5827 words (23 minute read)

Part 7.

Rahil heats up a couple of plates in the microwave, shuttles a quilt onto her couch so they can take her room for the night, and technically stops crying.

They don’t watch the news. They eat in the kitchen, backs turned to the TV’s glassy black sheet, and when the dishes are stowed quietly in the sink, Haik tugs Mirasol into the bedroom.

It doesn’t matter.

Haik and Mirasol can hear the aftermath of her decision, welling up through the soil:

“Why are y’all so uptight about Haik?” Imelda asks the ICE officer. “If you closed the borders for every brown guy with tattoos, we ain’t gonna have no more football players.”

“Do you think he kidnapped your cousin?” The officer asks Lloyd.

“She fucking grown, man, she just looks like a teenager. Ain’t nobody gonna kidnap her without a fight.”

“You can’t just let her do things like this!” Her mother is crying, and Mirasol’s disappointed but not surprised. “What if she gets sent to the Philippines with him?!”

“Then she stays with Grandma and Grandpa, and they sue the whole damn government for throwing her under the bus like this, and she buys Haik some useless pieces of paper with her eighty-million-dollar lawsuit,” Lloyd snaps.

“Why didn’t she just follow the law instead of--”

“Tita, her stupid white-girl neighbor followed the law!” Lloyd explodes. “Haik is fucking Australian! I ain’t heard nobody saying they’ll dump him over there!”

“Sir, he’s not documented here or in Australia,” the officer says. “He’s living here illegally--”

“That make him a criminal, though? Y’all keep telling us there’s nothing about him--that means no fucking rap sheet, either, or they would have been covering the news about the tatted-up Pinoy guy who stole office supplies five years ago!”

Imelda laughs hard, and Haik follows suit in the dark of the room. But Mirasol feels saltwater burning through her shirt, where his face is pressed into her shoulder.

“Do you want to hear a story?” Haik asks her again.

She tries to decide which one. How did the sharks betray the toothed whales, why did the dragons become living ships for the Tagalogs, and when did most of them die? “Whose face did Lumawig steal?”

“His first wife’s,” Haik says. “She was a diwat and very beautiful, but she was as proud and hot-tempered as he was. After a year they had their worst argument yet, where she said she’d married beneath her--though his mother was the North Wind, his father was human, and this must be why he was uglier and weaker than other gods.”

“Really?” She hits her head on the wall. “Was he actually ugly, or was she just picking a fight?”

“The diwat aren’t known for being humble.” Haik chuckles. “So Lumawig sang an evil song to steal her face and all its beauty, mocking her when she became plain: ‘If I am such a weakling, wife, it must be no trouble to take back your face!’ She ran away crying and Lumawig knew something was wrong--she had never wept before, only shouted back at him and sometimes gone to her family’s house for a while. He and the servants looked three days and could not find her, so Lumawig went to his mother for help. She almost didn’t recognize him, so remarkable was he now, but she was a goddess and knew her own children in any shape.

“‘My poor boy,’ the North Wind said after she heard his story. ‘No one can take back a god’s gift nor their punishment, even if they regret it themselves. We will give your wife a new face, as pretty as she wants, but her old one is yours now, whether you still want it or not.’

“They looked high and low for her, and found her on the island of the great Taal Lake. She looked like she was sleeping, but there was a handful of bright red crab’s-eye seeds beside her, for she had taken the poison in shame. Lumawig and his household wept bitterly.”

“Okay, I don’t want to sound insensitive,” Mirasol hazards, “but she killed herself just because she wasn’t pretty anymore?”

“It wasn’t just not being pretty,” Haik says. “He took her face. She was born with it, she’d gone all her life with it, and now it was gone. If someone cut up your face and taunted you about being ugly, would you feel better just because the wounds heal up?”

“Oh.” She understands now, and curls up against his crocodile scales with a shiver. “When you killed the Spaniard--”

He sighs. “That was not a punishment. Most husbands would kill a man for shooting his wife. I just did it with magic.”

