An Ocean the Color of Bruises

The budget hotel is empty and desolate, the lady behind the check–in counter drained of color. Her eyes are wide and fraught as she looks over our reservation form.

“Two bedrooms with double beds?”

We nod. Rich passes her his credit card.

“Five keys?” We nod again. She hands the keys to Rich with a frown.

“So… I know it’s off–season, but why’s it so empty?” Heinz asks, as we thump down the hallway. Heinz, the Electrical Engineering major, loves questions. He’s got a solid job at IBM. He’s not thrilled about it, because he has to wear a tie every day, but he earns a pretty sweet salary.

“I mean, this isn’t the worst place you could go, but it’s not good by any stretch,” Josie says—tired, possibly hungover. Tired Josie is grumpy Josie. Josie took CW and works for a start–up news site. She’s the artsy–est of us, the most lasingera, capable of downing seven San Migs with room for tequila. We all love Josie and secretly ache for her to love us back, at least as much as she loves her poets. None of us, not even Chino, the sensitive guitar–playing dude, can quote more than a few lines of Neruda or cummings.

“Maybe everyone’s worried about the storm,” Heinz adds, ignoring how Chino pinches his arm in warning.

“The storm’s not supposed to cross here,” Josie snaps.

“Don’t you think that lady was kinda weird?” Nina asks. Nina is the queen of diverting conversation. She always says what’s on her mind. We like that about Nina: it makes her a little more real. She went through an awkward phase in freshman year, and emerged from it gorgeous and swanlike, the unintentional heartbreaker of our college class. She friendzoned at least half the kids with crushes on her; the other half never mustered up the courage to confess. Nina also graduated magna cum laude, but she’s mostly a ditz outside of her report card, which makes everything else about her endearing.

Nina models full–time. There was gossip for a while about her artista leanings, especially when she had that brief fling with that senator’s son, but now most of our peers are content to like her bikini shots on Instagram and Facebook. We’re a little smug about being Nina hipsters. We know the real Nina: the one that’s beautiful sans the beauty.

“Yeah, she was weird,” Chino says. “I mean, the TripAdvisor reviews said the service here isn’t the best. But so far it just doesn’t really feel like we’re in Punta Silenyo. I thought it would be… a little… more lively. Or something.”

“Chill, pares,” Rich says. “We just got here. It’s only, like, ten in the morning. We’re still tired from the flight. It’s going to be awesome, ayt?” Mr. Default Leader, Mr. Shades Even Indoors. Mr. So Cool Until You Get to Know the Kid Deep Down, Plank Enthusiast, Weed–Dealing Wonderboy.

“Well you’re the man with the plan, Mr. Martinez,” Nina says. “I expect much from you.” Rich smiles at her. We’re not sure if she sees, because she’s busy twisting her key in the lock. It turns, then snaps in half. The door swings open. “Oh no,” she says helplessly, but we can’t be mad at her.

The room has two threadbare double beds, a wicker stool, a table, a mirror with an elaborate wooden frame, and a mini–ref with a stained microwave on top. Josie removes her backpack, but Chino puts down his guitar and says, “No, the lock is broken, you girls should take the other room.” Heinz’s arm has slipped down Chino’s shoulders and is now circling his waist.

Grumpy Josie shrugs and says, “I have to pee.” She enters the bathroom and shuts the door. She screams. Heinz, who is closest, grabs the doorknob. Hesitates. Josie bursts out, and Heinz falls on his butt. “There’s a giant cockroach waving its feelers at me from the toilet,” Josie says, in her most controlled voice. “Somebody kill it, please.”

Rich makes a face. “I don’t want to use my slipper.”

Nina hands Rich her slipper. He sighs and enters the bathroom. A loud thwack, a muttered “Shit!”—another thwack, then silence. Nina sticks her head inside. Rich is picking up the cockroach corpse with wadded toilet paper. Nina grabs her slipper from the floor and washes it in the sink. We try not to watch the brown bits drain away.

Several years ago there was a storm in Punta Silenyo. Which, as you probably guessed, is a tiny, exclusive island. We might have read about it in the papers, seen it on TV, discussed it over breakfast. Lashing rain, bent trees, wind pounding everything—typical. Except for the victims. Because it was Beach Week, for all the fresh grads: college and high school kids, blowing their meager savings on this chance to have a story to tell, even if what happens in Punta Silenyo stays in Punta Silenyo. Back then it was already Boracay’s cheaper alternative.

