The Fisher Queen


Misty-Lynn Ellingburg

Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia - and therefore I forbid my tears.

          ––Hamlet, Act IV, Scene VII

 

1) Resurrection of the Drowned Girl

 

When I came to I was lying flat on my back, the waves licking my naked ankles, my hair a mess of slime and seaweed. Placenta coated my pale blue arms, fingers swollen and nails encased in grime. I emerged from the water flopping onto my belly, a sleepy figure on all fours, pushing through coarse and grainy sand with the sudden urgency that comes with wakefulness after a period of deep sleep. Inside of my chest, I felt the cold ticking of a grandfather clock, its arm circling about my intestines, a beating steady rhythm in my dark.

 

I remembered a fall, fast and sudden with a thunderous crack and the dangling limpness that comes with completion, but I did not know how I got in the water, why the ocean rebirthed me, come-to-your-senses, Isa, wake up. Maybe the reservation still needed me, young castald over ancient buried tales, continuing to sneak-thieve and document the stories.

 

But resurrection still hurt like a bitch. Inside, my insides were writhing like maggots, coming awake in slow sluggishness like larvae and grubs, and so I emerged from the dead, the sound of my own tuberculin coughing bleeding within the accusatory roaring of the waves.

 

I had angered mother earth; in her quiet rage she imbued in me new life, circular motion the prerogative of whatever god watched over the reservation. When my real mother died, she wasn’t given a second chance. Or maybe, in some other world, she was. And maybe there’s another world where I died, after all, and my corpse was found swinging slow overhead, tethered irreconcilably to the hallway bannister, limp. If I was going to resurrect then why not where I killed myself?

 

As it was, I felt changed, slithering forward on all fours, clamoring against the shore, the murky water chasing me, pushing me on before sinking back in on itself, a dog’s tongue dripping with foam and saliva, as a tropaean wind flew in with the tide.

 

I was Isa, all right, Isa of the muddy water, Isa of the bad perm in seventh grade. I was still her. Reincarnation never did me any favors.

 

I was still me, still one-hundred and eighteen pounds of stinking flesh, bloated and swollen and starving and mad. Overhead, I could make out Canis Major, Orion’s hunting dog, and I wondered how long I’d been gone. If Canis Major was appearing in the sky, it was winter in the northern hemisphere.

 

I tried to remember how long it’d been since I hung myself, back when Ophiuchus and Sagittarius were visible in the height of summer. I wondered how long it took for the ocean to churn me up. Three months? Six? Unsure of what cibosity kept me alive during those long months, I meandered back from the waters, finding myself at the mouth of the reservation, transgressing over the lips, crawling, sinking, sagging my way through its harsh teeth and throbbing tongue, its nerves and papillae testing, tasting me.

 

And then I entered my father’s house and crept dimly down the esophagus, the reservation once again swallowing me whole.

        

My grandmother, my Chicha, was not remotely surprised to see me. She regarded me with her filmy brown eyes, the sagging skin between her eyebrows scrunching together, rolling over as if all the momentum of the incoming tide were present in her dim follicles.

 

“You’re wet,” she said, pursing her lips.

 

“I’m c-cold,” I stuttered, and, in response, slowly, my grandmother pushed herself up off the couch with her knuckles and limped into the adjacent bathroom. Moments later, I heard the bath water turn on, and I knew it was for me, and I let her strip me of my shirtdress, peeling away my bra and underwear, regarding with a raised eyebrow the deep red smears between my thighs as though they indicated a new level of negligence, first the suicide, and now this?

 

And I could still feel the weight of that suicide in every pore of my skin, felt it holding onto me with rich and sinking claws, bleeding me out. I remembered the drop, the exhilaration, the fear like fire ravaging every part of me, electric and sensitized and strong. When I slid off the edge of the bannister I knew I’d done it right, tied the knot correctly to ensure a quick snap. And it happened quickly, alleviating my greatest fear, that I would suffer and suffocate. And I was beginning to remember the cold months I spent swirling and spinning, Ophelia in the water, thrown about in the turbid currents, eyes adjusting in the lack of light.

 

 

 

When I got out of the bathtub, it was to look at my Chicha’s mournful face. Her features seemed blurred and a weird vacancy clouded her eyes. The blood from inside my thighs had stained her hands red, and now she looked at them wearily, tilting her head to the side. Pale bubbles were rising on the back of her hands, welts that simmered with steaming aberration, gasped and fumbled and popped.

 

“Why are you doing this to me?” she asked finally, but more blood was spilling down my legs and I, too, was being burned by the fumes. Uncertain, exhausted, I stepped back into the bathtub, lathering my languid legs, peeling away layer after layer of flesh.

 

In the other room, Chicha was crying, and I knew I would have to leave again. Her tears were deep and low, like the sound of the ocean rumbling, and I could imagine her hair flying about her face as she treated the wounds on her hands. I wondered if she was crying because I came home.

 

I stepped out of the bathtub very slowly this time, expecting the poison to trickle down my thighs, but it did not. The seaweed had been washed from my hair, and my skin didn’t feel so scaly anymore. I wrapped myself in a towel, avoided looking in the mirror for fear of the ghoul that would be reflected, or perhaps worse, not reflected back to me.

 

I hurried up the side stairwell to my old bedroom, wondering if Chicha would have left it as it was before. But no, my things were gone, thrown away, and the room converted to a playroom for the latest sibling, a baby who was born perhaps days after I died.

 

And so I snuck into my Chicha’s room and pulled one of her ill-fitting sweaters over my naked skin, still dripping wet. I eased into her granny-panties and slid a pair of high-waisted blue jeans over my hips and I wondered what she was like when she was young and in love, if she ever felt love.

 

And then I went back downstairs to my little sisters’ shared bathroom, and stuffed one of their pink Hello Kitty backpacks to brimming with maxi-pads, in case of rogue bleeding, always better to be prepared.

 

Leaving, I felt no hunger. I did not want to eat. I'd become a creature of a different proportion. And for now I wanted only to sleep again, to sleep, to sleep, deep in the belly of the sea. 

 About the Writer
Split Lip Magazine

Misty is a Shoalwater Bay Indian from Washington coast whose primary interest is tracing old stories and local folklore to their inception and combining historical fact with magical realism. Her work has or will appear in Yellow Medicine Review, Hello Horror, Vine Leaves, Specter Magazine, eFiction Review, the Rain, Party & Disaster Society, the Resurrectionist (back issue), Lingua: Journal of the Arts, Bigfoot Review, 100 Word story, the Rag, and more.​​​​ Currently, she’s working toward her MFA in Fiction from the University of Idaho, class of 2016.