The Effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the War in Vietnam on Fish

Phil Skurski


Lord Theo. They named me Lord Theo. Why on earth would you name a fish
Lord Theo? Who knows? I’m not even sure that they know why they named me
Lord Theo, but from what I can gather, it’s not an issue for them, because
they’re not keeping me. I can only pray that the fate that is being so forcibly
bestowed upon me is much sweeter than the one I was forced to live out inside
that cruel shop where the little fat children smashed their grubby little fins up
against the glass of my tank, sending forth a shockwave of sound that was
blistering to experience. I’m nearly deaf from the whole ordeal. Life in that
woodchip smelling building was hell, and I pray to whatever god I should hold
dear (being a fish I may not have to many options, I’m no theologian), that
wherever these two are taking me is a damn sight better.

The One holding my bowl seems dirty, grimy. Like he hasn’t showered or cut his
hair in ages. There’s a scattered mess of disparate hairs poking from random
plots on his face, what kind of horrible creature is he? The other’s not too much
better. She won’t even go near me; always making sure the vagabond carries my
bowl. It’s like she won’t condescend so much as to even get near a fish, a true
blue blooded aristocratic snob. What kind of cruel world am I entering, where
only the surfs go near the fish, what are they going to do with me.

Suddenly I sense movement. Or, lack of it, rater. Things seem very still, which is
strange, because I don’t remember moving in the first place. This feeling of
stillness only lasts a few minutes, and soon I’m being violently jostled from side
to side as the scruffy mutt of a giant begins to walk towards a large structure
that I can only assume is some kind of fish torturing… thing.

I need to get out of here.

We stop moving, but again, it’s only for an instant as the portal ahead of us
opens up with a blinding flash of light. I can’t see a thing. This must all be a
part of their torture process. Removing my sight allows them to sneak up on
me, not to mention the fact that it allows for my imagination to run wild. Well I
won’t let them win. Not this time. I know what they’re up to, or at least, I’ve
caught on to their game, and I’m prepared to face them.

It seems like hours pass. I slowly regain my vision. I’m sitting in a small room
with black cliffs that have doors on the sides of them. Then I see it. Something
too grotesque to truly describe. It’s horrible, some kind of small plateau with
a…. strange, almost cream-like surface. I can only imagine what it’s used for. I
hear voices coming from behind me, so I dive for the pirate ship the two giants
placed in my bowl. I suppose they think it’s amusing, giving me such an obvious
place to seek refuge from their terrible ways. They’re sick.

I try to collect my wits within the confines of the ship. I try to formulate a plan of
attack, or escape, whichever comes first. But then, SHE came. The first two
giants led a third to my bowl, and this third one placed her face right up against
the glass, just like the children from the shop. Memories come rushing back,
and I know I have to get out. I turn to face this new adversary. She’s hideous.
Her face is fringed with this strange reddish fur, and the skin is as white as the
linoleum of the store was. I swam up to one of her eyes, and I could see fear.


Immense fear…… or immense joy, I’m not really sure.

For hours, nothing exciting happened. They just left me; occasionally the red fur
face would come by and tap my bowl, sending me back to the shop. The
horrible visions. I just couldn’t escape them, even here. Eventually, I fell asleep.
It’s tiring, being on a constant alert. Falling asleep was a mistake.

I open my eyes and shake the sleep out of them. It’s dark, for a second I think
that they must have some how blinded me, but then I see a glimpse of light
coming from… somewhere, but where, and from what? This isn’t the same place
I was before; they’ve moved me, but to where? This is a bad place. I have a
feeling I will meet my end here. After a few hours, the red furred giant from
before comes to me, pushing her face up against the glass again. Stirring the
water with her finger, I charge her appendage as she dips it in the water and try
to get a good bite out of it, I haven’t been fed since the store. She just pulls her
finger out of the water, and sticks it back in, then out as soon as I get close.

Damn. She’s toying with me. This is twisted. Truly sick.


A few weeks pass and she still hasn’t fed me. That sick sadistic ice queen hasn’t
fed me once yet, and, to top it all off, she doesn’t clean my bowl. You don’t even
want to know what I’m swimming in. You never know the meaning of true
suffering until your respiratory system has to sift through your own filth. The
trouble with living in an aquatic environment is that, when you put a noose
around your neck, you float with it. It’d be funny if it weren’t so depressing.

Pickles. The whole world smells like pickles.


After about a month I can’t open my eyes anymore. The shit stings too much.
Doesn’t matter, even if I wasn’t so undernourished to the point of losing my
cognitive abilities, I wouldn’t be able to see through the film of excrement
covering this hell I’m forced to call home. I don’t know how much longer I can
last, my only hope is that somehow, very soon, that red haired beast brings me
some food and fresh water, but the chances of that happening are slim to none.
I don’t think I am going to get out of here alive.


I’m beyond it now. Above it all. I am enlightened. I understand the meaning of
life. I’m like Gandhi. A balding skeletal shadow of a goldfish. I am no longer a
goldfish, I have transcended that form. I am energy. I am light. I see and hear
and know all. If I weren’t confined to this bowl I’d probably have apostles and
news crews following my every saint like move.


I wish I would just die already. Maybe if I play dead she’ll let me go. So that I can
finally escape and be free. Free to… free to…. Free to do what? What is there for
me outside of this bowl? I have nothing, I know no one, I am truly and utterly
alone. No one can save me now, not even that red haired giant. I have created
my own Greek Tragedy, like Sophocles tales of Oedipus and Antigone. I can’t
believe I’m still alive. How, and why? I just don’t know anymore.


Please! Somebody save me! Oh God, please help me! God, if you’re up there, I’m
sure you don’t normally listen to fish, and that’s fine, but if you could just
please, be gracious enough to grant me just one wish. Just one. It’s all I ask. I
just want to make it through this. I want to live. I don’t want to die, I’m not
ready for it yet God. Please God… please let me live.


If only fish could operate guns.


My time has come. Or at least, it is very near. I can feel it.


I’m ready.


I’m ready to face death head on. I have accepted it as my lot in this cruel sadistic
world. It is my proper place to die here, in this filth-ridden bowl of doom. We all
have our times to go, and this is finally my time. I have lived a long and
sorrowful life, and who knows for what greater purpose, perhaps there was no
greater purpose, perhaps my entire life has been in vain. None of that matters
now, for I am a victim of, not circumstance, but time. Time comes for us all in
the end. Time is our ultimate enemy. It is never on our side. Every moment that
passes by is time’s death grip slowly tightening. Time laughs at us all. It is now
my time. I see now that I never truly left that store. Goodbye. That is all I can
think to say.


That’s all I need to say.


Goodbye. Just goodbye.

Euphemism Campus Box 4240 Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4240