but where do you belong?
Mallory finishes, the last syllable of “belong…” echoing into the darkness, and the Madames and audience applaud graciously.
“That was an odd song to sing a cappella for your first impression,” says the lead Madame. “But I think you did well enough…”
“Why did you pick that song, Mallory?” asks another Madame.
“My mom used to sing that when she was a girl,” says Mallory. “I promised my dad I’d sing it tonight.”
“Is your daddy here?”
“He is,” says Mallory, pointing. The camera cuts to a shot of a burly, bearded fellow in the audience with shoulder-length black hair. He waves at Ivy and blows her a kiss.
Mallory waves back, catches the kiss and puts it on her cheek.
“Mallory, I understand you’re the youngest of seven, is that correct?”
“Yes,” says Mallory.
“What were your sister’s names?”
Ivy rattles off her sisters’ names.
“Maisie, Margot, Mackenzie, Mary, Megan and Mimi.”
“And Mallory,” says the Madame, beaming.
The crowd applauds.
If chosen to proceed past their Unveiling, as Mallory is, potential Anodynes are given their Hallelujah powers for a second presentation on the same stage. This time they are expected to up their performance, as well as give the entire unseen audience (which may number in the tens of thousands) a satisfactory Hallelujah high.
There are still no musical accompaniment. The girls have to get through the Coronation process on the merits of their naked bodies and their naked voices alone.
For her Hallelujah round, Mallory sings with yellow parachutes erupting in the air around her. They bloom all over the stage, floating to the floor as she dances around and through them on tiptoes. She’s naked, of course.
Look at the stars
look how they shine for you
and everything you do
yeah, they were all yellow
More parachutes bloom with every one that touches the stage. It’s a pleasing visual, like she’s dancing through a bunch of giant, erupting yellow flowers.
(“Yellow by Coldplay, may their voices live on”)
I came along
I wrote a song for you
And everything you do
And it was called yellow
She reaches the chorus and her eyes iris out as the emotional output of the song increases. The Hallelujah is begun. She sings full and controlled, all chest voice, not using her falsetto at all.
oh, yeah, your skin and bones
turning into something beautiful
The applause upon her completion is more enthusiastic this time. The Madames stand, all of them complementing her Hallelujah.
“Your Sugar is very clean,” says one Madame.
“Oh, yeah, us Canadians are clean as fuck,” says Mallory. The audience and the Madames laugh, because the way she says it is funnier than I can accurately portray here.
For her third performance, the girls are given their prism powers. They’re also granted complete immersion when it came to their performances. This means they’re expected to change the vista of the stage with their minds and put on a full blown show. Hallelujah is required, as well as a unique demonstration of sufficient and creative prism abilities.
For Mallory’s performance, she’s changed the stage to a green meadow at golden sunset. A picket fence runs into the distance, and trees and flowers nod in an autumn breeze.
Mallory stands with wildflowers up to her ankles and sings.
It’s happening all the time
when I open my eyes
I’m still taken by surprise
She strolls along in the waving grass, looking around her with exaggerated wonder at the beautiful scenery. Small furry forest animals gather to her. She picks up a rabbit and nuzzles it.
I hold sunlight and swallow fireflies
and it makes me want to cry
The song gains momentum, Mallory’s eyes iris out.
(“Brightly Wound by Eisley, may their voices live on,”)
I-eye l-uuuhhh-ove youuuu
She settles into the chorus like a kayak slipping into a river. Multiple Mallorys spring out of the central Mallory and dance a slow ballet around each other, harmonizing.
And I shall never grow up
make believe is much too fun
can we go far away
to the humming meadows
The audience applauds as the song shifts back into the verse, all but one of the prisms disappearing. Together, the two Mallorys sing completely different parts simultaneously.
One sings while she kneels among the mice and squirrels and bunny rabbits. She picks them up one by one, giving them each a little performance of their own as they sit there in her palms with their noses twitching adorably.
We were walking there and I had tangles in my hair
But you make me feel so pretty
You have shining eyes, just like the forest light
And it makes me want to cry
The other sings while she walks to the left along the fence and looks off into the setting sun like she’s dreaming of a lost love.
I am just wishing you were here
So we could walk down to the stream
And we would throw all our leaves in
Seeing our dragons when we look up
After a second chorus, the performance ends and Mallory receives her most fervent response yet.
During the judgement, the Head Madame gives her a personal standing ovation.
“Good girl,” she says, beaming. “Harmonizing with prisms is one thing — singing two completely different parts at the same time, while producing a Hallelujah… I don’t want to speak too soon, but I do believe we can expect great things from you, Ms. Stark.”
Mallory wipes away tears of gratitude.
The girls’ final performance as part of their Pre-Coronation is the most challenging and most dangerous task they’ll be asked to do.
Known as The Calming, for this performance the potential Anodyne has to diffuse a violent riot with only her voice. If a girl fails this portion of the competition, not only will she be out of the competition, but the rioters will be allowed to have their way with her, just as they would in heavyspace. A naked young woman in the middle of a Viking raid or a biker riot or a slave rebellion is likely to be raped repeatedly, tortured, and finally killed. Defeats are common enough to make The Calming a nerve-racking experience for anyone watching, and they’re both humiliating and horrific.
Mallory is selected to calm the riot that occurred in Detroit in 1967. She phases in through the front door of a convenience shop. Behind her are stone-faced men with shotguns. A sign that says “Soul Brother” is put up against the glass of the door.
