The small fish boldly darts through the dark, cold water. His heart is beating fast with excitement. Thus far, the silver-scaled fish has had an easy life. He has spent much of his time exploring the ocean with other fish who look just like him. He has managed to steer clear from menacing, jagged-toothed predators of the deep. “Never go out on your own,” he has been warned many times, and he has always taken heed.
But today, he takes a risk – he ventures away from the pack. How dangerous can it really be? It feels good to be on his own. He twirls past little blue fish as he follows a slither of seaweed. He quickens his pace when he spots bigger fish. And then, out of the corner of his eye, he sees a long, curled worm. As if by magic, the little creature hangs above him, unattended. Yum. Like a bullet he pumps his fins towards his meal, but comes to a halt. The worm is just…suspended in the water. Something isn’t right here, thinks the innocent fish. But it looks so delicious. He gets closer, and takes a bite.
He lets the taste engulf him. His happiness is brief, for it is replaced by a piercing pain that shoots through his entire mouth. The water around him turns red. He feels a tug at whatever has stabbed his mouth, and he is pulled upward. The water around him becomes lighter and warmer as he is pulled up towards the surface. He struggles in desperation, but he cannot come undone from what tethers him. The pain is intolerable; the fear is astounding. All of his breath leaves him as his body meets the blue, warm air.
The man on the boat reels in his catch, and moans with disappointment. Ugh. It is a tiny fish, desperately wriggling back and forth. “All that waiting for nothing,” he mutters. He balances the rod between his knees, and with his thick index finger he follows the fishing line until he reaches the fish. With ease, he pulls out the hook which had embedded itself in the corner of the fish’s mouth. He squeezes the scaly, bloody body and stills it. Silly fish. I could kill it with a single squeeze. He can feel the gills contracting in the fight to breathe. He watches it struggle for a moment longer before flinging it back into the water.
The small fish is alive, but badly injured. In anguish and sadness, he lets his body sink to the ocean floor. He hides amid some rocks, his body weak, his heart pounding. How foolish of me, he cries. The open hole in his skin hurts, but his pride hurts even more. He feels so alone as he snuggles and loses himself for a few hours in his pain.
With time the wound on his small body turns into a scar, but the fish isn’t quite the same ever again. There is a hurt on the inside of him he can never quite place or shake. It feels like he can never catch his breath, even though he’s breathing just fine. It’s like he’s always swimming against the current. He is scared, hurt, and disillusioned. The world isn’t what he thought it was.
“It’s just another thing to get through,” says his best friend fish as they swim home together after a few hours of reef exploration while sharing their troubles. His friend promises him things will get better.
“Yeah, I know,” lies the little, tired fish. He breathes deeply, and tries to fill his gills with hope. But he’s not sure if he’ll ever heal.