As Seen by the Eye

12:43 am

Danny had stumbled onto his job at Branburys - quality seafood since 1930 - by accident. He had been on his way to interview for the post of a ‘retail assistant’ at a new clothes shop.  It was a crappy job description but he needed to make some money for the summer while he looked for a real job. The supermarket was in an unfamiliar place and he had taken a wrong turn, finding himself outside a small seafood shop, sitting snug on the ground floor of an old Victorian building.  On the window was a sign announcing an urgent vacancy for a shop assistant. Danny’s love for seafood far outweighed his indifference to clothes. It was an easy choice.

Five years later, Danny was a salmon, trout and freshwater specialist at Branburys. His passion for fish was boundless and this was evident in all his exchanges with customers or staff. Bream, tilapia or perch, he knew them all and he sold them well. Not only did he know what kind of fish would suit the weather of the day but he also had interesting suggestions for cooking them. Regular customers recommended him to their friends and the store had seen a rise in profits since he started. He was a valued employee.

Despite his success, Danny was down to earth. He loved his job but he was mostly interested in the fish and the sort of people who came to Branburys to buy them. As the shop was tucked away and hard to find, the people who shopped there had either chanced upon it as he had or heard about it from a friend. Branburys didn’t market themselves in any other way.

Danny tried to be optimistic about the variation in his customers. The truth, however, was that his clientele consisted mostly of affluent middle aged men and women, shopping for some cod for their weekend treat of fish and chips.

It was a pleasant change for Danny when one Saturday evening, a young woman walked in and asked for a whole silver carp. Something about the woman appealed to Danny immediately. Her thick black curls and her hazel eyes helped, but what struck him the most about her was the conviction with which she stated her demand. The lady had no interest in anything except silver carp.

Her name was Claire. She turned up every Saturday at the same time and asked for a single whole fish. It was always a fish that people generally didn’t bother about and it was always something exotic.

The two struck up a sort of acquaintance, if not friendship, the topics of their brief conversations ranging over a varied range of things. But mainly, they spoke about fish. It never occurred to Danny that he should ask her out. He was content with these short rendezvous.

One afternoon, Danny was looking for a place to buy some lunch when he spotted Claire going inside the Japanese takeaway next door. He was about to walk in but something kept him from calling out to her and greeting her. He decided to observe her from a distance. He saw her walk up to the counter and waited for her to pick a dish from the long list of sea food items that the place had on display. But instead she ordered a vegetarian meal, the only one on the menu.

He wanted to ask her about this strange vegetarian streak in her but she stopped coming to the shop. He had no contact of her and didn’t understand why things had to turn out this way. He missed her and their random conversations.

One Saturday evening, after a few weeks, Claire walked into the shop at the same time as usual.
She had come to say goodbye. She was going away. Could Danny come to her house tomorrow? She gave him a letter and asked him not to open it till he arrived at her place. Before he could ask her any more questions, she was off again.

Danny felt a bit dejected. He couldn’t understand why she had suddenly turned so cold and more importantly, so vegetarian. Since when do people who talk about fish all the time start having vegetarian lunches? He was curious. There was something odd about this situation and he wanted to find out more.

The next evening, he found himself knocking on a door of a small apartment, some miles away from Branburys. The door didn’t seem to be locked and Danny let himself in.

The apartment looked unnervingly clean and barren. Danny had walked into the living room, where there was a desk and a single chair, both of which were white.  The air had a thick, strong scent of something that smelt suspiciously like formaldehyde.

Danny turned around, and then he saw it. A huge case with hundreds of bottles stacked up neatly. The bottles seemed to be arranged in some specific order. It took him a while to realize what was in them, but after a quick moment of bewilderment, Danny saw the minuscule, inconspicuous object bobbling up and down in each bottle. Each bottle had a single eye.

Hands trembling and heart beating wildly, Danny remembered Claire’s letter. He slowly opened the crumpled up paper in his hand. It was a list; a list containing the names of several different species. There was a small tick mark against the first three - insects, reptiles and fish. 

Time slowed down for Danny, as he began to realize that Claire, in her crude, 
twisted,  way, was trying to make her way through the evolutionary chain and that in due time, one of his kind, would be the last tick on the list.

Danny dropped the piece of paper and began to run outside.

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