Saturday, October 14, 2023

“True Love is Found in the Bone Sea” • by Carol Scheina


The morning after a clone swam out of the Bone Sea, Mellie’s younger sister slurped a spoonful of her milky grains and declared, “The clone’s gonna die. Nabel at school told me if you swim in the Bone Sea, your whole body swells up until you explode.”

“Don’t be so gross,” Mellie told Calla. “Besides, clones are different. The sea poisons don’t bother them. They’re not like us.”

“What’s the big deal about clones, anyway?”

Mellie sighed. “You’ll understand when you’re older. Trenton Graveson said if I die before him, he’ll toss my bones into the sea and pray the Cloner accepts them. My clone will emerge, and we’ll be together again.”

“And then you’ll kiss?” Calla’s face scrunched up.

“Probably. So anyway, this clone is someone’s long-lost love. That’s the whole point of the Gathering, to find out who the clone is.”

“The whole thing sounds dumb to me. Especially the kissing.”

“You’ll understand when you’re older.” But Mellie looked out to the Bone Sea in the distance and felt her heart slosh nervously. Somewhere under those toxic waters, the Cloner had stopped accepting offerings. It had been something like 50 years since the last clone had walked out of the water. Did people not love enough?

At the shoreline, yellowish-green foam mixed with dark bones, the remains of those who had been offered but not accepted. Maybe, just maybe, the tide would send the bones back to the Cloner. Maybe the Cloner would accept them.

Mellie wanted that kind of love in her life. Something to make the Cloner light up and declare, “This love deserves a second chance. This love should live on forever.” Maybe Trenton Graveson was The One. Most certainly, though, the clone at the Gathering would have answers on how to demonstrate such love to the Cloner. Mellie would be there, listening as hard as she could.

“Come on, eat faster. I don’t want to be late,” Mellie said. “Mother’s already there.”

Calla stuck her tongue out.


Much to Mellie’s annoyance, the Gathering had already begun by the time they arrived. The girl dragged her sister up to the front so they could see better.

The clone was a marrying-aged female, with hair the color of the darkest sea-bones and thin lips with a hint of sadness dimpled in the corner. She wore the usual village outfit of beige woven cloth, the skirt hanging heavy around her ankles.

The clone was talking. “The facility has numerous leaks, the equipment’s corroding. I was given some genetic knowledge of the systems, but not enough. I can tell you that the hydraulic converters are failing, and—”

The village elder’s voice stopped the clone. “The pre-flood Beings built things to last. The Cloner will endure. We hold this Gathering, instead, to identify which lost love you are. Please, step onto this platform.” Elder Werner’s eyes locked on the clone, and he murmured a low statement that Mellie could barely pick up, “You will do as we discussed.”

The clone’s lips pressed tighter, but she stepped up. The village eyes took in every detail of the clone. Mellie felt the anticipation rising like one of those chem-mists that hovered over the waters sometime. She couldn’t breathe. True love was about to be discovered.

The clone was most likely nervous about it all. Mellie thought she’d prefer to be reunited with her love at a quiet table, probably with a cup of tea and gentle smiles between the two. Plus, clones came out with sluggish memory; everyone knew that. It was up to the people living on the Bone Sea shores to remember and reunite the clones with their love of old.

“I recognize her!” a voice finally shouted. “You’re Tira Underdaughter. You died in the Red Plague.” An elderly woman stepped forward from the crowd. “It’s been so long. Do you remember me?”

“No, I don’t.”

“My uncle never stopped hoping you’d come back.”

“I don’t know him.”

“If you saw him again, you’d remember. Love knows.”

The clone shifted and muttered, “What if it doesn’t work that way?”

No, it did, Mellie knew. Love always found a way. She waited to see how this story would play out, her heart beating an aching tune of romantic sympathy.

“I saved a piece of him!” The elderly woman held up a yellowing bone. “I didn’t want to let him go after he died. This should belong to his true love. He’s still waiting for you.”

The village voices rose. “Show your love to the Cloner. Show! Show!”

