Black Petals Issue #93 Autumn, 2020

I, Said the Fish

BP Artists and Illustrators
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Justin Alcala: A Horse for Us All-Fiction
Matthew Penwell: Bless Be Him-Fiction
Shiloh Simmons: Coffin Birth-Fiction
John Cox: Don't Teach Cats Latin-Fiction
Ken Hueler: I, Said the Fish-Fiction
R. A. Busby: Not the Man I Married-Fiction
Jude Clee: Notes from a Bathroom Stall-Fiction
M. W. Moriearty: Scarecrows-Fiction
Robert Masterson: Sharper Than She Ever Imagined-Fiction
Michael Steven: The Mirror-Fiction
Kevin Hawthorne: The Song-Fiction
Marlin Bressi: The Man on the Box-Fiction
Terry Riccardi: Winter Hunt-Fiction
Stephen J. Tillman: Angry Tammy-Flash Fiction
Andreas Hort: Pay the Price!-Flash Fiction
Sam Clover: Piety and Parm-Flash Fiction
Deisy Toussaint: Parasite in the Shadows-Flash Fiction
Outnumbered-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Mickey Sloan: Basement Beldam-Poetry
Daniel G. Snethen: Grandmother Screamed-Poetry
Daniel G. Snethen: Pumpkin Tanka-Poetry
Daniel G. Snethen: Yellow Death-Haiku
Theresa C. Gaynord: The JuJu Man-Poetry
Theresa C. Gaynord: The Widow Paris-Poetry
Theresa C. Gaynord: Funeral at the Louisiana Bayou-Poetry
Theresa C. Gaynord: The Old Hag-Poetry
Loris John Fazio: Halloween Prayer-Poetry
Marilyn Lou Berry: My Darling, My Sustenance-Poetry
Chris Collins: Nature-Poetry

Art by Hillary Lyon © 2020

I, Said the Fish




Ken Hueler



The restraints set and her mouth sealed, she became at last bewitching: light rippled across black, satiny hair; deep brown irises danced; fingers scrabbled and limbs twisted, sending rough waves across the sea of her skin. Now, right now, she would be more focused and aware and present than at any other time in her life. He spread his arms, welcoming her to his world, one that she would inhabit fully. He breathed until the anticipation in his hands stilled.

“Life is all in your head,” he told her. “Nothing you hear, taste, see, or feel is real until it pours through your nerves and up into your brain.

“Like so.”


Around six, Melody secured a table at Dancing Under the Influence with a clear view of the entrance, the bar, and the open space that would later host dancers or knots of talkers or both. Just after six-thirty she observed him weave through the loiterers up front and beeline to a stool at the back. Fridays he parked in that same crappy corner where the bar curved into the wall near the corridor to the toilets. During her tours of promising clubs and bars she’d noticed him and decided that of the people she had been following he fit the profile closest. He, however, hadn’t seemed to notice her, safely distant and her looks dialed down. She’d never seen him dancing, but he chatted women up and he sure drank.

She abandoned her table and passed behind him to the women’s bathroom. At the sink she removed her blouse and rolled it into her large purse, and then shifted the Taser and handcuffs back to the top. She was dressed to mimic the type he approached: top covered tightly; a short skirt over hose; heels somewhere between sensible and provocative. She yanked off her scrunchy, fluffed her hair into place, retouched her makeup.

 The stool next to him remained vacant. She sat and started to open her mouth.

“Hey!” the woman beside her snapped, “That’s my guy’s seat.”

“Then when he returns, I’ll give it back. Until then, I’m using it.”

The woman swung her head towards the dance area, and Melody tracked the woman’s gaze to a man trotting, arms outstretched, towards an attractive woman responding in kind. Obviously, they knew one other better than well, and probably they would yammer a while.

“I promise I’ll move when he comes back,” Melody added, smiling. Then she turned to the man and pinged his nearly empty bottle with a fingernail. “Can I buy you another so I’m not drinking alone?”

He missed a beat, recovered. “I’ll get it.”

She smiled and dropped her purse next to her feet. “Thanks. I’m Melody, and how about a Dos Equis with lime?”

“Jim.” He half-stood and began casting for a free bartender. She rested her chin on interlaced fingers. A staccato of clicks sprang up, and she slid her gaze left. The woman was pecking nails on the countertop and staring towards her chattering boyfriend, whose left hand idled on his friend’s hip. Melody leaned over.

