This is a story my father told me, from the time before we came to live on the Land. In that time there were many wonders and magical things in the world. The world was very small then, unlike now. My father says the world was very large in the old days and then it grew smaller, and smaller still, until a person could cross from one side of the Earth to another in the time that it takes the sun to rise and set over the Land. “Imagine that,” Old Grandma Toffle says and laughs with all her good white teeth, “Imagine that, little Mai!”
Old Grandma Toffle claims to remember many wonders, but her mind flits and darts like a dragonfly on water. She says she remembers going up in the air, for instance. This is the story Old Grandma Toffle tells, especially when she’s in her cups:
“One day, little Mai, when I was a small girl, smaller even than you, on an early morning that was cool and bright, with the droplets of last night’s rain still shining on the needles of the pine trees, I heard a noise. My father was in the yard, mending cloth, and my mother was working beside him, picking tomatoes in the garden, for they were red and sweet then, a good harvest – oh! You have never tasted such tomatoes as the ones I tasted then. I stood between them, and I looked up, for I had never heard such a sound, and I saw a dark bird fly slowly across the sky.
It emitted a strange sound, and its wings did not move, and as it came closer I saw it was a contraption like a bicycle with wings, and a woman was sitting in a harness. She looked down and she smiled and – oh! It was such a smile as to catch the cruellest heart and make it soft and malleable. My father looked up, and my mother also, and I knew all in our Land looked up too, for we had never seen a flying woman, or a man, at that.
‘Is it a plane?’ I asked my mother, trying out the word, but she shook her head and said, ‘No, no, there are no more planes.’ At that I was a little sad, for I had always dreamed of going up in a plane and looking down on all the people and the Land.’”
“You always did look down on all the people,” says Old Grandma Mosh, who lives beyond the stream, and Old Grandma Toffle shoots her an angry look, for it is known that the two have fought all their lives and will continue to fight even from beyond the grave.
“The curious contraption circled overhead,” Old Grandma Toffle says, “then drifted low, and lower still, and I ran after it, and all the others came out of their gardens and yards and ran after it too—”
“I remember,” Old Grandma Mosh says.
“You don’t remember what you had for lunch a week ago!” shoots back Old Grandma Toffle, and Old Grandma Mosh grins with the teeth that she still has.
“But I was the fastest,” Old Grandma Toffle says, “and I reached the pilot first, just as she landed. Her long hair was tied back, and she wore large aviator glasses over her eyes, which she removed on landing. She landed in the small field this side of the brook, as the field lay fallow that year. She looked at me running towards her and she smiled.
‘Hello, little girl,’ she said. She spoke Language, but with an accent that was different to ours. At that I got shy and I said nothing, at first. The other children, who ran behind me, all came to a stop, and together we stood and stared at her. We waited and shortly our parents came, walking a little slower, but no less excited, I think, than we were.
‘Hello,’ said the pilot – a little shy herself, I think now. Mr. Gideon the Bellwether – you don’t know him, of course, little Mai, for he died many years ago now, in the time the storm came—”
“The second storm,” Old Grandma Mosh says.
“First or second or third, it was not the storm that got him,” Old Grandpa Win interjects, “it was his wife, who had enough at last of his ways—”
“He fell and broke his leg in the ditch over the hill,’ Old Grandma Mosh says.
“But how did he get there and why?” Old Grandma Win says, darkly, and Old Grandma Toffle scowls at them both.
“Who is telling this story?” she says.
This is a problem I sometimes have, I find. The stories and their tellers all become confused, for to grow up and grow Old is to carry more and more stories, and who can truly say how Mr. Gideon, who was the great grandfather of our current Mr. Gideon, or so I think at any rate, really died, or why, and during which storm? But it’s important to know these things, and carry the tale forward. But suffice it to say that Mr. Gideon was Bellwether that year, and so it was he—
But let Old Grandma Toffle tell the story.
