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The Girl

Marge Simon is an award-winning poet/writer. Her works have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, New Myths, Polu Texni, and four pro anthologies in 2018. She is a multiple Stoker winner and Grand Master Poet of the SF & F Poetry Association.

She lives in the compartment below us with the potter. She is not his wife, she's much too young for him. Many nights I hear her screams. I try to block them out. I keep to myself, as is the way of all good Citizens. Last night it went on too long.
I find her naked on the floor. She is bleeding, shivering. Stop say her eyes. She doesn't want my help. Something is very wrong. But I am reminded that it is Civil Law here: Whatever a man does to those in his Keep is okay as long as it is for the good of the people. That's the Law. That's what they say.
"I'm all right. " She turns her head away. There are rows of stoneware on the shelves, some of them broken. Her Keeper is a craftsman. Working with clay is supposed to get rid of your aggressions. She says he went to the tavern.
I hold her in the staccato hammer of my heart when I look at her. I know her from dreams that I could never share with my lover. They are very pleasant dreams, but not a one of them makes sense.
Delya's skin won't take the sun. She smells of sassafras and oil, a scent a man gets used to once
he knows. Her nails are long and sharp. When we are done, my back is bleeding. I tell myself I like this. I tell myself the sex is always good. I am not her Keeper. With her position, she may come and go as she chooses. Delya teaches at the Brothel of Lomorrah. She hopes to wear the robes of High Priestess, but I doubt this is all she desires. Doubt what skin she wears, for the welfare of the people.
Delya is a standard flax, hair and eyes to match. Fancies herself a poet. She pretends I love her.
One night, after sex, I tell her about the girl. I want her to move in with us. The sex could be fun, I say, knowing it's the only way she'd agree to such an arrangement. I pay the girl's Keeper. He says he's glad to be rid of her.
We link arms, the three of us. Walk along the docks. Brine-shiny eels draped over a post. The girl laughs, grabs one up and dangles it over her open mouth.
"She's too young to know so much about sex--about what men like. " Delya's anger plows through me. I look away from her. You're jealous! but I don't say it.
"She's weak. She doesn't belong in our world. "
Weakness is a state of mind. But I keep this to myself as well.
Delya tells me she's found the girl another Keeper. He will be gentle with her, she assures me. She knows my reservations. Knows the way I look at the girl.
This is her last day with us. She wants to go to the gardens by the sea. Says she remembers it from dreams, so we go. Delya with the yellow hat and wilting smile. Me.
Here all is green. Even the air in a certain light, even the water. So many shades of green there are, some cradling the roots of giant oaks, some cluster as weeds on graves.
A flight of herons make passage with the wind. White lights in a green sky. An osprey dives into the sea stern first, claims its prey flopping to a high post on the shore. The girl frowns. "No majesty in that, " she says. "Yet it's the way of things, yes? I will not be caught like some poor fish. " She looks my way, an almost smile. "Once, but no more. " It's more than she's ever not said.
This morning, Delya tells me the girl's new Keeper is looking for her. Ah, I say. Delya prattles on, a pretense of concern until I turn away.
So the girl ran off. I hope she has her life back. She'll be stoned to death if she's found. When that happens, as it most likely will, I won't--I can't continue with Delya. Some part of me had come alive and it belongs only to the girl. Not the sex. Something else we're not allowed to speak about. Nothing can be done about this sort of thing.
Another afternoon I walk alone on the beach. I spot a single heron. It rises from the rushes and disappears into a perfect blue which is neither sky nor dream.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, October 7th, 2019

Author Comments

The seed for this came about when I was working on a book titled "The City of a Thousand Gods," by me and Malcom Deeley. Later, I realized that fragment could be much more--so I fleshed it out until it felt complete. Not every story needs an ending. Perhaps just a hint, or a glimpse as a metaphor will suffice. I hope it works for you, the reader.

- Marge Simon
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