It came to me... in the shower (Lol)... so here goes (warning, each part will be long)
Part 1: Falling through air
I am not just a fish. I am a Betta. I am a warrior.
Or so I thought when I was very young. I was only a few months old, barely mature, and my color had only recently been decided on. I was a blinding white, and it hurt to look at my reflection. I had an overly sized tail like that of the moon halfway through its cycle.
I was stuck in a little glass cylinder, so small I could barely move. When I look back, I realize that if I had stayed in something so small forever, I would have hated large spaces and been unable to live my life as I do now.
Now, let me begin.
All of my male siblings were enemies to me. I loathed them, and seeing them made me flare with rage. I saw any of my female siblings, and I felt the urge to spawn. That was it, the only bond I had through other individuals. We were all completely different and didn't agree about anything, except one thing. We all knew that the place was dangerous. The place outside of the cylinder's, where the feeders walked to harvest food, and where some kind of fish leaped through the air sometimes. The place that was a giant mass of water stretching forever, a giant shining mass.
It was forbidden, and even if we could go to it, we wouldn't. No one knew why it was forbidden, it just was.
"I bet I can jump higher than you!" Said a male next to me, trying to show off to a female. The other male next to me said "Huh! Shut it cloud-face!" And they both leaped, only to hit the lid. I rolled my eyes. How come the other males never think? Those two males, me, and two females were the sole survivors of our spawn. One of the females was looking weak though, like she might go at any minute. "They are weak," I told myself "Only the strong will prevail."
The other males were at it again, and I felt frustrated with their stupidity. They leaped into the air, hitting the lids. This time, the lids popped off. With a started shriek the males both left the water, and landed on the ground in the air. I looked away while their flopping grew weaker and weaker, and eventually stopped.
Eventually the feeder returned, oh how I loathed it. It was undersized compared with other feeders, and it had spelled doom for many of my siblings. It saw my brothers on the ground and merely tossed them away. It picked up a cylinder, and I realized that female had died.
"I'm going to die here." I just knew it. But the feeder surprised me. It picked up me and the female's cylinder's and brought us to the forbidden place. It tipped our homes, shaking it's head with dismay. I struggled against the current relucnant to go to the place of dangers, but then I found myself falling, falling through air.
I was going to update yesterday... but after an hour of typing right when I was about to finish I accidently hit the power button on my computer. I was frustrated so I didn't get back to it lol.
Part 2: Real Warriors
I knew the world would end when I hit the water. I braced myself, but was surprised when I began to float. I finally looked around, and I saw that I was in a place that was probably as deep as the cylinder, only it stretched as far as the eye could see.
I hid against a plant and watched my sister freeze up when she suddenly appeared from over the water. At that moment, my urge to explore was much greater than my urge to spawn. I darted forward and thought Ha! I'm one fast fish!
I started exploring, but in a matter of minutes it was soon evident that there was no way I could ever explore this whole territory in my entire lifetime, besides, I was getting exhausted.
I sat on a leaf and looked around with amazement. This was my new life now, one where I could have all the space in the world! I did a full flare and swam in a wide circle, proud to have all the room in the world for it.
Then I noticed a dark shape. It moved faster than I ever thought possible, and I recoiled with shock when the fish stopped and flared at me. It was another male Betta.
He was strange, he had short fins and a duller color than me. His body was longer and his entire shape was different. Yet he hid a fierceness that I could tell by how he held his fins firm and by his swiftness.
I flared back, hoping to intimidate the rival with my massive fins. He jerked back with shock, then zipped towards me faster than a fly. I charged at him, ready to fight. He came close and I jerked my head to bite him. Suddenly the strange male jerked to the side much too fast. I barely had time to turn my head when I felt a nip on one of my pectoral fins. I jerked to the side, not wanting the enemy to take away my swimming ability.
I managed to whack him with my head. The male said, "Leave my territory now, strange Betta." With a mocking tone. My pride would never allow me to do that, even against such a strong and agile apponent. "Never!" I charged, but instead of turning away, the male charged right back at me. I froze up as he bit my mouth and flipped me. I watched helplessly as his tail started flexing and swooshing, thrashing me around violently. His teeth were cutting into my skin. I tried to struggle free, but I couldn't move.
I really needed to breath, and I knew I was probably going to drown, stuck under another male. Suddenly the male let me go and raced to the surface. I followed him and we forgot our rivalry for a second, we both needed to breath.
