Big City revealed a secret to Matthew; it was a place of hidden wonder and subtle malevolence.
After such a day of revelation, a bath eased the physical aches and pains and sliding into the cool sheets and fluffy pillow took the edge off the idea this place was now home.
The trips back and forth to his old home in Red Springs, for the last three weeks cemented the idea he would never return to that place. Yesterday was the last day he would see the town of his birth. For a while, at least. His father was forced to move to Big City for work as well, so he would still be able to have weekends with his father.
Like most teens, Matthew wasn’t the tidiest of fellows, leaving his clothing in the bathroom before dropping off to sleep. Clare, equally tired, cleaned up after him and tossed his clothes into his laundry basket in his room. She didn’t bother to empty his pockets considering that beyond her capacity at the moment. Just as well, she would not have been able to explain the slowly moving objects in his pockets.
Stressed, tired, and just a little befuddled, Matthew drifted to sleep. His dreams were fitful and strange, filled with images of a variety of fish, assorted creatures with tentacles, some that resembled octopus and squid and others that resembled sharks with extra appendages, slipping smoothly through the night sky of his dreams.
Matthew saw himself looking out the window of his apartment on the eight floor, in apartment eight and watching a world of strange fish swimming by as if he were in a celestial aquarium. There were luminescent jellyfish and darting silver eels. An occasional giant turtle might wing past his building before returning to the dark.
Matthew had never been one for museums. He didn’t hate them, but since his family had begun to have problems, his attention for them had diminished. He had never dreamed of uncooked food swimming in the wild, and if he had told his mother about it she would have assumed his pizza had given him the altered state pizza is famous for.
But it was far more than just a dream. This felt real. These creatures were looking at him, just like he looked at them. He was aware but not awake.
The first fish kami woke, breaking the salt crust which bound his spiritual essence in this dried fish form. He was ravenous. How long had he been like this? Damned Fishermen. He swore he would never be caught again. He sensed another fish kami and knew what he had to do. Eat or be eaten.
The second kami woke and realized the danger he was in, puffed himself up, tearing through the salt crust and lashed out hoping he was in time. The two wrestled around each other, their essence filling the closet before spilling into the room.
Then Matthew felt something. The air became heavy, hard to breathe, and a presence could be felt in his room, the air was thick, like water and his closet door flew open and he saw them.
Each was the size of a man, mouths open and swimming through the air. Their jaws looked more like saw blades, rich with shining silvered teeth. Their bodies were glowing with an inner light and their thrashing seemed to stir the air and whip objects from shelves, knocking over boxes and Matthew as well.
Other kami looking through his window, sensed the danger. They crowded around his window to see what could produce such a terrifying spiritual essence and when they saw it, half fled without looking back as fast as their powers would allow. The rest would brave the coming dawn to see the outcome of this battle.
A pit of dread formed in Matthew’s stomach. Were these the same two fish that were in his pocket? Did he get them wet? The two fish battled knocking over things and raising quite a racket.
“Hey! Keep it down, my mother is trying to sleep. She has to go to work in the morning.”
The two fish now easily larger than Matthew stopped fighting for a moment and began to swim toward him. Matthew immediately had that “being in trouble” feeling he was so good at having lately.
“You talking to us, boy? Are you a Fisherman? Because if you aren’t you might want to step aside and stay out of Sakana business.”
“I don’t care who you think you are. You’re in my room and don’t want you waking my mother.”
The larger of the two Sakana, slid up right in Matthew’s face and waved his silvery fins, “You don’t look like a Fisherman, so I’m left to assume you just don’t know any better. Lucky for you, the sun is coming up and I have places to be before the sun rises. Hope for your sake we never meet again. I won’t be so generous next time.”
“Tough talk for a translucent dream fish.” Matthew safe in his belief he was dreaming continued to goad the glowing Sakana. The smaller of the two fish slid back into the closet as tiny riverlets of silver fluid dripped away from it.
The Sakana laughed, a gurgling sound, like a man drowning at sea, “You think this is a dream. Here in our time, in our stream, dreams are reality, and reality is as a dream to us. You would do well to fear us. We are all around you and you have the rare misfortune to be able to see us. That means we can harm you. Like so.”
The dream fish snapped its jaws shut as Matthew put his arm up to block its assault. He felt something hot and burning on his upper forearm as it bit into his spirit form. The pain was indescribable.
But a strange thing happened, just as Matt was about to scream out the Sakana let go and smoke rose from its mouth. The creature began to scream an underwater bubbling coupled with its teeth falling from its head like raindrops.
