I had a strange fascination with death as a child. I’ve been trying to figure out when it all started. My mom says that when I was about four or five, a handful of people in my life died and it really screwed with me. “People were dropping like flies!” so my mom says. This could have been the foundation of my death fear, but I recently remembered a brief moment in my history that certainly didn’t help the situation.
I got my first pet fish when I was six years old. I named her after my best friend Megan. She was a bronze fish with black polka dots, and she swam around her tank with elegance and grace.
She was the first pet I really learned how to take care of. I woke up each morning, and the first thing I did was grab my step stool and feed Megan. She was everything I could have hoped for.
I would sometimes pull up a chair and watch her swim around. I would do homework next to her, draw pictures next to her, and eat dinner next to her. She was my pal. I told her my deepest six-year-old secrets like which boy I was crushing on that hour, and how much I hated P.E.
Fast forward two years when I was eight-years-old and Megan was still alive.
She kept growing and growing to the point where we had to buy a bigger tank. It took up most of the counter in our kitchen. We also had a dog and a cat at the time. I recall my cat jumping on the counter and knocking over a plate of cookies. Needless to say, we lived in Animal House, minus the frat brothers. While I still enjoyed Megan’s company, I found myself outside with my new scooter, or in my room reading big girl books as opposed to chatting it up with my pet fish for an hour.
It got so bad that eventually we were living around Megan rather than Megan living around us. One day, my mom snapped.
My mom probably thought buying me a pet fish was the perfect plan. It would teach me to take care of something else, and to learn about responsibility. But I don’t think she expected the fish to live longer than a month, tops.
“This is ridiculous!” she yelled. We both stared at Megan, who seemed jolly in her tank, not giving a shit.
My mom started hatching a plan. I don’t think she was aware that I was fully aware that her plan was to kill Megan.
It first started off small. When I fed her in the morning, my mother grabbed the food can, dumping most of it’s contents into the tank.
“She looks extra hungry today. Don’t you think?” she asked.
Then, she stopped cleaning the tank. After weeks, perhaps months of overfeeding and neglecting poor Megan, we could barely see her continuously and obliviously swimming around. My mom looked like she was going mad.
It would have made sense to just flush Megan down the toilet instead of slowly torturing her in her poop-colored tank, but perhaps my mom didn’t want me in on the plan. Simply tossing her into the toilet would have been too easy, and too obvious even for eight-year-old me.
Megan eventually died from “unknown causes”.
“Finally,” my mom whispered.
I knew what my mom had done, but I didn’t want to face it.
Instead, I lashed out on living creatures. When I say living creatures, I actually mean insects because I’m not a monster.
I purposely tapped on ant hills to get the family of ants out of the hole just so I could kill them. They would all pile out of their tiny hole and onto the pavement, and I lavishly stomped on every single one of them. Even the ones suffering and squirming, I would kneel down and watch as they slowly stopped moving. I eventually shared this new hobby of mine at school. It quickly turned into a contest as to who could kill the most ants.
The rest of this story is a little fuzzy so I will try and feel my way through to the truth. I’m sure one of my teachers saw our little torture corner of the playground and lectured us on the idea of living creatures having a valuable life of some sorts. I eventually learned that ants are so unbelievably strong, that they could certainly take over the world by coming together and carrying human beings away. I actually don’t know how true that statement is but I remember someone telling me about it in school and I wanted to cry at the thought. All the more reason to kill them, I thought.
Eventually, I stopped my little killing spree of insects. I either grew out of it, or a teacher made me feel bad. Even now, unless there is an ant in my apartment, I don’t touch them. But part of me really, really, really wants to.