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Saved by the devil and his daughter

Image by Photorama from Pixabay

The tilapia wasn’t stupid. She knew that she was going to die. The question was, which of these gawking humans was going to select her for their meal, and when?

Since she’d been dropped into the tank at Sammy’s Seafood that morning, she’d been comparing notes and swapping strategies, with the other fish. But all of them, apart from Earnest, the trout-fish, were giving off vibes that they wanted to live to swim another day.

Trust no one she warned herself. They were her competition.

Even Earnest, with his seeming death wish, could be putting on an act. He nudged her to swim with him, right in the middle of the tank, back and forth.

‘C’mon. Don’t try to hide. Just get it over with, you know. You still haven’t told me your name...?’

She steered right, away from Earnest, and tucked in behind a clump of weeds. (Fake. She’d nibbled them earlier and struggled to gulp them down.) But from this position, all she could see was wavering green. She wanted to keep an eye out for advancing humans too, so she manoeuvred awkwardly, in a tight circle, until she could make out a slice of this awful place. But before she could orient herself properly, the light changed, a shadowy press on her senses that made her shoot out fast and hurtle forward until she mashed, nose first, into the glass on the other side of the tank.

‘You trying to knock yourself out? That could work?’ Earnest shimmied at her tail end.

A rumbling sound came through the glass and the water darkened again.

‘Holy smokes there’s two of them’. Earnest sounded gleeful.

The tilapia finned around, still a little brain-stunned, until she could get an eye on what Earnest was seeing…. Two faces. Humans. One bigger than the other.

‘Maybe we’ll both get took? That could be nice. Go out together, plate by plate. Earnest and…what was your name again?’

She didn’t have a name, but she wasn’t telling him that. She wasn’t telling him anything. He was a loon of a trout-fish, that was for sure.

Burble, burble. The human faces were still doing their thing, the other side of the glass. Mouths opening. Sound coming out, mixing, and fading back through to her.

You’re evil. She thought. Eyeing me up, to eat me.

The mouths stopped moving. One of them reached his hand out and placed it flat on the glass. The red glow of his skin was fascinating. Alluring. Her scales tingled, like something soft was brushing over them.

“Say that again, little fish?” The big human’s voice was thick and low.

She felt Earnest bump her again. ‘Did you hear that?’

She juddered, and torpedoed as fast as she could, away from Earnest, and the two humans, to the far back corner of the tank.

‘Are you talking to me big guy? Do you want to eat me? Do it! Do it!’ Earnest rammed the front of the tank.

“Where’s your little friend?” The big human’s voice boomed again. Deep as a rock.

“Daddy, don’t!” A lighter voice said. The other human. The little one. “She’s right. You are evil.”

Then another sound, like the wind shaking through the water.

The tilapia couldn’t help herself. She paddled around until she could get an eye on them. She could just make out the blur of the smaller one, with her hand pressed against the glass too. A smaller hand. Also glowing, but more pink than red.

“You’ve scared her.” The smaller voice said. “You always have to do this.”

“That fish started it! She called me evil.”

“Well, you are.”

“Luca, I’m not always the devil. I brought you out. For dinner. You can’t appreciate that? Without making a fuss?”

“It’s evil to eat them! To pick them out like this!”

AGREED! thought the tilapia.

‘You wanna pick me?’ Earnest bumped the glass again, up front and centre.

What an idiot.

A moment later the tilapia, felt herself grasped around the middle and lifted up out of the water, and into the burning air.

“Put her back!” screeched the little voice.

A fierce sensation ripped in through the talapia’s mouth and out through her gills.

“Put her back!”

“I’m being nice!” The deep one said.

“Put her back!” The little voice rose higher.

The tilapia thrashed in the air. It hurt. But maybe less so than being cooked? She thought back to the cool water of her home, and the green taste of the real seaweeds.

“Waiter! We’ll take this one to go.”

“You’re killing her!”

“No. I’m saving her! Jeez, Luca, you’re never happy.”

The world went black. And when the tilapia drifted back into a place where there were things to see, and to hear, and to feel, the world was…watery, but a little too warm. Rumbley and sloshy with vibration

“We’ll go out and get a proper tank tomorrow. Ok?” This was the deep voice. The big rock.

“Who’ll feed her when I’m at Mum’s?”

“I’ll feed her.”

Silence and then a low flesh shake, coming up through…. Where was she? Either her eyes weren’t working right, or there was only murk to see.

“What? Don’t you trust me to feed your fish? Jeez, Luca. I’ll put an alert on my phone, ok.”

“You’ll forget. Do it now.”

“Not while I’m driving. Have some faith, Luca.”

The tilapia listened and moved her tail slowly.

“Are you going to name her?” The bigger human continued.

These humans couldn’t stay silent for more than a tail flick. Chopping the quiet up with their words….And what was this obsession with names? Like she couldn’t exist Or know who she was without a name. They were as bad as Earnest.

EARNEST!

“You’re name’s Earnest? Nice!” said the light voice. “I’m Luca. And my Dad goes by Henry. Though really, he’s the devil.”

The tilapia wiggled urgently, and the warm water sloshed around her fins.

EARNEST!

The deep dude jumped in with more words.  “Jeez Luca! What do you want me to do here? Ok, I don’t get a trophy for best Dad. But you know what Jesus did with fishes?”

“Nope.”

“He fished them. Out of the water. And handed them around. To be eaten. I’m trying to do good here. Give me a break, for just a second could you.”

Earnest! I’m not Earnest!

“Ok…..Seconds up. No more break.”

The tilapia flexed her gills. EARNEST!!

“You’re right, Earnest. Enough from Dad. We’re listening to you. Aren’t we Dad!”

No. I’m not Earnest. Go back for Earnest!

The silence stretched out for a moment, like the sea at night.

“Turn the car around, Dad. She wants to go back for her friend.”

“No, Luca…. What? Don’t look at me like that.”

“Like what? Like you’re evil.”

The tilapia shuddered. Had she just signed up for a life watched over by these squabblers? In a tank with loonfish Earnest at best. Maybe it would be better to be cooked?

TAKE ME HOME…TAAAAAAKE ME HOOOOOOME…TO THE SEAAAAA…

Week 47

Last week's story challenge featured an octopus, and was set in a sushi bar. And it turned out when I showed up to do this week's challenge that I still had fish on the brain. Fish residue. Nice!

(Also, I am not a talapia expert! I wanted a fish that would be commonly found in a tank in a restaurant. And I did some very quick research about fresh vs salt water. Though they are more commonly farmed in lakes, there are examples where certain kinds have been cultivated off the coast! Which I preferred for the storyline. So that is as fish-detectivey as I got.)

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