“I’ll get you for this!” The Sakana increased its size again and shot out into the early dawn, swimming away with incredible speed into the low lying fog.
“Are you going to threaten me too, before flying away melodramatically?” Matt held his burning arm complete with a glowing bite mark close to his chest and looked into the closet where the other Sakana stayed during the confrontation.
A soft voice came out of the closet. “No.”
“No. That’s it?! Your friend bites me…”
“We weren’t friends. He was trying to eat me.” There was a momentary pause before continuing, “Granted, I was trying to eat him too, but I was too slow and he was too strong.”
“You look hurt. Come out and let me look at you.” Matthew lowered his voice trying to appear non-threatening.
“It’s a little late for that. I doubt I will make it to the sun’s rise.” The smaller Sakana floated out the closet and had shrunk to the size of a loaf of bread, still trailing the silver fluid.
“Doesn’t look too bad,” Matthew lied. He wasn’t sure what the Sakana was supposed to look like, but this one was much smaller and had lost most of its glow during the confrontation with the larger and less friendly one.
The silver fluid slowly stopped and the Sakana was about the size of a cell phone. “How did you do that?”
“Stop my loss of essence. In a duel between Sakana, the stronger one bleeds the weaker of its life essence. This continues until one is dead.”
“I didn’t do anything. I just wanted you to feel better so I told you that you didn’t look that bad. And then you didn’t. You’re even getting your glow back.”
The tiny kami, zipped up to Matthew’s injured arm and swam around it until the glowing from the bite dimmed becoming almost invisible. “I can’t remove the damage completely, he was too strong for that. But you will have use of your arm in a day or so.”
“What do you mean in a day or two? I have school in the morning.”
The Sakana swam up to eye level and in a lecturing tone of voice explained, “If that psychic injury had not be treated, in a week or two, the arm would have begun to die and experience necrosis, a sort of cellular death. No doctor could cure it, nor could any medicine halt it. That was a real injury, even if it was only to your psychic self. The Sakana are dangerous and that is why the Fisherman gather them, salt them, cure them and feed them to others of our kind.”
Suddenly feeling a bit more afraid, Matthew looks at the tiny fish and said, “Thank you for helping me out. I think I would have had a hard time explaining why my arm was rotting off to my Mom.”
“You saved my life. It was the least I could do. Technically until I save your life, I owe you mine. I will help you in any way I can.”
“You said the Sakana are dangerous. How many of you are there?”
“There are many kinds of fish kami, some are more dangerous than others. Our particular type are quite troublesome and are targeted by Fisherman. Look out the window. You see the dawn? Look in the farthest direction from it. Do you see a sliver band moving into the west across the sky? Those are Sakana kami. Tens of thousands of them inhabiting the very air. Collectively they are called the night breeds; they are powerful, capricious, and very dangerous.”
“That’s a lot of kami.”
“Yes, but Big City keeps most of them under control.”
The Sakana yawned and swam around in a circle before disappearing. “It’s sunrise. I don’t do my best work after dawn. Look after that arm. You may want to keep your hand in your pocket until you can move it again.”
“How do I get in touch with you?”
“Not to worry, you’ll know me when you see me. Now wake up, your mother’s calling you.”
“Huh? Wake up? I am awake.”
“No. You just think you are. Listen, your mother’s calling you.”
The boy woke up startled as his mother opened his door and turned on his light. “Wake up, sleepyhead. Time for school.” She entered the room and bent down to give him a kiss.
“I’m off to work. Make sure you remember to take your lunch.”
“Okay, Mom. Have a good day at work.”
“Matthew, one more thing. Please clean up this room, its starting to smell a bit fishy. That’s can’t be good.”
“Sure thing, Mom. I’ll take care of it.” Matthew tried to wave goodbye with his right arm but realized he couldn’t raise it at all. He waved awkwardly with his left before lying back down on the bed.
On his pillow was a small pen with a stylized fish on the side of it. Shaking his head, he got up and using one hand tried to bring his room back into some semblance of order. After he finished, he got dressed slowly and clumsily since it took two hands to button a shirt, he had more than a little trouble with it.
Gathering his lunch, picking up his backpack, he clipped the strange pen with glowing lines into his shirt pocket and made his way to the bus for a new week of the dullest school on Earth.
An angry pair of Sakana eyes stared menacingly as Matthew boarded a city bus. The large kami swam away from the shadow of a nearby building before chasing after the vanishing night.
Small Fish, Big City © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved