Fishosophy by Daniel Mishan
It was my first day at the Coral Institute of Higher Learning. I was with the big whales now. Well, not really. There were blowfish, manta-rays, clownfish, swordfish, tunas, goliaths, seahorses, and perch. All of them were different. I’m not sure if they could fit a whale. Most whales were too spiritually entangled to care. All I do recollect is that in that institution of Higher Learning, all of them got along.
I remember when the professor walked in. He was long and thin, and his curly white hairs served him no courtesy in his looks. Under his fin, he carried a coral that he would scribble things on after lectures. He believed in experiments, unlike his teacher, Planto. He fought the idea of an ideal world, and that the mind alone can give the answer.
“Good morning, Academics,” he would start. He would float to the top of the chalkboard and write an idea to inspire some discussion. Some days, it would be one word like “Chalk.” Another day, he would draw us a picture. Every single lesson was an exploration of the self, and the concept of being mindful of your surroundings.
“What is mindful?” he would ask the students, for we had to define every term we used. Definitions and specifics were important in our discussions, for without specifics, we could be talking about two completely different subjects.
Over the course of my first year I would stay after classes and sit until the lights were dimmed and the janitors came out. I had no interest for a personal life; I was happily married to education.
Dinners were accompanied by books or worksheets. My private life consisted of nothing but studying; the betterment of the self. I took up writing for one sole reason: expression. Without my expression, I wouldn’t possibly make as big of a change as I had hoped I would.
In my second year of learning, our professor took us on a scenic route of the Coral gardens. I recall the bright assortment of coral trees, some were tall and menacing, others newborn; the kelp forests that bordered the institute, a place where no fish returned, and the ore-littered streets. Broad, open fields of sand framed our tiny city; the deserts were graveyards for our ancestors. When old fish caved mentally or physically, they would be led to the field to die. A harsh reality.
We moved through the empty fields of sand, when suddenly, one of the students spoke up. “Professor,” he said, grinding the group to a slow halt, “why do you carry such a heavy coral tablet under your fin?”
The professor stopped in his tracks and turned to the group. He took the tablet from under his fin and let it float in mid-air. “It was through Planto’s writing that Socrafish was known; yet, it still amazes me how through the filter of Planto Socrafish must pass. The ideas that Planto shows and gives may be completely different from Socrafish.” I recalled the professor briefly pausing, circling the tablet. “The vehicle of expression is language and I owe it to my predecessors to give accurate accounts of my wisdom. That’s why I carry the tablet.”
“What can I write on my tablet?” another asked.
“That,“ the professor paused, “is for you to decide.”
The group continued through the fields until we did a full circle of the city. The Coral structures reached towards the sky. From anywhere a visitor looked, miles upon miles before seeing the details of the city, two large coral trees could be spotted. The large yellow one was the Corallian Government House. The other, the withered white Coral, was our Insititute. It has survived for as long as our Coral has been standing.
I don’t recall much else of that conversation, but I remember myself stranded in the kelp forest that bordered the Institute, separate from the group.
We took a break before we came back to the White Coral, and were allowed some free time to explore. Whether the places I chose to go were wrong or not, I’ll leave that up to you to decide, for ethics are society-based, and my works may have survived longer than me.
I may be the only fish that survived, for they say no fish has ever returned from the kelp forests. The kelp forests were dangerous; they harbored criminals. But not criminals in the law-breaking sense, criminals in the radical mind boggling sense. Mental anomalies that drive those who enter mad. I don’t recall much, for this happened in my years as a young fish, but I will try my best to construct the best possible story I can, where the only governing factor shall be truth:
The sun had long disappeared under the cover of leaves. Above me, I heard the soft thudding of movement in the sky. The Gods were at it again, I thought. In the moments that followed, I heard a thud. A kelp pillar moved. A dark flutter of sand caught the corner of my eye. There! A glitter of silver.
“Hey!” I called out, following hastily through the thicket. “Wait!” The creature offered no response, and hurried past the dark green pillars.
“Hey!” I called once again, soliciting no response. I wrapped my mouth around its back end and felt a piercing pain.
I struggled to swim, but felt a massive left hook to my jaw that paralyzed my efforts. I was being pulled up. The devilish smile of a fish crept into vision through darkness.
While ascending, I saw a faint glimmer of light. I stopped fighting, entranced by my ascension. I tried to look down: a sea of green within a world of blue. Kelp forest as far as the fish-eye could see.
The silver and red creature smiled at me, as if saying “Fret no more, you’ll have your chance.”
My memory fails me, for I have no recollection of what happened from the moment that I could breathe, to the moment I couldn’t. All I knew, is that I could not breathe. After vigorous studies in my recent years I understood the concept to now be “Water.” I named it myself, after the confusion, hence the “What” sound, and the crippling chill following the breaking of the surface, forcing a compulsory “er.” Anyhow, back to the story:
I hung by a string, and the gravity was much different. It was heavier. I thought they said that space had no gravity? Oh, what gravity this situation carries! And what is that? I’ve never seen that in my life! My head grew light thinking of the gravitational puns. I flopped onto a hard surface, and looked straight up with my right eye. This can’t be! It’s a human! I let loose on the hard surface, and the human let out a bellowing moan. I thought this a myth!