These kids were caught on the sand, in their bikinis and trunks, the rain whipping their bodies. Some reports said it was a wipeout. Others said it was almost like they dove into the water. They partied like it was the end of the world, until the last possible second, dancing and howling in the storm—they never tried to take shelter.

It happened so quickly. Only a handful of bodies were found. You think our government could spare a diving crew? Even with private money funding the rescue missions, it was no use, it was too late.

The reporters interviewed the deceased’s parents in their homes: quaintly sobbing early–fifties Manileños, so poised and refined compared to the crying masses often on the news. Their grief was strange, their pain controlled. Their words anguished just so. Then the news crews went to different campuses, where faculty tried to be consoling and methodical about the tragedy. But we saw through their blinking eyes, the tremors in their voices—of course they were shaken. The students were interviewed last: the ones who were too prudish, lazy, tired, or cheap, who stayed behind. It was hard to tell if they wished they had gone or were glad they stayed. Everyone was guilty and there was nothing anyone could do.

Shock, the inevitable media circus, then things going back to normal. We were in early high school then. It became the kind of thing where you said, “Remember that time…?” but without any real pain, any real sadness. Our parents’ friends, maybe they lost children, but we didn’t know anyone directly. Someone’s kuya. Someone else’s cousin, neighbor. The tragedy wasn’t real to us. Typical Philippines: large swathes of people cleared out in one go, like a giant hand had slapped them off the earth. Everyone thought Punta Silenyo wouldn’t recover, but even if it never regained its former glamour, people came just the same. Even the ghost–hunting tours stopped after awhile. Death is only one other song often played on these islands.

Heinz and Chino pass out on the bed while the rest of us change and complain about the humidity. They’re dating, now, finally, at last—though they’ve never admitted it. We know Heinz got a ton of shit from his conservative Chinese–Filipino family when he came out, but there’s some kind of shaky equilibrium now. Chino got drama too, from the army of admirers he amassed while playing gigs in Katip and Malate through high school and college. Even as he fell in love with Heinz, he kept trying to convince himself he wasn’t into guys.

In senior year things were different. They just looked at each other different. It wasn’t until after graduation they showed up to one dinner holding hands, fiercely blushing. Rich hooted. Josie declared it fate: a nice, simple love story. They groaned, but they were smiling; they were happy.

When we leave the room, Heinz’s arm is splayed across Chino’s chest. They’re curled into each other, mouths open, approximating fishes. We think that’s sweet. That works. Nice to see things going smoothly.

We walk past the lobby. The dead–eyed lady is gone. We can hear the ocean, smell it, and soon see it stretching before us. Rich props his Raybans on his head. We squint, and watch the waves lap the shore. There are people up and down the coast, but not as many as there should be, even for late summer. There’s a cluster of them by a big rock outcropping squatting down, drawing in the sand.

Josie crosses her arms. “Dang, this place is even sadder than I thought it would be.”

“No negativity allowed,” Nina chirps.

“Beach, ladies?” Rich asks. Josie shrugs.

The sand doesn’t burn our feet when we walk across it. The sand looks almost blue. We pass two children building a sandcastle, their heads bent in concentration. We are distracted by the severe pink of the little girl’s bikini bottom. The boy looks up and Nina thinks his eyes look wet, hungry. She’s kind of hungry herself. She smiles at him, but he doesn’t smile back—he just stares awkwardly, so she looks away. We reach the water. Josie sticks one foot in, then the other.

“Is it cold?” Nina asks.

“Not super,” Josie says. The best way to describe it is that tepid warmth after some kid pees in the swimming pool.

Rich stoops as a wave rolls in and flicks water at Nina. She shrieks. The sharp, lilting sound slices the air. Rich yanks his sando over his head and drops it on the ground, and Josie and Nina make faces at each other. Even with abs, Rich isn’t as hot as he thinks.

“I hope I don’t step on a crab,” Nina says as she wades in.

What is it about beaches that make everyone sleepy? We don’t last more than an hour, walking up and down the coast, kicking in the low tide while clouds hang above us. We’re used to that from Manila: sudden downpours. A few clouds don’t scare us. They’re not going to ruin our trip.

But when rain starts falling we decide to stagger back to our rooms, maybe take a nap, have dinner, get up early enough to do something fun: whale watching, sunrise viewing.