“What happened when you saved me from drowning?” She wonders. “Why did you keep coming back afterward? Did you give me some sort of power?”

“I never had to do much,” he says. “You keep calling me. Even if you don’t--you are always, always close to me. I keep saying you’re the only one left of my followers, but… you’re the only one close enough. Lloyd, Rahil, all the others of the Tagalog tribe might be open to me--but they’re still too far away. It’s you.”

There it is again, that riptide full of meanings lurking under the normal words. Haik said that the whales are too far away from him, thanks to his lack of joy--and so this must mean that the others can’t reach him like she can, regardless of whether they want to.

Haik scans the ceiling tiles for something, then shakes his head and cocoons around her.

“So they prepared Lumawig’s wife for the funeral rites,” he says. “Many gods came, brought by Haik the whale-rider on his ship, for they were cousins and loved each other dearly, however different they were. The shaman sang the mourning songs, and the women wailed and cut their hair, for though Lumawig and his wife were not a good match, they were kind to others. The ladies’ hair was so long and black that soon, you could not see her body--it was as if they’d woven a shroud like the night. When it was Lumawig’s turn to speak, he took a lock that had come from her favorite maid.

“‘Our time together was not happy, wife, but I should not have wronged you this way. I cannot give your old face back, but I will give you a new one, if you will take it.’

“Something churned underneath the burial shroud, and the guests drew back in fear. But this was nothing evil, for a kingfisher emerged--unlike any of the others they knew. She was jet-black with white flecks like stars, and she landed on Lumawig’s shoulder for a few moments before flying back to Taal Lake. He would live there a long time before he fished his second wife out of the sea, and moved to Mount Pulag in the north.”

He waits.

“Why isn’t Paikea the same as you anymore?”

“You got it backwards.” He shakes his head. “I’m not the same as Paikea.”

“Why is that so important?” She tries not to snap, but it’s late and she’s tired and she used to understand this, which feels worse than just being confused. But she’s not a babaylan anymore, she doesn’t know if anyone’s left to teach her, and she wants to remember as much as she can before ICE finds them again--

“I remember being Paikea, but we are different men now,” he says. “Paikea came with his people to Luzon; Haik was born when the sailors got drunk and told each other stories, and someone mixed things up. We must have called something deep down in them--and so I grew as they told stories of the whale-rider. Paikea left with his people in time, but I stayed.”

“Why did he leave?”

“Because he wanted to go home, why else?” He tells her with that not-laugh. “Paikea is a Maori ancestor and still human, however more of it he is--but I am Haik, your people’s sea-god. I killed a crocodile when I was new here, for I did not know that they guarded your people from the river-demons--so I ate his flesh and became the crocodile-god as penance. Lumawig the last-born is my cousin, for the Maori knew his stories, too. I am the bringer of fish and good winds. I turn into a dragon and I break the ships in my teeth, I hunt with the sharks, I come out of the sand like the devilfish.”

“Devilfish? Which one?” The manta ray? The octopus or squid? Or is it some other terrible creature, hiding under white sand?

“Stonefish,” he says to her, and she remembers a grandmother telling her this story when she was thirteen (for the stonefish’s story is not for children). “They used to be sambar deer, big as horses, like in Asia’s mainland and Malaysia. The sambar-prince wanted to marry a young datu who lived by a beautiful reef. She rejected him because he wasn’t human, but he did not learn to change shape properly. He waited by a path until he saw a little boy wearing a gold bracelet, so he gored him to death and ate his flesh to gain human form.

“Three days later, he woke up as a handsome and strong young man, with big dark eyes like a deer, and he was wearing silk in many colors with fine jewelry. But when he arrived at the barangay by the reef, he found the datu with her sister and brother-in-law in the square, by a little burial shroud. The people were wailing terrible dirges, tearing at their clothes, and many women had cut their hair as short as the men’s in grief.

‘Why are you grieving so?’ the sambar-prince asked the nearest man. “Who has died?”

‘Ay! Our datu’s nephew was eaten by a forest beast!” said the villager. ‘We found his bones yesterday, with his golden bracelet on him! He was her heir, for she is not married yet!’