“‘Hallo!’ Mr Gideon said, and puffed out his chest, quite self-importantly.
‘And, ‘Hallo,’ said the pilot, pleasantly enough.
‘Have you come from afar?’ said Mr Gideon, speaking for all.
‘From beyond the plains of Suf,’ said the pilot. ‘And before that I was in Tyr for a time.’
‘What news do you bring?’
The pilot shrugged. ‘All is as it was,’ she said. ‘In Tyr they sing still of the old days, and water, and in Suf the sun harvest is plentiful. I myself was hoping to beg your hospitality for a day or three, and for sunlight, if you’d spare it, for my aircraft.’
‘”At that I could not supress a cry of delight–” said Old Grandma Toffle—
“A squeal!” said Old Grandma Mosh.
“For it really was an aircraft, it was a sort of plane!”
“It was not.”
“It was too!’
“‘Be welcome here,’ said the Bellwether, ceremoniously, as was and is the custom, ‘share of our bread and story with us small, and tell us of the Land and of the Sea.’
The pilot inched her head in gratitude. ‘The sky is clear and the winds are quiet, for it is early yet,’ she said. ‘And I have light enough to lift again, and take a person with me.’ Her eyes reflected sunlight and her smile was warm. The adults cast uncertain looks at each other, and we in our eagerness all raised our hands and vied for her attention. ‘Pick me! Pick me!’
‘I can only take one.’
‘Please,’ I said. ‘Please, take me.’”
“Shameless,” huffed Old Grandma Mosh. “You were always shameless, Esme!”
“Oh, leave it be, Nettle Mosh!”
“Tell me, tell me,” I would say, each time, even though I knew the story.
“She sat me at the back of her machine,” said Old Grandma Toffle, “and gave me my own eye goggles to wear, and strapped me in, and she sat in front at her controls. The engine turned and hummed and then we were speeding along the fallow field, slow at first but then growing faster, though not very fast, I don’t think, and yet somehow the wing – it was a single, fixed wing, you see, pointing forward, like the feather on an arrow I think – somehow the wind lifted us up and we were in the air. I screamed with the exhilaration—”
“She was terrified!” cackled Old Grandma Mosh.
“And then we were high above the houses and the fields, moving as slow as a bee, and the wind whipped at my face. I remember how beautiful I thought the pilot was, up there. She was a being of Sky and not of Land at all. I saw the mountains all round us and the brook winding its way across the Land until it disappeared amidst the greenery. The sun shone over us and everything was clear and fresh and new.”
Old Grandma Toffle falls quiet at this point, and so does her great rival, Old Grandma Mosh. Both sigh, almost in unison. The memory, polished like a diamond, shines in both their minds. One on the Land and one in the air.
“Then we came down and the ground rushed towards us and we stopped, and we were back on the Land,” Old Grandma Toffle says, matter-of-factly. “And that was that.”
“I would never go in the air,” says Old Grandma Mosh. “A woman must have both her feet firmly on the ground.”
But Old Grandma Toffle doesn’t respond, and she sighs again, and then her head begins to droop and, before too long, she starts snoring. And so I must reconstruct that moment for myself, imagining it, what it would feel like to be in flight; for no flyer has come again since that time, though I hope still to meet one, one day.
But this is not at all the story I was going to tell, which my father told me, from the time before we came to live on the Land.
In that time there were many miracles and wonders in the world, such as giant ships that crossed the sea from one side of it to another, endlessly back and forth, back and forth, and carrying inside them mountains of things that were made by no human hand, for example I once saw a picture of thousands and thousands of tiny little plastic spacemen, all lime-green and white, with purple stripes, and grinning, thousands and thousands of little grinning spacemen all thrown in a heap. It was a time the Roads had not been abandoned and people went everywhere by private pods, and all food came from giant temples and people went praying in them all of the days and there was everything in the temples that they could want and more, but it was never enough for them. In that time too much of the land was lost, gradually at first but then more and more violently, and many people and things drowned.
