Even a Fish
I noticed there’s not too much stuff about the one pet you are allowed to have besides service animals, so I thought I’d try something?
There is a dorm with a twenty-gallon tank sitting in the corner of the room on the bookshelf. There is an underwater castle, and many plants, lovingly tended. A filter hums away day and night. There is a chunk of driftwood in the tank, picked up from a distant beach that whispered of home. There is a single betta.
The betta is a glossy red. He is old. His name is Daisy.
Fish are not complex animals. They are not like the cats, that can slip between worlds, or the Crows, who see and know all and give favor to those who have gained it. But even a fish cannot avoid being changed, here at Elsewhere.
His person is an artist. She is quick to see the stories in something ordinary, to hear the music in an errant breeze. She is the kind of person who picks up driftwood because it spoke of home, and she is the kind of person who would walk into the forest because it sings of love. A cruel, cold, cutting love, perhaps, but love enough to lure her.
But she does not go.
Daisy sees the way her eyes flick to the window at night, when the moon is new and the snow barely dusts the ground. He hears the longing sigh on her lips when she speaks of the songs no one else can hear. He knows how slowly and reluctantly her feet step over the threshold after classes.
He knows also the thin, sharp faces that look in the window at night from between the curtains, and the whispers that filter through the glass, promises and temptations. The Fae want his person. That much is clear.
But she does not go.
He is fed once a day without fail. She speaks to him as she offers him bloodworms with the same care she leaves offerings for the Fae, unaware or uncaring if he can understand her. She sings to him the songs that she hears outside, and the music sends a shiver through the water of his tank. He flees the coldness that he hears in that tune, and hides behind his plants. She stops, surprised. She leaves him alone.
She does not sing that song again.
The Fae grow restless as the days go by. She does not go to the them - she will not go to them. Daisy sees their eyes at the windows when she is not there, hears the rasp of voices just outside. Somehow he knows that they will have her, that she will go to them, if they must bribe and threat for her.
Somehow he does not want that to happen.
He flirts his tail when she is in the room, pulling her gaze from the trees outside to him. He leaps and splashes in the water, drawing her attention when she seems too enraptured by the music that still sends shivers through the water, that makes the aquarium plants tremble and wilt. She sings to him again, but of safe things. About the warmth of the sun, and the movement of the clouds in the sky.
One day she is late coming home. Daisy stirs the surface of his water into froth, anxious. Then the door opens, and a groundskeeper enters, supporting his person. Her face is pale. Her voice is sore and choked and harsh.
“How did you resist them?” the groundskeeper asks, voice tinged with awe and caution. “I’ve never seen them so enraged. They want more what they can’t have, you know.”
She looks bewildered, as if just realizing where she is. Her gaze focuses on Daisy, and he sways side to side, spreading his tail.
“I - I had to feed my fish,” she manages to get out, still looking confused. “I had to come home.”
The groundskeeper notices Daisy and leans over to see.
“Something to ground you,” they say. “I see.”
She nods. She tries to speak again, but her voice is so shattered it may never heal. The groundskeeper looks at her sympathetically, but can offer nothing to help. Daisy doesn’t care. He flashes his fins and splashes, and she smiles.
She does not go.