“The sambar-prince knew this was a sign from the gods to repent for his black magic, but he still wished to marry the datu. He spoke quietly as was proper and changed into less festive clothes, but found later that he could not eat meat--he retched at the smell of cooking dinner. The datu’s family found it strange, but he said his mother was Hindu and had raised him in her ways, so they thought nothing more and cooked a new pot for him. He knew again that this was a warning from the gods: His body was human, but his soul was still a deer’s.”

Her younger self and her grandmother come into the room, and Haik’s laugh is real this time: Mirasol’s about to ask a slew of questions.

“Papa said the Maori eat their enemies after a war,” she says. “Are they like the aswang and the mermaids? They say Haik was Maori, too, before he came to live here--does Haik eat the people we offer to him?”

“Aren’t you too old for so many questions?” Her grandmother chuckles. “Aswang and mermaids eat people, but they are not human--is it evil for us to eat farm animals and game? And they will not eat human friends and family. The Maori believe eating their enemies will give them their strength. I don’t like it, but that is their way, and at least grown men fighting a war is fair. In a long famine, people may eat their dead to avoid starving, and it is not a sin to be hungry. But a great deer like a horse, killing a little boy? That isn’t fair. And for something as small as a woman rejecting him, ay.”

“Why is that a small reason? She was a chief.”

“He was a prince, too, neneng,” her grandmother says with a sigh. “There were dozens of noble ladies who would have gladly married him, and there are proper ways to become human if he still wanted the datu. But he killed a little boy and lied from the moment he came to her village. The gods gave him three chances to repent, but he did not, and so he became evil.”

“What was the last one?”

“The third omen was when the villagers finished mourning, and the sambar-prince asked for tattoos,” Haik resumes the story. “The ancestors led the artist’s hands all astray, like a child who couldn’t write yet, and the artist supposed they were still upset over the death of the datu’s nephew. But still the sambar-prince would not tell the truth, and he only hoped his tattoos were beautiful as his face.

“He married the datu in a few months, but after his tattoos healed, they had changed from the artist’s designs: Instead they showed how he’d killed her nephew and became human after eating him. He knew he had finally angered the gods, for he couldn’t get rid of tattoos without cutting his own skin off, so he wore heavy clothes to hide them. That wasn’t noticed in the monsoons, but when summer came, he couldn’t bear the heat and took his shirt off after a few days. The datu finally saw them one morning, and when she realized what they told, she screamed so loud that the village’s warriors ran over, thinking she must be attacked.

‘This is the sambar who wanted to marry me!’ she said, ‘and he murdered and ate my nephew!’ She dragged him to the reef and pushed him off, crying, ‘Drown or live in the sea, whichever the gods allow! But you will never touch earth again, you devil!’

The sambars soon found out what their prince had done, and half of them were so ashamed that they bellowed and stamped to make the earth shake. As the land broke apart and they fell into the sea, Haik pitied them for their leader’s disgraceful actions, and he sang to turn them into fish. They miss having legs, so he lets them walk along the sea-bottom, or even on the shore for a day--for he is a tricksome god, and the seashore is not quite earth. The other half of the sambar tribe stayed on land, but they shrank and grew gentle as penance. This is why our sambar are smaller than the other kinds.”

“What are your stories?” She wrenches around to face him. It’s not just the hints of him she’s heard, how the words swirl out of his mouth like waves. She remembers hearing things from the ghosts of parents and siblings and cousins, but the memories are worn like a static-y TV. “Are there songs about you? Everyone’s singing for funerals and spells and weddings--is that why Pinoys always do karaoke or whatever? Are we trying to do magic again?”

“Stop.” He shuts his eyes and shakes his head--her questions hurt.

“I’m sorry.” She leans into him, but it’s only a few moments before there’s more questions: “Does… does Haik mean anything in Tagalog? Paikea is the Maori name for humpback whales, and he called himself that because the whales saved him--are you named after a whale, too?”

