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art by Seth Alan Bareiss

Blue Sand

Caroline M. Yoachim is a writer and photographer living in Seattle, Washington. She is a Clarion West graduate and was nominated for a Nebula Award for her 2010 novelette, "Stone Wall Truth." Her fiction has appeared in Asimov's, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among other places. This is her fourth appearance in Daily Science Fiction. For more about Caroline, check out her website at carolineyoachim.com.
Five days after my mother dies, I push her into the ocean. Her body is a darker blue than mine, iridescent and nearly purple. Her carapace is brittle, and it shatters beneath the force of the waves. Her body breaks down into a coarse grit that washes up onto the shimmering blue sand of the beach.
My mother's ghost is easy to find, for she had one leg shorter than the other five, which gave her an odd way of scuttling. I spot her quickly, dancing in the sea foam where the water meets the sand.
She thanks me for taking her to the ocean, and asks me to visit as often as I can.
There are some who visit their ancestors every day, but when the tide is high the risk of being swept away by the waves is greater. Drowning is a terrible way to die--the ocean sweeps you away to the south, and your children cannot come to visit your ghost if they cannot find it. So I visit my mother every few weeks, whenever the tide is low enough to reach the ghosts safely.
On one of my visits, the beach looks different. At first I can't tell what has changed, but then the light catches on a piece of something green. The blue sand of my ancestors has always been mixed with bits of rock and shreds of plants and pieces of debris, but this is new, and there is enough of it that the color of the sand is shifting. I ask my mother what it is, for she can talk to all the other ghosts, and together they know more than any single living creature.
She says the green is glass, and that it is made by creatures who call themselves humans. The glass is sand transformed by heat. My mother says not far from here there are great green bowls of glass, on a beach that humans use to land silver machines that they call spaceships.
There are many who are cautious, as I am, and only visit when the tide is low. The beach is always crowded when I go, but never so crowded as now. Everyone needs to consult with their ghosts, for something strange is happening. Humans have come to our blue sand beach, and instead of sitting on the shore and talking to our ghosts, they are taking the sand away.
My mother's ghost looks different. Her entire leg -- that one that used to be shorter than the other five -- is gone, and while she has always been translucent, she flickers in and out of existence now in a way she never did before.
She tells me she is pulled between two places. She says the other place is somewhere warm, somewhere to the south. She says there are lots of ghosts there, and lots of humans. The humans sit on the warm sand, and swim in the water, but they do not see the ghosts.
The next time I visit my mother, the sand is mostly white with specks of green. It feels empty, lonely. There is still a little bit of blue mixed in with the sand, but this is not a beach of ghosts. I scuttle to the edge of the water, and there are only a few others there. The foam is only foam; our ancestors have gone.
I watch the waves crash for a long time. I never see my mother's ghost, but I hear her, like an echo of a voice from far away.
She tells me there are only a few grains of her left on this beach, and she is mostly somewhere else. She says humans walk barefoot on her new beach and blue sand sticks beneath their toenails. She says they take little jars of sand as souvenirs. She says that echoes of her ghost have gone to places farther than across the ocean and higher than the sky.
I have no children here to visit me, for I am still too young. If I go into the sea, the current will take me south. I have always come to the beach when it was safest, when the waves could not harm me. I could stay safe, if I stay here. But the adventures of my mother's ghost call to me, and I decide to brave the surf.
I crawl into the ocean, and let the current carry me away.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, October 8th, 2012

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