“Your guy the red Polo in Chinos?”

The woman whipped her head. “Why do you want to know?”

“Hey, not the enemy. You want to go over, I can save your seat?”

The woman got up, stopped, turned. “You watch my purse.”

“Got it.”

Melody marveled at how trusting the public could sometimes be with complete strangers, and turned back to Jim. He had succeeded in hooking a bartender, and bottles soon followed. He tapped his into hers. “Cheers.”

“Rah-rah. Go team alkie.” She took a sip.

He had a good fake laugh; you had to pay attention to notice the artifice. But he’d made the effort. That was good.

He leaned forward and gazed down, ostensibly at her neck. “You going to turn red?”

“Yeah, but if you want to see the full Asian glow, wait until my second.”

“Sounds promising.”

She dipped into the small talk that she had found, over the years, worked in loud bars—simple, effective, forgettable. Her beer barely touched, his Dos Equis empty, she interrupted him.

“Look, it’s damn noisy in here. Do you want to go outside?”

Of course he did—she’d observed him unsuccessfully approaching women for weeks. As she got up, she snatched the woman’s purse and as they passed the trio handed it off. Outdoors she let him take charge of guiding her. He turned south and as they moved farther from the club, she smiled at him more. She squeezed his upper arm. “Do you take care of yourself?”


“You know, eat well, get enough sleep, exercise. It’s important.”

“Where did that come from?”

“I’m into health.” She looked him in the eyes. “Take nothing for granted. You know, watch what you eat every meal every day, go to sleep and wake appropriately, and so on. Set up routines that keep you healthy, wealthy, and lithe. You think I’m lithe, right?”

His face flashed an expression, and then he hid it. The topic had put him off and made her seem less perfect, which was all to the good because he’d be less likely to be second-guessing his luck.

“I don’t know about that. Seems like a lot of life you have no say over. For instance, you breathe what’s there. You fall asleep ‘cause your body gets tired. You could inherit bad genes. Everything good or bad hits you from the outside.” He tapped his head. “Only thing you control is what you think of it. No matter what life throws me I turn it into lemonade.”

“I monitor myself,” she continued. “Do you know about chi? You can control your body’s energy with breath and your mind. In Chinese medicine everything comes down to blood and chi. Everything.”

She could see him starting to reconsider. “Hey,” she said, “I feel like coffee.”

“What? Sure. Anywhere in mind?”

She gathered a deep breath and leaked it out, as if considering. “I’m burnt out on crowds and noise, and any coffee shop will be full of people and canned music of which I might like, oh, one out of ten songs, maybe. Do you live close by?”

She felt him tense. He hesitated, as if it was going too easily, then agreed and switched their direction. To relax him again she went back to the bland bar talk. Two blocks later they turned down a side street, almost an alley.

“Here we are.”

She squinted—the nearest streetlight was burned out—at his car, a cobalt blue hatchback with tinted windows. In the shadows the license plate was unreadable. She slipped in, unclipped her purse, and put it on her lap. He settled into his seat and fumbled with the keys before getting the car started.


His house, at the end of a driveway that curved through tall evergreens and rampant bushes, was small and nondescript. The porch light had either burned out or was off, and when the automatic door on the garage rose that one did not come on either. She waited to get out until he had crossed the floor and flipped on the light, and she followed him, her hand partially in her purse, through the mud room connecting to the kitchen. She noted that anyone could easily transfer things from house to car or vice versa without being seen. He led her to the living room: a minimal mishmash of cheap furnishings and subdued colors, closed Venetian blinds, no visible books or magazines, an open laptop on the coffee table, worn brown carpet, and to the right a hall with the inevitable bathroom and bedroom doors. It smelled like someone twice as old lived here.

“I like this place. So open. I take sugar, no cream.”

“Coming up.”

When he left, she checked the mail on his table. All bills and junk, nothing personal.


The coffee was taking forever, he felt. Inside he was already boiling. He could taste his desire, and she would not label it healthy. No, sir. She had been so easy so far; he didn’t see any impediments now. “How many spoonfuls?” he called out as he dribbled powder into her cup.

“Just one.”

He placed the vial back in the hollow and patted the tile into place. Sugar, then coffee, went into her cup. He stirred thoroughly.

