Mirasol waits a couple minutes to nudge herself out from under Haik’s arm, but when she comes back from the bathroom, he’s put his boxers on, and he watches the door as it shuts. “Sorry--did I wake you up?”
He shakes his head.
“Are you okay?” She sits down with him, and notices more oddness--Haik and the bed are dry. (But then, he’s a god.)
“Yeah.” He’s lying, but he rests his head by her temple.
“Who are the voices?” Mirasol listens for them again; they’re hushed for now, and she can’t make out the words. “Are they the ancestors? Why are they here right now?”
“They’re always here,” he answers. “Why? What are they saying?”
“I can’t hear anything now,” she says. “But before--I heard one of your songs.”
“Why don’t you like it?” She pulls him down with her.
“What good are songs in a dead language?” He winds an arm around her--not his crocodile-arm, but the one with the modern tattoos. “You’d have to be a scholar to understand them, but your scholars can’t always sing.”
“I heard it in English,” she offers.
“You didn’t hear the song, you heard a translation of it.”
“Oh.” She doesn’t pull away, but after a moment she can’t help tightening up and switching the light off.
“I’m sorry.” He pecks her temple when she stumbles her way back. “It’s not your fault you can’t speak Tagalog. No one here wanted to teach you.”
“You can teach me.”
“Ako? Ako nga totoong matanda na sa ebak.”
“I’m… too old for this shit?” She laughs.
“Well, you got half the job covered.” And he asks into her hair: “Magsalita kayo na Tagalog?”
“Ay, walang Ingles.” He flicks her shoulder, and she can feel his mouth smile.
“Ffffff… fucking--” What’s ‘a little bit?’ “Hindi?”
“You can say ‘no,’” he encourages. “One word isn’t nothing.”
“Um…” She can’t remember the word, but it’s small and narrow like hindi--she measures it out with a hand. “Just really, really basic stuff.”
“Kaunti-unti, oo? You’ll be fine.”
He’d make a good teacher, she thinks with a sting of regret, if goddamn ICE would just let him stay. “No, we won’t.”
The silence makes her heart beat small and tight.
Mirasol digs her cheek into the middle bone in his chest, where the tattooed crocodile-armor was, and her arms wrap tight like a baliti’s roots. (But she’s not trying to strangle him, just keep him together until his heart comes back.)
She glimpses the glistening black on Haik’s knees as he folds himself up, and his muscles are warm on her skin, but the tides in his chest rise and fall and rise and fall: Still no heartbeat.
“Come back,” she whispers into the air, but she cannot hear any pulse. “Come back, come back to Haik, please… Haik? How do you say it in Tagalog?” Balik is the verb for “return,” and “sa siya” is “to him:” Balik sa siya. She can feel a missing piece in that sentence, because she wants to soften it up into a request, but she can’t remember what it is or where it goes--
“It doesn’t matter. I tried all three of my languages.” He searches for her shirt crumpled up in the blanket, then wipes her face off. “I even tried Samoan, the first couple of lifetimes it happened.”
So Haik the crocodile-god waits out her crying, switching off whispers of Tagalog and English and Maori and Samoan. (Does he know other languages from his voyaging? How many days can a balangay go before refueling? She knows the Philippines traded with China and India, but what about inland countries, up the rivers? Have they been to the Red Sea?)
He wipes away the saltwater until her shirt’s too wet to be useful, and then he moves on to a corner of the blanket.
The night air seeps in from the crack under the window.
“You can go back home if you want to,” Haik tells her. “I can’t see any patterns anymore, but I know it’s not too late for you. Not yet.”
“I can’t,” she tells him, worn out. “I can’t go back.”
“They’re looking for me, not--”
“I don’t care about ICE or the cops,” she says into his shoulder. “How do I go back home after learning the old ways? How do I explain what happened to you, when people ask who taught me all that?”
“It’s not that complicated,” Haik reminds her. “You found me on the beach. You took me to the hospital. You let me stay at your place. I told you about all our stories and rituals and tattoos. Haik, the indio with crocodile tattoos. And then I got deported.”
