The Cyber-Fish Car

Fiammetta had always been the most beautiful fish. They all knew it. Since the first moment her swift soft scales had touched the clear water, there was something special about her. She was no ordinary goldfish. Even before the operation took place, we could tell. It had to do with the redness of her long fins, I think. Or maybe it was the way she moved her gills, pacing her time for us while we ate breakfast. She used to stay near the amphora on the sandy bits, gazing at us while we looked at her. Even before the hat, and the driving, and the chips implanted near her vents, she never gave us fisheyes.

It was a small tank, too small as we discovered. It was eleven of them. It all started with Jim, a five-centimetre-long parody of her, then Luisa, Bluetto, Fiume, Giallino…and the others. No, I cannot remember the names of eleven goldfish, might be even concerning if I did, don’t you think. Still, they were many, too many, a shoal of nameless flowing things. Jim had been an impulsive purchase, Mom said. She woke up one morning and noticed a hole in the kitchen counter, a square-sized aperture the size of a fish tank. It was not there the day before, she admitted. She blamed the electricians. They had been there the day before trying to fix the stove. As soon as she saw the gap in between the counter and the stove, she knew. Left the house, turned on the car, and bought the tank. She was not surprised to notice it was exactly the correct diameter.

The vat had been there since. Its inhabitants multiplied over the years. Sometimes, one would vanish and another re-appear instead. Others, identical fishy copies of the same would flicker for a few days and then dissolve. We all had a hunch it had to do with Dad and his black- market operations in the cupboards. It had been a hard time for him, after his leave of absence, and the eye operation, and the readjusting to his upgraded vision. There had been something off about him for a while, so we all pretended not to notice his secreted experiments in the house walls. After she arrived, he spent hours looking at the fish, scribbling numbers on yellow paper, and re-adjusting the water filter.

It was a foggy morning made of toasts when he first mentioned driving. He said that since they replaced the crystals in his left eye, he had developed a weird theory around the city lamps. He said there was something in the electric pulses, something he could now feel. Something messing with his perception of space. Something related to movement, or navigation, or mechanical patters fired by the brain. He had a way of talking about things. He had been a car enthusiast since childhood, and what started as collecting old miniature models had turned into a full-fledged career. I will never forget the way he gasped at the first Tesla. I will never forget because he mentioned Fiammetta when the self-driving function turned on.

It all happened that night. There was a hissing sound coming from the walls. I could hear his footsteps in and out of the kitchen, water splashing and metal clanking. When I woke up, she was there on the sandy floor with her brand-new cyber-hat. The tank was not on the counter, and the void had been sealed up. It was a wheeled vat now, steered back and forth on the marbled floor. It all lasted a few days. We kept on crunching on toast around the tank, while Dad stared at his stain fish-driven shoal. It was a too small-sized tank. They were too many in it. The funeral took place in the toilet. I cried flickering tears as he flushed Fiammetta’s cyber-hat down the drain with her. He went back to work after that.

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