Two nights, three days. Two nights and two days, now. It shouldn’t have cost this much, a little trip. With our shitty jobs and their sad paychecks (excluding Heinz), it was a bit much. But we wanted to see each other. We wanted a chance to hang out again—alone, instead of in the newest mall or swanky themed club. Besides, didn’t we earn this? Suffering through sleepless nights, the pain of a B–, the group projects that made us want to choke each other on frappucinos? Didn’t we deserve this after taking our first jobs (except modeling for Nina, because that’s kind of cool), realizing we weren’t hot shit, that the rest of the world wanted to stomp us?

We don’t mean to sound whiny. It’s all right most of the time. Except when it’s really not.

The room isn’t far away but we take our time getting there, because of the wet sand in our slippers—we fucking hate wet sand. We open the door without knocking, and then remember the lock is broken anyway. Heinz and Chino are spooning like good little lovers, and that makes us feel content. But we won’t let them hog all the fun. Anyway, it’s clearly siesta time. Josie squeezes in behind Chino, and Nina and Rich crawl into the other bed, facing opposite directions, heads resting against crooked arms, and we all fall asleep this way.

How did we come together? You already know that Chino and Heinz are in love, that maybe we’re all in love. You should also know that Chino and Josie are second cousins on their mothers’ sides, that Rich and Nina live five streets apart in the same subdivision; that we all had passing knowledge of each other through elementary and high school, because that’s how Manila works, interlocking webs of friends–relatives–acquaintances, piled into the same human stew.

Then we became blockmates in freshman Lit and English. Three times a week in Gonzalez Hall, for two hours, despite our varied majors. Eight AM, which was a pain. We bonded over that pain during lunch break. Walking to the caf, to eat tapsilog or chicken nuggets and gravy over java rice. Lunch was for gossiping and speculating about everything and nothing: what a clusterfuck that midterm was, the coincidence of matching outfits, the future in all its murky glory.

So that’s how friendship happens, sometimes: sitting next to each other, having the same visceral disgust at a prof’s unnecessary freak–out about cheating, the shared dream of backpacking across Europe before we’re twenty–five, the same desire to be reckless–wild–and–free, the same fear we will never be. These things keep us from being alone, so that even now, a year after graduation, we’re comfortable enough to be half–asleep in the same room, dreaming in the same sticky air, breathing each other’s breaths.

The requisite beachside dinner: fried fish. We order, seated at the mint green plastic tables with wobbly legs. The rain has stopped. The candles on the tables don’t keep away the flies. It’s both picturesque and dirty. We grab San Migs from the giant cooler with melted ice and look at each other’s faces, grinning almost shyly.

The fish comes and it’s full of tinik and not very tasty, so we douse it in Knorr and calamansi. The fishes’ fried eyes are turned accusingly towards us. There’s a bonfire crackling in the sand, but no band playing.

“Where’s the music?” Heinz asks, loud enough for the waiter to hear, but he ignores us.

“Where’s everyone else?” Nada. We expected music, the cheesier the better. There’s not even a Magic Sing hooked up to the TV.

Chino says, “I can grab my guitar.” We forgot that he brought it. Nina and Josie order a round of shots. The waiter comes and takes our massacred fishes away. We down the shots. Rich buys another round, just as Chino reappears, guitar in hand.

We get up from the table. We’re not drunk yet, but we don’t want to keep staring at each other’s faces in the candlelight. The sky is dense with clouds, and maybe it’s the tequila but everyone’s features suddenly seem warped, alien. Here we are at the end of things, fearless and free as we’re allowed to be. We move closer to the fire. Chino starts playing and god, his voice, it’s so gorgeous, it’s like butter sliding down our throats:

Now you say you love me, you cried the whole night through…

“You and your senti,” Nina says. “I know you only learned that ‘cause of V for Vendetta.” She gestures like she’s going to swat Chino on the arm, but she doesn’t. Really she’s just sad he’s not doing this for a living. Instead he’s part of IT at Globe and suffering.

Well you can cry me a river, cry me a river, he sings anyway. We’ve always thought Chino’s eyelashes were exceptionally long for a dude’s. They seem to catch the firelight now, glowing as he sings. That’s my fucking boyfriend, we think. Nina and Josie kick off their slippers and dance with each other in a close hold.

“Look at that couple,” Nina whispers in Josie’s ear. Josie squints as we spin around slowly. The couple emerges from the water, snorkeling gear still on, too much seaweed dangling off them. They’re holding hands. In the dark their skin looks pale blue. Foreigners, probably. They walk slowly toward the giant rock.