“Your story sucks,” she snaps, eyes stinging but dry as sand. “You just want me to abandon you, like the Spanish wanted?”
“You’re not abandoning me, love. I’m keeping you safe.” He sighs again. “You think they’re just gonna knock on Hadassah’s door and give me a talking-to? They’ll want to fuck someone up with how mad we made them.”
With no tears left, there’s nothing else she can do but keen into his chest, small and pained and mortal as she is. Because she’s not a babaylan anymore, or a datu’s daughter, or an indio from the islands. And she wonders if she’s even Mirasol anymore, the one from a few weeks back, who didn’t know the old ways or the gaping hole of their loss.
Another Moanna flickers into her head now, a little Spanish princess in the Underworld, who knew neither pain nor sunshine.
“I shouldn’t have come back,” Haik tells her. “It’s been too long. There’s nobody left to teach you anything.”
“Me.” A sound that passes for a laugh. “I’m a god with no more stories. No people. No tattoos. Even my heart ran off again, remember? What’s left of me to teach you anything?”
“You have a name.” She leans into his chest. “You’re Haik, my people’s crocodile-god.”
It’s not the one she wants, but it’s a good name. It’s sharp and fearsome, and she wonders what he’d be called in Tagalog: “Crocodile” is buwaya, but the “god” half stumps her; diwat is for a fairy or a nature-spirit, and dios is a Spanish word.
“Anito,” Haik whispers. “Ako ay Haik, ang buwaya-anito ng tao Tagalog. Sobek, siya ay yung buwaya-anito ng tao Kemet.”
The sounds of the words through the air make her shiver with reverence, though it’s tinged as always with longing. (No one else has said his name for centuries, especially not in Tagalog.)
She thinks of that other people’s river now: With desert around them, hippos and crocs lurking in fertile mud. Could the Filipinos have gone to Egypt in their balangay ships? She supposes they could follow the coasts to avoid getting lost…
“I hate dry heat,” Haik admits. “I need a gallon of lotion to keep my skin from peeling off. But we are cousins, Sobek and I. Crocodiles, we’re rare among the gods. Even among the dragons.”
His Lordship, the ancestors say: Sobek, pointed-of-teeth, who steals women from their husbands.
“No, he’s… wouldn’t.” Haik’s teeth flash, though weakly.
“I ain’t calling him up tomorrow morning.” And if she ever goes to Egypt, she’s not touching any water that isn’t from a faucet.
“Love, if you don’t attack him or his people, he won’t try to eat you,” he assures her properly this time. “Also, the thing about ‘stealing women’ doesn’t mean he kidnaps and rapes them. He has normal, consensual sex, and he turns into a normal human if you get too freaked out about his croc-head. The problem is, he… doesn’t really care… if you’re married.” He winces. “And really, it takes two to tango. If you’re sleeping with someone who isn’t your husband and you’re not being forced or blackmailed, most people would feel guilty and NOT keep doing it.”
And back to never touching the water in Egypt, she thinks. “Okay, ‘His Lordship who is a homewrecker’ is definitely better than ‘His Lordship who rapes women,’ but homewreckers are not nice people.”
“Ayyyy, naku.” But here comes Haik’s laughter, the real kind that comes from his chest. “Love, if he was daft enough to try anything with you, specifically, Mirasol--Nile crocs are only the second-biggest in the world. And they’re skinnier.”
That’s old-fashioned and tribal and she can’t help laughing, too.
A heartbeat sounds, though timid: Something small creeps into the edge of her vision, rough like a newfound gemstone in shades of blue and green. At the core is an indigo light, dark as the drop-off from shore.
“Shhhhh.” Haik keeps an arm around her, though one hand reaches out in the same direction, fingers twitching like he’s calling a puppy. “Oy. Puso. Paki maari ka bumalik ngayon?”
The crocodile-god is gentle as always, but his heart quakes and moans in dismay before stealing off again.
“Well.” He isn’t surprised, just disappointed. “Almost.”
