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Five Fascinating Facts About Jellyfish

Hilary Ayshford

1. Jellyfish congregate in blooms at certain times of the year.

Too numerous to count, they drift towards him on the early morning current. The amoebic group meanders down the street, nowhere to go except home now the clubs are shut. A couple of individuals break off to stare at a shop window before rejoining the amorphous mass.

2. Jellyfish don’t have brains, hearts, or lungs. 

The hen party is music-deafened, dance-weary, alcohol-numbed. A brief rain shower has left them bedraggled, satin and sequins clinging to arms and legs, hair draped in dripping seaweed strands over faces, dribbling down necks. Glitter-covered plastic tiaras cast dim reflections on the wet tarmac. Their near silence is intimidating, but there is no escape route, so he stands still and allows them to flow around him.

3. Some jellyfish perform a ‘mating dance’ in which the male grabs a female, pulling her close to him and passing his sperm from one of his tentacles to one of hers.

He recognises one of them. The tall girl with the auburn hair extensions and scarlet fingernails, whose name he doesn't know. She is wearing a limp veil and a sagging sash. As she floats past, he reaches out and touches her arm, like he did once before, a long time ago in a crowded bar, made bold by too many vodkas. Out the back in the alley, among the dented aluminium casks and overflowing bins, she gripped him in a suffocating clasp as his clumsy fingers fumbled with her clothing, her pale skin glowing in the dark. After, she shrugged him off, waved him away when he asked for her number. 

4. Jellyfish sting in self-defence, not out of spite. 

He wonders if she remembers that night, if she has ever thought of him since. He looks for a greeting, a smile, an acknowledgement of their intense encounter, but sees no glimmer of recognition on her face. A wave of regret breaks over him; he stretches out as if to touch the sash, and mumbles, ‘Be happy’. 

She slaps his hand away. ‘Fuck off.’ The venom in her voice stuns him.

5. A group of jellyfish is called a smack.

They drift on down the street, holding hands, arms round shoulders, swaying, staggering, trailing tentacles of tinsel and cheap perfume. Stranded, he watches them go.

Hilary Ayshford is a former science journalist and editor based in rural Kent in the UK. She writes mainly micro and flash fiction and short stories and has been nominated for Best Of The Net. She likes her music in a minor key and has a penchant for the darker side of human nature.


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