A Story by John
Before I begin my story I'm letting you know
that I'm a rather small fish. I mean, if you put me next to most
of the fish in my pond, then you would probably call me a
'lightie' even though I'm actually an adult fish. In many ways I
believe it is mostly because of my size that I never 'got on'
well with the other fish that I was at school with. Thus I have
spent many hours in my own company, which has forced me to find
different things to do. When I say 'different', I mean:
When I was just a young fry I used to enjoy
exploring the depths and darkness's of the pond. I used to go on
little journeys and treasure hunts, which held treasures that
only I understood and only I could enjoy. I used to leave the
other fish in their regular banter, playing: 'who can reach the
fastest swimming speed in 2 sways of the pond reeds?' Apparently
that game has been one of the favourites for generations. I never
paid that much attention to it though. So, I remember enjoying my
newly found route to the cold side of the water. I would go
slowly, because I knew the others were enjoying themselves and
that they would continue until the light had shifted beyond the
reeds; and they wouldn't even notice I had gone. It was on one of
these expeditions that I ventured to the far heavens of our pond
and truly found the most amazing treasure that I have ever
Fortunately I had outgrown the awkward stage
of learning how to move my fins to set me off in the right
direction, and even though I was going slowly, my movements were
swift and I was paying a good deal of attention to the scenery
around me. It always amazed me how the different temperatures of
the water around me affected my little body. Each of my scales
could feel the changes and, sometimes, if I went into water that
was too cold, then I wouldn't be able to keep my eyes open and
the greatest pains would go from my eyes to the top ridge of my
It was terrible the first time I felt the
pain. I rushed back to the warmer water as fast as my tail could
take me. The pain seared through my spine as the warm water stung
my cold bones. My breathing and my fin movements were out of sync
for the next few light overs; and I didn't venture back into the
cold again for the next two full moons. After that, however, I
talked myself into reducing the intensity of the pain I had felt,
and my memory told me it hadn't been that bad, so I ventured out
again and achieved the identical results that I had before. The
only difference was that on my second attempt my father had seen
me. I had thought that I had been clever and lost all the other
fish, but I was wrong.
"Johnny, what do you think you are doing going
out on your own like that?" My father asked me as I tried to
relax my breathing. He rubbed his side fin along my spine as if
he knew the exact spot where I was hurting.
I looked at him and his eyes widened
"Please don't tell my friends, Dad. Please!" I
pleaded with him. My friends were already weary of me being so
"Only if you answer my question, my
"Dad, I just don't fit in with the others. I'm
not interested in being the fastest, or having the shiniest
scales, or playing hide and seek in the pond plants. I want to
explore everything around me. I want to find out new things and
learn about what it is to be a fish." I said, hoping on every
bubble that he wouldn't tell my friends.
He just smiled at me. "Don't worry Johnny, I
won't tell to your friends. Let's say we'll keep your exploring
between the two of us. What do you think?"
"I think that would be fantastic Dad," I said
as I snuggled into his side.
"But only on one condition Johnny," he looked
at me seriously, "Make sure you tell me whenever you go.
That seemed fair enough so I nodded.
Then he whispered to me, "When the cold
strikes you - don't rush out of it, instead, move out
I used his advice the next time I had worked
up enough courage to swim back into the cold. As I moved slowly
out of the cold my body got used to the temperature and I was
able to spend longer periods in the cold, without feeling any
pain around the shivering temperatures. Eventually I got to the
far border of the pond and to my amazement there was a shiny spot
of light reflecting off the rock. I couldn't see a source in the
water, so I looked to the heavens and saw a stick with two very
big fins attached to it. Curiosity got the better of me and I
slowly floated to the surface to meet the source of the light.
The stick with big fins had landed on a leaf and the stick's
light weight had tipped the leaf ever so slightly that a drop of
dew was teetering precariously on the edge, whilst reflecting the
light of the warmth into the pond.
"Hello," I said.
"Hello," she replied.
It was a very strange feeling to have my head
outside of the water. I was still too young to be allowed to be
at the surface.
"What are you?" I asked.
"I'm a butterfly." She replied.
"A butterfly..." I repeated in amazement. I
couldn't believe how relaxed and calm and good she made me feel.
"What's your name?"
"Angel." She replied with a beautiful
"I'm John," I said.
"It's good to meet you John."
"Why do you have such big fins?" I
"They aren't fins John, they are wings. I
don't swim like you do, I fly," and with that she opened her
wings and flew off the leaf to hover above the surface of the
"Your wings are beautiful, Angel."
"Thank-you John. Many things that are
different are beautiful." She flapped her wings again and started
to rise," Don't forget that John," she told me as she flew into
Every time I thought of Angel for the next few
moons I smiled. She was so beautiful and she made me feel so
good. Unfortunately I couldn't go back to that spot on the far
side of the pond again because my life became too busy. I became
a father and our five little ones reached the age of being able
to use their fins properly. There was lots of work involved in
teaching them how to swim and gathering their food and making
sure they weren't caught.
We gathered our food once a light over. We had
to fetch it from the surface when we had families of our own. The
food came from the Great Shadow at the start of each light over.
There were many different opinions on the Great Shadow in our
pond. Some were scared of it, some were nervous of it and some
worshipped it; but no matter what each of us thought, the Great
Shadow would come every light over and give us food. It never
forgot us and always provided for us. It never came into our
water or interrupted our swimming, but if one of us were sick, it
would be the first to help. When a fish went belly up, as we all
know we will one day, then the Great Shadow would take that fish
away. I liked the Great Shadow and I wasn't scared of going belly
up, because I knew he would take me. My brother Thomas, however,
didn't agree with me.
