The human poet says that we of the sea have no souls. That all we are is air and salt, water and wind, cold and dark. That souls belong only to those who sing and dance on land. That when we die we turn into sea foam, to drift upon the waves, and perhaps one day land on human shores, to dry up beneath the sun.
He says that only human love can give us immortal souls. The spaceship Calliope breathes without pause, inhaling through mouths on the floor and exhaling from mouths overhead. Seaweed streamers on the ceiling vents wave in the continuous sigh. Lying in my bunk, eyes closed, the humming, breathing, great bear of a ship holds me close in warm embrace, its cave spread all around, black and vast and cold.
I miss Earth--how could I not?--but I miss Mother, too. Her face fades. How did the corners of her eyes wrinkle when she smiled? What color was her favorite blouse? How did she sound when she sang at her table working on what... a jigsaw puzzle, a game of solitaire, a paint-by-numbers picture? My shoe smudges the chalk markings and before I can lift my foot, it's over. The demon grabs Terrance Nygard, self-styled "Lord of Darkness and Master of the Damned," and devours him. Doesn't even chew; just pops open its toothy maw to a quadruple-jointed width that would make a Great White shark wince, and drops him down its gullet without a bite.
Just as suddenly, the demon's in my face, pressing me against the wall. Somehow, the smell of Nygard's putrid cologne on the beast's brimstone breath makes the effect even more rancid. Gretel is eleven now, and her brother is the only one who still calls her by that nickname. To her haunted, hollow father she is Margaret, always kept at arm's length. This is fine by her. She knows he still can't look at her without remembering what he did, which seems fair, since she still can't look at him without remembering what he did, either.
She still can't look at herself, in a mirror or a window or the village pond, without remembering what she did, too. She still has nightmares about slamming the oven door shut. She tells herself they are nightmares. When she smiles at the screams, and the heat of the oven laps at her face like a great dragon that loves and obeys her and her alone, she tells herself those are the worst nightmares of all.
by Nicky Drayden
MEMORANDUM DATE: 3.18923 of the Galactic Equinox 7B
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