One day, on a lovely, clear morning, we emerged from the water to hear above our heads:
“Watch ouuut! Move away!”
I looked at Atli and – bang! A strangely feathered bird with wings longer than birds usually have struck her.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It wasn’t on purpose,” the bird apologised, flapping his wings clumsily as he tried to take off.
He looked desperate. He used Atli’s back to start to run, but his feet slipped, sliding him into the water.
“You’re the Albatross, aren’t you?” Margot went over to him. “I know you. The Turtle told me about you. You’re very strong and resilient. But...” she looked at the breathless bird. “You look different ... Maybe I’m wrong, though the description fits ... Hm ... Hm ...” Margot was thinking and carefully examining him.
“I am the Albatross,” he said confidently. “My name is Chart.”
“Nice to meet you, Chart,” I nodded to him. “This small fish is Margot. I’m Lupin and your landing and take-off runway is Atli.”
“Don’t be angry, please,” Chart was nervous. “I was learning how to fly above the island when a strong wind carried me over the sea. Uncle Bin will surely be mad at me.”
“You live on the island?” Margot asked. “Are there any upright creatures there?”
“Yes. I’m part of a colony. What are upright creatures?”
“Those creatures that walk on two feet. They have no wings or fins and they act very strangely.”
“I don’t know them. We are the only ones on the island. I’d like to show it to you, but I don’t know how to get there.”
“We can carry you,” Atli offered. “You must be exhausted.”
“Would you do that?”
“Of course, hop on.”
“We’ll find the island. It must be close,” I comforted him.
And it really was. We swished our fins a few times and Chart called out: “There! There it is!”
It was a very short island, more like a rock or a cliff, with powerful waves constantly breaking against it.
As we got closer, a few birds bigger than Chart saw us as they flew over the island.
One of them swiftly descended.
“Oh no, that’s Uncle Bin,” Chart was hesitant. “He’s going to be mad at me!”
“Chart! Chart!” the approaching bird called. “Where’ve you been, you crazy lad?”
“I’m sorry, Uncle. It was the wind.”
“The wind? I’ll teach you a lesson!” the Albatross elegantly landed on the water.
“No, really. I was learning to fly when suddenly whoosh! Whoosh! ... And I was gone.”
“Whoosh! you say?”
“Yes, the wind did whoosh and carry me away. But, fortunately, this nice Blue Whale couple and their friend Margot found me.”
Atli and I burst out laughing.
“We’re not married, no, no ...”
“But maybe one day?” I remarked.
“Maybe,” Atli said and gave me a strange look.
“Thank you,” the Albatross interrupted us. “My name is Bin. I’m Chart’s uncle.”
“Nice to meet you. This is Atli and I’m Lupin.”
“The pleasure is all mine. I’m much obliged. Chart is a good lad and the only family member I have. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
“Really? Where are his parents?” Margot asked.
Bin glanced at us.
“Chart, do you want to go and rest in the net, my boy? I’ve left some food there for you,” he suggested to his nephew.
“Ok, Uncle. I’ll try,” Chart started to flap his wings.
“Flap more! More!” his uncle encouraged him.
“One, two, one, two.”
Chart wailed a bit, but then took off. He flew above the waves and landed on the island among a group of Albatrosses.
Bin watched him all the time. “He’s a good lad, skilful. One day, he’ll be a great flyer.” Then he turned to us.
“You know, my friends, things look bad for our colony. We must cherish every member and help each other. Chart is one of our few young ones to have survived.
“We don’t know why. We hunt on the sea and carry them food. But three of our young ones ...” he paused, looking towards the island.
“It looked as if they’d eaten something bad ... They tried to throw it up. But in vain. The kids started to suffocate and ... suddenly fell to the ground.
“Their parents cried for them the whole night. Just like the rest of the colony. As I said, we stick together. But it’s not only the young ones who fall to the ground. My sister, Chart’s mom, died the same way. He was very young back then, but he remembers everything.”
“That’s terrible!” Atli sighed.
“Mr Bin, maybe we know why your loved ones suffocated,” Margot said. But Bin was looking towards the island, ignoring her words. He continued.
“Not long ago, his dad, my brother-in-law, and I set out hunting. There was not a single fish and so we headed far out to sea. We are used to flying great distances to feed our young, so it was nothing new for us.
“My brother-in-law flew down and shouted to me that he’d seen something. He was fast and I was behind. He cut through the water and I suddenly knew that something had happened. I mean something bad.