Thomas was very doubtful when it came to the
Great Shadow. He would stay in the darkness when our food came,
whilst many of us would swim to the heavens to receive the lovely
gift of food we were getting. He would only come out once the
Great Shadow had gone and take the leftovers. When we first
became fathers, and had to collect our own food, I asked him why
he preferred the darkness to the light?
"John, I feel safer in the darkness. I know
that the food will be there when the Great Shadow has gone. So I
don't need to go forward like you and your friends do."
"But we get the best for our families," I
"How do you know it's the best?" He asked
"I know it's the best because of the way it
tastes and the way I feel when I receive it.; and there is always
more than my family's full. You have to take more than you need
each time, in case there is none left over the next time. Surely
my way is easier than yours?" I queried.
"No, your way is too risky. What if a little
shadow comes, then what will you do?"
"The Great Shadow scares the little shadows
away, and the Great Shadow would never hurt us."
"How do you know?" He asked
"I believe, my brother, I have faith."
"Well, then you can keep your faith and I will
keep my darkness so that everyone is happy."
That was the only response Thomas ever gave me
when I tried to invite him to join us at the feasts. He wouldn't
budge. I tried to tell him that if he didn't come into the light,
then the Great Shadow would never even know he was in the pond
and he couldn't help him if he got sick. Thomas wouldn't
Unlike me Thomas was afraid of going belly up.
He had never introduced himself to the Great Shadow and so he was
scared of the time when he would have to meet the Great Shadow. I
still don't know why Thomas won't listen to me, but hopefully one
day he will seethe light and join me. Maybe one day he will
realise that the Great Shadow won't let the little shadows hurt
There were many different types of little
shadows. One of them would sit at the edge of the pond and wait
for a fish to swim past. Then it would put its paw into our water
and try to catch the swimming fish. Another little shadow would
fly, but not like my Angel. It would fly hard and fast and dive
into our pond to catch a fish. Many little shadows liked to catch
fish in the darkness, because then the fish wouldn't see them
coming. They broke up families and caused so much pain. Many fish
disagree about the Great Shadow, but all the fish agree that the
little shadows are bad. Thomas is very scared of the little
shadows, which is why I don't understand why he stays in the
darkness of the pond, where it is cold and the water is murky so
that you can't see other fish properly; and you can't see if a
little shadow is watching you. It is my choice to do what I do,
and my brother must make his own choice too. My exploring taught
me many things, and because I have seen many things, I know that
I have made a good decision.
My exploring also taught me that I wanted to
give my children a choice too. When they were all of a proper fin
using age I brought them together on the edge of the change of
"Dad," asked the eldest, "What's this all
"I want to teach you all something."
I received a set of blank stares. Perhaps they
were thinking that their old fish was going a bit mad, but they
were too polite to say it out loud. I smiled at them and
continued the lesson.
"Follow me," I said. One by one they followed
in a row behind me. I went very slowly.
"Dad," said the second eldest, "Can't we hurry
up? I have a game of leap fish starting soon."
"Just be patient and see what you can feel," I
The youngest noticed it first. "Dad it's
really cold." I noticed a hint of panic in his quiet voice. The
little one had always reminded me of myself at his age. He was
very perceptive and also battled with being different from the
other fish in his school.
"That's right Simon," I encouraged him,"but
don't panic you are going to be fine."
"Dad, it's too cold, I'm going back." My
"Wait first," I told him. "We'll all go back,
but I want you to go back slowly."
"I don't have time for this Dad," said the
second eldest and he picked up a great pace to get back to his
game. As the water temperature changed he screamed in pain. I
flinched at his agony and recalled all that I had been through.
Hearing him scream the others became cautious and followed me
slowly out of the cold water.
The second eldest was in tears, "How could you
do that to me Dad?"
"I didn't, son, you did it to yourself. I told
you to go slowly and you raced off. Sometimes you need to trust
the wisdom of your elders and learn from them." I hugged him and
wiped away his tears. Then I faced all of them.
"In your lives you are all going to have to
make choices. It is important that you have explored yourself and
learn to know who you are, what you stand for and what you
believe. I took you into the cold water to show you something
different; to show you that there are many things in life that
you don't know and that there are many things you can still
learn. If you want to start exploring the waters around you, then
it is your choice to do so. There is only one request I ask:
Always tell me when you are going exploring. I will always be
here for you, but I can only do that if I know where you want to
They each looked at me, a couple with blank
stares as if they were thinking of dinner, and the others with a
certain understanding of what I had said. I could only hope that
they would choose to explore and use the knowledge they would
gain to live the best lives they possibly could.
After my little lesson they all went their own
ways and each of them did tell me of their adventures. The
adventure that moved me the most came from my youngest. He
approached me two moons later.
"I went exploring," he said cautiously
I smiled, "That's good. Tell me what you found
Simon took a deep breath, "I don't know if you
will believe me, but I promise that my story is true."
I interrupted, "Simon, let me decide what I
"OK Dad, but I did warn you." He said with all
the authority that a father would use towards a son. "I used what
you taught us, about going slowly through the cold water, and
after many tries I reached the other side of the pond." He looked
up at me, perhaps to see if I was perturbed. I kept quiet and
nodded for him to continue.
"Well, on the other side there was a light and
I followed it to the heavens. When I reached the surface there
was a butterfly on the other end called Angel. She told me that
she was a butterfly. She uses these big fins to fly." Simon
looked at me again. I was smiling softly to myself.
"What else did she tell you?" I probed.
"She told me that often different is
beautiful. She made me feel beautiful Dad."
"I do believe your story, my son. You are
beautiful." I smiled and whispered to him," And, by the way,
those big fins of hers are called wings."