"Had enough? Now GO!" The Betta shouted, panting with exhaustion. I didn't hesitate as I turned around and fled, feeling occasional nips on my tail as the other malen pursued me. Suddenly he stopped, and I turned to see him sitting under a bubblenest.
I shivered and hid under a rock. That was a wild Betta! I realized. They aren't just stories! They... they are real warriors!
It was a few days later, and I was exhausted. I could never tell how to spot another Betta's territory, though the wild Bettas seemed to know. Sometimes I would run away only to stop in another territory. After that first fight, I never fought again, knowing I was much too slow to fight. I had just finished running from another male.
I also sensed something different. The spot I was at, I'd been here before. Except last time it was deeper. It was 4 times my height before, now it was barely higher than me. I spun in a quick circle, and became upset. My beautiful tail, my one timidating advantage over others, wasn't as beautiful as it used to be. It was still fairly long, but the tips were bent and there were chunks and holes at the end of my tail. I wished I had no tail instead of such a terribly damaged one.
I rested on the bottom and allowed dreams to form in my mind. I could still see and smell, but only vaugly. The images started popping up in my head out of my control.
I was laying on the ground, helpless, in foot deep waters with no fins. My tail was gnawed away, and only stumps were left on my pectoral fins. Then one of those vicous males came and bit off the stumps. He then bit onto one of my scales and start wriggling and writhing and he slowely tore it out. Then he tore out some more scales, and I was just a finless Betta missing scale protection and movement abilities, save my teeth. I needed air, and I needed it badly. I squirmed, trying to swim. Then I smacked into something and yelped with the first real pain I felt.
Then I looked around and once again the water was a few inches deep and I had fins. I must have been swimming in my sleep, because some of the scales had been scraped off my side where I had colided with a rock.
I realized I was starting to feel weak. Then I remembered that I urgently needed air. I barely had to move when I reached the surface and instantly felt better.
I stared at my hated tail. With it, something like my nightmare could happen and I'd be too slow to do anything. I twisted my head back and bit.
I fell asleep, exhausted. When I woke up I decided to test my new tail. I swam, and was propelled much farther than I was used to. There was a dull ache, but nothing really hurt from the tail biting. I found that I wass off balance and I bit off more tail chunks to even myself out.
In the end my tail was nowhere near the strength of a wild Betta's, but at least I was quicker and lighter than before. Swimming became joy instead of exhaustion.
A male lept out at me. I was ready to fight this time with my speed, but he didn't attack. Instead he said, "Come. You are obviously a stranger. Come into my cave." And he disappeared inside of a cave.
I flared uncertainly, then followed the Betta, who I could tell was old. "I have been watching you." He said. "You don't know much about us, and until yesterday you were a slug." I saw he was a dull red.
The male motioned towards a piece of moss underneath a hole it the cave where I could get air. I took a breathand swam onto the moss, keeping my fins flared at all times and staying on the lookout.
"I don't know exactly what's wrong with you. You were born with those fins that are too big and that color. You somehow managed to survive as a fry without being eaten, even though you stick out." I started to say that I wasn't even hatched here, but he glared at me until I stopped. "I have a feeling you aren't from around here. There are few enough Bettas as it is, so I might as well try to keep our numbers up by explaining how this place works to you."
The male started his long speech. "I'm Longfins, called so because of my incredibly long fins." His fins looked pretty short to me, but by the wild standards they WERE a bit long. "What is your name, bright one?" Longfin asked.
"My name?" I said, baffled. I knew that things had names, like water, rocks, and plants. But I never imagined that I could have a name other than "Betta".
"You don't have a name?" Longfin asked, shocked. "No matter, once you understand our ways you can choose one."
He then proceeded to explain to me how life as a wild Betta worked. Apparently the other males marked their territory by bubblenests. I'm supposed to only eat bugs on the surface and swimming through the water, I'll never have pellets again. And I learned that the world was a danger, filled with predators. And with a color like mine life was all the more risky. He taught me much more, too. "There, now you understand us." Longfin concluded.
"Umm, I know we only just met, but can you teach me how to fight like a wild Betta?" I asked. He gave me a startled look, and i explained about how I always easily loose my fights and never stand a chance.
"Very well, I will train you. But first we need to head to the center of the rice paddie, because the drought is coming and soon this place will be under air!" He taught me that this giant mass of water was called the Rice paddie.
I never suspected the rice paddie would shrink like that. I was thinking that life like this was risky, when Longfin said, "Come on. The journy will probably take a few days with a Betta like you. I was about to leave anyways, so you should come along before I leave you and you get lost."
I followed, glad to finally understand this mysterous rice paddie.