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A Betta Life - Chapter 1: The Hatching

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I am writing this novel, because I, as well as many pet lovers have the feeling that the vast majority of the living creatures in this planet are overlooked, and regarded as unimportant, unintelligent beings. This is the case, as most of the fish hobbyists know, with the Betta Splendens. Bettas are aggressive fish, and because they have special necessities in regards to the accommodations they require in the human homes, people have come up to the conclusion that they like minute, dirty bowls or cups where they can barely turn around and often die of diseases related to stress and the unsanitary conditions in which they are kept. The reality is that Bettas, as well as every other fish and living creature in this planet including ourselves, require a space that is enough for them to exercise and swim; they require a place that is clean and healthy to help them thrive.

Thriving or living? That is what pet owners should ask themselves whenever trying to decide what is best for their pets, no matter what kind of pet they are. How do we know what is the difference between living and thriving? Well, think for a second about the situation in question and ask to yourself: "if I were this animal, would I like this?"

This is a novel inspired by, and dedicated to all of the Betta lovers, members of Fish Lore and across the globe.

Here is the first chapter Enjoy!

A Betta Life
By Mary Reyes (Alessa) from Loyola University Chicago

Chapter 1 - The Hatching

All I remember is that I woke up one day and I was surrounded by my brothers and sisters. I couldn't move, and I didn't want to. I was comfortably sitting, wrapped around a tiny bubble. The peace was infinite in that beautiful soft moment.

Every now and then, one of my brothers would fall down from it's bubble, and dad would quickly pick him up and place him back in the nest. It was a wonderful life free of worries and all I felt was this softness that wrapped me like the warmest, softest place in the world. There was no hunger, and there was no pain, all I could see were my surroundings which were clear and clean.

As the time went by, I saw my dad sitting in a corner, and I didn't know what he was doing. He was tired and didn't seem to be ok. I wanted to understand what was happening, I wanted to know what was wrong with him. But as much as I tried I just couldn't understand what was going on. I often saw a weird, giant thing getting inside our tank trying to move dad from where he was. He would just try to swim up but he was too tired. His fins were shredded, and he was exhausted, he seemed to be in a deep suffering that I couldn't understand. Dad was taken away a couple days later, and put on a bowl next to us. He seemed exhausted and very sick. As he was put away, my siblings and I fell from our bubbles; we began to swim without purpose in what was a vast and endless space. One day as I swam around I saw dad in the bowl next to us, motionless. The giant thing took him out and I never saw him again.

Food came to us every now and then, I couldn't complain. Even though everything was an utter confusion and I didn't know anything about my surroundings, I felt warm and full; I guess that is one of the most complete feelings I have ever felt up to this moment, leaving the present aside which I will discuss later as I progress with my story. We all looked the same in that vastness, my siblings, where virtually identical to one another. From the very beginning we didn't have much interaction; we would often swim up to each other and just stare a bit then, swim away.

I remember that one morning when one of my siblings swam up to me and started to wiggle, which I thought looked like fun. Then he, or she I still don't know to this day, looked at me as if it were saying: "wanna play?" and we started wiggling to two other guys that were staring at us, from the other side of that invisible barrier that kept us from going out of our enclosure, I almost seemed like they were following our movements exactly. The happiness invaded me as I felt ecstatic by the soft flow of the water passing trough my fins, which where getting bigger at the time. It was one of the most memorable moments I have of my early childhood.

One good morning I felt hungry and I swam up to a delicious piece of food floating close to me. As I approached to eat it, one of my brothers came out of nowhere and bit me. I could feel the rage building up inside me and I tried to bite him back to fight for what I knew was my piece of food, but he was stronger and faster than me, so I quickly went away in pain. My back fin was sore; I had never felt that angry before in my life. Seeing myself fighting with my brothers for the same piece of food, or for the same spot, of just because became, became an every day thing and got worse as the days went by becoming almost unbearable. I don't know for how much longer I could have resisted that nightmare, I couldn't stand them! What my family was before shortly became my enemies, and I had to protect myself on a daily basis from outrageous attacks and mean looks. There was no place in which I could be safe from their attacks, and I often found myself attacking them too, for a reason I have never been able to fully understand.

One morning I woke up to commotion; the same giant thing that took dad away started taking my brothers out. they tried to hide and swim away but there was nothing that they could do; I observed horrified how every single one of my brothers was taken by the giant thing holding a massive mouth, with a visible end, almost transparent although not fully, and a very skinny body.

It was my turn; it was coming for me this time. I was trying to hide in a corner, but the mouth came to for me. I quickly swam to the right of the enclosure by the only plant that there was in that place and tried to mix up with the reminder of my siblings. The mouth then came and ate one of my sisters by mistake, and in the hopes it had been satisfied I felt relieved. Then, the mouth suddenly spat out my sister and came back for me; it was clear now that it was me what the mouth wanted. Why me? I asked in despair. But at that point I was exhausted and not being able to think, or swim any faster, the mouth claimed me and started to take me up, as it had done before with my brothers, I was helpless.

As I was taken out of our enclosure I felt like dying. I couldn't move and as much as I tried my gills failed me. The atmosphere was heavy and I tried to take air but it was not enough. Everything around me was hard to see, shapes and forms unrecognizable to my eyes and the lack of water flowing trough my gills made everything look like a maddening sequence of nightmarish silhouettes taken out of the most horrible abyss. The lights, the vibrations, everything was overly overwhelming and made my weak body feel tiny in that cruel vastness.

To Be Continued...

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