He had trouble hopping in the currents. His usual flexible fins seemed stubby in the water. He splashed and swished, flexing and relaxing his long muscles. He got no where no matter the angle. Fins aching, he let himself sink into the darkness.
He saw a small fish shyly swimming by. He tried to remember the last time he had eaten. Four weeks? Maybe? He thought of all the ways he could attack that small fish right then. Maybe chase it from behind. Where was it going anyway? Why had it traveled away from the reef? It looked injured, similar to himself. He could spring out to it, it probably wouldn’t give much of a fight.
But what did it matter, anyway, he couldn't live off this. Small fish that occasionally wandered by. He wanted to mourn over his fins but his instinct was kicking in and his eye shifted to the fish. It would be a waste. He needed food. He shimmied slowly out of the darkness and leapt up to bite the fish. It gave little fight, as he predicted. The familiar but distant feel of blood swarmed him and surrounded his body as he glided through it.
After this exercise, he felt it right to sink back to the depths of his cave. Even after he ate his prey, strangely, something under his rib cage hurt. The pain accompanied the pain in his fins, each pulsing with the beat of his heart. It reminded him of the waves; rhythmically falling on one another.
His mind flashed back to that day. That day he dared swim to the coral. The city. He was so free then, he could still feel the water running in his gills and through his body. His family circling a school of fish.
He normally would avoid the dark shadows from the surface, but this day he was feeling curious. He’d always wondered what those were and his friends were curious, too.
So he swam cautiously, up and up. He got excited too because from the shapes and smells of it, there was prey near there. He broke surface some meters away, showing off his dorsal fins. I guess whatever the shadow was, was curious too, because they swam closer. He circled them for a while and then went under. Was it edible? It smelled edible. He swiftly swam by the underside of this brown fish. It wasn’t exactly soft like most fish, this was its shell then, he decided.
It seemed friendly enough until, coming from it, he saw, another shadow. This one had small attachment that smelled of dead fish. It swayed in the current as it sunk deeper and closer to him. His instinct told him to take it and run, so that’s what he did. Except this prey had a sting of something attached. He couldn’t shake it loose. The line pulled him closer and closer to the brown shadow. He tried to swim away. He swished his tail frantically to show the others to dash away. As he was dragged by his mouth faster now, he realized one thing, the shadows were not friendly.
They dumped him back into the sea when the sky was dark and the sea was quiet. He slowly sank to the bottom, unmoving.
When he awoke his family had moved on without him and so had the shadows. He tried to swim forward but all he seemed to do was get sand in his mouth. Where had his fins gone? He flipped around wildly with the help of only his top caudal fin. Where was he? He tried to look all around but could only see the shapes of coral around him.
The water was heavy and dense down here. He could barely breathe. He tried simple hops this time. He shimmied his way up the coral and rocks, scratching his underside. He had to live, he had to live. He found a sandy cave and passed out.
The next day was the same. Making his way higher and higher up the sany hills. Each night hiding from predators, shadows and other past friends.
Now he was here stuck on the outskirts of his city of coral, wistfully praying out to the water. Why had this happened to him. Who were those shadows? Why had he gone up to it? Why had he gone for their bait? Now, he was stuck here unable to swim or hunt. Now, instead of being the top predator, he was the lowest of prey.
***PS to whoever might unfortunately decide to read this, look up shark poaching for some real tear jerkers. See now, that hurts, don’t it?