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A Betta Life - Chapter 2: Growing Up

Online Aquarium Fish Magazine | A Betta Life - Chapter 2: Growing Up

By Mary Reyes
Loyola University Chicago

As all my attempts to escape became futile under that vicious and heavy atmosphere, I had lost all hope. I felt that my gills became oppressed by the heavy air that surrounded me, and the little strength that my body still had, was fading slowly. Then suddenly, I felt the rush of water trough my gills and the weight from my body had disappeared. I was back in the water.

It took me a while to put myself back together, and there I was; I was in a little, cylindrical place surrounded by thousands of other cylindrical places with what seemed to be my brothers, the ones with which I shared what I once called home. It was strange, and unusually cold. All I could do was just look around and observe the repeated images in a state almost lethargic, rigid, and stoic.

Why was I there? Could anyone please explain why I was there? No, there was no one able to explain me what was I doing in that little, cold and boring place. I was just there. Nothing much in my mind, nothing much to do... looking at my bizarre and repetitive surroundings. I felt sick, and I could not move from the place where I was, it was almost like my muscles had been possessed by a strange force that didn't let them move. I felt scared and helpless.

Little by little I was eventually able to put myself together and I finally calmed down. I had gotten used to the cold and I was able to think more clearly. I had to get out of there somehow! I tried pushing the invisible cylindrical limits, but the more I tried the less able I was to escape. It was maddening from time to time, I even tried going up and down; however, and nothing seemed to work. Feeling unable to go anywhere was very frustrating at times, and knowing that no matter what I did, there was no way to know leave the place where I was even more frustrating. If I had known that the future was going to be even harsher for me, it would have served me as a consolation at that moment. However, I was young, and I had no idea the way our kind was supposed to live.

The days started going by, the food came to us less often. I started noticing that my gills were unusually hurt. At the beginning it was just a little soreness, but later on it became really annoying. Every time the rain came, it relieved the soreness, but after a while it started to get bad again. The days went by having nothing to do but to sit in the bottom of the little cylinder and watch my countless number of brothers doing the exact same thing. For a while I envied my sisters. They were all in the old home, happily swimming all around. I had the luck to be located very close to them, and I could often observe them swimming all around with no worries at all. I just could not figure out why I couldn't be with them, why precisely I had to be in that little boring cylinder that I had started to hate?

In one side my sisters, in the other side my countless number of brothers. I had two neighbors; one in my back and one to my right. The one in the back was always sitting in the bottom, he could not swim very well for some reason, and one of his side fins didn't seem ok. My other brother always looked at me with a mean face, and I often gave him back the same look. One day he looked at me and spread his fins and gills on a way I had never seen before, he looked so big and intimidating, trying to impress me with his red and blue fins and scary look; but that only made me angry. So I attempted to do the same for the first time in my life. My tail had been growing a lot lately so I decided to give it a try and try to impress my brother. I made an effort and made my gills look as big as I could, as well as my tail, which spread nicely. I finally felt able to respond to the threats of my brother and I felt happy about that. Who knows? Maybe one day I was going to have to defend myself of one of my mean brothers!

In one of those cold days I saw my other brother almost not moving in the bottom. He had always been lethargic, but this time he did not look well at all. I tried to figure out what was wrong, and all I could see was his fin, the one I had already noticed. He began to get worse as the days went by, but for some reason he refused to give up. One day without warning, The giant thing came by and started grabbing all of the cylinders one by one, like inspecting them. All of my brothers felt the terror whenever the thing grabbed their cylinders, but most of them he left alone after he observed them. When it was the turn for my cylinder I felt terrified as well, and I was able to see the thing well. It was the biggest monster I had ever seen, with huge eyes and a very large mouth. It inspected me as well, and I wondered what the purpose behind all this was; maybe the thing was looking for a good prey to eat? I just felt terrified knowing that I couldn't escape. Finally, It let my cylinder down, and I wondered why it was so careful choosing his prey? Next thing he did was to take a look at my sick brother, the one whose fin was not fine.

The thing held the cylinder up and took a close look at it. My brother did his best to move but his fin had a bad shape, kind of deformed, and he couldn't swim very well at all. The thing took him along with his little cylinder, and I never saw him again.

I began to worry about myself. First, dad did not look ok, and then my brother; both were equally taken by that thing. Every time the thing came by me I tried to hide, to scare him out, and to do anything I could so that it wouldn't take me the same way my father and brother were taken. As the days went by, the cylinder became somehow smaller; there was less space to swim, and I found myself going up for air more often. I had gotten used to the mild soreness in my gills by then, but that was the least of my worries. What really bothered me were the days of going around in circles, having nothing to do at all, and just seeing the same images, over and over again. It was indeed boring; the days went by trying to communicate with my brothers, who somehow always looked at me with that mean face, or looking at my sisters who seemed to be happy.

One day, suddenly and without warning, the hand came and poured me and the water in my cylinder in a soft, closed bubble. Then, he put my bubble next to other bubbles in which my brothers had also been poured in. In our panic, we tried without success to break the bubble barriers and free ourselves of that frightening environment. After a while of being there, the dark finally came, and we did not know when it was going to end.

To be continued...

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