Locus Roundtable’s Short Story Club discusses Aliette de Bodard’s Nebula and Hugo nominated story, “The Jaguar House, in Shadow”. You can read the story online at Aliette’s web site.
The mind wanders, when one takes teonanacatl.
If she allowed herself to think, she’d smell bleach, mingling with the faint, rank smell of blood; she’d see the grooves of the cell, smeared with what might be blood or faeces.
She’d remember–the pain insinuating itself into the marrow of her bones, until it, too, becomes a dull thing, a matter of habit–she’d remember dragging herself upwards when dawn filters through the slit-windows: too tired and wan to offer her blood to Tonatiuh the sun, whispering a prayer that ends up sounding more and more like an apology.
The god, of course, will insist that she live until the end, for life and blood are too precious to be wasted–no matter how broken or useless she’s become, wasting away in the darkness.
Here’s the thing: she’s not sure how long she can last.
It was Jaguar Captain Palli who gave her the teonanacatl–opening his hand to reveal the two black, crushed mushrooms, the food of the gods, the drugs of the lost, of the doomed–she couldn’t tell if it was because he pitied her, or if it’s yet another trap, another ambush they hope she’ll fall into.
But still… She took them. She held them, wrapped tight in the palm of her hands, as the guards walked her back. And when she was alone once more, she stared at them for a long while, feeling the tremor start in her fingers–the hunger, the craving for normality–for oblivion.