Outsider A Forbidden Island Short Story by Lianne Simon Genre: Sweet Fantasy Romance, Coming of Age
In the closing hours of World War II, an experimental weapon meant for London struck Eilean nan Sìthean, a remote Scottish island. Within forty-eight hours, all of the men there died. Six months later, the few women who survived gave birth to the children of the plague—the Fair Folk of Scottish mythology reborn.
Nearly seventy years later, a young gold named Màiri discovers an Outsider washed ashore—the first human she’s ever seen. Saving his life would mean spending the rest of her days with a stranger, the sworn enemy of her people. But she cannot let him die alone.
My little she-goat often feasts on the berries that grow along the old stone fence at the edge of our pasture. I wander south toward the village, but don’t spy her anywhere. My father mended the gate to the commons, so she can’t have gone that way.
Turning north again, I begin the long trek up to Am Bàrr. From the summit I’ll be able to survey the rest of our farm, but it’s the view of the ocean that always tugs at my eyes.
To the east—just a few leagues distant—lie other islands. Silver specks rush across the ground and through the air. Niall once told me they were metal craft piloted by Outsiders—strangers who enter the change before they’re born, and who spend their entire lives as one gender.
The Daoine-Sìth love peace, but Outsiders kill without mercy any who leave our island. Their weapons target even small fishing boats that stray from our shores. How have we ever harmed them that they hate us so?
To the west a distant gray shape fades in and out of the mists. Long ago, a faraway land called Aimeireaga sent a floating island. To protect us, they said. Our elders thanked them, but insisted that God alone would our defender be. Still, they haunt our shores.
Along the coastline boulders tumble into the sea. Halfway up to Am Bàrr I find Anna, perched on an outcrop between the trail and the cliffs. She doesn’t come when I call, but I won’t follow her out on the tilted rock. Only a ruadhan would be so bold. Or so foolish.
A glance at the sun tells me I can afford to be patient. So I sit and wait for my stubborn pet to tire of her game.
Thoughts of Anna flee my mind when I gaze back down the coast toward Cladach Beag. Something looking very much like a dead body floats in the shallows.
Watercolor Memories A Forbidden Island Novel
Anya paints a watercolor landscape—the cherry grove that haunts her dreams. Something happened there, but her past flows like the colors that run down her artwork. Can she trust anything she remembers?
A year ago, Anya was a petite blonde. Now, she’s a tall and muscular redhead, playing soccer on a boy’s team. Her foster parents and her caseworker insist she see a doctor about her bodily changes and her gender issues.
To avoid medical treatment, Anya runs away from her foster home. As the girl searches for acceptance and family, the world around her shifts. She may find love. But will she ever have the peace she craves?
White locks, pink eyes,
on her mother’s breast she lies.
Blue eyes, golden braid,
gentle girl, at home she stayed.
Redhead running through the vale,
soon enough, he’ll think he’s male.
—Notes on Daoine Sìth Biology
Faded memories of a strange dream slip away as I wake. In the gray twilight of my room I stretch and moan. All I did was run away from home. Yet I feel like—like I had a for-serious workout. Or spent the night with Dylan. Yeah. That.
My leg cramps. The bed squeaks as I push myself upright. Jazmine gave me a ride to Stepanova’s and showed me to this room in her upstairs apartment. Did I go right to sleep? Eat supper? Much as I struggle to remember, I dredge up nothing beyond an image of Jazmine’s pretty smile.
The urge to pee drives me from the bed. I flip on a light and search the room. Nothing in the antique dresser. The closet is spotless. And empty. My chest pounds syncopation. What did I do with my clothes?
A pink satin robe lies draped across the foot of the bed. A fragmented image drifts across my vision—me showering and—I run fingers through my hair. Yeah. Mousse. But I’m out of time. I grab the robe and dash across the hallway to the bathroom.
After relieving myself, I turn the makeup lights on full bright and lean close to the mirror. No trace of makeup. Okay. Nausea whispers that—whatever happened—it’s too late now. I should never have left my foster home. My heart thumps in my temples. What is wrong with me?
Jazmine’s not in the kitchen or living room, so I tap on her door and ease it open. My throat tightens when I see her movie studio of a bedroom. Lights. Cameras. Microphones. Mirrors. A certainty not supported by memory strikes me—I’ve been here before. Naked. With her. Under the bright lights. Our bodies entwined.
Scenes from an old video flicker through my brain. The ache in my legs. The small bruises. Terror flows over me like the ocean breakers in a hurricane. I flee to the living room, but a dark-haired man with Russian eyes stands between me and freedom. Where did he come from? I gasp for air. My pulse races as I succumb to his overpowering grip. “Please don’t hurt me!” I say. Almost a scream.
Lianne Simon’s father was a dairy farmer and an engineer, her mother a nurse. She grew up in a home filled with love and good books.
Tiny and frail, Lianne struggled physically, but excelled at her studies. In 1970, she was awarded a scholarship to the University of Miami, from which she graduated in 1973. Fond memories of her time there remain with her.
Some years later, after living in several states, and spending time abroad, Lianne settled in to the suburbs north of Atlanta, where she now lives with her husband and their cat.