This is how my father claims our ancestors came to the Land, but I do not think he is telling the truth, in all likelihood he is lying: but then he would just argue that it isn’t lying it’s telling stories, and stories have a logic of their own.
Be that as it may, the story he likes to tell concerns Flora and Deuteronomy, who were young, and husband and wife. They lived on the edge of a great city on the shore of the ocean—
“Like the drowned cities of the coast?” I ask, and father says, “Yes, but much farther away, and lost now, Little Mai.”
Old Grandma Mosh waves me to silence and so I sit by the fire and listen to the story.
“Deuteronomy was tall and handsome,” my father says—
“Like you, Daddy!”
He smiles. “Exactly,” he agrees. “He was tall and handsome, and Flora was very beautiful too, and she—”
“Was she a princess?”
“No,” he says. “The monarchic system had mostly been abolished at that time… but there is a sort of princess in this story.”
“Does she live happily ever after?” Old Grandma Toffle says, waking up abruptly with a loud snort.
“No,” father says. “She dies.”
“Shhh!” says Old Grandma Mosh. “Do you want to hear it or not?”
“I suppose…” I say. I don’t much like the idea of a dead princess in this story. But then lots and lots of people died during that time.
“Flora was a marine biologist,” father says, “and her husband was a current hunter, he would go out into the storms with a fishing net and catch electricity. It was dangerous work but it paid very well, because the haul you could get in the middle of a storm was very great indeed. At that time the city, which was called Puerto Soledad, was still a hungry and lumbering beast; alone on the skeletal coast, it withstood the ravages of the storms, and even thrived, for a time. Some of the most exciting art of the last decade of that century came from that city, and its people were proud and stubborn at once.
Flora herself – she would be your great-great-great-great – well, I’m not honestly sure how many – grandmother, loved the sea, for all that it was rough and treacherous. She’d called it a ruthless killer, and yet said that she felt it was a tortured thing, that it was lashing out against those who had wounded it. She had a fanciful side to her, but she loved the sea just as her husband loved the storms, and they were never happy when they came here. People seldom are, you know, when forced to leave the place they’d known and become exiles.”
“So why did they do it? Why did they leave?”
“For you,” my father says. “For us. That is, they’d had a baby, and—”
“Ah,” says Old Grandma Mosh, dreamily.
“Ah,” says Old Grandma Toffle, knowingly.
“And they wanted the baby to have a future, and grow up, and be happy. And though they loved the violence of the sea and the violence of the storm, they feared for the life of their child. Do you know, Mai, people will go a very long way to protect their children, even at the cost of their own lives.”
“And then they leave you,” says Old Grandma Toffle, whose son, Oful Toffle, fell in love with a man from Tyr and went to live with him, beyond the blasted planes.
And Old Grandma Win nods sagely, and puffs on her pipe, and the aromatic smell of her home-grown cannabis fills the air and makes me sleepy.
“That they do, the little bastards,” she says and chuckles, quite happily.
“Ungrateful sods,” Old Grandma Mosh says. I’ve known them for as long as I have been alive – and how to account for the fact that I am living, that I had not existed and yet now exist, that there is a little Mai in this Land where there had never been a Mai before? I love father and I love mother (who is a savager and away again, en route to the lost cities of the coast), and I love this Land, for how can I not? But my mind wanders, it is late, outside the stars are shining bright down on fields and houses. And father says:
“One day, Flora went out into the sea. The sea was calm that day, and the endless white clouds of the hurricane storms had parted and the sun shone down on a water as flat and taut as blue cloth; and Flora came to the rock pools that she loved, where sea anemones beautiful beyond recall preyed on tiny fish. She wore her dry suit and her goggles and she carried her spears and her ropes and her nets and traps, for her work involved charting the twisting and meandering paths of migrating fish swarms which the people of that land depended on for food.
The rock pools were far from habitation and secluded and people seldom came there, and Flora liked to go there by herself, suspended for a time between water and land.