“Shhhh.” And now she holds him, until the light cracks through the window and her eyes feel like lead. Though she starts to wobble into a puddle of half-sleep, he still sits straight as a mast.
He’s still awake when she crumbles softly into exhaustion.
But right before she falls asleep, they hear her in the gray of almost-dawn:
“Mama?” Footsteps, too heavy and limping for such a young woman’s voice. (Is she tired? She doesn’t sound like it.) “Mama? Where is Papa?”
Mirasol’s too tired to do more than laugh, but Haik goes rigid with longing.
“Take me with you,” he begs her, though he’s already washed out in the black. “Take me with you, I need to see her--”
“Where we goin’?”
They hear her laugh at the sound of his voice, like a toddler--
“Please!” He calls, too loud and desperate for them to be in the mortal world. “Anak! Please! Where have you been?!”
Her dress burns aquamarine against the dark of her skin, the whale-teeth and coral branches are like bone and blood in her hair. There are tattooed fish on her forearms, and the kelp around her ankles makes her look like a diwat, wild and dripping wet in a landlocked SF bedroom. But she shuffles along on her stiff, scarred legs--
“Neneng!” Another woman laughs and catches up. There are tattooed stars on her hands, and white gems sparkling all down her indigo dress. “You’re gonna need this in the mortal world.”
The star-woman hands their daughter a cane carved from a whale’s rib, with an ancestor’s head on the hand-rest: A plain rounded head, with holes for eyes and ridges for ears. They kneel into the rest of the wood, with notches marking their fingertips.
“Tala!” Haik calls. “Tala-sa-umaga-at-gabi!”
The star in the morning and evening.
Tala’s starry hands go to her mouth in instinct, and then back out to him: “Haik-na-dumating-sa-silangan! Where are your tattoos?”
“I took them off!” He cries. “I had to! I didn’t think that would fuck so much shit up!”
The star in the morning and evening, she keens and tears at her clothes--
“They’re coming back now,” Mirasol tries to assure them--but he had so many more before Spain, his face and chest all covered in ink, so even now he must look half-naked--
Then the laws of biology win, and Mirasol’s finally forced asleep despite her yearning.
She only remembers the flash of Haik’s crocodile-arm--
And a heartbeat, timid but growing in the dark.
In the morning, right before the stars go out, Mirasol’s suddenly awake.
It’s not hard to figure out why: Haik can’t have slept because he’s barely even moved, staring at the wall where the gods walked in.
“H-Ha-ik,” she shivers. “Haik-who-came-from-the-east. How many names do you have?”
No answer, but he grips her tight in the chill air.
She puts her head to his chest, as much for warmth as to check for his pulse.
But there’s only the sound of the ocean.
“Why do you tattoo yourselves?” A Spanish monk asks her. “Our bodies were given by God--it’s sinful to harm them on purpose.”
“Well, that’s your way and the Muslims’ way,” she tells him as she weaves. “Our gods write things upon our souls, and the tattoos make them visible.”
“The Tagalogs don’t tattoo,” his bodyguard says from the far side.
“It depends on where we live,” she emphasizes. “In Manila proper, they don’t anymore, but north at the border near the Kalinga, or here in the south where all the Visayans live, we do. Our gods have tattoos, and they or the ancestors tell us when we should get them. When I was fourteen, the ancestors gave me a tattoo to show I was grown.”
The monk laughs at her. “Oh, ay, Senora--was that one year ago, or two?”
“Six, once the monsoons start.
“You’re twenty?!” The guard jolts. “But you’re so small!”
“I don’t see any size limits on when a girl starts bleeding.”
The monk coughs, and even the guard is uncomfortable as he tries to continue the conversation: “You mean… the indio women get tattoos when they… menstruate?”
“You Spanish are so jumpy about what happens down there.” Her husband comes inside with two wild ducks slung over his shoulder.
“What happened to the dog if you only shot some ducks?” Mirasol worries, but he chuckles.