“I slowed down and landed next to him. His body was jerking. He flapped his wings, swirling up the water.
“The more he jerked, the more entangled he got in a piece of net that was floating on the water.
“Suddenly, there was silence. His once powerful wings were broken from fighting the inanimate object. His head and body were wrapped in the net.
“And just as for my sister and all the other young ones, I couldn’t do a thing.”
Bin paused for a long while.
We heard only the rumble of the waves breaking against the cliff.
I realised that I was not the only one by far who’d lost his parents and loved ones so soon.
“Such helplessness ... You can’t even imagine.”
“Yes, we can, Bin,” Atli said. “We, too, have been through things.”
“Really.” I nodded.
“Mr Bin, Mr Bin,” Margot pestered. “I’ll tell you something, may I? Maybe this information will help you in the future.”
“Alright. I’ll gladly listen, Margot.”
“Your young ones from the colony and Chart’s mom probably swallowed trash from the bipeds. Medard the Eagle told us about it. They want to kill us off.”
“Medard, you say? I know him. He’s a good bird.”
“Yes, Medard. He knows it, because he saw it. The upright creatures, they throw trash into the sea. And we eat it. You eat it, too. At first sight, you may think what a good lunch has crossed your way, but no! It’s deadly trash that will eventually kill us all.”
“All of us? Trash?” Bin was shocked.
“Yes, Uncle Bin. You must be careful.”
“But ... The nearest upright creatures are far away from us. How could they?”
“Easily,” I entered the conversation. “Just like the ocean currents bring you fish, this trash gets to you in the same way. Don’t forget, Bin. The ocean has no boundaries.”
“Hm, that’s right ... To kill us with trash, you say? And what can we do to protect ourselves?”
“Nothing, I’m afraid,” I said in despair.
“Our lives entirely depend on those on the shore.”
“Margot’s right. We can do nothing but hope.”
“One would think that we’re safe on our remote island,” Bin thought. “But we’re not.”
“Just like us in the vast, deep ocean, Bin. It seems that everything is connected,” Atli said.
“One small world, as my dad used to say,” I was thinking aloud.
“When Chart’s dad was dying before my eyes, I promised him to take care of his boy.”
“And so you do, Bin,” I confirmed.
“With what I now know ... How can I keep that promise?”
“Do what you must and do it in the best way you can,” Atli winked at him. “This is what my mom used to say. It’s pointless worrying about something you can’t change.”
Accompanied by several Albatrosses, including young Chart and his Uncle Bin, we left that wild, isolated place.
Our mood had changed. We remained silent for an unusually long time, each of us immersed in our own thoughts.
It took three sunrises before Atli broke the silence.
“How can those on the shore be so blind and cruel?” she suddenly exclaimed.
“Wait! I thought it was pointless to worry about something we can’t change. Did you not say that to Uncle Bin?”
“Yeah, I did, Lupin. But I’ve been thinking a lot in the past few days. Just thinking about what’s going on. The extinction of Tunas, the ocean polluted with poison ...
“We see one misfortune after another on our journey. We should preserve our species. It’s our duty to procreate, but how can we bring our young into such waters?” Atli was almost crying.
I recalled my dad, how he used to say that women are difficult and we must be patient with them. But Atli was right about this. Were we really heading for doom? I didn’t want to believe it.
“It’s true what you say, Atli, but ...“
“Listen, I’ll tell you something,” Margot interrupted me. “It’s a law that every resident of Coral City strictly obeyed. Because if they didn’t, the world would have gone mad. I remember it very well, my weepy friends. It goes like this:
You poor creature covered in flesh, instead of worrying about being eaten by someone in the future, you’d better smile and enjoy every healthy swish of your fin.
What will be, will be. With or without you.
So, let’s swim!”
There was a short silence and then Atli and I burst into such loud laughter that even the Albatrosses on the island must have heard it.
“I like that!” Atli was cheerful.
“You’re on the ball, little fish, I tell you,” I said affably and poked her.
“As I said, it’s the Law of Coral City. I only remember it, that’s all.”
“But still, you’re a smart fish, dear Margot.”
“Don’t flatter her so much, Lupin, or she’ll blow up and burst,” Atli laughed. “Let’s swim!”
“I agree,” I nodded.
“Let’s swim then!” Margot exclaimed and happily darted down into the deep.