's 2013 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Angela Shaver

Usually being a seafood specialist doesn’t entail the phrase “exposed brain”. Sure, somewhere at some time that would be the choice organ. I have seen much anatomy in my career. Though really, I cared most of the patterns in the gel. My job is to identify those generic fillet-o-fish, the mystery meats and the yields of the bustling harbor. On one special day, I was deployed to a very different site.

This was not a place to see piles of slimy slacked jaws or boxes of vacuum-sealed battered bars of meat. These fishes were meant to parade about across carefully cleaned viewing windows. Or at least they would have. The storage area of a pet store was not a totally new sight. On other occasions I inspected pet shops to make sure few invasive species were being toted out like cheap candy. This room was unkempt, disorganized, with leaning towers of musty cardboard boxes. The smell of expired fish was unmistakable.

The authorities wanted me to check the whole building. The office was where it dawned on me that was not a black market type of deal, or at least nothing mundane. It looked like cheese curds, gray and purple curdles lumps. The man’s brain had seemingly erupted from his swollen ears and somehow come to cap is greasy head. The poor fish trader had been dead for some time.

Apparently, “look for any clue,” meant “look for the fishes”. Well…then…ok. Yes, I was that kind of crazy person to continue the job anyway. The tanks in the back were empty and dry, as were those of the display cases. Not a scale left. Just dust everywhere. It was thick, gray…brown and had some… sticky parts. Oh… yes, fish oil and juices. That grimy tackiness so indicative of putrid fish juices was everywhere. Some chunks of flesh were in a singed metal garbage can.

The creature that perished in this macabre pet parlor was a domesticated Carassius auratus. Fancy goldfish and nothing else. This one had been a strain that is prized and highly valuable for the perfect dot on its head and a solid white body. Maybe you have seen a few for yourself. Yet most of these fishes you will see are only imitations with uneven pumpkin orange splotching. This was not the venomous or particularly pathogen ridden sea demon those authorities may have been looking for.

Nevertheless gold become the new code red. A young child was sent to the local clinic. And then many more children were in the hospital. One of them suffered the condition, whatever it was, that killed the pet shop owner. And their parents had bought a fish for their son’s first pet. The others were similarly horrific but unique. For some of them, their eyes had popped out and were hanging; swinging in and out of their drooling gaping mouths. Two of them had almost instantly gained more mass then their bulging figures could support and were wheezing heavily.

Perhaps, what shook me up the worst was that “one” kid. This “one” had been given a fish from a top quality breeder of fantails. Those parents would not settle for the common crossbreeds. This “one” had a pet named Guppy who had passed away shortly after purchase, like so many others. Fantails have fan like tails…actually they do not. It is two tails. A full duplication of the lower body, that people rarely seem to find amiss. It is just a pretty fish after all.

She toddled into the emergency care hall. As her parents berated the clerk who was trying to fit them in, their daughter wandered into the lobby. When a loud clack of the front doors sounded, her body hastily swerved in response. Or rather that body swerved around and twitched a bit; the twisted lower half of a child’s body emerging from one side. Her “main” body stayed fixed in place as she watched Sesame Street. She rubbed her pink shoes on the floor as she imitated one of the characters. The other feet where still facing behind her, towards the doorway. They had little Spiderman sneakers.