The Fish-Twins

By | 1 February 2020

Their numbers rose as the oceans reclaimed
lands that were closest to its wet borders.
The reports—initially laughed at in the cities—
first came from rural coastal towns.
Women giving birth
to twins: one human, one fish.
As the infant survived, its fish-twin vanished,
never to be seen again. Some said
they died, unable to breathe on land,
some whispered they were killed and
buried in shame—no story’s the same.
Midwives and physicians were baffled, then
became dismissive. Mass hysteria,
someone in authority opined.

It didn’t take long for someone to record and upload
something on social media. The grainy and shaky
video managed to show something tubular
and gray slip from the old hilot’s* hands
into a basin of water.
The mother’s screams rang like bells.
A man stormed into the room,
shouted at the person holding the camera
and grabbed it, ending the footage.
The internet went ablaze. No one was
laughing anymore. A public health crisis
declared, experts and epidemiologists
worked to make sense of the phenomena
but found no answers.

As more islands sank beneath the waves more
women delivered twins of human and fish.
People’s violent reactions simmered
into nonchalance—as always—except for
the few times when the fish survived
instead of the infant. Coastal villages
moved inland as the ocean swallowed
their homes. The elder folk declared
This was just nature trying to check
and restore balance.
“We all clambered from the sea,”
one said with confidence.
“And that’s where we’re all going back—
Sooner or later.”

Weeks later, a fisherman was arrested for
his daughter’s disappearance. The child
had been sick a few days. The mother
went to a relative to borrow money
for medicine, leaving the toddler in
her husband’s care.
He was crying on the beach when she returned.
Distraught, he said his daughter suddenly
stopped breathing and as he held her up
her neck opened up like fish-gills.
By instinct, he took her to the water, which
revived her instantly, and she quickly swam
away, as her rumored twin-fish sister did
barely two years ago.

*Hilot – traditional birth attendants in Philippine rural communities

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