The prompt for this week on Flash Fiction Friday included gorgeous artwork by the very talented Steven Russell Black. He generously gave his permission for use of any of his “Drawing a Day” drawings as inspiration for stories.
What follows is the story that unfolded in my mind’s eye when I looked at Steve’s Day 6 picture of a girl lying down underwater with pennies on her eyes as fish swim by. The caption was “Sometimes the ferryman’s coins go to the fishes.”
It wasn’t fair. Bubbles had been in the prime of his life, full of vigor and beauty. He’d learned to recognize her when she approached his bowl and swam up to the top to wait for her to toss a handful of flakes in for him. Who knows what else he might have learned if his life hadn’t been cruelly snuffed out.
Bubbles deserved vengeance, but she didn’t know how to go about delivering his retribution. How much suffering would Bubbles want Tom to go through for feeding him to the cat? Did he want Tom to feel the same pain he felt when Cookie’s jaws crushed the life out of his small body? How could she possibly replicate that for Tom? What if Bubbles had something entirely different in mind? Or what if Bubbles didn’t want revenge at all?
She needed to contact him and ask him. That was the only way she’d be able to really do right by him. She’d read in a library book that she could get in touch with him if she conducted a séance over his body, but that was impossible, what with Cookie digesting him right now. The Ouija board wouldn’t work since goldfish couldn’t talk; she was smart enough to know that he’d probably communicate with her through feelings or images. She didn’t have anything that was particularly special to him (She didn’t think the water in his bowl counted), so summoning him was out of the question. What she needed was a way to reach him indirectly.
Several hours and several dollars later, she had a bathtub full of fish purchased from the same store and the very same aquarium from which she’d purchased Bubbles. They weren’t exactly Bubble’s close relatives; they didn’t even look like goldfish, but they’d partaken of the same water, chewed on the same fake plants, and that made them close enough to suit her purposes.
For a while she tried using the bathtub as a scrying pool, but the fish kept swimming to the top and making the water ripple. She didn’t know the first thing about scrying anyway, so she wasn’t too disappointed when no visions appeared in the water. Next she leaned close to the water and whispered instructions to the fish for opening their minds and hearts to Bubbles so they could channel his spirit. After watching the fish swim around aimlessly for half an hour, she realized either they tried and failed to mediate for her, or they didn’t pay attention to her directions. Their failure convinced her she was going to have to do the job herself.
Talking to a fish was a delicate matter, she decided, made all the more so because fish couldn’t breathe out of water. Even though Bubbles was dead, his spirit would still be a fish spirit, so she’d need to communicate with him in a medium he could relate to. Shrugging off the jumper she was wearing, she gingerly stepped into the tub, careful not to offend its occupants, and sat down. She didn’t know how to find her way to Bubbles, but she knew of someone who did.
She’d learned in world history class that people put pennies on dead relatives’ eyes to pay Charon, the ferryman, to take them to the place where dead souls went. Even though she wasn’t exactly in a river, she was still in water, had gathered and lit all the candles she could find in the house, and sprayed some of her mom’s perfume around to act as incense. That should be enough to get his attention. She wasn’t dead, but she figured he’d probably charge her anyway, even if all she was going to do was visit for a short time.
Placing two pennies on her eyes (head side up for good luck), she submerged herself. With held breath, she waited.