I entered the NYC Midnight 2011 flash fiction contest again this year. The contest is really fun: I get 48 hours to write a 1,000 word story. I am assigned a genre, a location, and an object.
First Round Assignment
Location: Fish Farm
Final Word Count: 999
Here's the story I ended up writing, entitled:
Why Have I Been Turned into a Goldfish?
Why have I been turned into a goldfish? Good question. I have been turned into a goldfish because I was afraid of everything, just like you. It happens. I knew an accountant who got turned into a redhead because she was caught biting her nails. The Aseptians have a sense of humor about sentencing; they like to be amused. They value the teaching power of absurdity above the correctional benefits of gore in their judicial system, and that is much appreciated! Rehabilitation sentences like mine force us weak-minded humans to reflect on our lives, to see where we are imperfect, see how we can improve.
Getting turned into a goldfish by a superior race of aliens has given me a fresh outlook on life, and I thank the mighty Aseptians for using their powers to help me, a human, better myself.
I secretly wished to be sent to the grapefruit farm. Ha. They heard my wish, of course- this was before we understood their awesome powers- and once they knew I wanted it, there was no way I was going to that farm. Being a goldfish is better, though. I get lots of exercise. You were here in this tank before me. Do you like being a goldfish? Have you accepted this punishment as reasonable? Are you willing to dissolve your kinship with all the imperfections you were guilty of having as a human? I can’t hear any of your thoughts, but I believe you can hear mine. You can hear me, right? The way you look at me with those swollen eyes- I sense that you hear me. Thank you for listening. Maybe after I’ve been in the tank longer, I’ll learn how to hear you back. Is that how this works? Good question.
I remember being afraid of using solid bar soap. Bar soap just never seemed clean. It got wet, sat in its own filth, and collected all the nasty germs the toilet spewed out. I was also afraid of wearing shirts with an uneven number of buttons. There was a tree in the parking lot at work and one of its roots looked like a twisted fist emerging from the ground. I am ashamed to admit I was afraid of that tree. I didn’t have the will to make myself perfect. I had multiple imperfections, besides just the sin of fear- ha! Sin. Old habits. I was not able to fix my flaws myself. I was feeble, and I needed management.
Now, I’ve learned how to forget the feeling of fear. I swim, swim, swim. Nothing to be afraid of, I’m a fish now. All a fish does is swim. I do it in my sleep. I do it automatically. Living underwater has been an extraordinary lesson. Thank you for sending me to this farm. When I get out of here, I will definitely join a gym with a pool so I can continue swimming every day. Not exercising was another of my faults. Swimming in my human body will relax me, and it will remind me of what I learned from this experience. I really wish I could thank the alien that put my soul in this fish.
Not everyone is so happy about his or her sentence. Three guys who were living in my old apartment building got caught using heroin, so the aliens turned them into ants. I remember seeing one of them on the TV before he got sent away to rehabilitation, he was screaming at the camera ‘I’m a human! I don’t want to be an ant!’ I thought he sounded stupid, to be honest with you. Who wouldn’t want to be an ant? He’ll be strong and part of a great colony. What better way to learn how to be a productive, positive, perfect member of society? You were here before me. Are you happy to be here? Have you accepted this punishment as fair? Are you working to release the fear and other faults you held in your heart?
Yes, I was afraid when the Aseptians arrived, but given the fact that magical beings from another universe had descended upon Earth and taken control of all the world’s governments, erased all religion as we knew it, and imposed a new set of global laws to help create a perfect utopian society, I’d say I handled it pretty well. There are thousands of us serving time at this goldfish farm, and I happen to know, as an informed citizen, that while not all fearful humans are goldfished, anyone who is goldfished was fearful. Now I have no fears. Thank you, Aseptians, for saving me. I hope to be released from this rehabilitation farm soon, and when I am, I will immediately enroll in classes at the nearest Aseptian social center, whether it is a condition of my parole or not. I will continue to strive for perfection, honestly.
I remember seeing a poster for my Aseptian social center in the subway station. Was there a pool in the ad? Seems to me that if there were a pool at the center, they would advertise that. They obviously appreciate the benefits of swimming! I’ve only been here three years, but thanks to swimming, time passes quickly and I’ve gotten lots of good thinking done. My mother was so sad at my judgment meeting. She was convinced I’d never be changed back and she’d never see me again. I hope Mother did not stay sad for too long, as the sentence for that is getting turned into a mouse.
Mother had lots of the qualities Aseptians look for, though, and I am sure she is doing well, and probably already successfully integrated into regular Aseptian society. She was a hard worker, very tidy, always thought of others before herself, and she was definitely fearless.
Wait. How do I know you’re not just an ordinary goldfish? How am I to know? Blink if you’re human. Why were you turned into a goldfish?