Wishiwashi Convictions

Here’s one of my weirder dreams

(tldr why do I have dreams related to Pokémon? They’re terrifying)

You’re in a large aquarium conservatory, with fish flipping their tails nonchalantly visible through glass panels. You want to flip the bird at whoever thought it was a good idea to give maintenance duty to someone who has thalassophobia. You cringe in thought of these tanks bursting, and rightly so; there’s a high-horsepower rare shark in one of those tanks close to you, the last of its species. You know it’s a moot point to try to run away from these glass panels, because once you start running you can’t outrun them; there’s no panel that you’d allow to face your back. They line the walls until it transitions to a strip-mall area with warmer wooden panels with opulent doors leading to a once-populated performance hall, but it’s a while out and you can’t take breaks long enough to keep your eyes away from the fish.

See, these fish are needy. And intelligent. They know when something’s wrong. They swivel their gem-like, glittering bodies to peer at you to follow abrupt movements. When you panic, you the keeper of the fish, they panic, congregating to watch you have a meltdown. You’ve got to move nice and treacly when doing your hired duties including checking the tentacles suspended in the middle of one of the aquarium rooms.

You call them tentacles but they’re actually cords for neural networks housing the life forms of people who used to reside on Earth. They haven’t migrated yet to the motherboard, on which they’d be hoisted up onto the mainframe of the last ship to leave Earth. (You surmise that they stripped the people of fleshy, squishy things such as appetite for food and sex before uploading them into the mainframe. Emotions such as missing other people. When the people are unloaded off of the mainframe into bodies again, will they still be human?) Preparations are ongoing now, including the safe transfer of people — and the Pokémon — residing on earth.

[Wait, are you a Decidueye? You find yourself flying when summoned!

A trainer asks the remaining gen 7 Pokémon to gather in a line, you included, a bit out of sight of the fish, near the place where aquarium transitions to strip mall. You long to just burst out of the line and get some fresh air a ways out — the last time you visited, long ago, you know that the strip mall opens out to a nice bbq cook yard pocket, with a shallow pebbled pond aside a swing.

The trainer breaks some bad news; you’ve got to pair up with some of the OG, pixelated gen 2 pokemon. There’s a collective groan that you soon hush; you don’t want to disturb the preternaturally attentive fish. You like gen 2 pokemon, actually, but there’s Gil (Guy I Like) among the gen 7 and you have no chance of getting paired with them now.

Who’d want to be with you and the fish anyway. You can’t even bear to brush against the glass, for fear that a fish might bump its nose against the glass too hard and make it crack.]

People (well, Pokemon) pair up. Over the next few days, they start to board the last ship. In your rounds, there’s fewer and fewer Pokémon helping you with your duties. The Alolan Ninetales who helps maintain cooler temperatures, and the sight of whom wistfully triggered thoughts of freezing the whole aquarium, is gone. So is the Bronzong that helps to tighten the metal giving under maladaptively designed installations that the place doesn’t have enough funding to replace; just enough funding to repair.

The funding is dwindling now. And so is your mettle.

A recent event sank your heart to your toes. A Wishiwashi with a stunted Schooling Ability was imperiled — was it trying to fight off another Pokémon? The other aquatic Pokémon was darting in and out of its vision, taunting this one Wishiwashi. The rare shark, seeing its distress, torpedoed himself from that one tank into the other tank to break up the fight, scattering most fish with a big splash. The few kids watching thought it was a stunt and clapped; you just considered what if the shark jumped towards the kids?

The shark is supposed to reside in groups. They’re fiercely loyal and share kills, even. You wonder when its imposed solitude is going to get towards its head; remembered its grumpy expression as you wrangled a few helpers into getting the shark into the other tank.

“Hey, that was a good thing you did, but leave it up to us to break up fights, ok? It’s our job and we’ll be quicker next time.” You add in a compliment. “Thanks for noticing it.”