She only knows the Spanish word for ‘whale.’ Balyena. What was their word before that?

“Tandayag,” he tells her. “But a toothed whale is different.”

She can hear it in Haik’s voice: Whales are the bringers of joy, but the toothed whales are vengeance--they were double-crossed by the sharks so badly that they traded kelp for blood in the water and thrashing prey. She’s seen orcas hunt in nature documentaries, those titanic black-and-white wolves.

“Haik means ‘day’ in Temuan,” he tells her. “From Malaysia.”

But while the words themselves are true, this is not the whole story: Their memory washes around them from the shadows.


“Of course Haik’s not my first name--why would my parents torture me? I’d have to get up at dawn all the time and pray to Apolaki if they called me Haik.”

“You get up at dawn anyway.” Mirasol holds up the net she’s mending. “You’re a fisherman, remember?”

“But I like fishing,” Haik retorts gently. “And I don’t mind sleeping late, if you happen to convince me.” He presses an ear to Mirasol’s swollen belly. “Do you want to hear how your papa got his name, neneng? I’ll take out all the drinking.”

“That means you shouldn’t tell him,” Mirasol chuckles and starts checking the next row of knots. “I don’t want our baby to grow up picking fights because his father told him sailors’ stories.”

“I was born in Havai’i, far east across the water.”

“You said you were born here when we met,” she frowns. “And you are my people’s sea-god. Where else would you come from?”

“Haik was born here,” he says. “But Paikea came with his people, the Maori, and the Tagalogs gave me this name after the whales brought me from my fatherland.”

“Did you hate it that much?” She takes his crocodile-arm. “If you say he was a different person?”

“I didn’t hate it,” Haik assures. “But names are different for spirits. Humans, your names are important, but they are like clothing. Many wear one name from birth to death, and cherish it as such. Some rip them away and take new names in anger or joy or grief. Others force you to wear names that do not fit. But the gods, the diwat? We are creatures of the otherworld, not nearly as solid as earth-dwellers. Our names are who we are.”

“I don’t understand,” Mirasol admits. “You’re not made of air.” She puts an ear to his chest: There’s his heartbeat, and the swell of his ribs.

“It’s not your fault,” Haik tells her. “Most of the shamans died. There’s not many left who can teach you.”

“You’re my people’s sea-god,” she says.

“But I am not a shaman.” He sighs. “And you are a woman of the land. Raw metals and gems, the green around the rivers, the wrecks after the monsoons. If I was of fire or you were properly water, you could understand me better.”

“I love you,” she assures.

“That’s not the same thing.” But he holds her so tight that she has to let go of the net.

“Well, where’s… Ha-bai-ki?” It’s a bit of a tongue-twister for her, but the baby jolts hard at the name. “Ay, anak. Shhh.” She moves to the other side of the table, shooting a glare at Haik. “Is Habaiki full of demons? He’s not even born yet and you’re scaring him.”

Haik laughs and sits behind her, hands warm just below her chest. “Havai’i is east across the sea, where the ancestors live.”

“You were human?”

“Once,” he says. “Once, I was a chief’s son. And my name was Kahutia-te-rangi--"

“Stop,” Haik pleads.

But another memory juts in, barely-related and probably on purpose:

In those short two years between their marriage and their daughter’s death, there’s word of a ship from New Zealand. Haik is ecstatic at the name and takes her to the docks, where the Spanish dockmaster is speaking with a group of dark-skinned giants like her husband. Most aren’t that much taller than the Filipino men, but they’ve definitely got more muscle; the tallest ones would be eye-to-eye with Haik.

What strikes her are their soft-edged tattoos, like ocean waves and unfurling vines. The filigree of spirals makes the ink look almost blue. When Haik was human, did he have such tattoos? What happened to them after he came to Luzon?

“Quick,” Haik whispers. “Ask the dockmaster to move. You know, in Spanish.”

“Are you mute?” she retorts. “You ask him.”

“But you, wife, are harmless and not worth noticing.” He grins. “We need to get to my boat.” He motions to the middle of the dock, about halfway down from the Maori ship.

