Kids these days. They don’t remember the troubling times of the lawless, anarchic 2000s where anything went. Y2K embedded a youthful nonchalance in newly-wed couples to give their children anything plastic into which they could sink their teeth. Asbestos was out, but microplastics were IN. Late-night TV ads offered a treasure trove of mysteriously sourced toys to build your parents’ credit card debt. Who could forget sea monkeys? Crustacean cultivation provided children with an easy way to massacre millions of shrimp from the safety of their bathtub, for only $19.99 (shipping and tax not included).
At such a low price, I could grow millions upon millions of tiny, floaty things that would do nearly nothing. But whimsical fantasy pushed on. I watched them flit around as translucent little ghosts. They had enough fish food powder stuff to live fruitfully and multiply. Yet as time passed, their Genesis quickly turned sour. I grew distant, occupied with Yu-gi-oh, LEGOs, and discussing world politics with my friends at recess. The sea monkeys felt dejected, abandoned by their god. You would too if the fish food powder stuff that sustained you suddenly stopped flowing from the sky (do sea monkeys know the concept of the sky since they swim? This Is Water).
Five-year-old me spent sleepless nights hearing the sea monkeys hiss(?) chirp(?) squeak(?) for liberty in my bathtub. My divine blessings to them went unappreciated. It was supposed to be no tears shampoo, how would I know it was toxic? A laissez-faire economy would do a society of brine shrimp no good. And as night terrors of the French Revolution and Mary Antoinette began to grow beneath my bed, I realized my reign as sea monkey monarch must end. So like any benevolent dictator, I decided to liberate my sea monkey minions in the only way I knew how: swallowing them by the gallon. Like the Greek god Kronos and his divine children, I inhaled my offspring so that they might never call my reign into question.
Like swallowing gum or watermelon seeds, I expected intestinal terror to be nothing more than a myth. As my tummy aches continued for years, I chalked them up to poor diet and growing pains. But really, the sea monkeys were evolving. They survived the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, even undergoing their equivalent of the Black Plague until they were finally saved by that one Flinstone gummy I consumed. What they once deemed their gracious god in the Medieval era was cast aside in favor of the Renaissance. The sea monkeys wanted freedom. 16 years later, in the quietest of nights, I now can hear the faintest whispers of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.”
There is no happy ending to this story. I know the brine shrimp will win. I coughed up a message this morning. On a small scrap of Snickers wrapper, it said “The tree of liberty only grows when watered by the blood of tyrants.” They will soon be marching to the palace gates and I’m all out of mouthwash.