Featured Story, Week of February 10, 2019: "Fish Out Of Water"
Each week we feature a story written by one of our members in that weekend's meeting.
This week, we started with a random prompt generator, and applied it in three sessions of writing.
Session 1, 10 minutes: Write from the POV of someone being pursued.
Session 2, 10 minutes: Write from the POV of the pursuer.
Session 3, 10 minutes: Write the thrilling conclusion from either POV.
Fish Out Of Water
By Marcy Mahoney
Random prompt: Fish out of water/natural/farm
Benny was finning as fast as he could. He wasn’t the fastest climbing perch in the Outback, but he was resilient. He had six days to make it to the coast, and he was going to make it or die trying. Life at Aussie Jack’s Amazing Land Fish Farm and Emporium was no place for a fish, despite it’s name. And even though it meant leaving Elberta behind, he was done with captivity. This morning, when Aussie Jack opened the lid of the tank to feed them, and turned to grab the bucket, Benny made his move. With a mighty leap, he flung himself out onto the ground and shimmied around the back side. Aussie Jack was none the wiser. Benny had a good idea which way the ocean was, despite having been hatched here in Aussie Jack’s fishery. The ocean called to him, and he finned his way toward its siren song.
There were 400,000 climbing perch at Aussie Jack’s Amazing Land Fish Farm and Emporium, but Aussie Jack knew each of them. He had brought them into existence, after all. The ecological community called them an invasive species with derision, but that’s why Aussie Jack loved them. They were his children, and one day he and his children would own the very world.
Except that Benny was missing. He knew something was amiss when we went to do the morning feeding. Elberta looked forlorn, uninterested in breakfast. He had paired them to mate over a month ago, and they seemed to be getting on okay. But this morning, Benny was nowhere to be found. Aussie Jack dredged the bottom of the tank, finding nothing. Old Marty was floating near the top this morning but that was expected. Marty had lived far past the normal life expectancy of a climbing perch. His loss was sad, but also good news to Aussie Jack – the gene therapy he was applying seemed to be working, extending the lives of his children longer and longer. Immortality was only a matter of time.
Aussie Jack removed his cap and scratched his head. Where could Benny have gone?
It was then he noticed the trail in the dirt, with the little fin prints on either side, heading off to the west. Benny was on the run. And Aussie Jack was going to find him.
The Thrilling Conclusion:
Benny was glad he left after the evening feeding, as the cover of night helped him get a head start. But now it was midday, and he could feel himself baking as he finned his way across the outback. There were some tall, ominous clouds in the sky, but they only covered the sun in intervals. He needed shelter, and fast. Dragging himself behind a cluster of rocks, he stopped to catch his breath. He could do that. Climbing perch have lungs.
He had made good time, pushing himself through this first leg, but he was running out of steam. Looking behind him, he could see Aussie Jack’s Amazing Land Fish Farm and Emporium far on the horizon. He could also see, with horror, a wiggly trail in the dust, leading directly to him. There was no way for him to cover his tracks. And partway down that trail, shimmering in the afternoon heat, was the shape of a man.
I won’t go back, Benny thought. I can’t live as his captive any longer. It’s the ocean, or death. He hauled himself back out into the trail as a peal of thunder cracked through the sky above him. It rumbled the ground below him, spurring him on with renewed vigor.
“BENNY!” Aussie Jack’s voice called from the distance, with the same intensity of the thunder. “Benny! Come home! Elberta needs you!! I need you!! Benny!!”
Benny pushed on. The thunder rumbled again, and a tower of a cloud covered the sun. Benny’s fins were so tired. He was so tired. Couldn’t he just stop for a moment?
Aussie Jack was running now, closing the distance. Benny gritted his gums and pulled himself forward. He would not go back.
He could hear Aussie Jack’s footsteps approaching, and tears sprung to his eyeballs. It can’t end like this, Benny thought. I want to be free!
And then the skies opened up.
The rain cooled him, rolling down his gills along with his tears. Aussie Jack’s footsteps were nearly on him, and he could hear them squishing in the dampening ground. He was so close.
“I’ve got you, Benny. Don’t worry. I’ll take you home.”
The ground rumbled as Benny pulled himself into a trench. And a second later, the flood came. Benny tumbled along in the current – his fins not resisting. He was cooled, refreshed, and being swept toward the ocean.
He was free.