“That’s Dionicio’s boat,” she sighs. “It has the bird on the sail. Yours is on the other side.”

“It’s hard to tell from this far away,” he chuckles.

What is he planning? “If you want to talk to them, we could offer to let them stay the night, like normal people.”

“Not right now. Then he’ll hear us.”

Ah, the Spaniard. “Right, let’s wait until he leaves.” She wonders how many times her husband has maneuvered beneath suspicion like this, but she heads to the docks and taps the Spaniard’s shoulder. “Excuse me, Senor--could you move a little? My husband’s boat is that way.”

“Ay.” The dockmaster barely looks at her and turns aside to let them pass.

At the sight of the bird-sail, Haik loudly bemoans that oh no, this is Dionicio’s boat and his own must be on the other side--and then he takes Mirasol’s arm on the way back.

The dockmaster turns again, and Haik pushes his sleeve up to show his crocodile-scales beneath. “Ta moko.”

The Maori crew grin.


“Stop.” Haik wrangles them out of the memory, and their old life wavers around them. But then he clings tighter instead of pushing away like she’d expect; so much of him confuses her. “Stop it. Stop asking questions. Please.”

“Why?” She reaches, but the memories vanish into the dark. “I want to remember.”

“I DON’T.” Oh, he’s crying again--

“Shhhh.” The saltwater smell stings as she breathes.

A sailor tells Haik with a grin: “Bathala and Lumawig are only one man in our home. Coconuts don’t grow in our country, but they do to the north, where it’s hot like this place. They say Maui made coconuts by killing an eel and burying it, he fished up islands from the sea, he stole or brought back fire, he pushed up the sky, he beat the sun to make the days longer, and he fished up his wife as well. He only has one wife, though--and he definitely didn’t steal her face.”

“The Wharekauri islanders say he did,” the first mate muses. “They say he was ugly and she was beautiful, so he got angry when she kept rubbing it in.”

“I don’t see how one man can do all of that, even our ancestors.” Mirasol says. “Most people would have died.”

The men burst out laughing from joy, and the captain tells her: “Maui did it before humans became mortal! That’s the trick!”

“Do you know of Haik the whale-rider?” She asks before she thinks, and the room goes quiet.

“Your husband?” The captain says, and the Maoris’ eyes all go to him.

“Well, not this one.” She taps Haik’s shoulder and laughs (luckily, they relax). “We have a sea-god named Haik, though.”

“Isn’t it weird to be named after a god?” The youngest man wonders.

“I’m not called ‘Haik the whale-rider,’ though,” Haik points out with amusement. “Haik means daytime for the Malays, that’s pretty normal.”

“Paikea is the ancestor of the south island’s chiefs,” the captain muses. “Once he was a chief’s son named Kahutia-te-rangi--”

“STOP.” Haik’s eyes are lost and tired and empty, his voice is rasping dry, and he’s just a few breaths away from… from something. Screaming, weeping, roaring like a T-Rex, but there are too many reasons not to let him do that.

“Haik--” She’s trying to remember what to do when people have traumatic episodes, and she wonders if she needs to move away.

“Don’t be afraid of me,” he begs. And he wipes his face, forces his mouth to make the proper shape, but this is the baring-of-teeth from a hurt creature--and even if it wasn’t, his eyes are still so sad. “I… see? I’ll calm down soon.”

She winds her hands around his shoulders, frenzied and taut like ropes.

He’s shaking. She doesn’t know for which reason--for his centuries-long ache, for the loneliness, for the ghost of the time they were married.

Mirasol has to lean his back against the wall to take the edge off. Again he lets her do it--she’s always known that she couldn’t last long in any kind of fight with him, but now she’s felt how terribly easy it is for Haik to disagree with her: The blink between moving and not moving.

And part of her is scared, but he’s already begged her not to be (I won’t hurt you, the whale-rider whispers again). So then comes an unsteady mix of love and confusion--but yet more parts of her hurt, because she wants him to be happy and grief is something he can’t seem to move for too long.

