The Tank (horror short story)

by Mark Figueroa | Art by A Forgotten Pen at @theforgottenpen

“The container with her food is sealed in a box next to her tank,” Ernst said, putting on his jacket. “Just pour like five of them in. They’ll hop around, scurry about and try to climb out. Don’t worry, they can’t make it out though.” 

“Sounds good,” Konnel replied, holding the phone to his ear as he whipped up something to eat. “What times should I show up to feed it?” he inquired.

“Watch your mouth, bro. Fangs is not an it. She is a bonafide, purebred Solar Serpent. I paid a lot for her, so please refer to her with respect,” Ernst demanded. “I gotta plug some headphones in, give me a sec,” he said, before going hands-free. “Alright, anyway, the feeding times don’t actually matter since you only need to feed her once. I’m only leaving for three days, Konnel.”

“I know. Well, is there anything I should know. I don’t want to get bit by Fangs and drop dead,” Konnel said.

Ernst paused, then groaned. “See, that’s the crap they spread about Solar Serpents. They’re harmless, man. If she bites you, it’s going to be a quick jab. You’ll bleed for sure, but it feels like getting poked or something. Solar Serpents aren’t poisonous. There’s just all this propaganda about how we shouldn’t take animals from other planets or their habitats.”

“Fair enough. Well, what about her food?” asked Konnel. 

“Uh, well,”  Ernst began. “The jar is sealed in a box next to the cage, which I already mentioned. Um, pour in no more than five, mentioned that too. What else? What else? Oh yeah!” he exclaims, while trying to shove clothes into his suitcase. “When you pour them in, they’ll hop around, scurry about and try to climb out of the glass tank. Don’t worry, they can’t make it out, but it is 100 % important for you to remember, pour them in one at a time,” he said. Ernst paused for dramatic effect. He staged his luggage by the front door.  “Only one. If there are two, Fangs will go crazy because they run all over the place and use each other to survive. They also try to  burrow underground and hide. Fangs doesn’t like that either and she starts thrashing around. If she does it enough, she can damage the tank.”

“Gotcha. No more than five, feed them one at a time. Don’t let her damage the cage. I think I get it. I’ll call you if anything comes up,” Konnel said. He paced around, examining the surfaces of his kitchen counter. He picked his left nostril with a sharp fingernail, then examined his quarry. “I’ll probably go tomorrow morning,” he said, flicking a crusty, malleable booger. 

“That’s perfect. Well if you–”

“Last question. I know Fangs is not poisonous, but her food… You mentioned they burrow and they can’t be kept together. I assume they are together in the container. How do I keep them separate?” Konnel interrupted. 

“Well, humans aren’t native to Mars or Venus,” Ernst responded, bracing himself for a conversation laden with judgement and animal rights. “Humans actually just started showing up fairly recently. They must be some kind of sentient, though. They have little flags and talk gibberish. Anyway, the Solar Serpents, as you know, are like 20 times their size. Because of the Sentient Food Act, most exotic pet stores chip humans to keep them sedated. At worst it might squeal a little bit. Honestly, they’re harmless unless the sedative wears off and they escape, but in that case, just smash them with a shoe or something. Their two legs make them move in such a gross, creepy way.”

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