#FridayFlash: Heatstroke


by Tony Noland

I didn't ask for this life. I never asked for anything back in the pet store. Food and bubbles, yes, but what's wrong with that? Give me food, bubbles and don't scrape the glass when you clean my tank. Life was so good back in the pet store, so peaceful, serene. A goldfish could be the fish The Great Spawner intended for him to be. But this? Is this the kind of life for... the kind of... is this...

I didn't ask for this life. This isn't the life I want, not the life The Great Spawner wanted for me, I'm sure of it. I just wish I could think clearly! There was something important, something that was right at the tips of my tail, but what is it? Not vague dissatisfaction, oh no, there's nothing vague about MY dissatisfaction with this place. This bowl, the dull, tasteless water that... the water that... this bowl...

I didn't ask for this life. I couldn't have, could I? To be alone? Have I always been alone? It's so hard to remember! I was so happy in the pet store. I had food and bubbles. It was all so serene and peaceful. And there was nothing wrong with my mind. I'm sure of it. Whatever they did to me when they scooped me out of the tank at the store, it did something to my mind. Was it the bag? The bag? Was it... something...

I didn't ask for this life. I never wished for a playmate before, it never occurred to me to have to ask. My brothers and sisters, my crèche-cousins and relatives, I remember being surrounded by them all. When did I become so alone? Was it just me they bagged? No, there was someone else. Or was it several of us? Then where are they? If I'm all alone, where did they... where did they... where...

I didn't ask for this life. I feel like I've been here forever, but it can only have been a day or so. Surely not longer than that, please Merciful Spawner, not longer than that! But why do I feel so tired? So heavy in this stinking, airless water? Why do my bones ache and my gills itch? I'm not an old fish, I'm young! I'm young and strong! But how long have I been here? Been here? How long... here...

I didn't ask for this life. Did I ever ask for anything back in the pet store? No, I did not. Was life good back in the tank at the pet store? Yes, it was! My family and I had food and bubbles, and what more could a goldfish ask for? Then there was the net. And the bag. And the sunlight through the car window, heating us up. All six of us, getting so hot, choking in the airless water... airless water... hot....

I didn't ask for this life. Did I just say that? Hello? Where am I? What is this place? Hello? It's not a tank at all, really, just a bowl. How am I expected to live in this stinking water? Where are the bubbles? Where is the food? Where are the rocks, the gravel, the little castle? This is just glass, slimy smooth glass and airless water that smells like... water that smells like... smells like... death...

I didn't ask for this life. I didn't ask for anything. Oh, god, there's something wrong with me, something wrong with my brain. I feel like my mind is swimming in circles, going nowhere, looping back on itself endlessly! Help! Somebody, anybody, help me! Please, help me! I'm trapped in here, with no bubbles at all! I'm going to die in here, help! Die in here... die... die...

I didn't ask for this life. Alone. Old. Dying. Why can't I remember? Where am I? What has happened to me? I was young and strong and happy. Now? I'm old. Great Spawning angels, look at me, I'm OLD! But how? I've only been here... how long? It can't be more than a day, can it? What happened? How could I have aged and withered so quickly? How could the life have been.... life have been... taken...

I didn't ask for this life. I didn't ask for anything back in the pet store. Or did I? Wasn't there that one time? When I was so hot, I thought I was going to die? But that wasn't in the pet store tank. It was in a bag, a plastic bag in the sunshine. Yes! Yes, and the water was growing so hot, it felt like I was suffocating, like my brain was bleeding, yes, I remember now! And all of us, all six of us started swimming like crazy, trying to... swimming like crazy... trying to... crazy... crazy...

I didn't ask for this life.


My thanks to @girl_onthego for the story prompt, "a psychic goldfish with a thirty second memory".

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. "The Great Spawner" made me smile. Dug that a lot, and there's some good cheeky material in here poking at both fish and existential rage. Were you intending to poke the form with his humor?

  2. Legendary.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  3. I liked the repetition in this, even though it usually grates me. I also find it incredible that you were able in so few words to get me to empathize with something so far removed from me as a goldfish.

  4. I really want bubbles! The goldfish, which I have named Steve, just needs a hug! Good story!

  5. Like the way you used the repetition as a sort of armature. Great reponse to the prompt. Peace...

  6. His madness was infectious. I was getting a little anxious there at the end.

  7. Give him to me! I'll put him in my fish pond with my other fish - poor darling ^__^

    There was such a sense of desperation in this piece, that I wanted to shout for heaven sake someone get him some bubbles and little castle will you. Tee -hee

  8. The repeated "I didn't ask for this life" does bring to mind the existential raging of a deep-thinking, tormented youth. That is what gived your piece so much depth. That, and the obvious play on a fish's terrible memory. I couldn't help thinking of that brilliant piece of fish characterization from 'Nemo': Dora. I enjoyed this, despite the pessimistic ending.

  9. Yes, like Flyingscribbler mentioned, I kept thinking about Dory from Finding Nemo. Great evocation of desperation borne of loneliness & the inability to remember.

  10. This is one of those things where on the one hand we're laughing at the goldfish with its rubbish memory and on the other we're sad because actually this isn't really just about fish at all.

    At least not for me anyway. Nice.

  11. And here we believed fish have no memory. This poor thing is astute enough to believe it's been affected by the evil bag *plastic* - brilliant parallel to reality. Loved the 'great spawner' :)

  12. I liked the repetition and the reference to the Great Spawner, though I confess to being irked that he thought the petstore life a good one (I don't happen to agree, which is why I don't buy fish). Otherwise, well written, and you definitely get the idea he's losing his mind. Poor fish.

  13. Aw, poor little guy! Very well written.

  14. I will never buy another goldfish ever again. :( poor little guy.

  15. I'm thinking about Monty Python's Meaning of Life... "where are the fish?" The Goldfish is such a great metaphor for the human condition..only goldfish are probably a bit brighter than us..

    Great stuff Tony as always..glug glug..

    Great stuff Tony as always..glug glug.. (I'm getting deja vu and I'm not sure why)


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