She settles onto his lap, rests her head on the pulse on his neck. Something prickles at the back of her own: Her shredding rope of a braid. She must not have combed it since he braided it--not with the mess of illegal immigration, or all the memories she keeps pulling back and Haik keeps pushing away. How long ago was that?

“Damn it--ow.” She shifts back from Haik’s warmth, as much as she hates to, and starts the wincing process of untangling: It’s not too bad when she checks the length of the braid, but right by her scalp it’s knotted to death like she thought. “Ow.”

She brings it over her shoulder to work on it better, fighting back the tears of being a mortal who has to deal with physics and inconvenience and how tangles fucking hurt--but Haik’s hands close around hers and hold them still for one of his heartbeats.

Then his own hands slip through her hair like water. “Why did you tell me to stay?”

“Because!” Saltwater burns down her face. “Because I wanted you to! And you ain’t arguing that hard, are you?!”

He must have let her tell him, or she couldn’t have stopped him from leaving. (And promising to come back, and following through, and starting the patterns all over again.)

He shifts her around so he can start the long twist of braiding, and she wants to remember the feel of his hands brushing the back of her neck.

“There,” he finishes. He ties it off and cracks his knuckles. “There we go.”

She tries to laugh at what a tiny, husband-like thing that the crocodile-god used his powers for, but it sounds like she’s coughing up sadness. Haik her people’s sea-god, Haik who breaks the ships in his teeth, the son of voyagers and brother of whales and cousin of Lumawig who the voyagers call Maui, he is so many things and more that she can’t remember, and even more that he’s locked away in grief.

And now he’s stuck in California hiding from ICE officers.

“Is it because of me?”

“No.” He smiles now, as painful and bright as the sun on the water. How confusing he is--no wonder he’s a sea-god. “Because of me.”

His voice is as tender as a bruise, and he pulls her tight against his mouth.


Haik tries to sleep when they’re done, and he breathes in the smell of her hair against his neck. There’s almost no jasmine left, only fear and heartache mixed with stony determination.

“Do you remember where your tattoos were?” He wonders.

“I think… here?” She wraps her hand around her bicep. “The centipede. What kind of tattoos did women get?”

“It’s not always the designs, more like where you put them,” he muses. “The chest and back, big lines--those were for men. Women, they did their arms and legs. Finer lines, lighter patterns.”

“You used to have your face tattooed.” She tries to trace where they were above his jaw, but she’s already exhausted from the looming pursuit of ICE and her eyelids feel like lead. “Giant black crocodile teeth…” She yawns.

“It’s hard to lie low when I’ve got my face tattooed like a jail-breaker.” He pecks her knuckles.

“You’re not a criminal,” she reminds him, curling up skin to skin before she lets herself slip off.


A different dream comes to Mirasol, humming taut with energy.

At the shore of a bay full of mangrove trees, there’s a conch-shell blowing. People haul a giant ship with outriggers the size of the moving logs. Haik’s own balangay (fifty or sixty feet, Wikipedia reminds her) could fit on the boom of its mainsail. The mothership is a sleek gold-rimmed creature with rainbow-colored sails--but drumbeats sound at her prow, a deep focused pounding like war-hammers.

“Come winds, my mother and brothers!” The drummer calls. “We go east across the sea!”

The crash of the ship into water. Men and women crowd aboard from their paraw canoes, some old but many young-looking, and their shades of brown skin are set off by bright colors and black tattoos. Four men and a woman paddle another paraw from behind, and the wind bursts from their outstretched arms.

Under the roofed back half, a woman with a bamboo club and a patch on her left eye has a deep, glorious tan with long black waves. Mirasol almost laughs herself awake with glee: So many Filipino girls straighten their hair and use sunscreen at the first hint of daylight, and she’s always felt awkward and lacking--but here now are deities that look like her, and now she feels at home.

