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art by Melissa Mead


You can follow Mari Ness either on her blog, at marikness.wordpress.com, or on Twitter at mari_ness. This is her fourth appearance in Daily Science Fiction.

She wakes to find seaweed in her bed.
Never the same, this tangled weave of salt and slime and leaves: sometimes glistening red, sometimes dark green, sometimes dank brown. But always, always, there, entangling her feet, her hands, sometimes even sliding across her mouth, so that she wakes to the taste of salt and the sea.
Always on her side of the bed. Never on his.
They have tried many things, of course: wise women, wizards, musicians. Guards outside the room, guards inside the room. The fully practical method of merely changing rooms. Sleeping together; sleeping alone. Another maiden in their bed; a fish beneath her silken pillow. And always, always, the seaweed sliding over her skin, leaving tiny red marks and lines from the shells concealed in its thick leaves.
She knows, of course, of the little foundling he had kept with him before their wedding, had even seen her, once, when the little foundling danced for them both, her movements graceful, delicate, sensuous. Knowing. Knows of the tales told of the little foundling, of how her every footstep left a trail of blood and salt, of how the little foundling had always smelled, ever so faintly, of the salty sea. Of how, since the wedding night, no one had seen the little foundling. But many had seen, or told of, a trail of blood and pearls that had led to the sea.
She hears him moan at night, calling out to the sea.
He claims the little foundling was nothing to him, nothing. But she has heard that the little foundling slept at the base of his bed, upon his coverings of satin and silk. She had seen, in that one dance, the looks the little foundling had given him.
She knows that no one has seen the little foundling since their wedding night.
She knows of the trail of blood and pearls that led from their bedroom to the sea.
She knows of the black pearl that he has kept locked beside their bed.
He moans, again, in the early morning hours. She kisses his face, his neck, his lips. She takes the seaweed from the foot of the bed--dark red this morning, tangled with shining white and black shells, and carefully places several strands around his neck. She knows, how she knows, and she pulls and pulls, even as she thrusts strands of seaweed down his throat, until finally, finally, he stops moaning for the sea.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
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