THE WOMEN by Ray Bradbury
It was as if a light came on in a green room.
The ocean burned. A white phosphorescence stirred like a breath of steam through the autumn morning sea, rising. Bubbles rose from the throat of some hidden sea ravine.
Like lightning in the reversed green sky of the sea, it was aware. It was old and beautiful. Out of the deeps it came, indolently. A shell, a wisp, a bubble, a weed, a glitter, a whisper, a gill. Suspended in its depths were brainlike trees of frosted coral, eyelike pips of yellow kelp, hairlike fluids of weed. Growing with the tides, growing with the ages, collecting and hoarding and saving unto itself identities and ancient dusts, octopus-inks and all the trivia of the sea.
Until now—it was aware.
It was a shining green intelligence, breathing in the autumn sea. Eyeless but seeing, earless but hearing, bodyless but feeling. It was of the sea. And being of the sea it was—feminine.
It in no way resembled man or woman. But it had a woman’s ways, the silken, sly, and hidden ways. It moved with a woman’s grace. It was all the evil things of vain women.
Dark waters flowed through and by and mingled with strange memory on its way to the gulf streams. In the water were carnival caps, horns, serpentine, confetti. They passed through this blossoming mass of long green hair like wind through an ancient tree. Orange peels, napkins, papers, eggshells, and burnt kindling from night fires on the beaches; all the flotsam of the gaunt high people who stalked on the lone sands of the continental islands, people from brick cities, people who shrieked in metal demons down concrete highways, gone.
It rose softly, shimmering, foaming, into cool morning airs.
The green hair rose softly, shimmering, foaming, into cool morning airs. It lay in the swell after the long time of forming through darkness.
It perceived the shore.
The man was there.
He was a sun-darkened man with strong legs and a cow body.
Each day he should have come down to the water, to bathe, to swim. But he had never moved. There was a woman on the sand with him, a woman in a black bathing suit who lay next to him talking quietly, laughing. Sometimes they held hands, sometimes they listened to a little sounding machine that they dialed and out of which music came.
The phosphorescence hung quietly in the waves. It was the end of the season. September. Things were shutting down.
Any day now he might go away and never return.
Today he must come in the water.
They lay on the sand with the heat in them. The radio played softly and the woman in the black bathing suit stirred fitfully, eyes closed.
The man did not lift his head from where he cushioned it on his muscled left arm. He drank the sun with his face, his open mouth, his nostrils. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“A bad dream,” said the woman in the black suit.
“Dreams in the daytime?”
“Don’t you ever dream in the afternoon?”
“I never dream. I’ve never had a dream in my life.”
She lay there, fingers twitching. “God, I had a horrible dream.” (Read more…)