Then comes her dress, a tribal masterpiece of white on silver like the moon’s come down from the sky, and an indigo-and-silver crescent headdress dangles heavy with pearls. The phases of the moon are mirrored like twins on her forearms--

--where a girl in her late teens hides like a child from the sun. She’s in aquamarine silk and foamy white lace with a circlet of coral and whale-teeth, soaked to the bone and smelling of salt.

And though most of the gods don’t wear shoes, her feet are tangled in kelp beneath her skirt, and her calves are raw with new scars. Mirasol’s chest starts pounding at the sight of her injuries, how she’s dripping with seawater despite tropical heat and the gods who could dry people off in a blink, and the girl stumbles forth in turn: “Where is Papa?”

A person in shades of green stops her (man? woman? It’s not very clear and Mirasol feels like that’s on purpose). “Shh, anak,” they say in a softer, lighter voice--standard for women, but not quite high enough to rule out men. “Don’t worry too much about your parents. It’s an awful lot of trouble to kill a grown god, and even so, he knows the way out of the afterlife.”

The moon-woman sways and her breath rattles hard, she looks like she’ll fall. But then her head swivels left--what can she see through her eye-patch?--and she looks at Mirasol, too. “Is Haik with you?”

She feels like a laser’s burning through her, and it’s strongest from out of the eye-patch.

With a lurch she’s on the rocking ship--the kelp-shackled girl latches onto her in joy, and the wind is howling and the moon-woman asks again:
“Is Haik with you?”

“Yes!” Her chest pounds hard because these must be the gods that Haik is too hurt to remember, sailors in their dragon-boat with rainbow sails-- “Yes, he is! Haik! The crocodile-god!”

The waves begin to surge at the sound of his name, and the gods’ roar in the ship makes it sound like a dinosaur.

At the drop-off where white sand ends, there are Haik’s multitude kinsmen: Sharks, crocodiles, fanged merfolk wearing shark-tooth necklaces, and seashells wound in their hair with kelp. There are turtles, toothed whales, strange-shaped glowing things from the sunless deep, and at the front is a great giant squid. They’re massing like a war-front, terrifyingly beautiful--there are so many creatures that she has no name or comprehension for, and they are only here for one god of a decimated tribe.

“Mama!” Her daughter tugs her to the rail. “Mama, look! Kuya Lumawig fished me out of the water and then Tito Mapulon healed me up and sometimes my legs still hurt but only if I’m really-really-really tired, but it looks worse than it feels because now I can swim!

Mirasol’s only half-done processing the childlike flood of information--how long has she been healed? Who is Mapulon?--before the girl’s jumped the rail, unheeding of her kelp-shackles. “No, wait! Fuck--we need a boat!”

But a great blue whale breaches the surface, just far enough to harmlessly spray one of the paraw nearby. There’s dim laughter from the occupants, echoed by those in the ship.

Then the moon-woman pounds the deck with her club: “WE GO TO FIND HAIK!”

Following her whale-daughter, the balangay blasts like a dragon towards the horizon.

Through the bright blue water, like glass.


She wakes up shaking, dizzy from the laughter and the night’s sudden blackness, and half-thinks the blanket is wet from sea-spray. But the saltwater smell is from Haik as usual, and he’s already awake to keep her steady.

“Haik--” She tries to face him and falls by his hip. She’s picked up again like a feather. “Haik, I saw them, the gods--their balangay’s covered in gold! And their clothes, they’re all so--”

“Yes,” he sighs. “We would all go sailing like that. Together. For training, for supplies, for fun. Gods and people and spirits in a great golden ship. Just like that.”

He thinks it’s just a memory.

“No, no, they’re looking for you! For us!”

“What?” His muscles all tense. “How?”

“How long have you been away from them all?!” There’s only silence, not of guilt but confusion, and she’s crying again. “Fuck it, Haik, people care about you!”

But she knows it’s wrong to hint that he was selfish, that only applies if someone hasn’t been fractured into so many pieces as he was. And she understands why he hates remembering now: The gods are so loud and colorful and full of love--how do you go on after that?

“I thought they were dead.”

He’s shaking now, like her.

Next Chapter: Part 8.