Unshackled

A chair, a table, a plant.

On the table, a fishbowl, in the corner of the room.

A splash of golden on grey.

It is an itch that refuses to be dismissed, like a picture placed slightly tilted in an otherwise perfect room.

My forehead leans on the glass box, my eyes pressed against the surface.

A goldfish darts past, a bolt of sunlight. It doesn’t spare me a single glance. I am ignored; as it is ignorant of my existence.

I wonder which one of us is the slighted one here.

The world beyond those four glass walls is incomprehensible to it, only a distant dream, the faintest litany. My world ends with this tank.

The only difference between us is the side of the wall we stand on.

Water and air.

Captivity.


Every once in a while, it buts its head against the glass, striking at its tank with its fins.

It swims around the tank, once.

Twice.

Another thump.

Repeat.

There’s something slightly off about the entire scene. About the way its body moves. Stiff. Almost brittle. The eyes are glassy, unfocused. As if it sees something here that I can’t see, living in a universe completely different from mine.

It swishes past me again, moving in those hurried, jerky movements I’ve grown so used to.

I imagine it wishes for freedom. For the glass to shatter and set it free. To see the world from the other side of those walls. My side.

I trace its path with my hand over the glass.

Another thump.


Then one day, it happens.

At first, the crack in the glass is small. Barely the length of a hairpin. I run my hand along the fracture, feeling the tiny welt scratching at the delicate skin.

The goldfish thumps on the glass.

I press the tip of my index finger on the fissure, slowly pushing in. The glass strains under my finger, cutting through the sensitive skin. A bead of red surfaces.

The fracture spider-webs across the tank, creeping along the surface.

One more prod.

A single crack echoes in the room, a muffled gunshot.

The tank shatters all at once, and there’s a mesmerizing beauty to it, to the way the glass seems to implode on itself as the water gushes out, pulsing. Shards of glass fly around me, flipping slowly end over end, the sunlight catching in each piece. A thousand tiny, beautiful rainbows.

The goldfish is swept out onto the floor, flopping as it struggles to breathe.

Blood drips onto the wet floor from my finger.

I watch as it thrashes on the wood, breathing out the last of its oxygen into the swirls of red.

There’s a certain irony to it.

My life-source mingling with its.

Our worlds have collided.

Hands claw at my throat, and my lungs seem to be surrounded by metal bands. I wheeze in, and my breath whistles, like blowing air into a clogged pipe.

The tank goes blurry. The table, the chair, the plant. Fading away.

Only the fish is left.

The fish and me.

The fish is me.

I was never meant to be unshackled.

 

Photo by Sadiq Nafee on Unsplash

 

 

 

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