While seeking answers to her own genetic anomalies, Lianne met a family whose daughter was born with one testis and one ovary. As a result of that encounter, she spent more than a decade answering inquiries on behalf of a support group for the parents of such children.
Lianne hopes that writing this book will, in some small way, contribute to the welfare of children born between the sexes.
Outsider is a Forbidden Island short story. Watercolor Memories is a Forbidden Island novel. Are they part of a series?
Not in the usual sense. Watercolor Memories and the Forbidden Island short stories share a few characters, but are otherwise independent.
The Forbidden Island lies off the west coast of Scotland. It’s been under a strict military quarantine since World War II. The island’s name in Gaelic is Eilean nan Sìthean, which translates as “Island of the Fairy Mounds.” Indeed, before the war, it was known for the burial mounds of the Fair Folk—the Daoine-Sìth, which literally means “people of peace.”
The Fair Folk were long dead when World War II began, humans having killed them off. All that remained were the stories in Scottish lore, the earthen mounds, and the occasional claims of unusual animal sightings in the area.
Toward the end of World War II, a biological weapon meant for London veered off course and struck Eilean nan Sìthean. Within forty-eight hours, the ensuing plague killed all of the men and most of the women on the island. The military was so concerned that it killed the few people who tried to escape the island. To this day, the governments around the world insist on a complete quarantine. Even small fishing boats near the shore of the island are targeted.
Six months after the biological weapon struck Eilean nan Sìthean, the survivors bore the children of the plague—the Fair Folk reborn. They were tiny, frail babies with large pink eyes and white hair, more doll-like than human in appearance. By that time, it was apparent that the plants and animals on Eilean nan Sìthean had also become new species.
The new Daoine-Sìth were unusual in that the children all appeared to be female. A few years later, they went from white hair and pink eyes to blonde hair and blue eyes. In their teens, they changed again, to red hair and green eyes. At that point, the children became much more active, even aggressive at times.
Over the years, the military has attempted to collect enough information for the scientists to better understand the Daoine-Sìth. Unfortunately, none of the reconnaissance parties have survived, apparently due to the plague.
Approximately sixteen years after the war, additional children were spotted by the drones that patrol the island. Based on several Daoine-Sìth bodies that were examined, the CDC conclude that the redhead teens can mate with each other, one giving birth to children and the other nursing them.
In a few cases, Daoine-Sìth children have somehow appeared among the humans, far from the island. As they are a threat to the human race, they are held in Biosafety Level 4 containment facilities or are disposed of. The blood of a redhead Daoine-Sìth is invariably fatal to humans.
In your stories about the Forbidden Island, when two Fair Folk kiss, it triggers the development of sex characteristics as well as pregnancy. Can you share a little more detail about that?
Daoine-Sìth go through several stages of development. They start out small and frail, with white hair and pink eyes. When they’re seven or eight, their hair darkens to a pale blonde, and their eyes turn a steel blue. In their teen years, their hair darkens to a strawberry blonde or ginger, and their eyes become an emerald green.
In order for two Daoine-Sìth to bond—and they mate for life—they must both be redheads, and they must exchange saliva. That process triggers sex development in both of them. One becomes Daoine-Sìth male and starts bearing their children. The other becomes Daoine-Sìth female. Her hair returns to a pale blonde, she gets breast development, and she nurses their children.
You say in your books that every ruadhan—every redhead—expects to become male when bonding. What determines which one bears children and which nurses them?
Eilean nan Sìthean--The Forbidden Island—has been under a strict military quarantine since World War II. Although the Daoine-Sìth are immune to the plague that killed most of the island’s population, the Zwitter bacteria is still there and still active. Most of what our intelligence services know of the Daoine-Sìth is from satellite or drone surveillance or from the few Daoine-Sìth who have been captured and studied.
The Daoine-Sìth are essentially human females in a symbiotic relationship with the Zwitter bacteria. The process of sex determination isn’t well understood, but I’ll try to provide a simplified explanation here.
The single nucleotide polymorphism--SNP—is the basic DNA building block. In the human genome, there is one particular SNP that the Zwitter bacteria interacts with. There are three possible configurations and three possible results. For convenience, let’s call them P, R, and S.
Remember that this is a simplification. In a ruadhan—a Daoine-Sìth redhead—the saliva contains haploid gametes—cells that have a single copy of each chromosome rather than two. A ruadhan whose Zwitter SNP is in a P configuration, their saliva will also has the P strain of the Zwitter bacteria.
If a Daoine-Sìth ruadhan with the P strain of the bacteria exchanges saliva with one who has the R strain, the first will bear children, and the second will nurse them.
If a Daoine-Sìth ruadhan with an R strain of the bacteria exchanges saliva with one who has the S strain, the first will bear children, and the second will nurse them.
If a Daoine-Sìth ruadhan with an S strain of the bacteria exchanges saliva with one who has the P strain, the first will bear children, and the second will nurse them.
If two ruadhans with the same strain of bacteria exchange saliva, nothing happens.
So, which one becomes male and which one female isn’t random. It’s determined—at least indirectly—by their genetics, but the Daoine-Sìth don’t have the technology to look at their genetics.
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