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A Twisted Flash Fiction

By Em StarrrrrPublished 10 days ago Updated 6 days ago 4 min read
AI generated image created with Dall-E 2

It wasn't the fins that frightened her so. Not the gaping gills, or the slimy skin, or the way the scales were lined like rows of pretty little pearls that could bite. Not even the smell, pungent as the stench of her childhood home.

It was the eyes. Those bulging black eyes.

Ichthyophobia the doctors called it—a relentless and irrational fear of fish. A fear borne in her tenth summer, courtesy of Henry Thomas and the barramundi corpse he saw fit to make her choke on.

The fish had been decaying on the beach for five days, and she still remembered the taste of its flesh, acrid and rotten on her bubblegum tongue. And how they all chorused—Fish! Fish! Fish!—as he drove it further down her gullet. Fish! Fish! Fish! as her arms flapped against sand and her eyeballs swelled. 

The fear visited soon after, riding in on a sneaky saltwater draft that crept through window cracks and permeated her dreams. A recurring nightmare of the piscine kind. One where she found herself trapped underwater, and screaming...screams that fell silent against pressure, carried to the surface in little bubbles of nothing.


“You must learn to control your fear before it controls you, Marissa,” Dr Jarvis said. He was referencing her latest sushi-induced meltdown, frustrated like the others before him. “I’m going to suggest a different kind of treatment. It’s called exposure therapy. Now, I want you to brace yourself for what I’m about to show you–”  

And he reached under his desk for a plastic bag filled with water and...

Fish,” she choked.

“Yes.” He lifted the bag, so she could see the shimmer of orange, the flicker of the tail. Those black bulging eyes. “This is Goldie. I want you to take him home with you. Goldie will help you to desensitise, to make sense of this irrational fear.”

She sat there, gulping at oxygen. “Fish!”

“Yes. A harmless goldfish. Nothing more. This is going to help you, Marissa, you’ll see.” Then he charged extra for the sea-creature and sent her on her way. 

The first step towards desensitisation was Goldie's release. 

She squirted some chemicals into a glass bowl, and half-filled it with tap water. Threw away the instructions. She twisted at the plastic knot, fingers trembling, tipped from bag to bowl until she heard the sinister plop! of Goldie claiming his new home—her home—then decided she'd had enough exposure for one day. 

She woke the next morning from dreams full of fish eyes, hazy and heavy like sea sludge. Then she smelled it—that god-awful odour. Fish! She sniffed the air. The bedsheets. Nothing. She sniffed at her pits and recoiled. It was her! She scrubbed at her skin, used vinegar and lemon and all the home remedies, but that briny ammonia stayed with her, her pores somehow stained with the stench.

She was so worried about the smell that she didn't notice the fish scale that was growing on the palm of her hand. By the time she called Dr Jarvis, it had spread like poison ivy, up her arm, and across her chest.

“Marissa, being a fish is not contagious,” he said, monotone. “This is a manifestation of your fear and nothing more.”

She hung up the phone. Picked at an erupting fishplate. Told herself it was all in her head.

Goldie watched her from his bowl, watched with bulging black eyes, and she didn't notice the sudden smoothing of his skin, the dulling of his orange hue.

The fins came the next day. First the dorsal, then the caudal—a tail that swished so violently, it snatched breath from her throat, choking her like Henry's old barra-corpse until she could almost hear them all chanting again—Fish! Fish! Fish!

“Marissa, you need to take control of this.” Dr Jarvis was not impressed by her mounting hysteria. “I want you to walk to Goldie’s bowl right now. See that everything is fine. That this is all in your mind.”

He stayed on the line, and she forced one step after another, fins quivering, scales itching. 

Goldie swam in deliberate circles, black eyes bulging. There was something off about the fish, though. Something—

She froze, mid-step.

His tail was gone! There, where his flashy scut had been, were two human legs, sprouting like seedlings. She watched them grow in his rippled wake, felt her own legs giving way as they emerged.

“Take charge of this, Marissa,” Dr Jarvis said, his voice fading in watery tones.

And she tried to tell herself it was all in her head but still Goldie rose, his new limbs burgeoning. He stepped out of the fishbowl, lamella smoothing over as he loomed above her, and she shrieked until her throat opened up into gaping bilateral slits.

Her gills had arrived.


It wasn't the fins that frightened her so. Not the gaping gills, or the slimy skin, or the way the scales were lined like rows of pretty little pearls that could bite. Not even the smell, pungent as the stench of her childhood home.