She was on the couch, fingers knit across her shins. He set her cup on the table and sat beside her, not too close. He took a sip and put down his cup.

She turned to him and reached for his head. He started, then relaxed, expecting her to pull him to her lips, but she put her thumbs at the apex of his ears and arced her index fingers like calipers.

“Right here,” she said poking the center top of his skull, “is the Baht Mui, a major chi point you can use to take in energy. You carry the chi on your breath down through channels. Chi is life. Picture thought: invisible but real, crossing your body the same way electricity zips through your brain. You can manipulate chi with your mind, and,” she smiled, “thoughts with chi. Do you understand?”

He didn’t, and this deviation did not please him.

“I suppose, but—”

“Of course, chi can’t jump empty spaces, so you have to connect the top of your mouth to the lower. The tongue can do that.” She leaning in, her hands still on his head, and she entered his mouth, warm and insistent. He really did feel electrified, a disturbing tingle. He pulled away.

“Let’s slow this down,” he said, pulling her hands away. “Why don’t you have your coffee and tell me more about it?”

She drank, her eyes clouded, and he guided her to the bed. He removed her clothes, dressed her in a gag and restraints, and displayed the instruments so that, no matter where her gaze lighted, some portent of her fate waited. He began removing her clothes—wasn’t she Asian before? Impatient, trembling, he stroked her cheek. Why don’t you drink your coffee and we can talk more about it? Her eyes clouded—yes, she was Asian—and he led her into the bedroom. As he removed her clothes, an irritating déjà vu washed over him. He sat on the mattress. Yammering, the woman flipped through her phone, showing him pictures of her dog as she drank the herbal tea. Why were expensive jeans on the floor when he had removed a skirt? Annoyed at his lack of focus, he flitted around the room, placing instruments, again feeling that wearying déjà vu.


Melody closed the door and placed the keys on the hook. She set the bag of groceries on the counter and flipped back the hood on her sweat jacket. She peeked into the living room. Jim sat quietly on the couch, handcuffs loose around his ankles. After she put away the food, she grabbed a saucer and went over and ruffled his hair while avoiding his eyes. Plopping heavily next to him she took the protective tube out from her purse. She twisted the top and slid out the scalpel, and then lifted Jim’s arm over the saucer on the coffee table. She made a small incision and held it above the little dish. When enough had fallen, she placed a thumb over the cut and lifted his arm. With her other hand she swapped her thumb with a cotton-ball from the bag on the table. She secured it to the new wound with a strip of gauze.

 Blood ran over tongue. She closed her eyes as his energy flowed into her, but weaker today. Probably only a day or two of feeding left. She would need to find someone new. Marco’s, that dive bar across town, bustled on Wednesdays of all nights, and the man she’d been observing there, sitting mostly alone and ordering five or six beers over his visits, she’d see what could be done with him.

She cleaned the scalpel in the kitchen, replaced it in its case, and put the case in her purse. She checked Jim’s face. The expression disturbed her. She had sandblasted his brain that night, clearing away all but the strongest memory loops and obsessions. Whatever thoughts he was inhabiting—it sure wasn’t sitting in a bar, or anything mundane like that—she did not want to know, especially after investigating his bedroom. She stood. Today she would strip his garage of sellable items, then catch her afternoon class. Tomorrow, if he looked less fresh, she would stuff him into the back of his car and drive him to Andre’s. Hopefully, Jim hadn’t done too much damage to his kidneys or other organs. Why didn’t people take better care of themselves? She went to the garage, happy she’d not have to look at that face much longer.


Jim waited for her to slowly come to her senses. He usually loved this part—the fear, the surprise, the helpless terror. He frowned. Tonight, a strange sensation stole over him, a curious déjà vu. Usually each woman’s blooming was unique. He shrugged it off and prepared to greet her fluttering eyes. Everything was perfect. Her eyes clouded, and he gently guided her to the bedroom.


The End



Ken Hueler teaches kung fu in the San Francisco Bay Area and, with fellow members of the Horror Writer’s Association’s local chapter, gets up to all sorts of adventures (only some involving margaritas). His work has appeared in Weirdbook, The Sirens Call, Space & Time, Weekly Mystery Magazine, and the charity anthology Tales for the Camp Fire. You can learn more at:

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