It's been a long day. This pair of fish is hungry. But a stranger in the house with a butcher knife keeps interrupting feeding time.
The day had been excessively long, and it was nearing the time when the family would appear one by one from wherever it was they went outside of the Oscarson’s frame of reference, which included a large portion of the living space from their well-appointed fifty-gallon aquarium in the foyer.
The last of the evening sun bathed the entire front of the house but left the back in shadows.
For the fifth time, Mr. Oscarson swam to the glass facing the front door and grumbled, “I’m starving.”
“You’re always starving, dear.” Said Mrs. Oscarson in a tone that suggested she often placated her insatiable husband.
“It’s worse today, and you know this because once again, Lily forgot our breakfast. You’d think Hank would make sure his daughter followed through with her chores since he talks constantly to anyone who will listen about his prized Oscars.”
Mrs. Oscarson snorted, making bubbles burst from her lips. “You act like you believe we’re not just mere decoration.”
Mr. Oscarson was about to expound on his favorite topic when his wife’s tail twitched. “Did you hear that?”
“What? My stomach growling?”
“Hush. It’s coming from the kitchen.”
He did hear something then, like glass falling to the floor and a quiet thud. From their spot, they could just see the kitchen entry, and now an object moved in the shadows, then made its way through the dining room and revealed itself as a hooded figure. Another few steps their way, and they could see it was a large man.
Mr. Oscarson said, “Hmmm. That can’t be good.” The man gripped a butcher knife in a gloved hand.
“Oh my,” said Mrs. Oscarson.
He passed them to inspect the living room on the other side of the foyer, then headed up the stairs. His footsteps were as quiet as a cat’s, but soon they heard faint sounds like closets and drawers opening and closing.
When a key jiggled in the front door, Mr. Oscarson, being a fish, completely forgot about the stranger in the house as the pains in his stomach took over all thought.
“Finally, we will be fed!”
The aquarium was the first thing the family saw when they came through the front door, which was beneficial to the Oscarsons, and the impressive fish were good at drawing attention with their antics.
Sure enough, the head of the house set his briefcase down and stepped briskly to the glass. “Lily forgot to feed you this morning, didn’t she, my beauties? Let’s take care of that right now.” Hank picked up the food shaker and was about to sprinkle the flakes over the Oscarson’s waiting mouths when something flashed on the dining room floor and caught his eye. He frowned and set their food on the table.
“Dammit! So close!”
“Settle down. He has more important things to do now. Like avoiding a very sharp weapon wielded by a stranger.”
“Couldn’t he have given us one shake first?”
The pair watched as Hank inspected the small pieces of glass left behind by the stranger’s boot, then followed a trail to the kitchen. They heard muttered curses. When he headed their way again, he had his phone to his ear, and a voice on the device said, “This is 911. What is your emergency?”
Hank said, as he stooped to pick up another piece of glass, “I came home to find evidence of a break-in. I think someone is in the house.”
The Oscarsons were shocked when he continued up the stairs. “Shouldn’t he at least arm himself? Who does he think he is, Arnold Schwarzenegger?” Mr. Oscarson was a huge fan. The couple had a full view of the television from the south end of their watery home and enjoyed action hero binge nights with Hank.
It wasn’t long after that they heard Hank hollering, followed by gasps, grunts, and thuds, then utter quiet.
“I certainly hope not all those ominous sounds were Hank’s,” said a worried Mrs. Oscarson. But it was the stranger who came down the stairs, his knife dripping blood on the carpet. The big man ducked into the living room when the front door opened to reveal Hank’s better half, who smiled at the fish as she stepped inside.
Lisa always gave them a smile, no matter how her day went. Mr. Oscarson’s empty stomach prompted him to draw her attention despite the danger, and very likely, a dead husband waiting for her upstairs. She answered the big colorful fish’s call just as expected when she picked up the food shaker.
The Oscarson’s once again poked their mouths through the surface in anticipation, but nothing came because the stranger snuck up on Lisa and shoved the ten-inch blade into her abdomen.
“Oh dear. We should have found a way to warn her,” Mrs. Oscarson said, sounding beside herself as they watched Lisa slump into the stranger’s arms. He hugged her to him like a lover and carried her up the stairs.
The fish darted around their home in agitation, then Mr. Oscarson finally displayed a sense of dread for the situation. “It’s much too quiet up there. What could he be doing?”
The front door opened again, and it was Lily, who rushed to the aquarium. “I am so sorry, you two! I can’t believe I forgot to feed you again.”
She paused when she noticed the overturned shaker but picked it up and was aiming it their way when she spotted the blood at her feet. She froze, and terror spread over her young face. The hand holding the shaker began to tremble, but no flakes escaped, much to Mr. Oscarson’s frustration, which had returned in full force with another tantalizing view of food hovering over his face.
Lily’s eyes followed the trail of blood up the stairs. “Oh my god,” she said on an exhaled breath. The shaker dropped to the floor.
“Really? Why is this turning out to be the worst day ever?” Said Mr. Oscarson as he sank gloomily away from the surface.
Sirens blared outside, then red lights flashed through the windows. The sound of breaking glass came from upstairs, followed by moans of pain and faint calls for help.
“My dear husband, it is going to get worse because I doubt any of these busy people will think to feed us,” said the wise Mrs. Oscarson as the first responders burst through the door, and Lily cried out for her parents.
About the author
I enjoy life and writing from my high desert valley on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There is nothing better than these stunning backdrops for creating fantasy worlds and inspiring the diverse characters in my fiction.