“Ew, I wouldn’t want to fuck there,” Josie replies, and we giggle.

One of us should have brought some shit to amplify this moment. Usually Rich is the man for those things, but Rich already looks high despite being empty, leaning back on his elbows, drinking in the fire and Chino’s voice telling us we told him love was too plebeian, watching two girls he loves slow–dancing with each other.

There are no fireflies, only flies. But there are times when the only thing to do is sway one’s head and take it in, take it all in. For all our faults we at least know these moments, even if only when we’re already in them.

We get up groggy, our mouths feeling funny, at around ten–thirty. Still too early for a proper sleep–in. None of us are in the mood for breakfast. We walk to the beach and it’s totally empty.

“Well, we can just turn it into a nudist colony,” Josie jokes. Her better mood makes us all happy.

We buy chips and soda from a sari–sari shack and sit on the sand, crunching, until Rich says, “Parasailing. Who’s game?”

The activities dock is on the opposite end. We walk towards it, wary because we haven’t seen anyone doing anything. No one zipping around on banana boats, no foreigners with young wives in tow, trying for romance while surrounded by screaming children. Two manongs are squatting on a small inflatable boat, smoking, when we reach them. One is bald, and the other one is shirtless. Heinz asks, “Kuya, may parasailing ba?”

The bald manong makes a kissy face towards a boat resting against the shore. “Dalawang libo isa,” he says. “Discount na yung pitong libo.” Rich reaches into his pocket, but Heinz protests and says they’ve at least got to split the cost. Bald manong counts out the bills, and stuffs them into his back pocket. Shirtless manong clambers into the boat and pulls out a ladder. When we climb in, he hands each of us a neon life vest. We slip them on, feeling silly as we click the straps into place.

“Puwede ba kaming lima?” Heinz asks. Shirtless manong shakes his head. He pulls out the parasailing contraption from a side panel. There’s room for three. After some shrugging we decide that the guys will fly together and the girls will fly together. Bald manong starts up the motor. We lean over the edge and watch the water churn. For a moment we see faces in the water: of classmates or people we might know, mouthing words that emerge as white foam. They’re expressionless. When we blink they become corals that only look like people. We watch for darting fishes, but it’s difficult to see when we’re moving through the water so quickly.

Shirtless manong gestures for the guys to sit down. He hooks them up to the parasailing contraption, then tugs on their vests to make sure they’re secure. As the boat picks up speed, the parachute fans out behind us, a garish red–white–blue, and we’re slowly pulled away. It’s terrifying, then exhilarating.

Up in the sky, flying over everything, it feels okay that we have no idea where to go. It’s okay that our lives are—kind of shitty right now, and maybe only in the sense that we thought for some reason it’d be better. Life is bluegreen, deep and swallowing. What if the faces beneath the boat are really merpeople, or the dead bodies of those college kids who braved the storm and lost? What if the rope snaps, despite the cables, what if we’re torn away by the wind, what if this fear is enough to overwhelm us, make us beg to pulled back to the boat, to safety?

But even the boat isn’t safe. Nowhere is safe. It’s almost safer to be up here in the sky. What do you talk about, this high in the sky? Why do we need to talk anyway, when we know each other so well, we don’t know each other at all?

Over dinner the waiter is restless, even as we rack up our bill for drinks. He glowers as he brings us greasy calamari. The air feels electric and our arms are tingly, again with the heat from that crappy bonfire. Chino left his guitar in the room, but we’re all thinking tonight is for a different kind of music. We’re all thinking: we go back tomorrow, back to our livesand nothing has changed. It starts to rain, just lightly, but we decide it’s not worth staying on the beach. The waves are a soundtrack none of us want to listen to. It’s too much like ourselves, lost and rolling, in and out and in again.

Still, we drink and wipe our oily fingers on thin paper napkins and keep it together until we reach our rooms. Heinz and Chino crush themselves against the door, mouths fastened. Rich brought some weed after all, he just didn’t bring it out earlier ‘cause he wasn’t sure what we’d think of him still doing this. We’re too drunk to think much of anything. He lights up. It smells like sweat and melons. Chino has his lips on Heinz’s throat. Josie complains about how noisy the rain is, as Rich rolls up a joint for Nina. The moon beyond the open windows is shrouded by clouds.

