Pseudopod 278: The Prophet’s Daughters

by Michael J. DeLuca

This story originally appeared, simultaneously in French and English, at Onirismes.com in Spring 2011 (still available at the link). Sybaris was a real city, a wealthy Greek colony founded in Italy in the 8th century BC, destroyed by flood in the sixth century when its enemies diverted a river through the city’s streets in retribution for its citizens’ greed. From whence the word “sybaritic”, a very fine synonym for “self-indulgent”, has descended into modern English.

Michael J. DeLuca attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2005, helps run the indie ebook site Weightless Books, has volunteered at Small Beer Press for longer than he cares to admit, and is a member of the Homeless Moon writers’ cabal. His short stories have appeared in Interfictions, Apex, Clockwork Phoenix and The Future Fire. If you like this story, you might try his series of centaur westerns, which are similarly Classics-infused and brutal, and can be found in the archives (some in audio form) at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. His website, The Mossy Skull, can be found at the link under his name at the top. Also check out Literary Beer at the Small Beer website and his profile at Writertopia for a list of previous work.


Your reader this week is Tina Connolly whose debut dark fantasy IRONSKIN is forthcoming this October from Tor. Not horror, but definitely dark. Also, be sure to check out Tina’s own weekly short fiction podcast at TOASTED CAKE.



“”Do you wonder, my brothers in service of death, what powers the prophet takes with her on her voyage down the Acheron? We all do, I suspect: all of us from Sybaris who felt the lash of her tongue. She told many bleak fates. We all wonder which she is waiting yet to fulfill–or else I suspect so many wouldn’t have come to bestow such gifts!” He cackled.

Melia’s fingernails dug into Io’s palm; Io gripped her sister tighter. No one said a word to silence him. The priest only played his lyre.

“Now let me think,” death’s taskmaster rambled, helping a mourner to hoist up the corpse of a heavy black calf, “What do the ancients teach on the subject of power after death?

“Sheshet, astronomer priestess of Egypt, achieved deathly might through preservation. She took her own life by drowning, at the age of twenty-nine. Her cult preserved her flesh and organs whole in vats of lotus honey. It is said she left plans for her own resurrection, and any man who walks within miles of her tomb dies of fever before the next moonrise.”"