He was watching Master Chef when it appeared over his retina. At first his brain miscalculated and inserted the angel fish into the programme, where it swam through the steaming crust of the Mockingbird pie. Then after a moment the fish popped out of the screen and passed through the wall into the hallway.
Finn blinked and rubbed his eyes, looked at his watch. It was late. He really should get to bed earlier. He turned off the TV and sighing got to his feet. As he did the image of the fish appeared again: flickering with the beat of his eyelids.
He tried closing his eyes but the fish was still there floating in a sea of blackness. It turned, swam towards him and disappeared. Finn slapped his hand over his eyes, stumbled and knocked over the cans of beer at his feet.
After a while he opened his fingers and peeped through the gaps. His brain had now decided that, however improbable the reality, the fish must be swimming inside his eyeball. Everywhere he looked there was a tiny fish superimposed on the images streaming down his optic nerve.
The call to the emergency services could have gone better.
“You say there is a fish inside your eye, sir?”
“And you’d like us to send an ambulance?”
“You seem to be slurring your words, sir. Have you been drinking?”
All he could focus on whilst driving to the hospital was the damn fish. After a while he worked out that if he closed his right eye it disappeared. Obviously it was in his right eyeball. He hit his brakes, pulled over to the accompanying hooting of horns and opened the glove compartment. Fumbling for the first aid kit he turned it upside down and shook it until a box of plasters landed on his lap. Searching with one eye closed he found the largest and stuck it over his right eye.
Five minutes later the thought occurred to him that when he had closed his eyes in his lounge he could still see the fish. The moment he thought that his brain recalculated and superimposed the fish over the urban scene. He tried to ignore it and focused on the images passing through his left eye.
“Go away, fish. Shoo, fish.”
He had to wait three hours at the hospital. When he refused to leave they finally gave up, “You’ve probably just got something in your eye, Mr Finn. Tip your head forward and hold this against your eye.”
“What is it? A fish extractor?”
“Your head forward, Mr Finn.”
“Can you be quick,” said Finn, “I think I can feel it nibbling me.”
The nurse smiled, stepped out of the room with her hand over her mouth and burst into laughter.
“I can hear you,” shouted Finn, “It’s not flippin’ funny.”
A week passed. Finn became depressed. The appointment with the psychiatrist didn’t help. After lying on the couch for half-an-hour watching the movement of the fish against the artexed ceiling and answering question after question about his childhood, he suddenly sat bolt upright and vented his frustration, “What the hell has all this to do with the fish in my eye?”
“Is there a fish in your eye?”
“How do you imagine it got in your eye?”
“I can feel it bumping up against my eyeball, have you any idea how freaky that is?”
“Maybe you should become the fish, embrace it,” replied the psychiatrist.
Finn watched as his synaptic nerves sparked and fizzed and projected an image of the fish into the room. It wriggled its tail and in a graceful arc swam around the back of the psychiatrist’s head, then entered his right ear.
“Why does nobody believe me?” asked Finn and dropping off the couch he left slamming the door.
“You can pay my secretary on the way out,” said the psychiatrist.
The optician was no better.
“Can you put your chin here and stare into the screen, Mr Finn. Good, thankyou. Now how many spots can you see?”
“Two and an angel fish,” said Finn.
“And how many now?”
“Three and an angel fish.”
“One and an angel fish.”
“Thankyou, Mr Finn.”
The optician pushed his chair back and spinning around got to his feet, “And?”
Finn dug his nails into the flesh of his arm, “Can you do anything?”
The optician picked up Finn’s notes and flicked through. Finn’s fish swam towards the front of his eyeball and glided over his lens, eclipsing it in majestic serenity.
“Your eyesight is fine, Mr Finn. As to the – I assume you’re here because of the fish?”
“Yes, yes – you saw it in that machine?”
“You’re asking me if I saw a fish inside your eye?”
“Yes, please you have to help me. It’s driving me insane. I want it out, I can’t stand it a moment longer. It’s like having an eyelash in your eye but a million times worse.”
“Excuse me a moment,” said the optician and left the room.
Finn watched the fish swim towards the eye chart where it disappeared through a large A.
After half an hour Finn opened the door and looked out.
There was no sign of the optician.
When he enquired at the desk they told him he had gone to lunch.
“O hang on he did leave a note for you,” said the assistant. “Arh, here it is.” She passed him his free eye prescription. Finn opened it and read the message … Gone Fishing.
When he got home, Finn grabbed a plunger, bowl and a knife from the kitchen and walked upstairs. For a long time he stared into the bathroom mirror his fingers twitching. Then he filled the bowl with water and set it down below his head. When the plunger failed to extract the fish he took the knife and slowly pushed it into his eye.
After that things got better.