Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: The Great White North (NOT Alaska)
Hamlet: Part VII
I knew as well as any other betta that sometimes you get sick: sometimes it hits you hard and fast before your keepers can do much to help you, sometimes you have enough time that they can do something about it and keep you living a long happy life. Usually bettas don't suffer as much as the humans do--what I saw in the coming weeks amazed me. The coughing fits wracking Little Keeper's body developed into long bouts of harsh barks that often ended in unconsciousness or strained breaths that sounded like a broken filter motor. Sometimes after these fits she would spit out a rather disturbing slime that was varying shades of pink, yellow, brown or green: at other times she would run outside to vomit in the snow. The only thing I could do was sit and worry. Though her body slowly consumed itself in a blaze of fever and agony, her spirit still remained as she worked undaunted on her heap of papers and steadfastly argued against Big Keeper's suggestions that she swallow a red potion that would make her feel better.
"You first," she replied sarcastically when Big Keeper came into the room with a bottle and a plastic spoon.
"Fine," Big Keeper replied, measuring out a half dose and swallowing it with ease. "Your turn."
"Do I really have to?" Little Keeper asked, her nose wrinkled with disgust.
"It'll help you sleep. Besides, you promised that if I took some you would too. And it's really not that bad."
Little Keeper's face twisted into a mask of revulsion as the first spoonful of potion hit her tongue and she shuddered as it trickled down her throat. I could see her bracing herself to take the second spoon from Big Keeper: I could see the argument happening inside her mind as she struggled with her desire to just throw the spoon in the trash and forget about the medicine, but she ultimately swallowed in and retired to the other room for the night.
As things progressed for the worse, Little Keeper sometimes slept through the times she was supposed to be at school, and eventually stopped going to work as her body weakened. Sometimes she worked in the moments while she was awake, sometimes she watched a box filled with moving pictures, and sometimes she raved at the air in a guttural, angry sounding tongue that I had never heard before. Some of the syllables sounded as harsh as her coughing fits. Whatever she thought she saw filled her with rage to the point where she often clenched and unclenched her fists as though she strongly desired to use them on whatever her delirious mind told her was there, but her conscious self knew was not real.
One day she was lying on the couch staring at me the way the cat often did. Her pale cheeks and lips had a slight flush from her last fit and her bloodshot eyes were hectically bright with the fever I could feel through the glass from six inches away. The dark circles and hollow cheeks made her look like a skeleton. Bettas who looked like that were typically near death. She spoke to me, paused as though I were speaking back to her, and replied to the silence. I don't know what she thought I was saying to her, but she eventually said I was right and took the potion that was sitting next to me on the table before eventually falling asleep. When Big Keeper came home from work and Little Keeper didn't stir, she placed one hand in front of her face and the other on her neck, which did cause the sick human to stir and succumb to another coughing fit. Big Keeper had finally taken her to the Doctor being and came back with tablets to make Little Keeper well again: she took one of these once she could breathe again, and eventually drifted off. Weeks again went by, but Little Keeper gradually recovered her health and her senses. The illness and the never ending pile of homework subsided and the two keepers fell to talking about my future...whatever that meant...