“She’s fine, I let her keep the last one.” He whistles for the dog, and she bounds in, scattering bloody feathers. Her husband isn’t as tall as in their first life together, but he’s still built like a boxer, with a gold chain on his neck and hunting-dogs roaming on his chest. “Oy--Padre. For someone who says he doesn’t have sex, you sure spend a lot of time bothering my wife and the other women.”
“‘Bothering?’” The monk bristles. “If you didn’t want the Spanish to stay here, you would have driven us out by now!”
“We don’t ‘drive people out’ just because they’re annoying.”
“I am bringing God’s light to your people!”
“We have a god for light already!” Her husband laughs and points out the door. “Apolaki! He-who-is-the-sun!”
“Don’t mock our ways, indio!”
“You’re just fine mocking ours, though!” Her husband retorts. “You look at us like we’re stupid whenever we tell you about them!”
Now the guard draws up and Mirasol flinches, but a strange man arrives at the doorway.
“Hello!” He’s a stranger, young and handsome, wearing a thick golden collar. On his chest is the one-eyed sun, mouth roaring wide to show his fangs.
This is not the sun on the flag, the ancestors tell her. The old sun was a terrible person.
This man is much nicer than his tattoo, but his smile fades--almost too quickly--at the sight of the two men. “Should I… go somewhere else?”
“No, it’s fine!” Mirasol walks up in relief and does the ungngo with him. “Who are you? The datu’s relative?”
“No, I just look like one,” he admits with a laugh.
“I believe it’s time for us to go home,” the monk tells her husband, cool but civil.
“Travel safe, Padre,” her husband retorts. “Wouldn’t want you to get lost in the dark.”
The stranger needs to stay the night since it’s half a day longer to Manila. Mirasol tries to soften the mood when the Spaniards leave, but her husband’s still fuming under his politeness, even with the smell of cooking duck and the dog begging for scraps.
“Was that a Spanish priest?” The stranger wonders. “Why was he here? Are you Catholic?”
“No, but you know them,” her husband sighs. “Won’t leave anyone alone about God and salvation. What about you, rich boy? Where are you headed?”
“Up north to Manila.” He takes a bowl of rice and meat from Mirasol.
“How did you get such a mean tattoo?” She wonders. “You’re not exactly fearsome. Plus you still got both eyes.”
“What? Nah. Dad was pretty wild when he was my age,” he says. “Fought a guy over something he can’t remember, probably while he was drunk, and he put out his eye. Then he got cursed after he laughed at him, because of course the guy he maimed and humiliated just happened to know magic. Twenty years later, he watched me like a hawk.”
“Ouch,” Mirasol sympathizes. “But why the old sun? He was a terrible person. He made it too hot to live until Bathala put his eye out, and then he murdered Lumawig’s father.”
“‘It could have been you with the eye-patch,’” he recites.
Her husband keeps flicking looks at the stranger all through the night, underneath his politeness. He’s stiff when he and Mirasol go to bed in the main room, eyes fixed on their own room where the stranger’s sleeping.
“He’s not going to grab the cooking knives and blind us in our sleep,” Mirasol assures him in a whisper. “Some people just have bad luck. His family was cursed, after all.”
“Why did he come here, though?”
“Because he didn’t want to get to Manila at midnight and he needs a place to stay.”
“No, earlier. When the priest was talking about God’s light,” he says. “I said Apolaki’s name. His full name. And then Mr. Rich Boy conveniently shows up, with his giant sun-tattoo? Says his dad gouged someone’s eye out, like Bathala did to the old sun?”
“Well, at least he got rid of the priest before you could fight his guard.” She takes his arm. “You know you shouldn’t make fun of their religion.”
“But they make fun of us,” he seethes. “The Spanish call themselves ‘Filipino,’ ‘insulares,’ all the other fancy shit, but they don’t live here. They eat and sleep here, that’s it. They don’t farm anything because they’re soldiers or rich people--so we do it, like we always have. They don’t learn any of our languages, so we have to learn Spanish. They don’t care about our religions because they’re always trying to make us follow theirs. They don’t even raise any children with us. How can you live in a place without doing even one of those things?”
