The Extra Eye
By Nancy Xu
The current environmental issues will be exacerbated in the near future if nothing is done today. This is my form of rising to speak on an issue that threatens the world.
We were the only ones left.
Our last neighbors, along with their miniature house on short, wobbly stilts, drowned in the hungry waves just a few days ago, after a mild rainstorm.
We watched them struggling to keep their heads and their Nethernam passports above water. We watched them clinging for dear life onto the sturdy stilts that held up our house. We watched them as they floated away in the water, bobbing up and down like a boat lost at sea.
Daddy jumped in after them. He never came back.
I wiped away tears from the corners of my eyes and plunged my hands into the murky gray water. When I was seven, you could see the bottom of the water with the naked eye. Now all that’s left to see is floating debris and fish skulls.
“Dawn Mong!” Mommy shrilled. Her voice used to be much more piercing to the ears; now, it sounded like a muted violin. “Take your hands out of there right now!”
I sighed and pulled out my hands. They had become the same color as the ocean, the same murky gray.
“Come back in for lunch!” Mommy yelled again. “I caught a fish the other day.”
“But Mommy! That fish has three eyes! We can’t eat that.”
“What are you talking about? Don’t be stupid. It’s just a normal fish.”
Murky gray clouds floated across the sky and hurried away. Raindrops dripped onto the back of my neck and rolled down my spine. They were ice cold.
Our dwelling is not an exceptional one. Mommy said she and Daddy built a miniature house out of wood that had been passed down by my grandpa, my daddy’s daddy. He was a famous environmentalist of the 22nd century and personally imported materials from the Northern parts of South America, a place he called “rain forest.” He told my parents that the wood was very precious and that eventually it would come in handy. He told Mommy and Daddy that when the water got high, they would have to take our house apart and rebuild it on top of wooden stilts, but at the time they thought him absurd and laughed it off. Only later, after the water level reached their kneecaps, did they realize their own absurdity.
I sat down at the dinner table and stared at the plate of the three-eyed fish in front of me. The three eyes stared back. A bolt of lightning flashed behind me, illuminating all three eyes into an eerie yellowish glow. “Mommy, I really don’t think we can eat this fish—”
“Oh Dawn Mong, don’t be so absurd,” she interrupted me and passed over a spoon. I took it. “It’s simply a different species of fish than those we’ve been eating. That’s all. There’s definitely nothing wrong with this fish.” She took a fork for herself and plucked out a fish eye. “See? Now it’s just a normal fish.”
Another bolt of lightning flashed behind me. I felt the wooden stilts beneath me wobble back and forth in the wind. They seemed ready to give way at any moment.
The two remaining eyes stared back at me as if the fish was scrutinizing its prey. Eat me if you dare, eat me, eat me, it taunted. Mommy sliced off the tail of the fish with a plastic knife and took a bite. She cringed at the taste but quickly replaced her disgust with what she perceived to be a pleasant smile. “See? It’s not bad at all. It’s just a normal fish.”
The sound of the raindrops picked up pace.
I stabbed at the two remaining eyes of the fish.
“Mom,” I said. “If the current situation continues, we will die with or without this three-eyed fish. A three-eyed fish without an eye does not make it a two-eyed fish.”
All four stilts collapsed at once under us.
I woke up, finding myself on the floor. Beads of sweat rolled down my neck. It’s only a dream, I thought. Nethernam doesn’t exist, and it will never exist. I will personally make sure of it.
“Wake up, Dawn! You’re going to be late for school,” Mom shrilled. Her voice was high pitched, as usual.
“Mom,” I stared into her eyes anxiously. “Fish only have two eyes, right?”
“No, honey. Of course they have three eyes. Everyone knows that.” The edges of her lips curled into a smirk.
I rolled my eyes at her and hurried out the door.
I made a few mental notes to myself:
Mental note #1: Dig out the milk carton in the middle of the garbage bag and move it into the recycling bin.
Mental note #2: Yell at Tom who dumped it in there in the first place.
Mental note #3: Fish will never have three eyes. Not if I’ve got anything to do with it.
Nancy Xu is a class of 2016 mentee from Queens, NY.