Animal Dilemmas – Giant Turtle Sea Horse
The removal of the shrimp did not cause concern. On the contrary, the aquarium dwellers were relieved that such an aggressive and unreasonable creature has been expelled. Feeding time came and after bellies were full it was time for hide and seek.
The Sea Horse hid in a crevice covered in weeds that knew the clownfish was afraid of. It waited patiently and dozed off for a moment at a time. It was awoken by the shaking earth and sounds of splitting steel and crushing glass. The water in the aquarium turned hazy and violent. A torrential current took beasts and plants and swirled them around into an abyss of darkness.
The earthquake had shattered the building and split the aquarium tank in half. The crack in the earth was below the tank and sucked all the water and its contents down into the ground. Everything that was not fixed in the tank followed the water down.
The Sea Horse didn’t have time to react. All creatures in the tank were helpless in the face of this act of nature millions of years into making. They tumbled down until they reached an underground river. The tank water joined the river with splash and thunder. Rocks tumbled about. Some fish and crab found their heads smashed in the chaos. Others hearts hurt to pieces from the turmoil.
The Sea Horse was bumped about and disoriented. It could tell up from down as the river current carried along. The river water was fresh which also suffocated most tank survivors. The Sea Horse was as its last breath when the river reached the sea and spat it out into its new home. The Sea Horse tumbled about spinning and filtering into the sea. The water was cold and dirty. The corpse of a clownfish was floating about and the Sea Horse poked at it. It poked it and followed its trajectory. A few wild fish tried to take the corpse sand eat it but the Sea Horse defended it risking its own life.
It soon realized that its play mate was death and being starving itself, it ate the clownfish. Then it let the ocean currents carry it. It was born in the tank so it was not a good swimmer and its muscles were underdeveloped. The current hugged the coast and twisted round archipelagos of islands, coral reefs and underwater volcanoes.
The Sea Horse didn’t like being carried by the currents and every time it passed by an island or a shallow tried to hide in the corrals which reminded it of its old tank. It met other seahorses and at times it forgot about its struggles. Next a sizable island full of strange creatures the Sea Horse mated with another of its kind for a first time. That was when it realized that life would not end with it. But before it had time to contemplate giving bird to the next generation a scoop net lifted out of the water and dropped it in a glass jar. The jar traveled inland to a house and was emptied in a glass tank on a table. The tank was small with just a few rocks and a flap of a tail from wall to wall.
The Sea Horse missed the freedom of the ocean and the chance encounters with its own kind. At feed time a giant dropped powdered fish bones in the tank and knocked on the glass.
The table was on a veranda, open a breezy. One early morning a giant turtle, a hundred years old inched through the garden and through the veranda. Its eyesight was failing and the Turtle wedged itself under the table. Not long after it went along carrying the table on its back along the Sea Horse in the tank.
The turtle reached the beach and travels on its edge chewing on grass and flowers. The Sea Horse observed the change of scenery its stomach rumbling for no food came. The turtle was aware of the extra load but not of the tank. It didn’t know that it was becoming the executioner of the Sea Horse as the water in the tank was nearly boiling under the sun and no food came.
After it ate and rested in the shade the turtle gathered strength to aim for the rocky shallows where it could shake off and break the table. It reached the shore two days later and rubbed against the rocks until the table came loose. The tank slid into the rocks and shattered. The Sea Horse fell into the water and after the initial shock swam away. It reached the corral shallows and could not believe its luck. It had escaped the second prison by no design of its own. Someone of something greater than a fish wanted it to be in the ocean.
Just as this thought settled in its mind a tingle ran down its belly. Then another that grew into a splitting pain. Its belly split and a cloud of tiny seahorses emerged into the world. The Sea Horse felt tired and very sleepy. It was hungry and wished for shrimp, mountains of shrimp to restore its energy. But there was no shrimp in sight.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Animal Dilemmas – Tuesday, June 21st
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photograph by Miriam Miles