Salt and Sand
by Kate O'Connor
The blood-orange sun was slumping towards the western horizon when the funeral boat came
ashore, groaning in defeat as it crested onto the sand. Saesa had watched the boat throughout the
day, tracking its slow progress in between settling her other visitors. The little boat had teased
her, coming close and then drifting back out with the tide, but it had finally arrived.
Saesa held still, savoring the moment before she went to peel back flesh and crack bones to
reveal this next visitor's story. Her pointed teeth ached with wanting and her mouth watered.
There was a lifetime of thought and emotion that would be waiting just beneath the skin of the
A board creaked and Saesa froze. There shouldn't be any noise. Funeral ships only brought one
thing. The sound had been sharp and immediate - too sudden for Saesa's beach and the long line
of empty vessels left by her day's work.
Something shifted just beyond the boat's railing. Before Saesa had time to react, a thin figure
lurched upwards, sprawling over the rail and tumbling down onto the hot sand.
Saesa jumped back, her heart thundering in her chest. She had seen living people countless times
in memories, but to have one in front of her was another matter entirely.
The figure moved, coughing and choking as it pushed itself up. Saesa stared. The woman was as
gaunt as a corpse, but very much alive. Her face was pinched and pointed as she collapsed back
onto the hot sand and lay still, breathing heavily. Her clothing was simple and filthy, faded to a
colorless brown by long use. A sword hung from her belt.
Saesa skirted around her to the far side of the boat. Her throat ached with hunger. The woman's
presence didn't change her need to get to the boat. Living memories and warm flesh wouldn't
feed her. The boat could not have reached the island without another passenger.
She climbed over the side of the boat, sparing one more glance for the living woman. The woman
remained still and oblivious to Saesa's presence. A soft tendril of memory beckoned to Saesa on
the familiar smell of decay. It whispered sweetness and deep, raw yearning.
A girl lay towards the bow of the little boat, tucked carefully in a rough-worn horse blanket. The
braids in her thick blonde hair were slightly crooked and her small hands were folded over a tiny,
Saesa settled beside the girl, brushing her round cheek with gentle fingers. She closed her eyes,
hearing the sand stirring in the wind, the heartbeat of the constant waves echoed by the living
woman's breath scarcely a boat-length away. Letting her own self drift, Saesa lifted the girl's
hand to her mouth. The rot-softened skin was slick and yielding against her lips. She bit down,
pointed teeth working until tepid, sluggish blood and splintery ivory bone released the first hints
of the girl's memories.