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There Are No Eaters of Souls In America

Rebecca Fraimow is a digital archivist by day, a rogue video preservation expert by night, and a writer in whatever time she manages to get in around the edges. Her work has previously been published in Daily Science Fiction as well as the anthologies Steam-Powered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories and The Omnibus of Doctor Bill Shakes and the Magnificent Ionic Pentatetrameter.
The monster slithered over the side of the ship when nobody else was looking. Hodel could have cried out, but she was more afraid of the other passengers than she was of the monster. It shivered and dripped water onto the deck from tattered seaweed fronds. It looked like an old peddler, stuffed with rags to keep warm.
It looked like it might speak Yiddish. "You shouldn't be here," said Hodel. "You've got no ticket. And you might be sick."
"I am sick," said the monster. It did speak Yiddish, badly, with a sloshy abyssal accent. "I've been eating the ones they tip over," it said. "The ones who don't make it. Ah! That's a mistake. Their dreams are so strong, they're making me ill. I've got to finish it, or I'll have no peace."
Hodel tried to remember what her mother had done for the old peddlers. "Are you hungry?" she asked.
"Not yet," said the monster. "My stomach can't take any more dreams just now."
"If they find you," said Hodel, "I don't think they'll let you stay. If you're sick, you could be contagious." The people in charge of the boat had been very clear. But she didn't want the monster to leave. Everyone else spoke German. "I'll hide you," she said. "They don't have to know."
The monster wobbled in jellyfish agreement. It seemed quite helpless. Hodel draped her shawl over it, to hide the fronds of its face. She felt warm and grown-up. Helping the sick was a mitzvah. Her mother would have been proud.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, August 27th, 2015

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