Fish Tale

If you don’t follow me on Instagram, then you might not know that every month there are author challenges, with each day having it’s own prompt. To follow along, simply search for the hashtag #authorschallenge2019 in Instagram! The challenge for today is simply, “fish tale.” So, without further explanation, here’s my fish tale.

(Photo curtesy of the Unsplash App)

The wood of the arched bridge creaked beneath my sandaled feet, aching in the cold of winters tight-fisted hold. I knelt, too conscious of his gaze upon me as I did so, and nearly fell forward through the railing, kimono and all. What a laugh I must have been, not only to him but to the others traversing the gardens. Look, I imagined them saying, she can’t even kneel without a spectacle.

Such are the lies we tell ourselves. That people see, that people care to see or even notice us. Perhaps no one saw at all, or if they did, they thought nothing about the girl kneeling on the bridge, nearly falling into the frigid waters. Nothing except that it had happened and that they bore witness to it.

I felt so small I could hardly breathe, my lungs protesting to the tiny space left within me for air.

Before I fell into the gap, I fixed my hands on the wood, then lowered my chin to rest atop. The water below shimmered under my eye, despite the lack of sunlight. No, everything was gray, but for my shadow on the water, black as the space between the stars at night. It was only then, in the cover of my silhouette, that the koi gathered. Then it was their color that gave the pond life, breath.

“You know,” I ventured to tell him, “my grandmother says koi used to be as big as clouds in the sky–maybe bigger.”

“Hm, does she?” The only sign of his interest in my words came from the weight of his steps as he wandered to me.

I nodded. Dropping a piece of frayed wood into the water, the koi proceeded to fight over the imitation food. Something about their struggle made a great wave rise within me. To strive after something, only to spit it out upon tasting its bitterness. How could I have been so cruel?

“How’d they get so small, then?”

I didn’t believe the sincerity I heard in his voice, so I spun to gaze at him. But his eyes were fixed below, looking at the koi with a curious raised brow.

“Simple. Man made the skies heavy with their anger, and the fish fell to the earth like rain. Then, they stripped them of their magic, piece by piece, until the koi knew that to survive they had to succumb to the pride of man, grow small and be at peace with living in these small waters, and not swimming in the heavens above.”

He was quiet for a moment, as if contemplating deeply my story. Then, he laughed. “The pride of man, huh?” he said, eyes still fixed on the horde of fish jumping below.

Humorless, he added, “Are you mocking me, Karin?”

For the first time since entering the gardens, he met my eyes. I wondered if he saw then, what I had always seen. The push, the pull, the violent desire, the muted breath. How everything mattered, yet nothing could matter less.

I stood, the sakura print on my kimono scratching against the frayed wood, pulling loose the tight thread. Then, I smiled at him. “Do you like games, Ryo?” I asked, with genuine interest in his answer.

He merely stared at me in response.

“I think I’ve discovered the greatest game of all.”

Thanks for reading! As always, I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below! And follow me on Instagram for the other challenges!

-Rachael