Fish Brain Therapy

by Neil Clark

They tell me the brain does that all the time. Makes things up that didn’t really happen, alters things that did.

So maybe young flesh doesn’t really resist a knife tip pressing against it for so long. Maybe it doesn’t really make that popping sound, like inflatable meat exploding, when it finally penetrates.

I’d do anything to have it gone, that popping sound.

I’d even go back to that psych ward. Not the last one, but the one before. The one with the balloons tied by intestines to the slow-turning ceiling fan. The one with the clown man who lost his son, who licks the blades and pumps up his innards with his rusty air chuck, leaves them on my bedside table for when I wake up and need oxygen.

The therapists here are always telling me to try to hold onto happy memories. Especially at night, when the innards and the balloons are bursting, when the bile starts slithering down the walls and I have to plug the leak with my tongue until I start choking and the nurses have to come.

So, here’s a happy memory.

He was fourteen, unruptured and alive and not some statistic, when we tried that fish foot therapy for a laugh. You put your feet in the water, then hundreds of tiny fish surround them and eat off the dead skin and the bad shit. It tickles at first, then you relax into it, get a chance to sit and just chat as the giggles wear off and the fish get to work.

“I feel sorry for them,” I said. “Doing this all day long. What a life.”

“At least a fish’s memory resets itself every few seconds,” he said. “Every few seconds, to them, it’s the first time they’re eating human foot cheese. They never have time to contemplate that this is all they ever existed for.”

I’d do anything to have it gone, that popping sound.

The fish therapists in this new ward told me to snort them hard and fast, so you wouldn’t feel them swimming up your nostrils. They told me there’d be nothing you can do, though, when they reach the base of the brain and start nibbling that brain cheese. Nothing you can do but relax into the tickling sensation, know that they’re eating away that bad shit, tunneling their way up to the chamber where the popping sound lurks and the echoes never dissipate.

The fish tank here in the ward is relaxing. The way the bubbles float up and just disappear when they reach the surface, nice and gentle. I like to sit here and stare at the bubbles. Sit until the water turns to bile. Until the clown man comes along, all blood gargling in his throat. Starts giggling and trying to puncture the glass with his tongue so he can sniff the fish out.

It’s revolting, the sound it makes when he manages to penetrate the tank. Like a giant pop.

Or maybe it’s not.

They tell me the brain does that all the time. Makes things up that didn’t really happen, alters things that did.

So maybe young flesh doesn’t really resist a knife pressing against it for so long. Maybe it doesn’t really make that popping sound, like inflatable meat exploding, when it finally penetrates.

I’d do anything to have it gone, that popping sound.

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