Under the Beansidhe's Pillow
by Sarah Monette


The Beansidhe does a lot of wailing during the crossing.

Not just for her own family, and insofar as a creature of her nature can feel guilt, she feels guilty. She is the O'Meara Beansidhe; in all the years of her existence she has cried O'Meara deaths and O'Meara deaths alone.  But the grief is too much, death crammed upon death, and she wails for Mary Sullivan's baby just as loudly as she wails for James O'Meara, whose mother's death in childbirth she wailed for sixty-seven years ago. It is James O'Meara's coat she takes, though, after his daughter has laid him out; in its inside pocket is the acorn he picked up as he was leaving the dooryard of his house for the last time. He didn't tell his daughter about it, didn't tell his pinch-faced grandchildren. He didn't tell the Beansidhe, either, but she knew.

She wraps his coat around her and wails for all the death she feels coming.  For all the dead who soon will be.

The immigrants huddle together in the lower decks and even those with the Sight pretend they cannot hear her.

If a Beansidhe can hate, she hates them. Hates them for leaving Ireland, hates them for dragging her with them. Hates their pain, her addiction and poison, that lured her onto this terrible floating hulk so like the emptied-out carapace of a dead beetle. Hates them for holding her here with their grief, with the dying of their dreams. And she hates them most because a Beansidhe should not hate; they are changing her, making her less than she was. It is a Beansidhe's nature to cry death, not to grieve.  Not to care. And yet she cannot seem to stop caring, now that she has started, as if James O'Meara's acorn has been planted in her own heart and has started to sprout.

Beansidhes do not sleep; neither do they dream. She curls up in a corner, in the reek of the bilge and the rats, tasting salt, tasting death, and pillows her head on James O'Meara's ragged coat. In the pocket of the coat, where she can sneak her hand under and touch it, is the acorn. James O'Meara's acorn. James O'Meara's dream.

And when she reaches America, although it is against her nature, she will plant it for him.



About the Author:

Having completed her Ph.D. in English literature, Sarah Monette now lives and writes in a one hundred-and-one-year-old house in the Upper Midwest. Her novels, Melusine (2005), The Virtu (2006), and The Mirador (2007), have been published by Ace Books, with the fourth and final book in the series to follow next year. Her short fiction has appeared in many places, including Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld Magazine, Alchemy, and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet and is reprinted in several of this year's "best of" anthologies. Visit her online at www.sarahmonette.com.



Story 2007 Sarah Monette.