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The Petals

Mari Ness has published several stories in Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Apex Magazine and right here in Daily Science Fiction, and twitters away @mari_ness. She lives in central Florida.

Other people, it must be said, did not see a child, but rather rose petals delicately stitched together with what looked and felt like spider silk, soft and fragile to the touch. Yellow petals, for the most part, though where the child's face should have been the petals were white and pale pink, and where hands and feet might have been, the petals were dark red.
But no one said a word. They knew her tale: twelve children, all born dead, year after year, until her husband, broken with her sorrow, had also left, leaving the woman alone in a silent house limned with bright flowers.
And so, when she showed them the little bed of walnut and swansdown that she had made, the needle made of pine that could drip honey down a small throat, the blankets made of blue violets, they merely praised her work and her delicate stitches. When she spoke of her terror that the child might be snatched away, they countered with fears for their own children.
And when they saw the petals shift and move beneath the blanket of blue violets, they kindly did not speak of breezes.
And when, weeping, the woman told them that the petal child had been stolen away by a bird, and was doubtless now imprisoned somewhere, high above or deep within the ground, they merely nodded, or touched her shoulder, or brought her baskets filled with petals. And if those petals never moved, even when placed beneath a blanket of blue violets--well. Sometimes a room just never felt a breeze.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Author Comments

"Petals" is part of a series of flash fairy tales that I've been writing off and on since 2007. In this particular story, I found myself more interested in how we react to stories of the fantastic and the impossible than the fantastic and the impossible itself, an interest that shaped the tale.

- Mari Ness
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