The unhappy dimple in the clone’s mouth grew, Mellie noticed. How sad to finally be cloned, only to find your love has died. Thankfully people tended to hold onto bones for that very reason. The clone wrapped her soft, new fingers around the yellow bone, and the villagers began the parade to the Bone Sea.

“Come on,” Mellie grabbed Calla’s hand. “We won’t be able to see from here.” The sisters climbed the bluff, to Mellie’s secret place where she stared out at the sea and dreamed of the moment her own love would walk out. 

“This is stupid,” Calla huffed to the ground.

Mellie leaned as close as she dared on the tip of the cliff.

The clone held up a hand. “I’d like some privacy, please.” 

The village held back, but Mellie had the perfect close-up view from her vantage point up high. The clone knelt at the tideline, foam and bones lapping at her knees, her hand reaching into the water to grab a dark black bone. The clone stood and threw the wrong bone in while the other bone slipped into a fold around the clone’s waistband.

It was the wrong bone. Mellie coughed. How could the clone do that?

It was all done so smoothly. Mellie gazed at the faces in the crowd, realizing no one had seen the clone’s deception. Instead, villagers sighed. True love. Surely the Cloner would see this act of devotion and send out another clone, to let this love story continue, to give the couple another chance at life.

Mellie’s mind swirled a whirlpool of thoughts. It was the clone’s nerves. A forgetful mind. Maybe the clone would toss the bone in at night, beneath a full moon, with a kiss and a smile. Maybe.

She grabbed her sister’s hand and led the younger girl off the bluff.


After a time, the crowd around the clone lessened, and Mellie sneaked a moment to approach. “I saw what you did, switching the bones.” Her soft voice cut like waves into sand.

The clone was quiet.

“What are you waiting for? When are you going to throw your love’s bone in?”

The clone’s face was as hard as bone, but Mellie could see a softness underneath. “This isn’t my love story,” the woman said. “The person I look like is dead. The person who loved her is dead. Your village has forgotten what the clones are for.”

Mellie blinked, trying to understand. “Do you mean our love isn’t enough?”

The clone’s eyes closed, as though she hated to say the words. “The Cloner is dying. At some point, there aren’t going to be any more clones.”

Mellie gave a sharp intake of air, then coughed. “That’s not true, is it? The Cloner can’t die. What about eternal love?”

The clone bent low, to look Mellie in the face, and her voice lowered. “Eternal love is beautiful, but I think the Cloner is trying to tell you that you only get one chance at love in this life.” She rose and walked back toward Elder Werner.

Mellie stumbled home, her mind rolling over the clone’s words like a bone in the waves. Could the clone be right? She had seen the face of the Cloner, which was more than anyone in the village had done.

At home, Calla immediately began to tease. “Mellie and Trenton kissing by the sea…”

Mellie blinked back tears.

Calla frowned. “Sheesh. It was just a joke. You won’t tell Mother?”

“It’s not that. I’m just thinking about love and the future. And just…” Mellie fumbled for words.

If she got one chance, would she choose Trenton Graveson? What if love couldn’t last forever?

She pulled her sister close in a hug. Callie’s face scrunched at this show of affection, but Mellie couldn’t let go. Love seemed very different just then.  


Carol Scheina is a deaf speculative author whose stories have appeared in publications such as Flash Fiction Online, Escape Pod, Diabolical Plots, Stupefying Stories, and others. Her writing has been recognized on the Wigleaf Top 50 Short Fiction Longlist, and she has become a fan favorite for her finely crafted flash fiction pieces on the Stupefying Stories website. You can find more of her work at

If you enjoyed this story, be sure to check out “The Burning Skies Bring His Soul,” in STUPEFYING STORIES 24.


Karin Terebessy said...

Absolutely beautiful piece!

GuyStewart said...

You know, I'm sure some people wouldn't agree with what I wrote on FB and X...but this IS a beautiful story. It IS hopeful in a realistic way. It's quiet love; love that might just last forever...and it's love that, knowing that one love is gone forever...might just take a chance on a new love...

Thank you.

Guy Stewart

Made in DNA said...

Love the worldbuilding. Love to know more about this world! Excellent piece and statement on love.