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Man's Best Friend

Written by Siri Paulson

A free flash fiction piece by Siri Paulson

There's a new fad in town. It took me ages to win over the 'rents. Too much upkeep, they said, even though I promised to take care of it. Too big, too expensive, too dangerous, the aquarium wouldn't match the rec room decor. But I knew they'd give in. Can't be those parents.

My dad still doesn't like the new pet. Too creepy, as if it's watching him as it swims. But I like that. I watch it and it watches me back as it circles the tank, lifting to breathe, the water closing again over its domed head and webbed feet. It's as long as I am, and the aquarium takes up half of the rec room, where the VR used to be, but this is better than VR. Not human but not just fish anymore, smart but not really intelligent – the ads promised you could teach them tricks, showed them moving in tandem in different labs. But I don't want mine to be tamed.

Sometimes I can almost tell what it's thinking. Stupid humans with their little lives, obsessed with their stupid little things. I feel like that too. Sometimes, when we're alone, I tell it so. We're alike, you and me. One day I'll break out of my tank, run free. Watching my idiotic classmates scatter like guppies.

Today was bad at school and the pressure's too great. I can't stand the walls anymore. "How do you stand it?" I ask my only real friend, watching its long teeth as it swims, inches away. "Don't you ever want to break out?"

It turns its back on me, just like everybody else. Swims to the far end of the tank. I am alone in the world.

Then its powerful body twitches and it turns, racing towards me, teeth shining, flat black eyes locked on mine. I realize my mistake just as it breaks through the glass.