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Memories of Monsters

Mari Ness lives in central Florida, where she spends more time than she should thinking of monsters. Her work has previously appeared a few times (15) in Daily Science Fiction.

I could have stayed.
Instead, I left with the knight.
He didn't have a castle, the knight, nor much of anything beyond his armor, his sword, and two horses--one to carry him, the other to carry a few blankets and food and waterskins, as well as embroidered tunics for special occasions. We shifted the bags on that horse so that I could find a perch. However uncomfortable, it was easier on the horses than trying to ride double. Eventually, we bought a third horse--but that was eventually, well after I'd made my choice, well after several hungry nights and filthy inns.
At times like those, it was hard not to think of the monster, hidden in his castle of stone and silk. Of his venison and pies, on nights when we had only stale bread; of his rich wines, when we had only weak ale. Of his hot fires and thick blankets. I even found myself talking of him to the maidens we met. Of his rough voice and claws, of the way I sometimes still felt every touch from him on my skin, on my bones. Of the brambles and roses and forests that hid his castle, so well that I could not find it again, if I tried.
I did not want to try, or so I told myself.
Easy to believe, when my knight covered me with his muscled arms, or when I remembered those other arms, tipped with sharp claws, or the words he hissed at me. Easy to believe when I could lose myself in story and song.
But even then, a word, a moment, and I would think, would remember.
My knight learned to touch me gently, after moments like these.
And I learned to put an edge into the tales I told the maidens. For I could see the gleam in their eyes, the hope that they could conquer these monsters, both those in beastly and human forms. A hope I could not dismiss--did not want to dismiss. It could happen; it did happen. Monsters can be defeated, can be left, can have their hearts broken, or be killed. I knew it, they knew it. What they did not know--what I hoped they did not know, at least not yet--was the way the touch of monsters can linger in your bones, even after you travel to another tale.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 7th, 2018

Author Comments

Regret can be a complicated thing, and memories can linger.

- Mari Ness
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