A Vignette/Short Story by Kittyluvver
“You are my daughter,” said Tessellation, "and I will teach you to love the galaxies in your wings."
Dragons grieved in different ways, and in the weeks after the funeral the staff at Mountia Central Aquarium often spotted a young NightWing sneaking in without paying for a ticket. The offender was a tiny thing, with scales the color of bruised eggplant and blue eyes that glistened overbright, like shards of stained glass behind the frames of her windowpane spectacles. Her spindly, paper-crane hindlegs were forever folded into the embrace of an enormous wheelchair and she wrapped her wispy shoulders in a winter coat much too big for her, clutching it close even though it was midsummer and out on the pavement the sun was painting heat ripples in the hazy Mountian air.
Tessellation's coat still smelled a little like her, and Phi found it harder to grieve beside a coral tank while everything around her was blossoming with life.
"Excuse me, miss?"
Refraction: the bending of a wave of light as it enters a different medium. Watery sunlight shifted and fluttered across the quivering surface of the coral tank, cascading like liquid silver, casting its halcyon shimmer across the rainbow gamut of fish below. Tangs and surgeonfish glimmered like gold and flickered like candle flames as they massed in their hundreds, their great shoals swaying in the artificial current, luminescing in an endless dance of fleeting fantasy.
"Miss NightWing, do you have a ticket?"
Holacanthus ciliaris. Queen angelfish. Hippocampus zosterae. Dwarf seahorse. Balistoides conspicillum. Clown triggerfish. Scorpaenopsis oxycephala. Tassled scorpionfish. Thalassoma lunare. Moon wrasse. Bothus etherias. Gossamer flounder.
"Miss, you can't be in here alone. Where are your parents?"
Her slender paws tightened convulsively on the collar of the winter coat, but her eyes remained fixed on the glass of the reef exhibit before her. A million gallons of water, read a small placard on the wall. It was harder to grieve here, and it was harder to cry too. There was so much saltwater around her that a few more drops wouldn't make any difference.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
Phi wished she was a flounder. Other fish didn't bother the flounder.
A solitary creature, the gossamer flounder inhabits the shallow reefs to the south and east of the Rainforest Kingdom. It is carnivorous and its diet consists mainly of smaller fish, crabs, and shrimp, which it hunts by lying in wait on the seabed. The flounder's gray and brown coloration allows it to blend easily with sand and most other substrates, and this fish spends its life resting on the ocean floor with its eyes looking upwards.
She learned to stop thinking about her mother and think about flounders instead. When she lay awake at 2:00 AM as the house breathed cold and empty, she closed her eyes and imagined herself as a flatfish, lying on a bed of sand in a dazzling coral reef. The sand would be warm, the water cool, and she imagined how the sunlight would ripple through the clear tank and dapple the soft skin of her back. She imagined how she would be alone, drowning in a million gallons of saltwater, while outside all the dragons laughed and watched and no one else was grieving.
How nice it must be, to be a flounder. To spend all her life gazing skywards.