“Ho, hum,” Goldy thought. “Life is rather doldrum . . .”
A string of bubbles escaped from Goldy’s thoughtfully pursed lips as he floated gently above Snake-Thing, writhing through the pebbles and plants below. A small school of dull colored feeder fish swirled around Goldy and darted off to the far corner of the tank, anxiously waiting for the Shadow that rained manna from above.
“I have got to get out of here,” Goldy thought. “There must be more to life.”
Like clockwork, the Shadow loomed over Goldy’s circumscribed world, and tiny pellets rained down into the water. The Shadow bent closer, making odd sounds and blocking out the light before disappearing.
Goldy snapped up a few of the pellets, shaking his fins at the swarm of hungry feeder fish.
“Gotta be faster than that,” he thought, with no small amount of contemptuousness. Snake-Thing whizzed past up to the top of the world and dive-bombed the little group, scattering them around the tank with his own brand of contempt.
“Like I said,” Goldy thought to himself, and allowed the current to lift him to the top of his small world.
Once there, he paused. Something was different . . . he cast about, wriggling just a bit to better place his body so his eyes could see above him. “A-ha!” he thought. “The Shadow forgot to close the lid of the world.”
Goldy swam the circumference of his limited world, and nosed his way to the very top. He was a proficient jumper, given half a chance – but the only time he got to show off his skill was when the Shadow tried capturing him. Goldy backed up and took a chance on leaping up into the free world. His body thudded painfully against something hard and fell back into the water. The little school of fish hovered motionless below him, watching with anticipation.
Goldy marshaled his resources and tried again. Success! He flopped heavily onto something that was cold and hard . . . and not wet. Perturbed, Goldy tried wriggling his way back into his world – he had forgotten that when the Shadow captured him, it was a terrifying experience and he wasn’t able to breathe. If he could just move a little to the side, Goldy thought he would fall back into his world – and be perfectly content to stay there, this time.
Unfortunately, he fell. For what seemed like forever. And landed on a surface that was hard, cold, and so abrasive to his skin. Frantically, Goldy flopped from side to side, and with a sinking sensation realized he was so far away from his dull, but safe, world, that he had no hope of getting back into it. Writhing in desperation, Goldy fought against what he realized would be a slow and arduous death, as his body slowly succumbed to an atmosphere that he just was not designed for . . . and then he saw the Little Shadow, and froze.
The Little Shadow did not bring food and funny faces to Goldy’s world. The Little Shadow sat and stared, pressing a nose against Goldy’s world and staring impassively at the swirling fish.
“Well,” Goldy thought philosophically, “perhaps the Little Shadow will end it or help me . . .”
But the Little Shadow just sat and stared, reaching out tentatively and then jerking back whenever Goldy flopped from side to side.
“Great,” thought Goldy, “the Little Shadow is how many time bigger than me, and apparently too scared to get near me . . . now what?”
Suddenly, a series of thuds reverberated along Goldy’s quivering body, and a sound high-pitched sound echoed. The Little Shadow froze in the act of extending one paw, and then abruptly disappeared. The Shadow had come, and Goldy could see the funny faces the Shadow made so much clearly now. Except that he was starting to fade, and his movements were weaker. He couldn’t even complete a flop from one side to the next now.
“Oh, Goldy,” the little girl scolded as she carefully scooped up the four-inch goldfish. “What were you thinking? Silly thing!”
With gentle hands, the girl delicately picked the dying fish up and carefully lowered him back into the water, holding her cupped hand around Goldy until he swam away, in great relief, to a corner hidden from view with gently waving plants.
The girl watched for several minutes, and then carefully closed the lid on the tank before scooping up her tabby cat.
“Butternut,” she crooned, “what a good boy you were to just look and not touch. Goldy could have died!”
With a disbelieving meow, Butternut squirmed loose and stalked sullenly away to hide under the couch. One more minute, and he would have had that fish in his paw, and then his mouth, and down his gullet.
Life just wasn’t fair.