The One Who Lies in Wait by Melissa Llanes Brownlee

My son was born a shark. Mother told me we had to return him to the ocean as soon as he swam out of my birthing sea, his thrashing fins marking their passage along my canal, an explosion of salt and blood, soaking the woven mats beneath me. His father was a sprinkling of sea foam across the mounds of my thighs. I was not as fecund as Mother but I knew when the waves crashed on me that I was pregnant. I hadn’t wanted a baby. I wasn’t ready. Mother told me it was the way of our kind. As she birthed me from an infusion of light from Father, stars spiraling from her belly, so will I birth the gods of land and sea. As I cradled my first child, his cool gray skin rubbing against me, his dark intelligent eyes settling on mine, I knew the burden and the triumph of birthing a god. I kissed the tip of his nose as I walked to the edge of the water and released him into the salty embrace of his father.

Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has fiction in Booth: A Journal, The Notre Dame Review, Pleiades, The Citron Review, Waxwing, Milk Candy Review, Claw & Blossom, Bending Genres, Micro Podcast, (mac)ro(mic), The Daily Drunk, Necessary Fiction, Have Has Had, The Birdseed, and elsewhere. She was selected for Best Small Fictions 2021. Hard Skin, her short story collection, will be coming soon from Juventud Press. She tweets @lumchanmfa and talks story at

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