Malaysian Mystery Memoirs: Something Smells Fishy…

I married Athit, a Thai national, against my parents’ wishes. He was my first love, I was 20 years old and pregnant, and I believed we were endgame. His parents, particularly his mother, were far more accepting towards our union, which was what initially motivated us to move to Thailand after I birthed our first child. Or at least, that was the plan.

All that was too good to be true.

12 weeks into my pregnancy, Athit left our home in Rawang on a work trip and never returned. Not to me, and not to his parents in Hat Yai either. Our unborn child and I feared for his life and were about two hours away from filing a missing persons report when I received an e-mail with the subject line “Forgive me, sayang.”

He chickened out, with the excuse that we were both too young and had made a grave mistake. He offered me money to get an abortion, which I refused. The divorce papers came 6 months later, when I found out he had started a new life with a younger woman.

Our son, James, was born in late October. I took back my maiden name and christened him as such. I returned to my parents in Damansara with my tail between my legs and they accepted me, with the condition that they would have nothing to do with my son’s living expenses.

He grew up to be a rather difficult boy, throwing fits, filled with extravagant desires I could not afford.

Athit was a commercial diver when we were together, and had left all his gear behind. I threw them away but kept a few educational, marine life-related books, which James grew interested in.

By the time he was 5, he had developed a full-on obsession with aquatic animals and watching his fish swimming around in the aquarium I gifted him seemed to be his only true joy. My friends noted that cultivating such a hobby would be beneficial to his growth, so I encouraged it where possible.

After my first promotion at work, I took James on a vacation to Langkawi, where he was immediately drawn to the beach. Despite me saying that he was unlikely to spot any actual fish so close to the shore, he insisted on having a look, and returned with a displeased look on his face.

“Mum, I saw this really cool fish just now. I really wanted to show it to you. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he quipped. I hate to admit it, but I assumed that he had just said so to prove me wrong.

Still, James refused to let it go. He skimmed through book after book to find the species of the fish he had wanted me to see, but to no avail.

He was genuinely upset and still super intent on finding it when my former mother-in-law passed away. I put my entire life on pause for a moment and immediately booked a bus ride to Hat Yai for James and I to attend the funeral.

This was out of pure respect and as a way to commemorate her compassion. When Athit left me, she took my side and said, “May he sink all the way down to Hell.”

Athit did not show up to the funeral.

The rest of the family, excluding Athit’s father, had ostracised James and I, treating us like outsiders, as if our tie to the family was illegitimate.

I felt drained by the end of the service, and brought James to a small beach nearby to shake off the uneasy feeling. He went to conduct his usual peer into the water hoping to find something, and returned with the biggest smile plastered across his face. It was a rare sight at that point.

“Can we bring it home?” he asked. He had supposedly found the fish yet again.

I emptied out my water bottle and passed it to him, defeated. “Go ahead,” I said. His eyes grew wide.

“Mum! He can’t fit in there. He’s too big. Come and look at him, quick,” he demanded, not taking his eyes off the shoreline this time.

I gave in, and that’s when I saw it.

The creature. My husband’s face on the body of a fish. One eye shut, as if deceased, and the other bulging out of its socket, looking at me pleadingly, barely able to float above the water’s surface with its bloated form.

Gurgling with its open mouth, as if trying to speak to me, but pathetically failing. I took James’ hand, and walked away.

They say over 80% of the ocean is unexplored, and I say at least 10% isn’t worth the effort.

* All illustrations AI-generated by DALL-E, nightcafe.studio & hotpot.ai

* Malaysian Mystery Memoirs is a series of fictional horror tales by JUICE, for entertainment purposes only. Any similarities to actual persons or situations are purely coincidental.