“No children? At all?” She frowns. “There are lots of mestizos wandering around.”
“Yeah, they make a lot of mestizos. After soldiers torch a barangay and rape the women,” he retorts. “Or rich guys have affairs with their maids. They still don’t raise the kids, they just abandon them. Even the men that raise their mixed kids are kind of fucked up--they take them away and pretend they’re full Spanish, and the kid goes for years without realizing their mom is living right there, in the village they never stepped foot in. Or she’s their maid.”
“Why is it always the mother?” But she knows the answer as well as he does.
“Because Spanish men can screw indio women all they want, but I’d get whipped if I even raise my voice at a Spanish woman,” he reminds her. “Plus they got that hang-up about keeping women virgins. They tell women not to have sex until they’re married, because… It makes them special? It’s weird. I asked one of the soldiers on the way home--what if you’re engaged? Does that mean you can’t have sex with the person you’re going to marry anyway? And they went, ‘If we have carnal needs before the wedding, that’s what servants or prostitutes are for.’ So I told them that in our culture, that’s having a damn affair.”
“They don’t let women get abortions,” she points out. “And they can’t get divorced. I wouldn’t have too much sex either, if I was stuck with one man for the rest of my life and I couldn’t drink no-baby tea.”
He shakes his head. “No divorce and weird sex rules. If I ever say I turned Catholic, it’s because someone’s trying to kill me. Or more importantly, you.” He pecks her temple.
“What about our guest, by the way? Do you think he’s--” But then she spots the empty sleeping mat. “Oh no, we woke him up!”
“I’m sorry for scaring you.” He appears before them, sheepishly gleaming by the hearth: Now there are bangles on his wrists and ankles, the wrought-gold sash of a datu on his shoulder, and a cloth-of-gold belt at his waist. Against his dark skin, the jewelry glitters.
The banked fire blazes up to his knees, and she scrambles with her husband to kneel.
“Apolaki-sino-ang-araw!” Her husband puts his face to the floor. “Why did you come here?”
“Because I didn’t want you to start a fight with the Spanish,” he assures. “And I’m looking for Haik. It’s almost time for the rains, but nobody’s seen him. Not even Hina or Lumawig.”
“Did he get hurt?” Something shakes with despair in her chest, more than the obvious fear of her gods being wounded or killed, and she tries not to cry. “He’s not a cruel god--who would want to kill him?”
“Probably the Spanish.” Her husband puts an arm around her. “If they keep talking down to us about our stupid, backwards religion, they’ll hate when our actual gods show up.”
“Shhhhh.” Haik tows her gently back to the present. “I wasn’t hurt, not badly at least--I was in a quarry. Hauling stone for some rich guy’s house.”
Prison gang, the ancestors remind him.
“That’s not fucking better!” Mirasol snaps (though with her voice so shaky, it’s not very convincing). “What did you even do?”
“I was a big, tattooed indio who mouthed off at said rich guy,” he tells her ruefully. “It only took a couple more months to ship the stone downriver, he didn’t build a castle or anything. I had to take these off when I finished.” He taps the side of his face.
She clutches him, with a strange giddy laughter welling up. (Is she too tired to cry right now?)
And then there’s a knock at the door, almost a tap. “Mirasol?” Hadassah’s voice is just as soft.
“One minute.” Haik fishes for his clothes and slips them on. “Okay.”
Hadassah slides in as quiet as a mouse, grabbing an outfit from the closet. “Stay indoors,” she whispers. “My grandmother gets home at four. I get home at six or six-thirty.”
And Hadassah goes back out to change.
Haik hears Mirasol’s steps even muffled by the bedroom carpet, as she gets her toothbrush out from her bag.
Right before her foot makes contact with the hardwood floor in the hallway, he picks her up and glides to the bathroom door, as if he’s a hundred and ten pounds while she’s twice his weight.
He sets her down, grinning, and she accepts it even though his eyes are wide and wary. “Pull your steps, love,” he whispers. “The floor is made of glass.”
“What--?” She has to keep herself from jumping onto him or the bathtub’s edge, and then processes the last word--glass, not lava. “Okay,” she strains out.