It was the eyes. Those bulging black eyes—oh how they gleamed when Goldie spoke for the first time. “Thank you, Doctor. I’m feeling much better now,” the fish-human said. 

He ended the call. Saw her writhing on the floor. Plucked her up with his new fingers—her fingers!—pinching her golden tail and dropping her into the fishbowl with a familiar plop!

Sound dropped away, and her world became widened and warped. Goldie leaned down to observe her. Tapped at the glass. Examined her with black, bulging eyes.

Fish! Fish! Fish!

And like an old recurring nightmare, she was trapped underwater, and screaming inside that glass bowl. Even as Goldie walked away on new and unsteady legs, she screamed...screams that fell silent against pressure.

Carried to the surface in little bubbles of nothing.

Short StoryHorror

About the Creator

Em Starrrrr


~twisted fiction~

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (36)

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  • Caroline Janeabout 16 hours ago

    Goodness me, how imaginative!! My skin is crawling now! You have certainly hit a nerve of mine with this creepy story. ❤

  • Katrina Cain2 days ago

    Amazing :)

  • AJ Digital2 days ago

    nice story. congrats on top story.

  • This piece is a captivating and imaginative exploration of fear and transformation. The vivid descriptions and imagery create an eerie and unsettling atmosphere that draws the reader into Marissa's world. The use of the protagonist's ichthyophobia as a central theme is both unique and intriguing, and it serves as an effective metaphor for her struggle with her past trauma. The narrative is well-paced, with each new development in Marissa's transformation building tension and heightening the sense of unease. The progression of her symptoms and her relationship with Goldie, the goldfish, are well-executed, with the mysterious changes in Goldie adding an additional layer of intrigue to the story. The character development, particularly Marissa's struggle to confront and overcome her fear, is engaging and elicits sympathy from the reader. The dialogue between Marissa and Dr. Jarvis effectively conveys her growing desperation and the doctor's skepticism, further immersing the reader in the protagonist's emotional turmoil. Its a fascinating and chilling portrayal of the power of fear and its potential to transform and consume us. The haunting conclusion leaves the reader with a lasting impression, inviting them to reflect on the nature of fear and the consequences of letting it control us. - I subscribed :)

  • Paul Stewart4 days ago

    wowser, this was great! the tension building was amazing! congrats on TS!

  • Rey Visionary5 days ago

    Amazing writing

  • This was definitely a twisted tail...I mean tale. Congratulations on your Top Story!

  • Lori Melton6 days ago

    Wow - could possibly be the scariest, creepiest story I've ever read!! Shivvvvvvveeeeerrrrr! LOL Congrats on the Top Story. You are so talented!

  • Cathy holmes6 days ago

    Wow. This is fantastic, and horrifying. Congrats on the top story

  • Dana Crandell6 days ago

    Eloquent writing and a wonderfully imaginative tail - er, tale! Congratulations on the Top Story listing and a new subscriber.

  • Kristen Balyeat6 days ago

    This was phenomenally creepadelic!!! That ending…Wow! Your writing has such a beautiful way of evoking anticipation and emotion! Well done and absolutely deserving of top story! 👏🏽

  • Madison Newton6 days ago

    Creepy! Well done!

  • Love your writing -- dense and smooth and mysterious as water. Thank you for writing and sharing this story!

  • River Joy6 days ago

    So glad this one made a top story. Well deserved!

  • Younes6 days ago


  • Gina C.6 days ago

    Congratulations on Top Story!! 😍😍

  • Dana Stewart6 days ago

    Suspenseful and eerie, ❤️it and congratulations on Top Story!

  • Loryne Andawey6 days ago

    How was I not subscribed before this?! Correcting this now! Well done! 😃

  • C. H. Richard7 days ago

    Very creepy! Gold Fish may never be the same for me. So well written. Congratulations on Top story!

  • Kendall Defoe7 days ago

    Yeesh, this is creepy! Did you ever hear the song 'Animals' by Talking Heads. I had it humming in my head as I read this. 'They're setting a bad example...'

  • Ohhhhhh! Perfectly scary. Wonderful ❤️🔥❤️🔥congratulations on this exciting and beautiful top story

  • Donna Renee7 days ago

    Ahhhh!!! That was so creepy and sooo well written!! 😱😱❤️❤️

  • Congratulations on your Top Story , excellent work

  • River Joy8 days ago

    Oh I love this. It was squirmy and gross and beautifully twisted. It's always a treat when I get a notification you've written something new!

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