Eugene stared at the fish, stunned by the vocal dexterity of the monstrosity. For one thing, it was seven hands tall, and somehow managing to balance uprightly on its rather stiff, spindly silver tail. And it was singing like a bloody diva at the opera. When Eugune had bought the large, ugly fish from one of the local fishermen and had been fed the story that if he boiled it without removing the innards, it would hop out of the pot and sing, he assumed they were having a laugh at the foreigner with the deep pockets. He had felt rather magnanimous when he paid extra for the foul smelling carcass. He didn’t even like fish but he liked to help out every now and then and a labourer was worthy of his wages and what not.

But now, the bloody fish was singing in perfect contralto.

Of course, it wasn’t singing one word of English. Or Portugese. Or Izon.

It didn’t sound like French or Spanish or even Italian.

What in the world was this?

At that thought, as if telepathically spurred on, the fish shifted to another key and hit a note so high, so moving that Eugene shed a tear. What beauty! Dazed by the power of the fish’s voice, Eugene looked around, as if noticing the empty kitchen. His cook and housekeeper had retired for the night and he was quite alone but it would be sacrilegious to listen to this by himself. Especially since he didn’t quite know the life expectancy of this formerly dead fish out of water. He needed witnesses! The damn fish needed an audience! Such wondrous singing should not be allowed to fade away without being etched into the minds and memories of mankind! And without so much as a by your leave, Eugene ran out of the kitchen, down the hallway, to the servants’ quarters and banged loudly on their door. He waited impatiently as he heard the rustling sound of someone getting out of bed and shuffling to the door.

Eugene yelled, “Well, hurry up man!” for good measure just as the door opened and he gazed into the scowling face of Ebika. Damn. He had expected her husband. Ebika scared him.

“Teigha?” she asked. What is it?

He answered in English, “You need to come to the kitchen right away”, because everyone shoud speak English dammit!

Ebika’s scowl deepened as she stepped out and shut the door. “Sodi too. You both need to see this. It’s amazing”, Eugene said, but Ebika was already shuffling past him, muttering in that blasted language, “Sodi bu no dor”. Sodi is asleep.

Eugene briefly considered banging the door again, but he thought better of it and hurried to lead Ebika to the kitchen. She was protective of her husband and if she felt that he was being mistreated or disrespected in any way, she would walk and take her damn husband with her. Damn matriarchal society with their arrogant women.

As he hurried back to the kitchen though, he picked up the sultry crooning of his unlikely performer and he forget all about his dislike of Ebika, and her people and their ways. Bursting in, he grinned happily as the fish took it up a notch as if happy to have his audience of one return. Then Ebika entered, and the fish’s attention zeroed in on her. Its song turned mournful. Its gesticulations become more earnest, or as earnest as gesticulations could be when you only had spindly fins to wave about. Eugene turned to Ebika and his grin became wider when he saw that she was riveted, watching, listening. “Do you understand what it’s singing?”

“Eh” Yes.

“Oh thank heavens. What is it singing?”

Ebika glanced at Eugene with something that looked like pity. A sliver of worry shot down Eugene’s spine, “What?”

He wants us to lock all the doors and windows”.

“Why?”

He’s dying, and he would prefer if it wasn’t a spectacle”.

“It’s dying? It can’t die. There has to be a way to preserve it. Don’t you know what this discovery could mean?”

Ebika sighed. The sound should have filled Eugene with dread but he was too busy appealing to his discovery whose voice had indeed lowered, with the notes wavering.

“Is. There. A. Way. To. Save. You?”

The fish moved. One minute it was standing in front of the still blazing stove, the next it had swiped at Eugene’s neck with its sharp, pointy fin. Eugene gurgled, grabbing his neck to stop the flow of blood.

Foolish man” the fish sang, “You must let the blood flow if you truly wish to save me”.

Ebika turned and locked the door, not wanting Sodi to stumble on this little problem. The transfer of spirits ritual wouldn’t take long.

[Writing Exercise from Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer]

 

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