We swam away from the shore. I was thinking about Medard’s words.
Could he be right? Were they really trying to kill us off?
“Medard is a clever bird,” Margot suddenly said, as if reading my mind.
“I know many less intelligent individuals – although good-natured, that’s true – but Medard is top-notch. He’s like the wise Turtle from Turtle Rock. Only he acquires his wisdom soaring in the skies. I met him thanks to my teacher, the Turtle. We were...”
“So it’s true?” I interrupted her. “Are you saying that even we have trash inside us?”
“We eat krill so how could we?” Atli said, trying to look self-assured, but her voice was doubtful.
“I’m just saying that Medard is reliable. He knows a lot.”
“But it would mean ...” I was thinking.
“No! I don’t believe it!” Atli was indignant. “How could someone destroy something so beautiful? Why? Why would they do it? It’s not even possible. It’s impossible.” Then she paused, as if recalling the death of her family members. She looked at Margot, whose sad eyes were desperate.
“If it’s really true what the bird says,” Atli said in a low voice and paused. She looked at me, searching for some hope. But I couldn’t oblige her.
“Then ... You must excuse me, my friends ...” she slowly turned around, swished her fin and disappeared into the deep.
“Atli?” I called her.
But she didn’t turn back.
I was about to follow her, when Margot emerged in front of my eyes.
“She wants to be alone, Lupin. Let her be. She’ll come back.”
“But what if ...“
“No! She needs to be alone. I’d think that you, as the same species as her, would understand.”
The little fish was right. I also liked being alone sometimes. And Dad used to say that women are strange in certain ways and we should not always try to understand them.
Margot and I remained alone.
“How did it actually happen, Margot, that a tiny fish like you, lives alone in such a big ocean?” I asked my friend.
“First of all, Lupin, I’m not as tiny as you think. Compared to you, every creature is like a shell next to a massive reef.”
I smiled at her good comparison.
“And secondly, I’m not alone. I’m with you,” she winked at me.
“Yes, I know, but ...“
“I understand your question, don’t worry,” she stopped me and smiled cutely.
“You’d surely like to hear my story, before I met you.”
“Well, I’ve never known my parents ... It’s ok, Lupin. It’s normal for my kind,” she said when seeing my surprise.
“You know, hundreds of my siblings and I were laid as eggs by our mom. Just when we hatched, the current took us to different parts of the ocean. Well, I don’t remember that, of course, but other fish told me.
“I ended up at a beautiful place that the neighbours called Coral City. I immediately joined a small group of fish and they taught me what life is all about.
“Initially, it was a struggle, you know. I was just a small, weak fish in Coral City, where danger lurks around every corner and in every dark hole. More experienced friends helped me a lot, but they also soon met their fate. That’s how it works. We collect, hunt and are hunted. Nothing new ... I liked it in a way. You swim and swim and never know where it may come from. With this feeling, I enjoyed the ever-present beauty very intensely.
“Oh, Coral City ... Imagine the brightest colours you can, Lupin. As they’re shining and contrasting next to each other on huge corals of various shapes and sizes. There are countless shoals of fish swimming around. And in the crevices and deep and dark holes, there are creatures so strange and unique that, if they hadn’t wanted to eat me, I could have watched them forever.
“I was growing up and getting stronger, just like all the predators, so nothing really changed. It was still a struggle for life. But life was good. I made friends with everyone. Even with those higher up in the food chain than me. Those were the best chats, because they’d already survived many things. Well, I had to talk to them out of their lunch times, otherwise our conversation would have soon ended.” Margot burst into a loud laugh.
“For example, Helga the Moray, she was a good woman. A bit serious, but always cheerful.
“Or Ronald the Crab. He would escape from Brita the Octopus every day. I always laughed when Ronald rushed down to the bottom, with Brita floating above him.
“Yahoo! What a show it was, you wouldn’t believe it, Lupin!”
“A game of tag, it must have been fun,” I smiled.
“You bet. Well, it was, until Brita caught him and ate him one day ... He just cracked ... and the show was over.”
“Oh, ah!” I paused.
“Yeah, but that’s life. Ronald saw it coming. He told me. Once he came up to me and said ‘I really wonder, Margot, how long I will manage to escape her. Brita gets faster and smarter every day. I think she’ll catch me tomorrow’. And he kept saying that, until she really did.”
“That’s strange ... But I like Ronald the Crab. And why did you leave Coral City, Margot?”
Meanwhile, the water had become darker.
“Good question. I’d never thought about leaving the ocean paradise. Sharks sometimes told me about the world outside. How dangerous and evil it is. Tunas also mentioned it. I always thought to myself that I had no reason to travel. I knew every coral and every creature in the City. And they all knew me.
“But then, on a grey morning, when a strong current was flowing through the City, I heard my inner voice. ‘It’s time, Margot!’ it said. I didn’t know exactly where it came from, but one thing was for sure. Some invisible power was dragging me away, far beyond the City borders. To the place where I had once rested in my egg and where our parents had taken care of us.”
“Wow! What was it like? Did you meet your siblings? And your mom and dad?”
“Er, you know, I got lost.”
“Well, I messed it up a bit. And then a current came, and I escaped from the nets and was completely confused.”
“So you never saw your home?”
“My home is Coral City. But yes, actually no. I never arrived at the place where I was hatched.”
“And what about the inner voice?”
“You know, I was desperate, exhausted, confused and resigned to serving as a tasty snack for the first predator. But no such predator arrived. Perhaps I’m not good enough,” she laughed.
“Instead of ending up in somebody’s mouth, I found myself under the protective shell of the wise Turtle. She took care of me, helped me and taught me many things. And then I met your dad ... And you and Atli ...”
“My dad ...” I got sad.
“Luupiiiin! Margoot! Luu-pii-n!” a familiar voice called, and a huge body emerged from the dark.
“Lupin, Margot, swim with me at once,” Atli urged. “You must see this!”
We were a bit surprised but followed her without question.
It was dark all around us. Not even the moonlight penetrated the water.
“Slow down now! We’re almost there,” Atli almost stopped.
“What are we supposed to see, Atli?” I asked her cautiously.
“Just wait and see.”
But there was still only the darkness and silence.
“We shouldn’t have let her go alone, Lupin,” Margot whispered. “She’s gone mad.”
Just as she said that, there was a swish, followed by a blue glare. And then again. And again. Blue flashes illuminated the hundreds of resilient bodies that were swiftly swimming around us.
“They are ... Mantas,” Margot was amazed.
I watched the luminous performance in awe. Mantas waved their fins with the same lightness of birds in flight. Yet, with their mouths wide open, they were feasting on desperate plankton that were creating the shining blue light.
A swish. An elegant spin. A flash and another one right next to it.
Fizz! Swing! Swoosh!
They were frolicking around us. At one point, the sea was completely lit up and I noticed that Atli was looking happy.
Just as quickly as it had started, it also stopped. The Mantas had filled their bellies and disappeared.
There was silence again and our faces disappeared into the darkness.
“I don’t believe it,” Atli whispered. “I don’t believe the end is near. There’s so much beauty in the oceans. It can’t just die out. No! No! The Eagle can say what he likes. We’ll live. Fish will live. The ocean will live.”
And so as I was falling asleep that night, I thought that maybe everything was not quite so bad for us ...