This time, however, she discovered she was not alone.”
“Ahhh…” Old Grandma Win whispers, ominously. They’d all heard the story. So have I, of course. It’s a frustrating one, like most of my father’s stories. It’s fanciful with its tales of massive cities and great storms and mass death and fleeing refugees, and his refusal to conclude anything – the mystery unsolved, the questions unanswered. I’ve read many of the great writers of the past – Adaf, the Strugatskys, Pak Kyongni – and some had the same tendency, as slippery as fish in the stream, as elusive as a sunbeam – this tendency to evade. But perhaps all stories are like that. They aren’t neat at all.
“The corpse,” my father says, “floated serenely in the water. She had been cut and, cut, she’d bled. Around her body tiny creatures fastened onto open wounds, and the water was murky with a curious, opaque quality, strangely green.”
He says, “It was the corpse of a young woman.”
“How awful,” says Old Grandma Mosh.
“Terrible…” whispers Old Grandma Win around her pipe.
Old Grandma Toffle is fast asleep. She lets out a contented fart which we all do our best to ignore. The wood in the fireplace bursts in a shower of sparks. Outside a dog howls.
“How did she die?”
“It was thought that she was murdered.”
“Who was she?”
“Flora was used to the dead. She was used to the drowned. And she thought, what is one drowned person amongst so many? When she turned the corpse over, carefully, with her gloves, she saw the face, and she recognized it, vaguely. It was a girl called Cassandra and she was a member of one of the climate-clans, those families that had grown powerful in those last decades of the Old world: they were a ruthless peoples as befitted that age, their dryland fortresses funded by the lucrative exploitation of energy harvesting and refugee smuggling, genetic manipulation and production of food crops, anything and everything. Remember there were no more princesses? Not by title, perhaps, but in practice this Cassandra was as close as one could get.
It was not that the climate clans saw themselves as bad persons. They argued that they were practical, and hard because the world was hard. In their way they fought for the preservation of the human race, but at a cost that meant the majority must suffer for the ones with the power. This is a principle that has guided much of human history, Mai. You must remember that.”
“This is boring,” I say. I snuggle into his arms. It is warm and I am drowsy. “This is boring, who murdered her? Who killed Cassandra?”
“No one did. At least…”
“This is what Flora thought, at first. There were wounds on the woman’s body but they were shallow, even, and there were no signs of defensive wounds. A lot of people chose suicide at that time. But why would the daughter of the most powerful of climate clans choose to come here, to these distant rock pools, and kill herself?
Flora was uneasy. She took a sample of the water, which was teeming with tiny organisms. She always did that. She loved the rock pools habitat. Then she notified the Sentinels and they came quickly, and sealed the scene. She knew their captain, Minos.
‘You knew her, didn’t you?’ he said. He was not unfriendly. He stood staring at the pool moodily, smoking a tobacco cigarette.
‘How so?’ He didn’t seem surprised; Flora reasoned that he already knew.
‘Adjacent fields,’ she said. ‘She was a bio diversity researcher, wasn’t she? I must have ran into her at a conference or two. I only ever saw her from a distance, though.’
‘She was meant to assist in the family business,’ Minos said. He tapped his foot on the ground. Overhead the grey-white cloud cover returned, obliterating the sky. ‘She was a disappointment to her father and the clan.’
‘We were always envious of her, because she must have had access to all the best equipment,’ Flora said. ‘While we make do with hand-me-downs, with equipment patched together, unreliable half the time.’
Minos nodded; but he did not seem overly interested. The Sentinels brought out the corpse, gently. For a moment the woman hung there, over the water, her long hair streaming down. Flora saw that the wounds had closed. The woman seemed very pale. She had lost a lot of blood. Flora worried for the creatures in the rock pools, but they seemed much as ever. With the coming of the tide the pools filled up and the water floated out to sea and the pools were replenished.”
