Paul VanDerWerf CC
The Cannibalistic Sea Slug
Nudibranchs or Naked Gills live their entire life exposed, no shell to protect them.
One time, my mother tore off my yellow one-piece swimsuit because it was too sexy. My hips were too revealing. My crotch too suggestive. You are a whore, she said. I was eleven.
Nudibranchs get their colors from the food they eat, which helps with camouflage.
One time, my mother made me eat food from the trash because I had mistakenly thrown it away. I buried my tears, and swallowed every bite, not daring to hold my nose even though the smell could make me vomit, and she would make me eat that too. You are garbage, she said. I was eight.
Some Nudibranch species are colorless.
One time, my mother washed my hair with bleach because I came home with lice. My skin burned, my hair dissolved. You are an animal, she said. I was six.
Nudibranchs can keep predators away with toxic secretions and stinging cells.
One time, I dreamed of running away and wrote it down. I wanted to tell my secrets to someone who would listen. I dreamed of saying no. I dreamed of fighting back. She found it and burned it in front me. You aren’t going anywhere, she said. I was thirteen.
Nudibranchs eat their own kind.
One time, my mother called me to tell me she was dying. I love you, she said. I was forty.
Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has work published or forthcoming in Booth, Pleiades, The Citron Review, Waxwing, Milk Candy Review, Claw & Blossom, (mac)ro(mic), Necessary Fiction, HAD, NFFR, trampset, jmww, Scrawl Place, Superstition Review, Splonk and Best Small Fictions 2021. Hard Skin, her short story collection, will be coming soon from Juventud Press. She tweets @lumchanmfa and talks story at www.melissallanesbrownlee.com.
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