Tuesday, March 26, 2024

“Pink Marble” • by Zoe Kaplan

The Queen had turned to stone.

No one could explain how or why. The greatest magicians, scientists, and alchemists in the country had tried and failed to determine the cause. They had prayed over her, enchanted her, applied potions and chemicals and fairy dust to her skin, chipped off bits of her robe and fingernails and sent them back for genetic testing. Nothing in their spells or analyses showed that she was anything other than plain pink marble in the shape of a woman.

At first it was assumed that her petrification was the work of an enemy wizard, but when no foreign power or terrorist group came forward to gloat or make threats, public perception changed. It had to be the work of wild magic, people said. It was the Queen’s own fault for commissioning a summer home so close to the border, and worse, by the ocean! Everyone knew magic was unpredictable out there. It didn’t follow the rules.

The story changed again when the Queen’s household moved back to the capitol. One young woman was missing from the roster, the very same chambermaid who had first reported the Queen’s transformation. She must have done it! the people cried. Speculation abounded.

Perhaps she was an especially powerful hedge witch, or had failed out of the Academy, or had found an ancient, arcane artifact. Perhaps she had petrified the Queen out of jealousy, or revenge for an executed family member, or anti-monarchical political leanings.

Some wondered if she too were not a victim of the true perpetrator, but those voices were few.

Search parties were sent out, scouring the country and its neighbors for the woman, but no sign of her was ever found. Eventually, the search was dropped. The Queen was installed in the castle ballroom and her nephew ascended to the throne. The people mourned for their Queen, but not too much. She had been something of a recluse, while her nephew was outgoing, responsive, popular. Years passed, and the whole debacle was all but forgotten.

Hundreds of miles away, in the galley of a small ship off the coast of Coloria, the Queen poured tea into a blue china cup. She brought it to her lover, who sat on the deck, polishing a bust. The ex-chambermaid, the daughter of a stonecutter and a master crafter in her own right, turned to kiss her on the cheek.



Zoe Kaplan (she/her) has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. She has a bachelor’s in creative writing from Appalachian State University and no less than four different swords. Her work has appeared in Tree and Stone Magazine, Hidden Realms, and the Horror Library anthology series, among many others, and her story “The Test” was nominated for the 2022 Brave New Weird award. You can find her on twitter @the_z_part or on her website, zoekaplanwrites.com.

“Pink Marble” was first published in Flash Point SF.




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Please don’t make me escalate to posting pictures of sad kittens and puppies…