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A Betta Life - Chapter 4: Surviving

Online Aquarium Fish Magazine | A Betta Life - Chapter 4: Surviving

By Mary Reyes
Loyola University Chicago

I hoped that it was not real; I hoped that I wouldn't have to stay in that tiny container where I could barely move. Unfortunately, it took me a couple of weeks to figure out that I was not about to leave that place, and that the countless days that I would spend there would be some of the most painful of my life.

As the days went by, I began to feel week. Partially because since I had come to that place they had not fed me and partially because my water began to get dirty and was unbearably cold. I felt like the energy that I had in my better days of youth, had left me at the moment when I was placed in the dark. There were no reasons to move or to do anything other than going up to take some air.

Days went by in that dreadful container; I often felt weak and cold in that horrible environment. Every time I looked in my water, there would be waste accumulated to the point in which I couldn't move without lifting a cloud of filth around me. My gills began to hurt badly, and I really could not spend more than a couple of minutes without going up for some air.

My health began to deteriorate. Week after week my fins began to shorten and get eaten by a dark rim... I eventually got soft white fluffy stuff in my body, but the giant things would just add a bunch of a blue thing in my water and then it would stop the growth of those things, only to come back again later.

Back in those days I finally understood the meaning of the word "hunger". I had been hungry before, but never starved to this level. I would spend entire days trying to ignore the pain in my gills, my fins and my empty stomach, but some days the feeling was just unbearable. They would eventually come around once a month, get our water changed, and feed us around every week. They fed us little portions, just enough to calm hunger for a couple days.

Every now and then those big creatures would come and give us a look. Hold our containers up and then place us back. It was terrifying every time one of those would hold me up, as if it wanted to eat me, sometimes the others that where in cups like me, would die eventually and quietly. The giant creatures would usually take the dead away, but sometimes they would forget and they would let the container sit there for days, with the dead one rotting away, and the eyes lost in eternity.

I just patiently waited for my time to come; I no longer cared for living at that point, and I was just increasingly hoping to die so that I would not feel the cold, the pain and the hunger anymore. It was like an eternal nightmare where the days went slowly and agonizingly.

I had however, made friends with a girl that was in a container next to mine. She usually looked at me with those little bright eyes and move around her container for me. She was really beautiful, more than I had ever seen before. I felt the need to blow bubbles, but I just lacked the strength to do it... I wish I could have gotten to know her better, to interact with her in other circumstances. In those moments when I saw her sitting in the bottom of her container, feeling as much pain as I was feeling, I would ask myself: why is such a beautiful thing is being subjected to that tremendous amount of suffering and pain? I would have loved to take her beautiful blue fins and black eyes out of that misery, but unfortunately, I couldn't even take myself out of mine.

The mornings, afternoons and nights were the same, every single day. The only thing I looked forward to was to take a look at my little friend, who was always there. I could clearly see that her health was deteriorating quickly, just like mine was. It was a matter of survival really, only the strongest would survive the vicious state in which we were. Other new ones came to replace the dead ones, and they would quickly learn how things were in our world. One of the most painful sights to see was to see the other fishes that were able to swim freely in the big tanks across from us. Why were they able to swim freely and we were not?

One morning I woke up from my filth like always, but my friend did not. She just remained there in the bottom, and she didn't move ever again. I felt really depressed not to see her little eyes bright as always, but instead dull and lost. During the whole day I just hoped that she somehow magically moved, but she did not. The giant creatures took her container away... and I was left alone thinking and hoping that I was next.

Things continued like that for a while; I did not feel the pain, the hunger or the cold any longer for it had become a part of me. Maybe it was my nature which enabled me to endure the pain, but nonetheless there were points in which I really thought just to let myself go, so that I wouldn't have to feel that pain any longer. Sometimes I even lacked the strength to go up for some air... since our containers were hermetically closed, the air that we had was not fresh.

One good afternoon a giant one of those things came up, grabbed my container and looked at me. At the beginning I thought that it was like the other times and that it would leave me back in my place once it was done... but I was wrong.

The thing grabbed my container and took me away. Another one of those unexpected situations in which I usually am. Is this for better or for worse? I asked myself since I had no idea if this time I was going to end up in a crueler situation or if this was the end of my nightmare.

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