He’s relieved at her much lighter footsteps, though he’s shaking with laughter. “Much better.”
When she steps out of the bathroom, the ghosts of two tribal children scatter into the hallway.
Mirasol and her children follow. They are both as tall as their father, but not quite as dark and muscled; the past-Haik is there shortly, and the children’s two male relatives scoop up them up.
The wind is howling, and search-dogs bay in the distance.
A river cuts across the hallway, huge and roaring from the monsoons; Mirasol only gets ankle-deep before jumping right back out, and even her demigod daughter flinches in the cold. The children start crying immediately at their loss of confidence.
“No--no, it’s okay. Don’t cry. Do you like climbing trees, anak?” Haik asks the girl.
“I don’t want to!” She sobs. “I want to stay with Mama!”
Mirasol’s thrown off, since there’s no other women she’s seen yet. Is their mother lagging behind, or--
Oh, she realizes with a sinking feeling, as the girl’s mother regains composure.
“Anak, you can’t swim across--it’s too dangerous,” her mother tells her. “You have to get over in the trees.”
But they are children, and the dogs are getting louder, and they watch stock-still like rabbits as Mirasol and their parents wade in, all of them flinching from the chill.
The three of them cannot get far across, fighting the current and the cold, so Mirasol’s daughter submerges under the froth and resurfaces as a crocodile. She tows the three along like a ship.
The sight of her, almost black in the water, only makes the children start mewling with fear.
And then the dogs arrive.
So Haik grabs the little girl with one arm, a branch with the other, and hoists them straight up to a second branch shoulder-height.
Their son follows with her brother--the gods don’t climb so much as leap from branch to branch, as if the trunks are masts and the leaves are myriad patches of sails.
How fast and graceful they are--but Haik has to back up when he feels a branch creak.
“Anak!” He takes their son’s shoulder. “I can’t get across!”
“Finally! Your giant ass is bad at something!” Their son laughs and takes both the children. He can’t be much less heavy than his father, especially with so much extra weight, but the branches shiver under his feet like he’s only a songbird.
Haik grips the trunk as the search-dogs howl and scratch at the bark, then jumps straight down into the rush. Even he’s having trouble with the current, though the search-dogs hunch down and whine away from the water.
“Hang on, neneng!” Their son shifts the children onto his back, waiting for Haik to reach the other side. “We gonna fly!”
The children’s parents shiver and wince with Mirasol as her son bolts into the wind.
He hollers with joy at the height of his arc, hands spread like talons for the next tree’s branches, as the Spanish watch in confused awe.
He is like Lumawig, comes the past-Haik’s thoughts, overwhelmed with longing.
Then he catches and hangs on, rough but steady, while the Spaniards swear and yank at the balking dogs’ leashes--but they too start wincing as soon as they touch the water.
“We need to find a bridge!” One of them calls, and they head upriver.
Their son scales down the tree to set the children down, as the rain begins to fall.
The next morning, they find a barangay by a lake. Limping into the village square, all but Haik shivering and muddy, they’re taken to a young woman’s house almost immediately.
“Where did you all come from?” She hands them all blankets while her mother stokes the fire; Haik declines his own, and shares with Mirasol. “Last night had terrible weather.”
“We didn’t have much choice,” their son says to her. “The Spanish were trying to kill these two.” He gestures to the parents.
In the morning light, the present-Mirasol can see his tattoos: There’s crocodile-scale bracelets on his wrists for his father, and she’s surprised he doesn’t have anything else.
But when he sheds his blanket to grab a bowl of rice, that’s when she sees it:
A great M-shaped eagle on his back.
Between the bathroom and the hallway, she needs a moment to get the sight of his leap out of her chest. Haik takes her arm, grinning.
“His name is Banog,” he whispers to her. “Well, that’s the name that stuck.”
“What does it mean?”
“Falcon. Kite.” He shakes his head, laughing as quiet as he can. “It’s another name for the monkey-eater. I’m just grateful he’s not like my brother.”