The shark is caught between a pout and a preen. If sharks could pout.

Circling around these tanks is driving you ‘round the bend.

The manager of the Aquarium chats with you in subdued tones when you’re in the auditorium space, the lighting control area of which has been converted into a office. When she explains the dilemma to you and you finally understand, horror wets your bones.

“I don’t understand how we’re supposed to accomplish that, ma’am.”

“Look, honey,” she said — you hated it when random people called you honey — “We’re all going to board the ship. And the shark isn’t coming with us. How you get it done, we don’t care.”

“It’s the last of its kind…”

“And it’s a male. The biotech company advised the Conservation Council that it would take time — time we don’t have — to accelerate our technology such that we can generate a fully grown female shark from genetic sampling of a male. It’s just not done.” Her brows furrowed. “We’re moving worlds, hon, and honestly we can’t accommodate every single last species.”

“They’ve known for a while that it’s been a problem,” you start to protest.

“And there has been many last-minute things that we’d requested, such as bimodal tanks and loam generators. They haven’t got that much time. Or money. And besides,” The crow’s feet at the edges of her eyes deepened, her expression more kindly, “You don’t really like that shark, anyway.”

You don’t, but only because you worry about it. You’re sure that if it had a mate and they were happily making shark-babies, you would worry less about it going rogue than you worry about it now, circling that huge tank all by itself and peering at the fish in the other tank. But the manager claps you on your shoulder, signaling the end of the conversation, and leaves you to dazedly stagger back, trying to hide your distress from the fins fluttering beyond the glass walls.

How would you evacuate the other fish before having the shark notice? The shark is intelligent enough that it would notice at some point, and it was definitely strong enough to ram the glass and crack it apart if it wanted to. You couldn’t try to smuggle out the other fish in the surrounding tanks unless if it was unconscious. There are few anesthetics left, and definitely not to sedate the hulking beast of a shark.

So, you would have to bring the shark somewhere else, where it can’t see the other fish, and check upon it once every few days. Maybe put a few other fish in with it, letting it know companionship for its last few days. Then you’d do check ups on it every few days until every last fish from the other exhibits had been trucked onto the ship to leave, and then finally…

Would you rob it of its companions, too?

Only time would tell, you thought, thinking of the pond in the little yard with the swings beside it. There, nice and distanced from everyone else. It would take a few days to set it up, but you’re sure that one of the few remaining folks, including your gen2 buddy, could be enlisted into helping.

You take several deep breaths. It doesn’t help your heart still sunken to somewhere near your toes, though. And it feels like a hook snagged in there, to concoct such a willful deception.

The shark is excited. You are more relieved that a Kadabra is still around to teleport the shark and you to the pond. “I’ve run out of spoons,” you complain, and the Kadabra doesn’t react. She’s probably heard that joke many times before. She also doesn’t react to the shark flapping his tail in excitement at the new space constructed just for him and peaces out.

Your expression of gratitude trails off. You square your shoulders. One deep breath after another.

“Guess what, blud. We’ve got you friends!” With this you plop in the small Wishiwashi with a flourish. It’s the one with the stunted schooling ability. They do a little greeting dance. You guide in some other fish when they’re distracted.

Then you make your final rounds at the aquarium.

You’re one of the last people left. No one visits the tourist shop. Very few children visit the exhibits, except this one last family.

The kid, in a charming hat and jacket, points to the now-empty large glass tank. “What happened to him?”

You sigh. “He’s with friends now.”

“Then why are you so sad?”

From afar, you watch the shark flip and flop in its small pond as you board the ship. It can see the staff board the ramp, a school of distant dots, as you leave it behind with its friend swimming in circles. Its tail whips up a furious fan of water as it tries to move.

You think you saw a glimmer of the Wishiwashi’s scales among the water sprayed. You sink your face in your hand.


for funsies:

  • “sea” how many water-related adjectives and verbs I used? “Gil?” “Sink”? :)
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