The following is an entry to a contest last year based off of a picture of the Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Center in Iceland (featured below). I took some creative liberties with it and didn’t win, but I got good feedback from other writers, so I figured this should live somewhere.
I never thought I’d fantasize about fish.
They looked the same at first. Gray. Wet. Soulless. But eventually the thousands that passed before me on the other side of that damned glass transformed into more.
Liquid sun catching on their bodies. Wriggling dances of life before death.
Maybe it was another symptom.
The cool surface against my forehead clashed with a thick pulsating sensation drudging through my veins. Like poison reminding me that I was dying.
But from my glass room five stories high, I’d see the fish, and I’d see him, and I’d breathe a prayer that maybe today, it would happen.
A sigh painted a veiled cloud across my view. I wiped it away before I missed another second.
The doctor said I was obsessing. That I just had to adjust.
But no one could adjust to this. Doctors and nurses failed as friends—even my Tuesday nurse Liza, whose voice was as light and airy as her golden hair. But she kept it tethered behind her head in a bun-like prison.
Everything reminded me of prison these days.
That is why I preferred the fish. The free little sea worms facing their imminent demise. I thought it’d take my mind off how I’d probably go insane before the disease took hold, or how my parents gallivanted across the globe as dreamers draped in luxury typically do.
So I watched.
First with disgust. Then curiosity. Until it blossomed into the last ounce of passion I had left.
A young fisherman with a dark blue cap covering his ears hopped off a boat, anchoring it with rope to the dock. At this distance, he was nothing more than a doll.
But like he did every day at 7:35 a.m., he turned and waved.
He saw me.
He was the only one who could.
I was Rapunzel without the hair. I’d press my fingers against the glass like I could break it, but it never budged. And I’d beg him to come to my tower and save me like princes should.
But he’d only smile, gesturing toward the netted fish.
I’d give a thumbs up.
He’d hold a wriggling one above his head, grinning like this was the best moment on the face of the earth.
To me, it was.
It only lasted a few minutes. But each second was mine, erasing the fire and ice inside me, reminding me that I was still alive.
With one last wave, he’d be gone. Until tomorrow.
Maybe one day, he’d know my name, and I could know his. And we’d talk about fish, and how the sun painted them like beauty was meant to exist only on their bodies before death.
The door opened. It must be Tuesday because Liza’s voice danced behind me, muffled by a mask.
“Morning, Dagny. What would you like for dinner tonight so I can tell the chef?”
I closed my eyes, feeling my words force their way out like a prayer.