“They’re so nice now,” she wonders as they slide under the window back to the room. “Did they get reincarnated like I did?”
“No, but time is time,” he says. “And they’re young, after all. They bounce back quicker than oldies like me.”
“You’re not old.” She pulls him onto the bed.
“Do you remember when I came to the islands?”
“Yes, when the Maori came and told us stories about Paikea.”
“Do you remember when they came?” His voice is gentle, but it hurts anyway.
She knew it once, in her very first life--before she was a chief’s daughter. The tunes of old songs drift through her head, of Haik from the ancestors’ land, where the rivers are full of jade.
But the words are all gone now.
“What about our daughter? What’s her name?”
“Itak,” he says. “‘Sword.’ First name, didn’t care to change it. She became very practical later on. Well, she was always practical, but she did get nicer about it.”
“Does our first daughter have a name?”
“How would she get one? She wasn’t even born.”
She’s not surprised, but it still hurts. “She… was…”
“Stillbirths don’t count,” he reminds her wearily, though he brings her right up against his chest.
And the next two days are frightfully easy: Stay inside, crouch under the windows with drawn curtains (just to be safe).
No lights until evening, when Hadassah and Berura are home; they use their phones instead.
Eat very quietly.
Make little noise.
But the fourth day, there’s the red lights and sirens through the window.
A squad car from ICE is outside.
To their credit, they knock on the door first. Hadassah opens it, but keeps the chain up.
“Ma’am,” an officer says. “We have a warrant for arrest. Not you, but people you might know.”
“Do you have a search warrant?”
“Then you’re not going in my house.”
“Can you let us--”
“I just told you no,” she reminds them firmly.
“Ma’am, we just need to ask some questions.”
She knows better than to argue. “All right. Let’s go to the kitchen.”
“Hadassah? Who is that?” Berura’s voice is much creakier (and higher) than it normally is.
“ICE officers, Bubbeh,” she calls. “I don’t know why they’re here.”
“Well, shit. You’re at least fifty years too late if you want me to head back to Europe,” Berura informs them, back to normal, and switches the TV on.
“It’s not about you or your granddaughter, ma’am,” the officers assure. “We just need to ask questions. We’ll be in and out, it’s okay.”
So Hadassah brings them inside and shuts the kitchen door, while Berura heads down the hallway and opens the bedroom door.
“Go time,” she whispers to them under the TV.
Mirasol and Haik have their bags slung on already, and they steal across the hallway as quiet as the questions begin.
“--about Mirasol?” Hadassah asks. “I know her, but she’s Rahil’s friend. They both live across the Bay. Why didn’t you ask her?”
“Well, we already did and she didn’t see them, so--”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, what’s that smell?” The second ICE officer wonders.
“The… the ocean smell. Did you go fishing, or something?”
FUCK, Haik mouths desperately, and pushes Mirasol in front of him.
“No, but we do live in the BAY Area--”
Haik grabs Mirasol’s hand and runs for the front door, but the ICE officers haul out of the kitchen and bolt straight for him.
They get him to the ground, but he rolls like a croc and one of them flinches away--
“Stop!” Hadassah pulls Mirasol out of the way. “Stop it! He hasn’t done anything!”
“He’s living here illegally!”
“What the fuck does that mean?!” Mirasol demands.
The second officer has a taser, points it at Haik’s back, and a cold dread makes Mirasol freeze.
More death-rolling, and Haik shakes the other officer off--
--but the lightning bolt that explodes from Haik fries the taser into scrap.
Mirasol can’t see anything with the stars flashing behind her eyes, and the bulk of what she hears is Haik bellowing--the others aren’t faring much better.
“What happened?!” The nearest officer gropes the floor away from Haik. “Did you hit the TV?”
“Haik!” Mirasol fumbles, but she goes the wrong way and there’s a hard snap of metal on her wrists. “Are you okay?!”
Haik blunders up again, but the second officer manages to cuff him as well. “Don’t hurt her, motherfuckers, don’t you fucking dare--”
When the afterimages fade, they’re on an iron ship.