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by S.A. Leavesley

The goldfish in Zach’s tank are hungry. Three weeks now since he fed them. Sonia shivers as she touches the cold glass, wishing she could transfer food and warmth. She doesn’t though. He’s forbidden it; he wants to see how long it takes for them to reach desperation, start thrashing and eat each other.

She stares at the smallest one, now floating upside down alone on the surface.

“Useless buggers,” Zach mutters, banging the side so that murk rises from the gravel. The other goldfish dart for the rocks. He strokes her hand.

“Useless,” she echoes, though she isn’t sure goldfish can eat each other; they’re not human. And Zach wouldn’t starve them if they were really gold. She twists her bangle, as she thinks of his koi outside — dollar-patterned, their bellies full and bloated, the pool netted to keep them safe. Their grace is nothing to the goldfishes’ delicate glide, with their shimmering scales and tails thinned to invisibility. Still, it’s only a matter of time before he tries to feed the goldfish to the koi.

Sonia wonders about a sly push next time they’re out there. But Zach’s falling mass might crush the koi and she enjoys watching them swim around with open mouths, gulping — as if gasping for air that isn’t there or grabbing out in greed for anything that might be passing. Their dumb expression reminds her too of Zach’s face when he comes, all stupid and powerless.

She slides her hand across the top of his red sofa. The apartment is one gigantic minimalist white cell, with vermillion curtains and gold fittings anywhere and everywhere. She’d rather stand than sit down, unless she has to.

Reaching for her bottle of “Unequivocally Crimson”, she touches up the decorative design on one of her fingernails, varnished with bright red and white markings to match Zach’s favourite koi. It’s the colouring his clients like most and bringing out their generosity is the pattern of her survival.

“Babe …” Sonia smiles as she dips her other hand into the goldfish tank. “Let me crush this one for you. I can kill them quickly, before the water starts to stink.”

S.A. Leavesley is a fiction writer, poet, journalist and photographer, with flash published by journals including Spelk, Jellyfish Review, Litro, Ellipsis and Fictive Dream. Her short novellas Always Another Twist and Kaleidoscope are published by Mantle Lane Press.