We stumble into our room to crash on the bed, thinking this isn’t like the movies because this is better, this is real, thinking I don’t care how many girls you’ve fucked after your gigs because you’re here with me and you’re mine, thinking of shame, thinking of family, thinking fuck them.

In the room next door we watch Nina stagger to her bed, giggle, fall asleep. We imagine her going down on someone, for no reason at all. There’s just this image of Nina sucking someone’s cock, and it’s bizarre, it doesn’t suit her at all, we hate ourselves for thinking it. She curls up, already out after one joint and some basi, and Josie reaches down and brushes Nina’s hair away from her face. Rich watches Josie do this with a strange hunger, so powerful he almost throws up his grilled squid. He can’t take his eyes off Josie as she moves to sit next to him.

“Is this why you don’t have a girlfriend, Mr. Martinez?” Josie asks, in her husky, slam–poetry voice. A few strands of hair are in her mouth. “Staring at the girl you love and doing nothing?”
“I only love her like I love the rest of you,” Rich says. Josie nods with satisfaction. She pulls her sundress off, drops it on the floor. Then she lifts her pointer finger and touches his forehead, a stupid little nothing–touch that jolts him anyway. She traces that finger down his nose and over his lips then unfolds her whole hand, sliding down his chest before palming his cock. Rich moans, scattered, angry. He won’t jerk against Josie, doesn’t want to give her that much power, so he says, “Are you thinking of Nina?” and Josie whispers, “Only if you are,” then Rich grabs Josie by her hips and drags her into his lap and bites the skin above her left breast, she gasps, why the hell is she wearing that damned bikini bottom, she throws her head back so that her neck is in sharp relief against the faint light as she lets out a long sigh.

Then a drowned person climbs in through the window and embraces Josie from behind.

We all hear her scream. The drowned person has cold skin and is moaning, maybe because it’s trying to get in on the action, it doesn’t understand that it’s dead. Josie jumps away and it wails sadly. Rich stands, disoriented and aroused. Nina rolls over, asking what’s wrong. Heinz and Chino appear at the door, wearing their boxers, and the drowned person gazes at us in sorrow. We’re frozen in that moment until another drowned person sticks its face through the window.

We run out of our room, into the hallway, down that long forever corridor. We hear the drowned behind us, not running but not staggering either. We run past the lobby and the lady is sitting there. She sighs and shouts after us, “We are not responsible for stolen objects.”

We run out of the hotel, onto the wet, squelchy sand. It feels alive. We’re blinded by the sheets of white rain, until our eyes refocus and we see them. Most are pale blue, but some are pink and raw like they’ve been scraped against corals, like they’re walking wounds. They look eerily familiar: that one resembles our coworker, that one the slacker from Intro to Theo. Some are naked, others are still in their swimming clothes, stuck to their skin so tightly they could be tattooed on. Their eyes are the color of seaweed, of classic Coke bottles: beautiful eyes that flicker between green and blue.

“Fuck!” Rich screams. He sounds more afraid than we’ve ever heard him—our brave, swaggering Rich—and this freaks us out. We should have grabbed things to use as weapons. We should have asked the lobby lady what the fuck to do, because we don’t know, and the drowned are puckering their mouths at us—like they want to eat us, maybe, or kiss us. They’re clustering together, others squatting on the sand, drawing on it despite the rain.

They come towards us, looking doleful, their fish–flapping mouths working rapidly. We can’t hear their words. We don’t want to. Their arms are held out, like they want to embrace us. We’ve stayed in place too long and suddenly a little girl in a bright pink bikini, so blindingly bright in the white lashing rain, latches onto Heinz’s leg and kisses his knee. Part of her skull is showing. He shakes his leg and screeches for her to get off, like she’s a dog instead of a girl, but she clings until Josie hauls her away by the armpits. Josie flings her like a beach ball. The drowned moan in protest. We start running, kicking up sand behind us.

We end up at the rocky outcropping. We know this is a really fucking terrible idea before we even start climbing. Too late. Rich reaches the top first, then Josie, then Nina. She cuts her heel on the jagged surface and her scrunched–up face tears at all of our hearts. Some of the drowned have lumbered after us. They reach the edge of the bluff as Chino is making his way up. They start pulling Heinz, who is still on the sand; he flails as they drag him away.

