Flashing Fishes

The ground became marshy. The man from the mountain realized that he couldn’t continue on the horse on this side of the river, he would have to cross to the other side. But how could he do that? The river was too rough, too fast, too wide, its black water flashing silver.

He saw a shimmer ahead, or was it something solid within the shifting haze? As he drew nearer he saw that it was a wooden bridge. He welcomed this stroke of good luck that would ease his passage. He had awoken, unknown and alone, upon the white mountain at the head of this valley, knowing nothing about why and where and how, only compelled to reach the dark mountain guarding the valley’s beginning.

The bridge however was in poor condition. It was a small suspension bridge with rusty cables and steel mesh bearing brittle wooden slats, a third of which were missing. He wanted to get across, and he wanted to keep the horse, so he decided to risk it. Seeing the scanty provision for traversing it, the horse pulled back from the water roaring beneath.

“Come on boy,” said the man from the mountain. “You can do it.” He edged the horse forward. “Come on boy, easy… careful.” The horse resisted at first, but eventually picked his way forward. His left rear leg broke through a slat, but he quickly compensated for this and continued to the other side. There was a patch of clover between the rushes, a reward for his diligence, which he tore at with eagerness.

Though the black water was flashing silver, there was also something else there, and the man looked deeply into its discord. An elliptical shape moved steadily upstream. It stopped and started, its path wavering but always progressing. The horse too noticed the shape, and came to the edge of the river.

A moment later something dazzled and burst out of the water. It came towards the horse, which reared back and snorted. The man from the mountain laughed. It was a coho salmon, sensing a threat, defending its liquid territory. It twisted, mid-air and splashed back into the water to continue its voyage home.

Which oceans had it crossed to get here, he wondered, and how much further would it go? He too was on a journey – from mountain to mountain – but where was he going? Was it home?

The man from the mountain came to an oxbow lake beside the river. It seemed a lost loop of life. Within it were pink-golden flashes with hints of orange and green, most probably trout. Their skins shone like soft rainbows. They were living gently, swimming in peace. They had an easier life than the salmon. But was theirs a better life?

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2 Responses to “Flashing Fishes”

  1. Beautifully done. A pleasure to read.

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