Aquarium by Anne E. Johnson

Angus watched the fish swim behind his eyeballs. It tickled each time it bumped into an eardrum and flipped around, swiveling past his brain in the other direction.

“This is one of those side effects,” Angus said to his wife Claudette, “which there was no way to predict.”

Claudette was having none of it. “The serum was made from fish eggs. You told me so yourself.”

“Well, yeah.” He tried to focus his eyes outward, but Claudette’s sour expression was poor reward for his efforts. “But I could hardly have known they’d hatch, could I?”

She looked at him closely. “I don’t get it. How can you see him?”

“Who?”

“The fish. Inside your head.” Claudette took a drag on her cigarette and narrowed her eyes.

“I mean, it’s dark in there.” She tapped her temple with an index finger.

“Yeah, but…”

Angus thought of himself as a scientist, so he was determined to come up with an answer to this riddle. Sure, the fish had hatched from the fluid he’d extracted from the roe. He’d shot the fluid into his blood-brain barrier by means of a long syringe. It hadn’t hurt nearly as much as he’d expected. In any case, he figured it was worth it, for science’s sake, to see whether he could mutate his brain cells to be more, well, fish-like.

When the idea had first taken a strangle-hold on him in the wee hours a few weeks before, the advantages of creating an ichthyan hybrid were obvious. Legion, even. But now, in the middle of the experiment in which he was both tester and subject, he couldn’t remember any of that nonsense. He loved science for its own sake, and practical applications be damned.

“So?” Claudette’s pasty cheeks flapped inches from Angus’s eyes as she gave his skull a once-over. “You got an answer? How can you see the fish?”

Angus watched and felt the thing wiggle around the fishbowl of his noggin. “It’s glowing,” he announced with satisfaction. This was more like it. He was starting to use observations and the Scientific Method, as he did with all his projects. The next step was to get more data. “What kind of fish glows? Look it up, babe.”

Between handfuls of cheese curls, Claudette googled “Glowing fish.”

“What kind of eggs did ya use, Angus?”

“Uh…” He couldn’t find his steno book right then. “Not sure, why?”

“Was it a, a,”—she pronounced the classification carefully—“Argyropelecus hemigymnus?”

“And what’s that when it’s at home?”

“A hatchet fish, dear.”

“Oh, right. Yeah. That’s the one. So, I used hatchet fish eggs. That’s what Harry had lying around the back of the shop. What of it?”

Claudette licked the cheese powder off her fingers. “Hatchet fish glow in the dark.”

This seemed promising.

“But,” cautioned Claudette.

“But what?”

“They do need a few photons of light for their bioluminescence to work.” She took a gulp of cola and looked at Angus, it seemed to him, accusingly.

“See here, I can’t control it if there’s some light in my head, can I? My nose, my mouth, my ears, my eye sockets. Orifices in general I would classify as a hotbed of light photons, you know?”

“I didn’t say nothing.”

“Yeah, well, you were looking daggers.”

“So, what are you gonna do about it?”

“About what?”

“The fish. In your head.”

Angus thought for a moment. “It isn’t really doing anyone any harm. Suppose I could just leave it there.”

“Hmmm. Might make it hard to drive. It’ll distract you from the road.” Good old Claudette. Always practical.

“Quite true. How do I get rid of it, then?”

“How should I know? You’re the scientist.” She clicked over to a shopping site and started looking at shoes.

This always seemed to happen. Angus would have a brilliant scientific idea. He’d get halfway through an experiment and it would just fizzle out. He had one green arm, an ear with an exo-skeletal casing, two livers, and a nine-volt battery poking out of one knee.

“Right,” he said, feeling his usual sense of defeat. “Guess you’ll have to do the driving from now on.”

He went into the bedroom to have a nap. When his head hit the pillow, the fish floated up and lodged against his right eye. Unable to sleep because of the glow, Angus considered what it would require to make a foot grow a permanent shoe. Claudette was forever maxing out their credit card on that site.


Anne E. Johnson, based in Brooklyn, has published over twenty short stories in Shelter of Daylight, Underneath the Juniper Tree, Spaceports & Spidersilk, and elsewhere. She has three novels contracted for publication in 2012, including two works of speculative fiction. Learn more on her website.