That first week was pretty rough. As unusual as it was, it wasn’t cruel and unusual. Sure there were a whole slew of new sensations and needs to get use to. There was a time where a strand of excrement hung from his sphincter like he’d broke some fecal-tether and the length that remained attached to him just drifted behind him. His humiliation lasted for hours, and Rudy wouldn’t let him hear the end of it. So sure there was many new sights and sounds to get use too, but by the end of the week the grueling truth of it finally sunk in.
Monotony was King in this realm.
There were very real dangers too. Always Cliff kept in mind the man in the black suede shoes, the blue-eyed devil, and his minion. The cat was always slinking about near by, and whenever he had a mind to look for her, eventually he’d find her somewhere sneaky and hidden just staring at him. Sometimes the girl would come by with her strip of paper and frown. She’d say, “your pH is a little high.”
This comment was connected to some vague “badness” coming down the road. Apparently if the pH remained high death would come on swift wings to collect his soul, but Cliff found it hard to believe. When he was a human he never even went to get his flu vaccination, and even when he did catch a cold he’d be back on his feet in in just a couple days. Still part of him was uneasy. He’d never kept fish before, but he thought of those ten cent goldfish he’d won at the fair, and he hoped his new keeper was better at keeping animals alive than he’d been when he was twelve. But besides the danger, which was more of a constant presence and an irritant than something that he really had to worry about. Cliff found his days filled with aimless drifting, odd movements of gas and muscle within his body, and conversation with his tank-mate, Rudy.
On day two Cliff had studied his surroundings. The world outside the tank was small, but homely. There was a large bookcase across from where he swam and it was filled with an odd assortment of fantasy, sci-fi, and educational texts. From that fact he gleaned that his captor was a student of some sort. There was a desk beside the bookcase made of black metal, not exactly pretty but expertly crafted. Metal legs twisted in on themselves and supported a flat top of melted and welded together washers that had been tinged the color black, as if burnt.The book on top of the dest was Introduction to Logic, and from that he guessed his captor was a philosophy major.
Well that figured, didn’t it? It had to be a philosophy major that found herself running an afterlife detention-center and not even know it!
Beside the desk was the vent of a heater and a hallway leading at one end to his captor’s room and at the other a big question mark. Because Cliff was an orange goldfish he was limited to the vantage afforded by his tank, and no more. To his left was the door, and the world beyond where presumably his family was mourning his death. Had they held a funeral yet? The thought, whenever it visited him, filled him with sorrow and regret. He sunk low until his belly hit the glass bottom and let the light current push him around until he found the solace of sleep.
To the right of his little tank was the big tank, and if he and Rudy ever lived through what the captor called, quarantine, they’d be allowed to join the general population in the big tank. There they’d be allowed to mingle, and Cliff and Rudy had a mind to speak with the black fish… the way it floated above their tank, one eye peering down. It was like the black fish knew something about them, perhaps the black fish with the bulbous eyes was just like them, a sentient being stuck in the body of some mutated fish! Whatever happened they had to know.
There was also a patio through which Cliff could see the light of day filtering through, and somewhere behind the wall with the bookshelf was a kitchen, for he had seen his captor disappear behind it and reemerge with a box of cereal, milk, and a bowl. Whenever she did wake up to a slow morning she would stumble out of her room with sleep crusted eyes, yawning, and to his surprise she often wore only a tank top and panties. This had become the highlight of his days.
While he knew he was her prisoner, he also knew that while he was a fish he was still a man! Through her tank top he was a hint of pink areola, and that had become the closest thing to religion he’d ever come. One day Rudy caught him staring.
“I know, Mr. James. They’re nice, being breasts and all. They’re really a nice pair…” He hovered just above Cliff and tracked her as she made her way to the kitchen. “But I’m not sure this is the way we were meant to atone for our sins, you know? Ogling women and such.”
If Cliff had had arms or just a fist he would have hit the little blue runt right between the eyes for robbing him of the one thing that made the afterlife bearable. “Listen, There’s not much to this life is there? No, I didn’t think so.” Cliff let the current turn his body set him sailing for the hum of the filter. “Let me have this one thing. Just this one is all I’m asking.”
Rudy, keeping on eye on their girl floated a little too close to the surface of the water. He screamed a wild yell that only the two of them could hear, and Cliff wheeled around. “He’s trying to get me!” A rush of blue came at a blur down to the depths of the tank, and up above them a white socked paw was dipped into their water, its claws outstretched and reaching for them. Two green eyes peered down at them over silver talons, and a shiver ran down Cliff’s spine.
Cliff kept an eye on the menace up above. “When you were crossing.” He turned to Rudy. “When you were crossing, did you see the man…”
Rudy whispered feverishly, “I don’t remember any man. What man?”
Cliff circled around so he was facing the ridicules blue fish that was his friend and cell-mate. “The man in the deep red!”
He watched his friend’s eyes go wide. “I saw him… I’d nearly forgotten Mr. James, but I did see him.” Rudy sunk a little lower. “I don’t like to think about him Mr. James. Not one bit.”
Cliff felt something in his great mass moving, clenching up at the thought of the blue eyed devil. “Well I saw him too, and I think…” He’d never said it aloud before. “I think this cat’s in league with the bastard.”
Shock colored Rudy’s face a lighter shade of blue. “What makes you say that Mr. James?”
The words stuck in his throat as he tried to force them up. “Well you know how we think the black fish knows something about what’s happened to us?” Rudy nodded, following along so Cliff continued, “I get the feeling that this cat’s in on our game.”
“No!” Their captor hissed the words at the little cat. Cliff looked out and saw the woman grab a bottle, a squirt bottle. She shot a stream at the cat and made contact. The little devil leapt from the tank and disappeared into the bedroom at a sprint shaking water off its feet with every step.
Rudy was right beside Cliff. “Well we know one thing Mr. James. Whatever the truth is about that cat, the one thing that’s certain is that she don’t like water none too much.” And as far as Cliff could tell that was true. His gaze shifted and once again he spotted the black fish with the bulbous eyes staring down at him and Rudy. What do you know black fish? Are you friend or foe?
-to be continued-
Fishy Poems #1
A new place
A new time
or a rope
Orandamned if I do
Orandamned if I don’t