A Short Story: Weird Fish

I’m being swept along in a fast flowing river. When my head is above the river I feel afraid and I grab at things. If I stop struggling and let myself go with it, what happens? It feels better, less tiring than struggling. I can look around for rocks and try to avoid them using my hands. I can take deep breaths and put my head under to see what it’s like. When my head is below, in the river it’s easier to go around obstacles. I can swim. If only I could breathe under the river so I didn’t have to stick my head above so often.

There are big bubbles under the river. I swim over to one and stick my nose in it; there is air in there! I suck it in and slowly let it out until I see the next bubble. Now I notice there are different kinds of flows, like streams within the river; some are faster, some slower. I experiment by moving from one to another. The faster one is exhilarating and the slower one feels gentle.

Fish swim by me and look surprised by my presence; I wave at them and they scurry away. Then one stays close and watches me. It mirrors me. Soon we are laughing together, going fast, then slow, over and over again. The fish asks my name and tells me his is Simon. He’s never met one of whatever I am before and is really enjoying the experience. Me too.

Simon asks me to tea and we get into a really slow slipstream, eventually coming to a door in the riverbank. Simon says a word I cannot comprehend and the door opens. I wonder how I’ll fit through the small gap, but I do with ease. We swim through a corridor that feels like it’s going downwards. Suddenly, just when I’m afraid that I’m about to struggle to breathe, the corridor opens out into a beautiful cave, where the water is a see through bluey green, and I can see there is a ceiling to the water.

I swim up and stick my head out of the water to breathe, but I can’t. It’s such a struggle. What am I going to do? I’m dying. But Simon tugs on my tail. Wait… What?! I’ve got a tail? I drift down and my new friend says, “you’ve got gills! Breathe through them!” I put my attention on my neck and become aware of of flaps opening and water pouring through and I’m not choking! I’m breathing! It feels strange, like it’s thicker and slower than breathing air.

“What do I look like?” I ask Simon. He laughs and tells me, “you’re a deep purple colour, which fades to light blue at the tips of your frilly fins. I’ve never seen a fish like you.” “But I was human before!” “I don’t know what you were when I first saw you. You didn’t have fins or a tail and you had those weird spiky things that thrashed about but gradually you changed. It was surreal and wonderful!” I smile at him (I think) and then start. “But I can’t get out of the river. I can’t go back. And… what will I eat? I don’t eat animals!” I’d cross my arms if I had some. He laughs, “you can eat plankton or algae or whatever you feel like trying.” “Hmmm. Is there some here?” He swims to the edge of the pool and nibbles at the green stuff on the rock. I follow his example. “Oh! It’s delicious!” I laugh and tuck in. He giggles.

I’m suddenly aware of the water rippling behind me and I turn and gasp. It’s a big fish with similar markings to Simon. Simon says, “hello, Mum! I’ve brought a friend home for tea. This is– what’s your name?” he whispers to me. “Laura,” I say, with my mouth full and I hiccup. They both laugh. “Welcome, Laura,” says Simon’s Mum, “are you new to the area?” I nod and feel my whole body bob up and down. “Lovely place you’ve got here,” I say and she seems to beam – her scales go a lighter shade, rippling briefly and I feel surprised because I didn’t know fish could do that. “Thank you! You can come again!” We all laugh. And I will; I know I will.

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