Your space ship has crash landed on a strange moon with a corrosive atmosphere. You are alone. You can talk to yourself–but you don’t like yourself all that much at this point–or you can talk to the odd, alien animals that flit through the stinging air, which look like nothing so much as silver fish.
This would make you the protagonist of Sarah Tchernev’s story, Silver Fish, the next offering from the No Sh!t, There I Was anthology. Life’s not being kind to him. On the other hand, he’s richly earned this particular fate.
I like a good character study , where the plot is internally driven and the external more a reflection of the conflicts and changes happening within. This story stuck with me because it has that arc like Cast Away, where it’s a single person against a hostile environment, only in this case the greater enemy is the one within, guilt and regret and the realization of mistakes that cannot be undone.
But what pushed this story into the “I will have this!” folder was Sarah’s use of language. There’s a dreamlike quality to the distant moon she creates, the choking atmosphere and the waving plants, the alien fish swimming through the unbreathable air. It’s like watching a human flounder around in a fish tank without a diving suit and then slowly developing gills–or at least believing he has.
It’s belief that’s the most dangerous, after all.