Chino starts climbing back down and we yell at him don’t, no, it’s useless—fuck, that was the wrong thing to say—we’ll find another way—none of us have any fucking clue what to do—but Chino leaps down and fights through the drowned people to grab Heinz’s hand. It’s like the love they’ve never confessed. The drowned jostle the two away. Nina and Josie shout for Chino and Heinz, their cries turning to gurgles in the rain.

The drowned drag Heinz and Chino through the sand to a pile of seaweed in the middle of the beach. They are forming words with the seaweed—or some kind of shape. “It looks like a heart,” Nina sobs, we think that’s what she sobs. Rich is so scared he forgets himself and spins Nina around, tries to kiss her. She shoves him away. Screams, “Really, right now? Are you out of your fucking mind?” But the words are blurred, and Nina never curses; so maybe she’s saying: I love you too. Josie can’t feel anything anymore, standing there in her soaked bikini, the lukewarm rain battering them everywhere. More drowned appear at the base of the rocky structure: clamoring, pleading, yearning for us. We watch Heinz and Chino get draped with seaweed, arms fastened. Then the drowned people lift them and walk into the sea.

“No,” Josie says, “No no no,” she can’t shout anymore, her throat hurts too much. “No, I’m not just standing here,” and anyway the drowned have started to climb up after us. The fastest one heaves both elbows onto the rock. Rich starts kicking its face but that isn’t going to change anything, so while he’s doing that we look at each other. We come to an understanding. We dash to the rock’s edge, holding hands, and leap off. Because if we can hit the water maybe we can save Heinz and Chino, maybe Rich will stop being afraid and will save us all. The rain will decide we aren’t worth tormenting, the drowned will wake up and they’ll be alive again, they’ll be themselves again and not blue, not hungry, not lonely. Rich screams our names as we fall.

The truth is: even the terror of that night might have been better than the terror of living that loomed over us. We didn’t know where to go, what to do, in the real world. We never believed the beach had answers. But at least for a while, between the sea and the sand, we thought we could find a shape again, instead of being adrift. It wasn’t that the drowned were terrifying. They didn’t even seem bent on killing us. They just wanted their stolen lives back. Maybe they wanted love, to be human again, but they lost that chance. How is that scary? It’s only tragic. But we were afraid, we can’t lie, because the water was bruise–colored and smiling as we sped down towards it.

We always knew that when pushed, Rich would drop the act, stop being Mr. Suave. That for no reason at all he’d be guilty, he’d blame himself, and we’d be fine with it. Still, we don’t expect him to go this far: jumping in after us. Throwing away what would have been a more or less perfect life.

We don’t want to let them take each other. Not even if what’s beyond might be worse. “There’s still so much I want to do,” Nina sputters, and yes, that’s how it feels. We’re just about ready to fight the sinking, we’ve just about had enough. Through the crashing waves we see the lobby lady, the grumpy waiter, the bald and shirtless manongs standing on the shore, arms crossed. They’re looking at the drowned sand art like it means something, like they’re numbed to this.

The water seethes around us, nightmare–deep. We dive down to recover Heinz and Chino. We slap and shove the drowned away from them, Rich taking lead on the offensive until we manage to peel our boys from the group, struggling up to the surface. They’re covered in seaweed, bubbles streaming from their mouths and noses—but they’re alive, still alive. We break the surface, gasping. The drowned below us look extra scary underwater, white and woebegone.

“Let’s swim,” Rich pants. “Let’s get away, we’ll figure everything out later.”

Nina holds Chino and Josie holds Heinz, and Rich holds Nina and Josie, and we start swimming. We feel the drowned people’s hands stroke our shins, arms, shoulders, but they can’t stop us—or they’re not really trying. Maybe they want us to get away. We’re kicking, dog–paddling like crazy. The tide is warm, gritty, holding us in its arms as we try to go somewhere, anywhere, as the waves lash our lips. In our mouths it tastes like beer and salt and the wreckage of our lives, so familiar we could choke on it, and keep choking.

(Editors’ Note: “An Ocean the Color of Bruises” is read by Amal–El Mohtar in the Uncanny Magazine Podcast Episode 11B.)


Isabel Yap

Isabel Yap writes fiction and poetry, works in the tech industry, and drinks tea. Born and raised in Manila, she has also lived in California and London, and studied abroad in Tokyo. In 2013 she attended the Clarion Writers Workshop. She is currently completing her MBA at Harvard Business School. Her work has appeared in venues including, Nightmare Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction, and her short story series about magical girls was released by Booksmugglers Publishing in 2016. She is @visyap on Twitter and her website is

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