Magical Flash Fiction – Dust by Rebekah Clayton
She is numb. She does not feel the cold, the damp, the pain. But the wind will not be ignored. It demands her attention, like a hungry child; it draws her on.
At the lip she pauses. Inside is a secret world: a moon crater, velveted with close-cropped grass, tilted, as if to catch the low evening sun. At the bottom lies a deep, green pool, edged with exotic ferns and peacock tendrils. It is here she first sees the baby, pale and still; its plump white body nestled between reeds, pond weed twining about its limbs.
She stops, breathless, hands clutching at wet roots.
She remembers his voice.
He stood in the kitchen, words falling around like rotten fruit. The sweet stench of decay.
She had needed air, space, distance.
Her shoe became a stamp of rage against the accelerator, against the Punchinello cruelty of his mouth. Hands stiffened upon the corded throat of the steering wheel.
She slips, slides down towards the water’s edge, skirts gathering around her thighs. Her eyes are fixed on the pearly gleam of bare flesh. She fears what she will find. Her husband’s words have marked this as a funeral day. Each syllable a spade, striking the dark earth.
The baby’s form is a perfect curl: an iridescent fern seed, soft and white amongst the sedge. Eyelashes furl like leaf-down, hair a spider-sheen of silver webs; fingernails, translucent as tiny snail shells.
The child sleeps on a bed of emerald moss. A little girl baby, like the little girl she lost.
“You never forgave me.”
She reaches out, touches the milky skin and feels the warmth, the quickening. The child stirs, uncurls, makes a low, animal sound; opens its eyes.
There is dark magic in its black, star-flecked eyes, the magic that bonds mother to infant, infant to mother. A magic, which, if it comes, is deep and wild.
The cry is plaintive, urgent. She gathers the baby to her body, cradling its head against her chest.
“There now, I’m here, I’ve come.”
“There’s no point, if you can’t forgive me.”
She unbuttons her blouse, pulls back the bra cup to expose her breast. The infant roots and with a grunt of satisfaction latches onto her nipple. The draw of pain makes her gasp; the pinprick of tiny teeth; but as the milk flows she leans back against the grassy bank and marvels at the puckered rose-lips sucking, sucking.
“You weren’t there, anymore.”
The baby’s skin gleams with dust; fine, silver dust. It is on her hands, her breast.
The child softens, a bubble of milk on its lips, limp and warm as proving dough. It stares up at her with its dark, dark eyes.
“I wasn’t enough.”
Eyes, black as the berries that glisten amongst the leaves. She knows the baby is uncanny; a gift from the otherworld. Changeling, elf queen, wizened hag. They beckon, beckon. Feast, they say, feast upon the moon-dusted fruit.