“I’m hungry, and there’s nothing to eat!” I had said. I was in the Huron River, under some tree branches hanging overhead. I was near the bridge. I was also surrounded by other hungry bluegills and bass.
“We’re all hungry, Grey! It’s not just you!” Hungerstrike said, exasperated. “At this time in August, it’s when our food starts to go down!” Hungerstrike was my friend. He had a look of hunger in his eyes. I would not be surprised if he started attacking someone. Every fish for himself.
“Ha, I wonder if our parents ever thought the same way as you…or me…” I said, letting my voice linger. Quick note: We did not know our parents, or most of our family. I don’t even know my own siblings! Once we’re born, we’re all on our own. I guess I’m lucky to not be a pike.
“Oh, I bet you five of my cyan scales that they were like you,” He said, swimming away to investigate an interesting shaped bug.
“Well…” There it was – a ripple! Under the bridge, a ripple started, all with a pink worm writhing around in the murky water. “Ha! I’ll beat you to it!” I swam swiftly over to the worm, with all of my body screaming ‘EAT’!
“Stop! STOP!” A small sized bass yelled to me from behind the worm, as I sped towards it. Everyone held back, as if they suddenly knew a terrible secret. “You don’t know if it’s a trick!”
“What?” I said, hesitating. Too late. I grabbed ahold of the worm in my mouth, and a sudden pain erupted in my left cheek. Now I knew why the others held back. This was like a test for my intelligence. Instead, I was now prey. The hook that impaled the worm and my cheek jerked upwards, and I flopped. “Hungerstrike, the Big Bass, anyone – HELP ME!” A saw a glimpse of the Big Bass, but then I was pulled above the waterline. I was now exposed to cold, crisp Autumn air.
I was certain that I’d die to the fisherman. I’ve heard that when an iridescent colored fish is caught, the fishermen always keep them as a trophy. And I was certainly a beauty. I was hauled up on to the bridge, with the bigger fisherman coming at me. I squirmed helplessly, but to no avail. The fisherman worked the hook out of my mouth, and the smaller fisherman held me gently. I was lucky that I didn’t swallow the hook. Lucky me. As the hook was worked out of my mouth, I went back to flopping. Now I was desperate to get back into the water, and fast! The smaller fisherman put me into a water filled container, and I was hefted somewhere. Days later, I entered an aquarium. And little did I know that I had just entered paradise, and the truth behind the kinder ones who valued the fish’s life…
And to this day, do I still miss the Huron River, even when I’m in my warm, luxurious aquarium.
The loud sound of a door closing suddenly resounded throughout the house. “Looks like she’s back,” Skyblue said, startling me from my dream. I glanced at her, only to see the crayfish retreat underneath her rock. “Looks like I’ll be in here for a while.” She disappeared. Typical Skyblue. She was still afraid of our person, even though she’s lived with us for quite a while.
But right now, I couldn’t believe that five hours had already passed! Looks like my dream was longer than I expected…or perhaps was I wrong, and it had been instead two hours?...Ah, who cares! Maybe it wasn’t my person. Maybe it was that person who just ignores all of us fish.
“Hey, Girly!” Oh, my person did come back. Yep, I’d recognize that voice anywhere. My person popped into the room, and came towards my aquarium. “Who wants a treat, Girl? Don’t you want a treat?!” I inched forward in the water, loving the turkey jerky that she sometimes gave to me as a treat. You know, she always talks to me like I’m a dog…Anyway, she put a piece of the jerky in my aquarium. I darted towards it, and swallowed the piece of meat up. Yum. I heard Skyblue scoff and mutter indignantly under her rock about my messy eating. My person just sat down heavily in the coach in front of the aquarium.
My person watched me eat, then picked up the net underneath my aquarium. I know what she’s going to say next. “Do you want a minnow? Huh, Girl?” My person said, enthusiastic about watching me eat a minnow.
I just bobbed up and down, looking at her intently. I love the taste of a live fish, writhing in my mouth. So delicious.
She took note, and went to the bluegill & minnow aquarium. I watched her, pleased with her decision to feed me. It was as if I was the king – that is, er…queen – of this room!
“You do know that you’re lucky,” Skyblue said, peaking slightly from under her rock. “I never get to eat those minnows. Actually, I do, but only rarely. So you are lucky to eat real fish meat.”
“Ah, yes. But I just wish that she gave me fish meat for frequently…” I know that I sounded ungrateful, but really… “If they caught me, one of the most powerful fish in the Huron River, then couldn’t they give me an infinite number of food?”
“Oh, Greyscale! Don’t you know that they were all bought from a store, like me?!”
“What?!” I exclaimed, confused at the moment. So they have a place where they…sell fish?
“There’s a store filled with animals, and I came from the aquatics section! The person has to buy your food for you! And where did you think I came from? Did you really think that a blue crayfish like me came from a brown-ish colored river, and can even survive there for even one whole minute?!” Skyblue softly yelled, exasperated at my ignorance.
