Marya was afraid of the dark, but tried not to be. She was Mama’s good girl who always went right to sleep, though she didn’t, but Mama thought she did and that was the important thing. That kept Mama from hitting her hands on the walls until they whispered ghosts of plaster-dust.
Sometimes, anyway. Other times, it didn’t matter how small Marya made herself or how quiet or if she put her toys away or smiled and smiled until her face felt stiff and as though it didn’t belong to her any more, Mama would wail at god and hit the walls and smash things. That was bad, but later was worse, when Mama held her too tight and told Marya how sorry she was, what a terrible mother she was. Then everything was dark and impossible, then Marya had no words, no smiles, nothing at all to make things better.
Because Marya had realised something terrible. Marya was a god. Gods made things happen, gods made people happy or miserable, gods made Papas leave and Mamas do bad things, and everything was, in the end, their fault.
Marya didn’t understand how she did these things, so she didn’t understand how to stop doing them. Someone had made a mistake. Gods probably got lessons, and somehow Marya had missed them, another of her many and terrible sins.
She tried to practice, wishing for things and squeezing her eyes tight shut, but most of the time it didn’t work. Just occasionally she tried something easy, like making the bread-van come, and it happened, but she was never certain if she’d done it.
Until the day she turned the lights on.
The power had gone out again, and Mama had sobbed and told Marya that it was because Papa had left them, so long ago Marya could remember little of him but a fading will o’the wisp of cigarette end.
Marya knew that Papa going was somehow her fault. And so the power going out was her fault, and if she was a god she should, surely, be able to turn it back on.
The radio had been babbling and Mama had said something about whether Papa was on the Front, he’d rather be there than with his wife and child, and maybe it was all going to end and perhaps that was better, the world was a wreck, let the cockroaches have it, and Marya said, “Don’t worry, Mama, I’ll make the power work,” and she shut her eyes and squeezed and there was such a bright light and a roaring, and Marya knew she’d finally managed to be a god properly.
When she opened her eyes, everything was different. Her hand went right through the wall and she could feel the wires tickling her fingers. Mama was lying against the wall, fast asleep, and Marya was conscious of a slight irritation that she’d chosen now, when Marya finally managed to god properly, to be asleep, but it didn’t matter. Because the power worked, or some sort of power did, making everything glow, and Marya could walk right through what was left of the walls, and float down the street light and empty as a balloon, and she wasn’t even hungry any more! Mama would be so pleased, when she woke up. Maybe now her daughter was a god, Mama would finally be happy.