“I know how this ends,” I said, “I do, I remember now, there is a lesson in there somewhere…”
“Maybe you should go to sleep,” my father says, “it’s late, and tomorrow—”
But I do not want to think about tomorrow. I know the story, I have heard it a hundred times already before. We place much store, in stories. We tell them to each other and to strangers, and they tell us their tales in exchange. And this is not, after all, the story of Cassandra, one drowned among so many. This is the story of Flora and Deuteronomy and how they came to the Land, the story, in a way, of how I came to be.
It was late when Flora returned home. Deuteronomy was already there, preparing their supper. They sat down, to spicy fish soup and rice from the plantations up on the high mountains, and afterwards they went to bed, and Flora felt a little tiny being kick inside her.
And in the morning, very early, the Sentinels came knocking on the door; Deuteronomy answered it, and saw Minos, who looked like he hadn’t slept at all, and Minos said, “I am here for Flora.”
Deuteronomy was about to protest (despite the armed Sentinels standing in a semi-circle behind Minos) but Flora pacified him; and she went with Minos and his troops.
They rode in a large armored vehicle. I saw pictures of it once and it looked like an armadillo. Wars were frequent at that time and the climate clans’ armies often fought with each other; and so Minos and his troops traveled in convoy, armored and armed and prepared.
But this was their turf, their manor. They rose high into the mountains, and Flora could see far ahead, over the whole of the sprawling chaos of Puerto Soledad, the ramshackle houses piled disorderly on top of one another, and the great sea wall that held the storms at bay, and the great white ocean-going ships which were like miniature towns on the waters, and the dome of grey-white hurricane weather clouds, and a lone bird in the sky, diving. And she was afraid.
Then they passed through the gates to the fortress of the clan and drove farther and higher, to the peaks where the lords of that part of the world ruled from their eyries. The fortress was built of hewn volcanic stone and steel and was impregnable. And this is where this Cassandra had lived.
And Flora was led into this hall of stone and there she met the Lord Piyama. He was a tall and stooped man with short cropped grey hair and impeccable manners and a gun and a knife on his belt. And he said, “You are the one who found my daughter.”
“I would like to know who murdered my daughter.”
“Lord,” Flora said. “I am merely a biologist. A diver. You need forensics, detectives, I don’t—”
He looked at her witheringly. “They tell me they do not know. The records have been erased or altered. No one saw her go. They tell me that she bled to death, slowly, in the water. Why?”
“Lord, I do not know. It is—”
She wanted to say suicide, I know she did. It was a popular, relatively painless way to do it, in an age when people often welcomed death as a relief. To bleed in water. When Flora dove at sea she often came across fresh corpses. At least, she thought, it fed the fish.
“At least tell me what she did, before she died.”
And Flora realized how much in need this ruthless man was, how desperate and hurting, that he – he! – would ask her that. They had no kings by title in that vanished age, but they had lords and masters by greed and power.
She bowed her head. They both knew there was no refusing.
“You knew her. At least…” he looked at her, his face impassive, the hurt was only in his eyes. “I guess I never did.”
Flora was tired, and irritable, and scared. She said, “And in return?”
It was how they spoke back then. Everything had a price, nothing was freely given, not even stories. Imagine getting paid for telling stories!
He nodded, approving. “Anything in my power to grant,” he said. “Is yours to take.”
“I want to go from here,” she said, though it broke her apart to say it, for she loved this land, her home, and she loved the sea. “I want to go where it is safe to live.”
“Nowhere is safe.” He looked at her, surprised at the suggestion.
“Then give me passage,” she said, “to wherever it is in this world I would go.”
“If you find my daughter’s killer,” he said.
Implied in the words, the consequences of her failure. She swallowed bile. She felt quite sick, the thing inside her growing, kicking. She nodded.
