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new internationalist
issue 227 - January 1992

The dreams of Fishkind
Desire and ambition. A fish-eyed view from Kit Garbett.

[image, unknown] He was very smart, for a fish. Not as smart as the dolphin, or even the octopus. He certainly couldn't construct cities where fish work, or towns where fish sleep, or cars for fish to rush between towns and cities, or mortgages, or riots, or jobs. Not that smart; but for a fish he was smart.

He lived in the middle of the ocean, mid-way between the surface and the floor, a middle-of-the-road fish. If the fictitious pollsters were to ask his politics he would say centre right ... with left leanings, very much a wet. A floating voter.

He saw neither surface nor ocean bed. Philosophically he sometimes wondered if there was an ocean surface; if so what lay beyond that surface? Then the terror of infinity gripped him, and he would think about something else, fearing for his sanity. The surface hovered on the border of existence, a speculation, not even a concept. The sun, the sky, the clouds, and whatever lies beyond, did not exist at all.

He had never seen land. He saw nothing that was not sea, or of the sea. In shadowy depths, in the sea, there are no landmarks, no fixed points, no left, right, up or down. Things swam unexpectedly into view. Equally unexpectedly the lucky ones swam out.

There was a simple rule. Eat small things, flee big things. It made life easy. Things appeared and disappeared. Eat or flee. No need for jobs, riots, cars and estate agents. It took little thought and gave time for philosophy.

It also gave freedom to travel, in all dimensions, as far as he wished in any direction. An ocean universe with no boundaries or restrictions. A limitless, yet limited world.

He knew spawning time, turbulent water, the earth's magnetic field, the electrical impulses of living creatures and the true Being of fishness. He knew this, without qualifications, computers, paper, writers or publishers. He was a very smart fish.

Then something different entered his world. It stretched across his world. It stayed there. This had never happened before. He pondered this. Because it was still there, he wondered if it had always been there, or always would be there. A dim glimmering of time entered his fishy mind.

He swam away until it was out of sight. He turned a half circle without navigation aids, charts, plans, committee decisions, or prior approval - and swam back. The thing reappeared. He tried this repeatedly, in different directions. Each time the thing reappeared.

He grew excited. If it was always there he could calculate how long it took to swim away and back to it. This could be useful. He could work at this 'how long things took'; it held promise for him and for Fishkind.

He could swim away from and back to it, given the right direction. This he thought was getting somewhere. He had a direction in life. Somewhere to go to and from and he could tell how long he had been away. He paused to digest this and gobbled a shrimp, which also needed digesting.

The thing gave him much to think about and had opened up so much of life. Could there be more of it? That was a revelation, that there could be more than swimming aimlessly and philosophizing.

He followed the thing down. It was a line he had to follow.

It stopped. It was finite. Where it stopped it changed form. There was something hard, and shiny, that caught the faint light. The thing gleamed in the darkness. Now it held wonder. It had opened his mind to new horizons and it reflected the light, giving illumination. This thing (he would name it later) held great potential.

On the hard shiny part there was a worm. A tasty-looking worm. Such a worm that a fish met only once. A worm that no fish could ignore. The most magnificent of all the thing's gifts. This was what Fishkind wanted. This thing could offer so much. Mental stimulation, entertainment, aesthetic pleasure, and above all material satisfaction and free worms for all. All Fishkind's dreams which hadn't previously existed - could be satisfied if it possessed the secret of the thing. And the thing was his to take. Only seize the moment, and grasp what had come into his life.

Strong, smart, fish lips closed around the worm. In seizing his Grail, he was transported. The power of the thing uplifted. Power such that even when he let go it still supported him. He rose through the water, rose till he thought his heart would burst.

He broke through. His watery world fell away. He was bathed in dazzling light. Light so intense that his eyes could scarcely stand it. He gasped in awe at the light. The light revealed many colours, splendid unimaginable colours. He gasped in amazement at the colours. Below him stretched the ocean, above him stretched the blue of a greater ocean. Instantly he realized the smallness of his world. He gasped in wonder at the immensity of the world.

Breathless he swung twixt Earth and Heaven and gasped at the revelation.

He gasped again.

Then he gasped no more.

The fisher was pleasured with his catch. He had enough fish to feed his family. Now he took more to sell at the market. With money maybe he could someday buy a television, or car, or one of the other bright shiny things that the Western tourists had.

These things could offer so much. Mental stimulation, entertainment, aesthetic pleasure and, above all, material satisfaction. All his dreams could be satisfied if he only could possess these things. And the things could be his to take. Only seize the moment, and grasp what had come into his life.

The hook was baited again.

Kit Garbett is a short story writer who lives in the north of England.

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New Internationalist issue 227 magazine cover This article is from the January 1992 issue of New Internationalist.
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