Aquatic Auras

Why was he wearing full-on yellow storm gear? The sun was shining and the water rippled in light wind. It is a beautiful day, thought Sophie, it is unlikely that any tornadoes will hit Blackwater Lake today.

The man sat there, nodding. For a moment she froze. What if he was a real weirdo, a serial killer? She had seen a movie called “Banker of Souls”, where the killer wore storm gear to avoid blood splashing his pinstriped suit. She shook her head to dispel the image.

The yellow-coated figure turned towards her. Deep within the hood’s hollow was a crinkled face wearing pink lipstick and golden earrings. It was an old woman rather than a man. She said in a whisper, “How many fishes can you see?”

Sophie saw the woman was mending nets, huge ones of all colours, spread around her. The needle’s motion was causing her to nod. She probably wasn’t a serial killer.

“I can’t see any fish,” said Sophie. “The water’s too dark. Are there many in the lake?”

“Many in the lake! Many in the lake!” The woman was cackling. “Many in the lake! Yes, there are many in the lake. Take a closer look.”

Sophie walked around some blue and green nets to the water’s edge, and peered into the black water. Patches of froth floated on the surface. They must be fish bubbles, she thought. She shielded her eyes to cut the sky’s silver glare, and looked harder.

“Yes,” she said. “I can see a fish. I think it’s a carp. There’s another one too, and another. Three of them. It’s hard to see their colour through the water. Are they purple and silver?”

“Yes, they are.” The old woman kept mending and nodding, and said, “Keep looking.”

Sophie saw silver ripples running through dark water. Not on the surface, they were deep within, rolling and stretching as if with a life of their own. Moving silver within silver. Whole sections of the lake seemed to move, as if these ripples were borne by hidden currents.

The woman said, “Do you see them?”

“Yes, I do. Are there springs beneath the lake? Or flows of rivers passing through?”

“Neither of those. There are fishes within fishes within fishes. You can’t see them all, only their aquatic auras. That’s why I am fixing these nets up. They’re needed here.”

Sophie was bemused by this notion. “Can you catch aquatic auras?”

“Only if you know what you’re doing, and I do.” She continued mending and nodding, and said, “The food chain is always visible, who eats who. The little ones are contained in big ones, aquatic auras show that, and it’s the same for humans too. You can see it in people’s faces. Look at the millions gobbled up by cities every day. Their lives are bounded, frozen within arthritic auras, all grey. The only ones smiling are the big ones you don’t see.”

She looked towards the lake. “That whale in there is taking too much.” She got up and prepared to throw out her nets. “Time to haul him in.”

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