Many full moons had passed since our meeting with the Dolphins and Sperm Whales. We kept swimming, imagining Coral City.
The water was slowly getting warmer.
“And that’s a good sign,” Margot remarked.
One day, we met “Wanderer”, as we later called him.
“Hello, friends. Greetings!” he called. “Where do you come from?”
“From a great distance, Mr Shark,” Margot replied.
“He’s a Whale Shark. The largest fish in the ocean,” she whispered, overwhelmed.
“My name is Linhin, but you can call me Lin.”
“Pleased to meet the King of all fish, Mr Linhin,” Margot said, making a low bow before him.
“Yes, Lin, nice to meet you,” I shielded Margot. “This beauty is Atli and I am Lupin.”
We met Lin the Shark, who offered to guide us safely through the local waters.
Margot addressed him like a King. She snapped at me when I asked him to tell us something about himself the next day.
“I’m just an ordinary wanderer who sometimes guides different creatures.”
“Did you know that millions of Sharks end up in nets?” he asked in a very neutral voice on the third day. “Millions ... that’s a number invented by a so-called highly intelligent bird. I don’t exactly know what it means, but I’ve heard it’s really a lot.”
“I’ve met a few Turtles. They travelled to the shore to lay eggs there. I’ve never seen any of them again,” he said on the fifth day.
“I think they caught them and ate them. You know, those above the surface,” he added the next day.
The currents flowed and moved constantly, just like us. We slowly became closer to Lin. And one evening, when the storm had ceased, the King of Fish opened himself up to us completely.
“I’d like to tell you something,” he said.
“I’ve never talked about it to anyone.”
We pricked up our ears, swam closer and waited.
“When I was young, I met a certain female Shark. Her name was Nessie. At first, we would play together, hide from our parents and get up to other mischief.
“As time went by, we fell crazily in love with each other. That is, we became a whole.”
Like Atli and I, I thought. She seemed to think the same, because she smiled at me.
“We found a nice rock in warm waters and it became our home. All we needed for perfect happiness was a baby. A small Shark called Pen. ‘We can use the name for either a girl or a boy,’ Nessie kept saying and always laughed about it. She was just very excited.
“We prepared our rock for another family member. She was about to give birth at any moment. Nessie and I both felt it.
But then ...” Lin closed his eyes.
“Then,” he said in a faint voice.
“I ... I’m sorry. It’s just ... the memory of it ...” Lin was crying. “She left the rock for a minute. To warm herself up on the surface. ‘It’s closest to the sun,’ she called. I decided to adjust the rock and then to join her.
“When suddenly a shadow covered the surface ...” Lin paused.
“I heard a scream ... I swam as quickly as I could. The only thing I saw was my dear Nessie’s fin, as it was disappearing following the dark spot, leaving foamy water behind ... They caught her with little Pen inside her,” Lin was sobbing. “He was to be born at any moment. And he was to live with us at the rock. And we planned to have one more baby, a girl called Penny. But it will never happen now ...”
No words could express such a terrible thing. I didn’t know whether to feel anger or despair.
I cried. We all cried.
I looked at Atli. Her eyes were lowered, as if something kept her from returning my look.
“Please excuse me,” she suddenly said and swam into the deep.
“Atli?” I called her.
“I want to be alone,” she said in a sobbing voice, not looking back.
The night was endless. Nobody slept.
Atli came back with the first rays of the sun. I didn’t need any explanation this time. We Blue Whales are like that. We need to be alone sometimes.
Lin accompanied us closer to the shore.
“I’ll not swim with you any further,” he said. “Swim straight on and you’ll arrive at Coral City. But be careful. There are more ships and less food. Especially here.”
“Before you leave us, Lin, I’d like to ask you a question.”
“If I know the answer, Atli, I’ll be happy to help.”
“You lost the most precious thing that one could have ... How do you carry on? How can you go on living?”
“Good question, my dear. You know, everyone can give up. It’s the easiest thing. But a strong fish will prevail.
“It’d be easy to swim into their nets and leave the ocean broken-hearted. But I don’t want that. It would mean that they have won.
“I’ll fight. I’ll warn everyone I meet, and I’ll do anything to guide them through these waters. It took me a while, but now I know them, those above the surface. They still hunt the same way in the same places.
“It’s only a pity that I didn’t know it sooner ...”
“You wouldn’t be showing us around now. And who knows, maybe a few others would have died meanwhile, because they wouldn’t have known these waters and the outer traps,” I said. “You’ve become a key link for many animate beings to survive, including us. We’re much obliged to you, Lin! Your deeds are as pure and noble as your soul. It will surely stay with you for a long time,” I smiled at the rightful King of all Fish.
Margot covered him with respectful kisses.
Atli looked up at Lin and he nodded at her. Then they both turned to me and Atli immediately lowered her head. She was acting strangely.
“Thank you for everything, Lin,” we waved our fins. “We’ll never forget you.”
“Take care, friends. And I hope you’ll find Coral City soon.”