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Ikan Berbudi (Wise Fish)

by Jason Erik Lundberg

"Good morning, dear lady," said the fish. "Today is the day I will die."

Mrs Singh stood dumbfounded in the kitchen of her food stall. The fish, a grand red snapper with pointy teeth and auspicious markings, lazily trod water in its aquarium above the sink. It had brought Mrs Singh good luck since persuading her to spare its life three years ago. Her pescatarian menu consisted of curries and veg, and business had soared with the fish's presence. It had also provided a strange companionship after her husband had died and her children had moved away. This announcement terrified her with its consequences.

"Why would you say this, fish?"

"Because it is true. I have lived a long life, in part thanks to you, but it will come to an end later today."

"What if I buy you a new tank? Or a pond in which you can freely swim?"

"It will not matter, auntie. I will still die."

"I could change your food, buy the expensive flakes from Thailand."

"It still would not change the fact that I will die."

"Is there anything can be done?"

"I am afraid not. It is the way of things. But I do ask for one kindness in return for the years of wealth I have brought you."

"Anything, fish."

"Cook me as you would any of my brothers, and then consume me yourself."

"Very well."

And so later that day, after Mrs Singh had served her last customer, the fish quietly stopped moving and floated upside down in its tank. Mrs Singh descaled the snapper, gutted it, and cooked it in fiery curry along with fingers of okra and slices of eggplant.

With the first bite, she experienced a heightening of all her senses. With the second, she gained understanding of the speech of plants. With the third she perceived the sticky strings of the vast LifeWeb that connects all living beings. With the fourth, the knowledge that her new perceptions would fade by tomorrow.

Mrs Singh wept for the fish's gift, eating every last bit of flesh until her wise friend was completely gone.

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