by Chris Fellows
The conveyer belts are depleting too quickly. Indeed, our restaurant, the Hanamaru is full of customers today and we’ve never been this pressed to keep going.
Bowls of fish and shrimp await my knife on the table. The sushi must be beautiful, uniform, and most importantly, fresh.
I’ve been at it for half an hour. I descale, behead, and fillet, leaving not a single bone, then place them aside.
A salmon, descaled and skinned, transformed into another pair of fillets. Then, a tuna. I place it on the board and grip my knife, holding the tuna with my left hand, preparing to behead it.
I feel a heartbeat, a constant pulse emanating from the fish.
The fish moves. It does not flail or struggle, but turns to face me, baring its teeth. Within my hand, I feel pressure, slowly pushing my fingers open, like air inflating a balloon. I stare, unable to trust what I feel. The tuna grows, progressively faster, its teeth lengthen, its mouth opens wide.
I jerk away my hand. My knife comes down, chopping once, twice, I breathe in gasps, it is a fight for air. The fish’s jaw opens and closes several times before its life burns out.
I could feel eyes staring from all around.
“Is he alright?” someone says.
Sweating, I look at the rest of the fish. There are no more besides the shrimp.
I draw closer. Within the metallic bowl is a pit of skittering horrors. They’ve grown to twice their original size, with shells like armour. They writhe and slide over each other, I cringe at the slushing movement, and the clicking of shells against metal.
One slides its head over the lip of the bowl. Its thick legs pull it over, then out.
I leap back, screaming. It lands where my feet had been, thrashing against the floor. I look, almost pleading, toward the rest of the restaurant, but they cannot see what’s behind the table. Customers begin to whisper, staring.
A tickling at my feet alerts me, and I jerk back from the monster. I lift the heavy chopping board and crush the creature with it. The shrimp thrashes and squirms underneath. I throw my weight onto it, and hear a crunch.
Another shrimp perches its head over the bowl’s rim. My fingers grasp for the board again, and with a cry, I bring it down on the creature, pounding on it with hands like hammers, squishing the escaping shrimp.
I gather everything and hurl it all into the fryer. The board crashes against the wall, but the bowl and its contents splash into the oil.
“What are you doing, Shimizu?” bellows my manager. “The customers can see you! Where’s the tempura?”
I try to make words, but I can only point.
“Shizimu?” The manager looks at the fryer. “My God! The size of them!”
“T-they grew… They were alive,” I say. “The fish are still alive.”
There is no colour left in my face, and his begins to pale too.
“You’ll explain this. You’ve ruined everything! This was such a good night!” He turns to the customers. “Hanamaru apologises, but something is horribly wrong with the fish, and in your best interests, we are closing immediately.”