Animal Dilemmas – Catfish Catfish
The Catfish dove in the deep waters to take a nap while digesting the Swan. It curled in its cavern and closed its eyes. The river swirled slowly in the the deep waters and the fish could hardly feel the current. All was quite and still. But sleep didn’t come. Instead its stomach revolted. Those long feathers, thought the Catfish and stirred. It decided to swim up river to aid its digestion system. It swam slow and heavy and the current felt strong. Its tail caught into something that pulled it back. The fish pulled hard ahead by instinct and came free.
Loud noises came from the surface but the Catfish was used to the giant boats. Danger was near but flirting with it was enticing and exciting. Then the net came. It came fast and head on wrapped around the Catfish. The sound of the boats changed as they struggled to drag the heavy catch. They crossed paths to tangle the fish in and pulled for the docks. The Catfish didn’t see the net coming. It all happens too fast. At first it fought but the more it objected to the knot of net the more it was tangled.
The giants pulled the net out on the wooden docks with some difficulty. Smiles of excitement came to to their faces when they saw the Catfish. They laughed and shouted until the entire settlement was at the docks and the Catfish was put in a giant tub with water. The fish had difficulty breathing, its tail could not fit in the tub and stuck out making it hard to move. At first, it turned and twisted but soon realized the more it fought the less it could breath. It could comprehend the noise and flashes of light. Its head was ringing with desperation.
After some time the tub was loaded on a truck and transported into the zoo. The old octopus tank was refurbished and filled with water from the river. The Catfish was transferred to the tank and was able to catch its breath. The Fish couldn’t make sense of its new situation. It swam in circles and banged against the glass walls for he first few days until it realized its boundaries. Many giants went to see it and banged against the glass to attract its attention. The tank was much smaller the pond the Catfish was born. If it was born in it it would never grow to its current size.
The Catfish grew depressed and slept most of the time. Until one day just after the crowds left and before the lights in the hallway went out the fish could see through the glass, across the passage into the tank on the other side. The Catfish glued its nose to the glass and stared. It was not its reflection; it was well-accustomed to that when the lights went out. It was another Catfish, smaller in size but older, different in shape with stouter body and larger, flatter head. The other Catfish also noticed it and was glued to the glass of its tank.
The Catfish used the Mustache sign language every catfish knew.
‘Who are you,’ it asked?
‘I am a fish.’
‘An old deformed catfish.’
‘What is a catfish?’
‘You are one.’
‘I don’t know, nobody gave me names.’
‘You don’t know where you come from!’
‘I am from here.’
‘I see, is that why you are deformed. Am I going to shrink and bend like you.’
‘I don’t know. I was never larger or differently shape. Fish don’t change.’
‘You don’t know which river you come from?’
‘What is a river?’
‘Never mind, how old are you?’
‘I am very tired.’
‘So you are very old. You know there is world outside here.’
‘That is impossible.’
‘I come from there, from a large river with many wild fish.’
‘You must have had a bad dream. It happens to me sometimes. I dream I am in a lager tank with many fishes.’
‘It was not a dream. I have lived there up until they caught me.’
‘That is impossible.’
‘It is the truth.’
‘Dreams appear to be the truth but they are not. Sometime I think about a dream for days. But that doesn’t make it reality.’
‘Have you always been alone in that tank?’
‘All my life.’
‘That is sad.’
‘I have had time to look in. So have you, you were transferred here from the large common tank. One of the small fish they feed me told me that before I ate it.’
‘I was free in the river.’
‘You are delusional; it’s normal during adjustment. We always want our world to be bigger than it is. And we often dream of larger tanks or ‘freedom’ as you call it.’
‘But we prisoners here!’
‘Soon you will see the truth.’
‘That this our world. The only liberation is through looking in.’
‘You are crazy. Look in where?’
‘To your inner self. This is the only way to expand your life. There is nothing out there that will make you happier. It is all in.’
‘Yes, there is! I have seen it!’
‘I have treated other fish with similar syndromes. Maybe you are something that gave you nightmares. Your imagination is vivid. That is good but you are using it for the wrong reasons. You have to realize.’
‘That your reality is beautiful.’
‘But it’s not, it’s a prison. I remember the nets when they came around me it was torture!’
‘The nets are often in dreams. Because our feed comes from above in nets. You probably dreamt of being outside water and not being able to breath. It’s just bad digestion.’
‘I was outside. And I did indeed have bad digestion after eating a swan!’
‘I told you it’s all bad digestion. Soon you will realize.’
‘You are close minded stupid fish!’
‘You should look in not out. There is nothing out there.’
‘Bye now,’ said the Old Catfish and retired to its niche.
The Catfish was excited with anger. I am not crazy, it thought. I lived all my facking life in the river, I am not dreaming. I hope I am dreaming right now. I want to go back. I should have never eaten that swan!
The lights went out. The Catfish was too agitated to settle down. It’s impossible, it thought. I am not crazy, or am I! Is it possible I have been in my birth pond all this time dreaming of rivers. Maybe. So this is my home. Hm, it’s not that bad.
more by XIDAN
photograph by Brenda Helen