This isn’t really the story my father tells. My father tells that Flora and Deuteronomy came here in a storm: a great hurricane which sucked them up into the air, twirling and twirling them about like ragdolls, and it carried them across the sea, a raging storm with an eye at its heart, one of the last great storms of the old age: the storm had torn every stone and every tree from out of Port Soledad and flattened the coast clean, and it ripped the black volcanic rock from the Lord Piyama’s fortress, and his army, and their guns, and tore them all to shreds and never stopped. And the storm howled with mad exhilaration across the sea from land to Land, and placed my ancestors gently on the ground.
But my father is given to strange flights of fancy, and one should seldom take him at his word; a bad habit perhaps inherited from his ancient great-great-great-to-whatever-number grandmother.
“So?” Minos said. He looked at Flora without expression. She shrugged. “Can I see her laboratory?” she said.
He escorted her, down endless corridors, past whispering servants and priceless paintings and sculptures made by the finest artists of that time, filled with violence and passion, with the rage of the Earth. And they came at last to Cassandra’s quarters.
They were set into the side of the mountain, and the view truly was breathtaking, from the reinforced glass windows Flora could see the storms forming in the sea so far away. She saw the islands of humanity rise from the deeps. She saw the sea, the sea she loved. And she wondered what she has gotten herself into, and what she could do. And she touched her belly protectively.
“Mai? Are you asleep?” Father says.
“No,” I murmur. I can see it so clearly, that vanished world, its players re-enacting this ancient drama. Minos, impassive. Flora, pacing, calibrating instruments, filling beakers. She felt as though Cassandra had left her a clue, a scientific puzzle for Flora alone to solve. What had she been working on? Was that the reason that she was killed?
In his throne room the old lord paced, back and forth, back and forth, brooding. In the rooms the servants came and went on silent feet. What had Cassandra been working on when she died? Her area of specialty was genetic manipulation, she had access to the best science the world had to offer, patents and secrets long lost to us in the flood, things only the climate clans knew. But the equipment told Flora nothing, the notes were cryptic, it was all nonsense, she thought: murder was usually simple, a matter of money or love.
She interviewed the servants. Cassandra was secretive, she had ways in and out of her apartments no one could access. The whole citadel was riddled with secret tunnels. Flora returned home, and she lay in Deuteronomy’s arms. His hand was on her tummy, open palmed, and he said, in wonder, “I felt him kick.”
“Him!” Flora said, laughing. “You don’t know that.”
“I would like a little girl.”
“Girls,” Flora said, “are more trouble.”
She did not tell Deuteronomy about the conditions of her bail; she didn’t need to. She lay there long into the night, brooding, as Deuteronomy slept beside her. An earthquake rattled the house, but neither of them much noticed.
“Hush, little Mai,” father says. All is quiet in the house, and he lifts me in his arms and I snuggle against his chest. He smells of earth and harvest, of fresh water and olive trees.
“But you don’t understand,” I say, or try to. “I know what really happened, I know what Cassandra was doing.”
“Hush, now,” he says, and he tucks me in. All is quiet, the house is warm with the slow heat of embers. You see, in my dream, Flora returns to her own, makeshift lab; and she studies the sample of water she’d taken from the rock pools, and what she sees is something strange, something she does not understand. Tiny life forms, unlike any she’d seen: and living, still, in the sample, multiplying.
This is the story as it is sometimes told, you see. How Flora discovered the truth of Cassandra’s own child bearing, the creatures which lived in her blood. What they were, we still don’t know. A new form of life, a new seed for a dying Earth. Something innocent, and new, like a baby.
And she went into the rock pools and floated there, serene against the hurricane sky; and she carefully and deliberately cut herself, low shallow cuts, and let her blood flow into the water, and her children to emerge into the waiting ocean just beyond the rocks.
This is the story we sometimes tell in my family, as fanciful as it is. Cassandra’s body as an incubator, her blood a conduit to future dreams: something twisted and violent, emblematic of those last days of the world as it was.
