For you see, it had become the fashion to wear flesh, so he wore it, but loosely, for it was strange to him. So, too it became the fashion to choose gender and many married one another, for they were incomplete in their new made shapes.
First, he carved her bones from ebony and set them straight. Then he
clothed her bones in lotus and rose petals, so that her skin was soft and
smelled of the earth. Her hands he clothed in ivory long and cool and her
feet he shaped of curving gold. He gave her silver wire for hair, and set
two tiger stones where her eyes should be. For her lips he gave her red
marble and he wove nightingale's hearts together for her tongue and when
he kissed her she began to breath.
For a time, Mardak was happy. His wife kept him warm against the night and held back the dust from the cave. Yet, his wife began to point at the bones on the floor and then she would snap her ivory fingers in front of his face, and sometimes she struck him while he slept. Finally, Mardak could no longer stand her gestures and her fingers, so he removed her hands of ivory and put them on a shelf.
For a time Mardak was almost happy, working with the winds. Then he noticed the filth on the floor and that night his wife was not there to warm him. So, he cast aside his flesh and went looking for his wife. Mardak found her walking down the mountain, towards the river below. Mardak took her back to the cave and held her tightly through the night. The next day, Mardak watched her close, but still she managed to walk away when he was not looking. Again he found her walking down the mountain, and that night he held her tighter still. It became so that Mardak could not turn from his work, but his wife was gone. Finally, he took away her feet of gold and put them on a shelf.
For a time, Mardak was almost happy. His wife kept him warm against
the night and often sat next to him while he worked. Yet she would stare
at him for hours without blinking with her tiger's eyes. Mardak could not
work. He was unable to weave the mist or brew the morning gales. When he
could no longer endure her vision, he took away he wife's eyes and put
them on a shelf.
For a time, Mardak was happy. Yet, the wind made strange noises as it blew through his wife's bones. She creaked in her chair and wandered slowly about the room. She was cold at night and hollow to hold. Eventually, Mardak dismantled her and put her bones, her hair, her tongue, her eyes, her feet, and her hands into a box, which he threw into the river that ran by the mountainside. The box floated along the river, for the box was strong and made of good wood. Finally, the box in the river came to the sea, where Tiama, playing in her new body, found the box.
Tiama took the silver hair and scratched her skin with it. Then she set the strands into the soil and they began to grow until they covered the ocean floor with leaves of silver and black. Tiama took the bones and bent them to her desire, until they were forms small and dark. She covered these forms with the remains of the petals, darker still. She gave suck to the shapes and they took life. They flickered among the silver vines eating the long leaves. They shifted their shapes into silver fish, and then to glowing shifting forms, and then returned to their dark grazing again. Tiama carved the ivory hands into string, which she wove together with the remains of the golden feet. When she had woven a mass of reaching bits, she stuffed it with mud and set the tiger's eyes in the center. She spat upon the reaching arms and they took on sting. She bled upon the tiger's eyes and the thing began to live. All this Tiama made with the body she found, and the box she made into a sea turtle for good measure.
Then she left the sea and followed the river up the mountain. Sometimes, she wore the shape of a black fish speckled with the rainbow and sometimes she wore the shape of a bird with white wings, but mostly she wore no shape at all. Finally, she came to he mountain where Mardak lived. She cast herself a shape warm as the moon in harvest time and lips that tasted of honeycomb.
She entered the cave and said, "I know what you desire. I received your gift and I am lonely too. Come and live with me in the warm waters."
Mardak turned away from her, though she was beautiful, and he said, "I cannot leave the mountain. I weave the winds."
Tiama changed her shape into that of an old man, whose beard glistened, as if in starlight. He said, "I see you wear your skin loosely, come with me and I will teach you to wear it tight. We will eat and drink and we will tell each other lies and laugh at them until morning."
"I do not know stories and I wish only to live upon the mountain. You may stay if you wish."
Tiama nodded and sat down on the ground and began to tell stories of all that had been and all that would be. Mardak did not seem to listen to Tiama, but Mardak did not ask Tiama to stop. That night they lay together for warmth and on the morrow Tiama wove the grass into tiny creatures that darted in the shadows. As he wove, Tiama told stories. Again, Mardak neither paid attention, nor told Tiama to stop.
And so it went, until the day came that Tiama reached the last story, and as she spoke, for she had become a woman of rainbow lights and scales, she carved a black stone in the shape of a heart and this she gave to Mardak saying, "Since you will not leave the cave I have made creatures to live with you. I am returning to the sea to live with the animals your wife became. When I think of you, I will send a gentle breeze, for I too can weave the wind."
And so saying, Tiama cast aside the shell of her body and followed the river back to the sea. And Mardak, he waited in his cave, but not alone, for it was full of life that hid in the shadows and danced in the light, and sang the day along. When the night was cold, they huddled around the black heart Tiama had made, for it shed warmth without burning. Though Mardak never spoke to these creatures, he would leave them food when the sea breeze came up the mountain, as it does to this day.