The Legend of the Human Fryer, they called it at the Coral. Curiousity killed the fish, I heard the skeptics say in the back of my mind. Some fish, if big enough, were taken to the Human Fryer. They would never come back, those fish would tell around the camp-coral. Those who went were buried with tartar sauce in an endless cave of white ivory structures that would tear the cooked body.
At this point, I didn’t know it, but I wasn’t going to be killed by the humans. In fact, they simply let me float down. I plummeted face first into the surface called “Water” and the world went fuzzy. Young me never saw that before. It took me some time to find my home again.
Jumping into the future a couple of years, a few cities gain my visitation, I advocate Fishander the Great in his conquests under the jurisdiction of my teacher, and I am still subject to misfortune. After my tiresome travels I managed to lose the coral I so heavily soaked in squid ink; I spent countless days trying to rewrite the tablet as to not come back empty-handed to the White Coral.
I arrived back at the Coral to tell my findings, but no one was there. “The Institute of Higher Learning was dissolved,” it said on the sign. My bearded face crumbled like the old Athenian acropolis from ancient mythology studies. I followed the road down to Coral Hall, where all the Government officials sat.
I entered the room violently, pushing the wide, yellow coral doors apart into a semi-circular room with a podium in the center. I swam up several feet to the podium.
In front of me sat the Fishenate. The Fishenate consisted of Sharks: hammer-heads, Greenland sharks, basking sharks, great whites, and in the very center, a killer-whale. The killer-whale was so large, however, that only his head fit through an opening in the Yellow Coral. I was dwarfed. I felt small, but nonetheless, my desire made me feel large. It’s funny how passions do that to the body. To this day, I wonder what man I would have become without conquering them.
“Members of the High Council,” I echoed through the open room. The emptiness, the vast space, made me feel claustrophobic. “I am here at the displeasure from the closing of the Institute of Higher Learning.”
The Great Shark to the left of the massive killer-whale head spoke first, addressing me matter-of-factly: “It has been decided.” His voice thundered above the chatter of the other fish behind me, forcing them to quieten. “The High Fish has decreed it’d be unwise to instill injustice and indoctrinate the citizens of Coralia–.“
I interrupted in anger: “Chips to the High Fish!” There was a gasp from behind me, and I can feel the eyes of all the Sharks target me. “No wise ruler would ever close down an institution of Higher Learning! How can anyone make better judgement based on ignorance! And what does that make you, councils of the High Fish?” I spat in anger: “Ignorant!”
Two guards appeared out of nowhere: two purple squids, holding four spears in four tentacles. They stood beside me, but I feared none. For if I was to die, I would leave a mark on this Coral. “Water!” I shouted, buying the attention of the Fishenate. I threw my coral up in the air.
The coral tablet spun slowly, surrounded by a heavenly light from the nearby windows.
There followed a long pause; a loud silence that offered no peace. The coral descended slowly. The white and black head of the killer-whale moved. An eye opened, and the Sharks moved away slightly. “Water?” The High Fish echoed. “You dare – challenge – the teachings – of all High Fish?”
“I have travelled the open Sea, I have entered the realm of the Fryer, and I have made it my mission to understand our reality.” The chatter started again. I must have been in there for hours, because I felt dehydrated. “We swim in water!”
The Sharks started to stir and the purple squids stood next to me like guardians of the peace. But, they were guardians for the wrong cause. Their rubber-like branches held up all fish’s sins, their eyes stared at me like a kraken’s: old, wise, and unforgiving.
The water grew colder and I felt alone once more. But through the ice around my soul erupted a volcano, melting the once solid, barren wasteland that blockaded and laid siege to my heart. The internal struggle was exhausted, for when the High Fish spoke again the façade ruptured into a million pieces.
“Your insolence – causes me – great grief,” started the High Fish, “learning is forbidden – for the likes – of you.” The Sharks snickered, letting loose a symphony of orchestrated snorts. “Silence!” The High Fish raised his voice. “Filligion is – education. There is – no debate. All who – oppose – are doomed to be – fried.” The word echoed through the halls.
“I will stand for no more lies, your Highness! The doctrine implies no fish SHOULD learn! The Coral of Knowledge was not to be touched, for all knowledge was evil. Hence the character of the Eel, who tempted the Perch into grabbing the fruit.”
“Take him to the Fields of the Hunted,” said one of the Great Whites. The other sharks cheered happily, and the purple squids pushed me along.
“Death,” shouted the Great White, “DEATH!”
That brings us to the end of my journey, for I can write no longer. I am being taken to the Fields of the Hunted to reunite with my beloved “Human Fryer.” I have no fear for death anymore, for I have said all that I must. Hopefully, in the generations of fish to come, they will rediscover my work.
The journey to the Fields is short, for the path for death is always paved; the path to understanding is always clouded, always vine-filled, always filled with trouble.
I will leave you with one piece of information, before I depart for eternity. A great leader once said: “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss in life is what dies inside us while we live.” If this society is to continue in such distasteful indoctrination, no fish will prosper, because for the next one thousand years after my death, the Dark Ages will begin and times will be the worst they have ever been.
A student of Arisbobble.