Fyse remembers better days. Days marked by a wide expanse overhead. Sometimes that expanse was an iridescent blue, other times a fathomless black. Occasionally an ominous grey, and frequently a palette of pink, orange and purple.
When did that expanse disappear? Fyse doesn’t remember. All he remembers is migrating downwards with his school of brothers and sisters. Why, you ask? Fyse also doesn’t know. He did what his school did. And the school migrated downwards. And the further down he went, the more blur that expanse got, until eventually, it totally disappeared from his sight. What was left was darkness all around him. The only way to tell which way was up, which way was down, was the pressure. Down was the way with more pressure – pressure that constricted his chest and made it difficult to breathe. Down was the way where the blackness got even blacker. Down was the way in which everyone went.
Perhaps it was the environment that he was in; perhaps it was just part of growing up, but as he journeyed downwards, darkness slowly crept into Fyse’s heart. He realised he wasn’t as big as the other half of his school. And as the days went by and puberty dragged on, the difference became more marked. Where he had comically huge nostrils and large doe-like eyes, others had enormous jaws complete with needle sharp teeth and a bioluminescent lure dangling from their foreheads. While he was trapped inside a small weak body that struggled to even keep up with the rest, others had large strong bodies capable of capturing and devouring prey that ranged from his size to many times his size.
Eventually, the cold hard truth set in. Fyse could try all he wants, but there were just some things that he could not change. And one of them was the fact that he was a male angler fish. Unlike his female counterparts, he was destined to remain a small weak creature, one that was almost incapable of capturing any prey to keep himself from starving. And his school of brothers and sisters? They did not help. The males did not have the capacity – they were just as weak. The females could not be bothered to help – survival of the fittest dictated that those who could not help themselves should just die.
But should all the males starve to death, angler fishes would completely disappear from the face of this earth. Maybe nature did not want that to happen, for it provided a way. A way for Fyse and his brothers to live on. There was just a price to pay.
By now, Fyse was all alone; his school had dispersed in search of better fortunes in the vast black sea. He was also on the edge of severe starvation, having not eaten in 3 days. Even a morsel was hard to find near the bottom of the sea. Just when everything seemed bleak – or at least bleaker than his already bleak surroundings – Fyse smelt a heavenly scent. A scent that promised security and sustenance. A scent that was within reach. With all his remaining strength, Fyse swam towards the source of that smell. As he was about to sink his teeth into that source, he had a nagging feeling that this was a decision that would change his life. But into that source his teeth still went. And by drawing blood, his strength came back. But at the same time, he started fusing into this source at an insidious speed.
Perhaps he could tear away – and in doing so, lose a portion of his body – but the ability to feed his fill was so precious that Fyse did not even put up a fight. He simply allowed nature to take its course. At the back of his mind, he knew that eventually all that would be left of him were a pair of gills for breathing, and a pair of sperm-producing gonads to sire the next generation.
In one of his rare lucid moments, Fyse remembered better days. Days marked by a wide expanse overhead. Sometimes that expanse was an iridescent blue, other times a fathomless black. Occasionally an ominous grey, and frequently a palette of pink, orange and purple. But one thing was certain. At that time, his future contained as many possibilities as there were colours in the sky.
Now as he lay here, slowly fading into oblivion, Fyse understood where he had gone wrong. Going with the flow does not mean you are heading in the right direction when the direction you want your life to head in is up, not down. But the realisation might have come too late, for Fyse ultimately gave in to the oblivion.
Writer’s thoughts: This story is inspired by the stranger-than-fiction way that a male angler fish uses to survive. To read more about male angler fishes, click here.
Disclaimer: No one knows whether male angler fishes still retain their sense of self when they fuse with female angler fishes, but I thought I would take a bit of liberty with this, just to end the story on a sad note, haha.