Jenny ran to her mother’s room clutching a comic book in her trembling hand. She leaped onto the bed and proceeded to bounce on her knees like it was a trampoline.
“Mommy, mommy wake up. You have to see this. It’s the best thing ever. Can I get one? Mommy? Are you up?”
Abigail Williams opened one eye and groaned. Her eye was bloodshot and everything was a blur. She levered herself up from the pillow and craned her neck to look past her bouncing daughter at the clock.
“Honey, it’s only 7 o’clock. Mommy worked late. Go watch cartoons.”
“But mommy look.”
The child thrust the comic book into Abigail’s face. After an overnight shift at the Walmart and only four hours of sleep the brightly colored page was a blur to her tired eyes. Abigail tried to ignore the book and wave her daughter off but the girl was so excited and persistent that she knew if she didn’t deal with it now Jenny would never let her go back to sleep.
Abigail struggled to a seated position and took the proffered book from her child’s wildly thrashing hand. The comic book was open to the last page, the back cover was folded around the spine partially obscuring the cover. Prancing Pony Squad was Jenny’s favorite comic. She loved the tales of heroic ponies saving pony world but what she loved most was the ubiquitous advertisements at the end of each tale. At least once a month Jenny would race up to her mother, excited to obtain the latest greatest gizmo. She had been through decoder rings, x-ray glasses and puzzle games galore. None of them were as amazing as advertised but, at six, Jenny was easily swayed by the advertising copy and Abigail was easily swayed to pamper her only child if it just cost a couple dollars.
Amazing Live Sea Creatures.
Guaranteed to Grow!
Just add water and your sea creatures will spring to life. Educational and fun for the whole family.
Watch your pets swim and grow.
This kit gives you everything you need: water treatment, instant eggs and growth food. Just add water. Order Today!
The advertisement filled the entire page. It featured drawings of an aquarium with castles and cars driving on underwater streets. Small shapes swam in the aquarium and a magnified version indicated that these creatures wore top hats and monocles on their human-like faces.
“Oh honey, they’re shrimp. They never grow; I had some as a kid and they just floated there until grandmom ended up flushing them down the toilet.”
“But mommy, they’re sea creatures.” She drew out the last two words as if by stressing every syllable and even adding a few would display how little her mother understood about these amazing instant pets. “It’s only 2 dollars.”
Abigail looked at the advertisement again and then at her daughter who stared back with wide eyes and was actually quivering with excitement. She constantly regretted that she had so little money and couldn’t give Jenny all the things her friends had. Being a single mother surviving on a retail salary was rough, forcing them to forego many of the luxuries of life; if two dollars could buy her child even a day’s happiness it was worth it.
“OK, you let me sleep a couple more hours and when I wake up we’ll order you some.”
Jenny gave a loud squeal, then kissed her mother and sprang from the bed.
“I’ll probably just end up flushing them anyway,” Abigail said to her daughter’s retreating back before returning to sleep.
Two weeks later when a package arrived Abigail had totally forgotten about the sea creatures but Jenny had not. The child was bouncing with excitement as she ripped the box open and pulled out the cheap plastic aquarium which was no larger than a drinking glass and festooned with pictures of poorly drawn underwater cities. Three envelopes labeled: Growth Food, Water Treatment, and Instant Pet Eggs joined the aquarium on the kitchen table. Jenny was bright for her age and immediately set to reading the instructions on each envelope. While Abigail watched her with an indulgent smile, Jenny filled the aquarium with tap water, and then stirred in the contents of the Water Treatment and the Growth Food envelopes.
“It says we have to wait half an hour for the water to be ready before we add the eggs.”
“Well then, we’ll just have some lunch and then we’ll make you some pets. How about that?”
One peanut butter and jelly sandwich and glass of milk later Jenny returned to her preparations. The water in the tiny aquarium had taken on a greenish tint, Abigail assumed that was normal. Jenny seemed satisfied with what she saw and tore open the Instant Pet Egg envelope. Her hand shook as she poured what looked like nothing more than pepper into the water.
Jenny and Abigail bent down and stared into the water expectantly.
“Well I guess that’s that,” Abigail said.
“Mother.” Jenny clearly enunciated each syllable in a way which indicated that Abigail was obviously a clueless adult who had no idea of the complexities of raising amazing sea creatures. “The envelope said they take as long as a day to become fully active.”
“Well in that case we’re going grocery shopping. You can play with them tomorrow, assuming they work.”
The next day Jenny dragged Abigail over to the aquarium and proudly displayed her amazing sea creatures. There were about a couple dozen tiny black specks zipping around the water. Abigail was impressed that the critters were actually alive.
Three days later Jenny dragged Abigail over to the aquarium. The cloud of swimming creatures was appreciably smaller. It appeared that about half of the creatures were gone although there was one of the swimmers which was now much bigger than the others.
“Where are the other creatures?”
Abigail thought she knew but was unsure how to explain the food chain to her daughter.
“Well honey, I think that that bigger one may have eaten the others. Animals do that; big fish eat smaller fish.”
“Yeah, I know but that’s the way the world works.”
Each day the cloud of swimmers shrank and the predatory creature grew. From a speck it had become a distinct shape swimming around the aquarium. Within another week it was the only living inhabitant of the tiny world. Abigail guessed that any day now the surviving creature would become no more than a floating corpse on the water now that its food supply was exhausted.
“Mommy, mommy come look.”
It had been three weeks since the last of the sea creatures had been eaten by the lone survivor. Somehow the creature had continued for a long time after the loss of its food. Abigail assumed that her daughter was calling her to see a dead sea creature.
Abigail accompanied her daughter to the kitchen and peered into the aquarium. The sea creature was not dead; it was very much alive and now filled half the container. In the middle of the container floated a distinct shape, it had a bulbous body, four paddle-like flippers, a long tail and an even longer neck topped by a tiny snake-like head. It reminded Abigail of drawings of the Loch Ness monster.
“Oh my goodness,” she said.
The creature moved its head and she swore that it was staring at her.
“Can we get him a bigger aquarium mommy?”
Abigail nodded numbly. They bought a large tank and Jenny insisted on fish food to feed her tiny sea monster. Every day Abigail swore that the creature grew larger.
One morning Abigail awoke to the sound of breaking glass. She had worked a double shift and could barely focus as she pulled on a robe and her slippers. She wandered through the tiny apartment glancing at windows, trying to locate the source of the sound she had heard.
She entered the kitchen and her foot splashed in a large puddle of water. Abigail stared down at her now sodden slipper in annoyance. Where had all the water come from?
A low rumble brought her head up to see Jenny’s sea creature. It was no longer the size of a small dog as she remembered from the last time she had bothered paying any attention to it. It filled the corner of the kitchen where its tank sat. The tank was shattered as well as the small table upon which it had sat. The creature was the size of a horse. Its neck stretched upward so that the creature’s head hovered near the ceiling. Abigail gasped and the creature’s attention snapped toward her. It stared at her with emotionless, reptilian eyes and a low rumble filled the air.
With a hiss the creature’s head shot forward and its tooth filled mouth opened to take a bite out of Abigail; it was a growing creature after all and needed to eat.
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