CW: Violence, hints of death
After the wooden boat rots two days at sea, it floods, the ocean water grey and sallow like my mother’s skin.
To survive in the ocean:
1. Obtain fresh water (salt water will dehydrate you)
My mother salts the mackerel before she grills it because father is coming home, and he does not like it when the fish is sautéed with sauce, made brownish-red, and no longer tastes like the ocean—but instead like my mother. The grill hisses when the mackerel is laid flat on its belly. Father plucks out its eyes and devours them.
2. Find shelter
My mother is alive two years ago, the day we went to the bazaar. She picks up matching sweaters: one for me and one for my father. They are white when the store vendor hands them to us, his face nonexistent like one of a dalgyal gwishin (egg ghost). Two years ago, strangers did not have faces, but our home still had its pictures hung. Now, my sweater resembles my chafed skin after my father drags me to the morgue. The threads have opened up. I accidentally pull one, and the sweater crumbles into dust-coated intestines.
3. Catch food
Father cuts up the eel from its tail and splits it on its spine—good for eating. He hands me my chopsticks. I dip the eel in soy sauce to neutralize the fishy smell. Father mimics me.
4. Get rescued
I’ve always found this last stage strange. Can we not survive without reaching land or getting help? Have our bodies forgotten our ocean-borne origin? The sea of our mother’s womb? My father finds me on the shore.
Juheon Rhee is a 16 year old writer residing in Manila. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Indolent Books, 580 Split, Lunch Ticket, and Cleaver Magazine among others. She has also received nominations for her works, such as the Best of the Net Nomination.