An Anodyne’s best shot at success is to never give the rioters a chance to understand what’s going on. Get in, open your mouth, and Hallelujah the crap out of everyone. Then hold them there.
Mallory walks right into the madness, mounts a beat up cop car and begins singing, her voice wafting over all the looting and fighting. She’s surrounded by enraged black citizens fighting enraged white cops and National Guardsmen. Gunshots, fires and smoke, broken glass, broken fire hydrants, burned cars, broken buildings and broken spirits.
She stays serene. She folds her hands over her bare belly like a priest and sings.
If you’ll be my star
I’ll be your sky
you can hide underneath me
and come out at night
when I turn jet black
and you show off your light
i’ll live to let you shine
One by one, the rioters stop fighting. They look up at her. They all freeze, one by one, the rioters and the soldiers. They start to listen. Then, they kneel before her, one by one, with tears in their eyes.
But you can skyrocket away from me
And never come back til you find another galaxy
Far from here, with more room to fly
Just leave me your stardust to remember you by
(“Boats and Birds, by Gregory and the Hawk, may their voice live on,”)
All in all, Mallory Stark completes her Calming in record time, stopping the bedlam around her in less than a minute. It’s Palace-wide news.
For the official Coronation, the girls still in the running have to give one last performance.
In the Auxiliary Theater, Mallory stands upon the stage, this time in an emerald green corset.
There’s no stuntwork to be done in this performance. The girls don’t have to prism and they don’t have to give anyone a Hallelujah. They’re allowed basic musical accompaniment.
The point is simply for the potential Anodyne to project their memories against a screen, and sing about what makes them happy. It’s the final judgement, the final impression of who they are as a human.
A piano begins to play, slow and melancholy and pretty.
There is a house built out of stone
The screen behind her plays out scenes of her suburban adolescence.
Here she is hanging out with friends at sunset, giggling uncontrollably at 13 as she smokes her first joint under the streetlight behind a gas station…
Wooden floors, walls and window sills
…speeding along in her parents’ minivan at age 8, going to the city and feeling completely safe and secure as she sees the towers of downtown in the distance…
Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust
…her mother comforts her in the kitchen after a nasty spill on her bike when she was 7…
This is a place where I don’t feel alone
…here’s Mallory and her father watching Jason Reitman’s Juno together when she’s 6, a special bonding moment for young Ivy because she knows she’s not supposed to be watching an R rated movie, but her dad says there’s barely any swearing and no violent stuff so she cuddles her dad and he cuddles her…
This is a place where I feel at home
The piano picks up, transferring to a more hurried progression.
Cause I built a home
…here’s Mallory with three of her older sisters at age 12, they’re showing her how to put on make-up for her first school dance, Ivy has a date and she’s really nervous but her oldest sister whom she idolizes finishes and says, “You look gorgeous, Mal.”…
…here she is camping with her father and four her sisters at 9, laughing as they roast s’mores over a bonfire next to the ocean…
…her first day of school at age 5, excited as the bus comes to pick her up, her mother kisses her and she mounts the steps and waves as her parents snap pictures with their phones…
Until it disappeared
…now Mallory’s father comes and picks her up from some school function, Mallory is panicking, everyone’s panicking, it’s the day of the Veil, but he finds her and they embrace and Mallory’s father kisses her repeatedly…
…Mallory watches her mother and two of her sisters pass away in their beds, much like Padd watched his father go, victims of the Waste…
…only a day later her father receives their Halos and puts one over Ivy’s face, telling her, “I’ll see you in a minute”…
We see Mallory as a toddler, splashing in a small turtle pool with friends from down the road… her first kiss at the age of 12 next the pond on her parent’s land… we see Bogie, her bulldog… we see her birthdays, we see her falling asleep every night while looking at the moon out her open window and feeling that life was a very beautiful thing and that she’ll always feel this way.
(“To Build A Home, by The Cinematic Orchestra, may their voices live on”)
Mallory has finished and there isn’t a dry eye in the theater. The Madames all dab their faces with handkerchiefs and let out extravagant wails, a sign of great emotional connection, a serious compliment.
Mallory herself is in tears. She thanks the audience again and again for the opportunity.
That’s it. After Memory Projection is Silver Coronation.
Henry Warren Majors himself stands in front of Mallory on the Grand Entrance stage. The Madames and Lindy Laramie are off to the side. It’s an Autumn Equinox Ball.
Mallory is decked out in her full corset in front of Majors, hands behind her back, looking both excited and nervous. She’s wearing a silver collar with an emerald in it.
Majors holds an enormous broadsword with all twelve birthstones set into the pommel.
He reaches out and takes the emerald from Mallory’s neck. She’s naked. She kneels before Majors.
“And what name have you chosen for yourself, Anodyne?” Majors asks her in a booming voice.
“Ivy Snow, my lord,” said Mallory.
“You have demonstrated kindness, cunning, and beauty. You are cute, you are hot, you are pretty, you are beautiful. You are a true Anodyne. Mallory Stark has been left behind in the waste of heavyspace. You are born anew. By the power vested in me, henceforth, you shall be known as Ivy Snow.”
Majors raises the broadsword and lowers it gently on Mallory’s small, bare shoulder.
“Arise, Ivy Snow,” he says. ”Hold your finger to your throat, and your true form shall be shown.”
Ivy does so, and her emerald corset fades in over her body, collar and jewel and all.
The audience goes wild. Ivy hugs Majors and all the Madames and her fellow Coronated Anodynes, all of them in their own respective corset, smiling, tears spilling down their pretty faces, shuffling offstage as the next girls to be Coronated take their place.