“Um…” Now that made me re-evaluate what I was eating. It was confusing. But my confusion only lasted a few seconds before my person came back, and put a minnow in my aquarium. Abandoning all curiosity, I darted towards the minnow, and was about to gobble it up before the minnow recited a poem that made me hesitate.
You are free
And so are we
Await your summer
Otherwise that’s a bummer
You don’t have to cease
To fly over the seas
Think before you
And when I ask who
When I see a sunset of blue
You may see, not one but two
Ask me again, who was who
And what I say
Will come true
Then I ate the minnow. Don’t think I’m heartless! I was just hungry. Fortunately, the minnow didn’t put up a fight.
Anyway, something about that poem triggered a memory in the back of my mind, in which I couldn’t reach. Curse my short term memory! It also made me think about what my fate was at the end of this spring. Would I perhaps be eaten?...
“Aw, Girl! You beat the crayfish again! See you in a few!” My person said, going away to do who knows what. Then all of my suspicion mysteriously vanished.
“Hmph! And I thought that I was slow!” Skyblue crawled out from under her rock cautiously. “Now, what’s going on in your fishy brain? Haven’t you realized what your fate is destined to be already?”
“No, and at the moment, I don’t intend to find out.” I then shut Skyblue out of any attempted conversation, thinking about that minnow’s last words.
Later, when the room darkened, and my aquarium with it, I drifted in the current, staying still. I knew that my person would eventually come just once more time to bade me “goodnight” before she truly went to sleep. So I waited patiently in the dark.
Finally, she came, and started rambling. This is one of those rare times when she talks to me thoroughly, instead of the usual looks of curiosity she so often gives me. She gave me a vita-gummy, and started talking about something called ‘school’, and about a different number of things. I just watched.
“…Y’know, Girl?” She started up again after a slight pause. “I’m thinking of releasing you in the summer back in the Huron River in…y’know…August.”
That got my attention. My red eyes immediately adverted their gaze to see if she was telling the truth.
“You must miss your friends and family,” She said. Well, I couldn’t care less either way. “But before we release you, you must learn the call of the bell. When you’re out in the wild, when you hear a bell, then go to that bell. I will feed you in times of need.” Now did she really mean what I just think she meant?
She got up from the coach. “Good night, Girl. I hope that you understand my words.” She left and turned off the lights. I was now in complete darkness.
After a few moments, Skyblue decided to be annoying. “You need my help,” She said slowly, creeping out from under her rock again. “You don’t understand what’s going to happen.”
It kind of was true. It was all so much to process in once single afternoon. “So, do you know what’s happening, and about to happen?”
Skyblue sighed, and fully came from beneath her rock. “Yes. You are going to be freed. Our person will still feed you, though. Only if you answer to the bell. When you hear the bell ring, go to her.” Skyblue stalked away to a corner to feast upon an algae wafer that our person had recently left behind for her. Obviously, Skyblue’s talk meant that she was way smarter, and able to process stuff faster than I can. And I hated it when that happened.
“Oh…” I went to the other side of the aquarium looking at drifting debris. So that meant that minnow’s words…you are free…yes, I am free, but is it under free will?...Fly over the seas…can’t tell you what that meant, unless this gives me a flying leap to survival succession?...
“So I am freed to go back to my home river…” I said uncertainly to Skyblue.
“Yes, you are. At least, more than me.”
“Can’t you come with me? I can make her let you go with me!”
“I’d love to, but no, Greyscale. Only you can go. Blue crayfish like me are intruders to those kinds of rivers. You are free.”
“But why would you want to stay right in here for your whole life?”
Skyblue turned around, and advanced towards me. I tensed, then relaxed as Skyblue perched on her rock. She was annoyed. “Why, Greyscale! How many times do I have to say this for it to penetrate your fish brain! Don’t you value life?!” Skyblue turned her back at me, so now I was staring at her armored blue back. “I have to stay here. I cannot go out there. This aquarium is like a luxury to me. And besides, I won’t find a desirable mate out there! I have to await my perfect blue crayfish mate right here. Our person will get me one. She even said so herself! I must breed to ensure that our species will survive. Or I can crossbreed, which will be interesting. Anyway, the point is that I must stay here. You can go. I cannot. Understood?” Without another word, Skyblue went to the heater cord to brood in silence by herself.
Skyblue’s words got me thinking once again. You are free…that’s what the minnow had said earlier today…You are free…Skyblue also mentioned that…YOU ARE FREE…Yes, I am free! They promised me so! And when I get back, I’ll save my species by letting them eat all they can from my person! I will be a hero!
Thanks to Skyblue, everything is so clear! But I still wonder about some parts…but maybe I can ask Skyblue about that later.
And to this day – everyday – do I still think about those words. This is what my fate is destined to be. And I intend to keep that faithful fate ‘till the end.