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art by Melissa Mead

Ebb and Flow

LaShawn M. Wanak has works published in Ideomancer, Escape Pod, and upcoming in Kaleidotrope and The What Fates Impose anthology. She is a 2011 graduate of Viable Paradise and lives in Wisconsin with her husband, son, and in-laws.

Megan doesn't want to leave the dock after the late shift is over. She lingers, standing with bare feet planted apart on the warped boards, facing the waves that lap across the water. I can imagine her toes growing longer, seeking out knotholes and cracks, stretching towards the murky water underneath. I fear one day I'll find her fully rooted, unable to come back home.
Up and down the shore, I can hear the murmurs of the other women, though it's too dark to see them. I can see the water, though, just below the edge of the dock. When I brought the flashlight earlier, the water wasn't so high. It unsettles me as much as the sky. I've stopped looking at the sky directly, but I can feel it spiraling above me, strange, unfamiliar.
As usual, the flashlight is switched off. With eyes closed and one hand resting lightly on her abdomen, Megan breathes in. The waves pull towards her. She breathes out--the waves fall back. It is rhythm and dance, ebb and flow, her presence combined with all the other women on the shore to do the work of our most powerful tidal generator, the moon, now drifting in chunks above us.
I don't want to break her concentration, so I stare at our wedding band on her finger. "I'm not giving up," Megan told me last year. "It's just a temporary gig, give my body a chance to heal." She tried to laugh it off. "I mean, come on, who'dve thought women's bodies could actually influence tides? At least my biological clock is good for something."
It's just a temporary stopgap measure. Just until the scientists can build a machine powerful enough to take over the women's work. The women, however, feel that nature has a way of compensating for disasters. They've been talking to Megan about moving into a nearby dormitory. It promoted synchronicity, they said, so it'll easier to influence the tides. Megan tells them no, but lately, I see her hand go to her abdomen. Even now, it's still too raw, too painful.
They told her influencing the tides only works with women whose cycles are consistent, with no disruptions like a pregnancy. Or a failed one. I told her the chances of a third miscarriage should be minimal. Megan doesn't know who to believe. She's drifting from me, just like the shattered sky.
The waves lap at the edge of the dock. The women murmur on the shore. I watch Megan, wondering how much love is needed to pull us together again. She stands, eyes closed. Yet I can see her hand outlined on her belly, as if some nascent glow illuminates it from within.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Author Comments

I wrote this story during the time my husband and I were actively trying to have another child. I came across a website that claimed that women's cycles are connected to the moon and wondered, what if the reverse held true? This story came out of the waiting and the disappointment and the hope and the waiting.

- LaShawn M. Wanak
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