“But where was the knife?” I mumble; I turn in my bed. “There was no knife, was there, in the rock pools? None that Flora saw. None that the Sentinels found. So how did she cut herself?”
And this is the story of how we came to the Land. It is a story of violence and blood and lies, a story of make believe, as all stories are.
“Well?” demanded the Lord Piyama.
Flora stood before him, her hand on her belly. If she failed, she and her unborn child would become parts, harvested for organs, the rest made into compost. No one was very sentimental, in that bygone age.
“It was Minos,” she said. “It was Minos, the Sentinel.”
There was a shocked silence in the hall of the Lord. Minos stood like a statue. Flora had grown quite fond of his quiet presence, his efficiency, his lack of unnecessary speech. She almost liked him.
But he was not a good man. Remember that. None of them were, back then: they could not afford to be.
“Minos?” the Lord Piyama said. “That’s absurd.”
Flora shrugged. She had learned from Minos, and her face, like his, was without expression. “He helped your daughter, he hid her passing to and from the citadel. He deleted or falsified the records. I see it in the way he doesn’t talk, the way his eyes are still. He loved her. What happened, Lord, I do not truly know. How they came to be at that place at that time. But someone carried the knife away, when it was done. Someone watched as she bled. There wasn’t much pain, I don’t think. She was spared that, at least. But it was him, I am sure of it.”
She had pieced together a story. It could have been right. Cassandra’s quarters were too clean, her records too sparse, personal information missing in odd places. No one else could have had that kind of access. It was possible, it was even plausible. But was Cassandra murdered, or did she kill herself? Did he help? Did he cry? He doesn’t strike me, in my version of this story, as a man who cried often, or well. But I think he did love her.
The Lord Piyama turned his azure eyes on his Sentinel. ?Is it true, Minos? Can it be true??
Flora tensed, expecting any moment a bullet in the head, a knife in the back. But Minos was as impassive as always, and he looked at his lord with calm. “Does it matter?” he said. “You have already decided.”
And the Lord Piyama nodded.
And Flora knew, then, that she was right.
Later, as Minos’ corpse was carried away from the hall, she did not avert her gaze. He was guilty, she was sure of that: he was guilty of something.
And so was she, but she felt she could live with the guilt. She touched her belly again, she couldn’t help it. She loved the little creature growing inside here so much. She could live with a little guilt.
. . . And so it was that we came to the Land.
I don’t know who really killed Cassandra, if anyone did. I don’t know if Minos and her were lovers. I do not even know, in truth, if they really did exist. This all happened so long ago and in another world, almost. Puerto Soledad lies under the waves, and Lord Piyama’s skull had long been picked clean by the gulls. The world is quieter now, and an ancient headstone in our cemetery is all that’s left of Flora and Deuteronomy.
. . . Yet sometimes I like to think of those tiny little creatures released into the ocean, and I wonder where they are now, and what they had evolved into.
. . . “It’s a ridiculous story,” Old Grandma Win says, and Old Grandma Mosh nods vigorously in reply. And perhaps it’s true.
But my mother had seen the ocean; and one day I will, too.
Previously published in Drowned Worlds (ed. Jonathan Strahan). Reprinted with permission from the author.
About the Author
Lavie Tidhar is the World Fantasy Award winning author of Osama (2011), Seiun nominated The Violent Century (2013), the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize winning A Man Lies Dreaming (2014), the Campbell Award, Neukom Prize and Chinese Nebula winning Central Station (2016), Prix Planete SF winner and Locus and Campbell award nominated Unholy Land (2018), British Fantasy Award nominated By Force Alone (2021), Philip K. Dick Award nominated The Escapement (2021), The Hood (2021), Maror (2022) and Locus Award nominated Neom (2022). He is also the author of middle-grade novel Candy (2018 UK; as The Candy Mafia 2020 US), created the comics mini-series Adler (#1-#5, 2020) and edits The Best of World SF anthology series (2021-). You can see more of his work here: https://lavietidhar.wordpress.com/