Mr. Fish & Other Fantasy Tales
Copyright 2012 David Dicaire,
All rights reserved.
Published in eBook format by eBookIt.com
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Mr. Bernard Fish was whisked with heavy police protection from the courthouse past the line of angry environmental protesters and scourge of reporters to the waiting car.
“Killer,” screamed one lady.
“Murderer. You suck Fish,” shouted a heavily bearded man. It looked like for an instant as if he was going to break through the wall of security and attack Bernard, but the police presence ensured that any perpetrators would be taken down with speedy precision.
Some held signs that read: DOWN WITH FISH PRODUCTS! And FISH: HOOKED, LINE AND SINKER! And SOMETHING SMELLS FISHY! Other signs portrayed a dying fish in a splat of orange chemical water, while another featured a large red circle with the words: PETROLEUM FISH PRODUCTS and a red line drawn through it.
Before he entered the vehicle, Mr. Fish turned to the crowd and flashed them a sign of utter defiance. An irate court appointed police officer shoved him hard into the car.
“Mr. Fish, we are trying to save your ass here from being ripped apart and you return the favor with a grandstanding gesture. Would you like us to feed you to the crowd so they can devour you?”
Bernard didn't say a word. The car zoomed away to a send off of eggs and tomatoes splattering the back windshield and trunk.
Reporter Amanda Stevens, stationed on the steps of the courthouse amidst all of the chaos, still smiled for the camera. “The trial of Mr. Bernard Fish, the wealthy businessman accused of poisoning a good chunk of the local lake and some of its tributaries, causing many fish and other wildlife to die, came to a conclusion today. He has been found guilty and could be fined as much as five million dollars for the clean up. As well, the wealthy industrialist could see jail time and will find out in two months when final sentencing is brought down. His insolence irked environmentalists and the general public with the statement: 'they're only fish, get over it.'”
Despite the security system and posted guards, when Bernard arrived to his spacious home later that day he found yet another pile of dead, stinking fish on the front lawn. Someone had pelted the house with eggs, tomatoes and something else that was utterly disgusting. One of the windows on the second story was broken.
To make matters worse, there was a small group of environmental protesters outside the residence. They tried to intercept the vehicle from entering the gated manor and managed to attack the car before the chauffeur was able to scoot through the gate.
Mr. Fish pressed the intercom button.
“Yes, Mr. Fish, what can I do for you?”
“Manny see that the window is repaired and the house is cleaned.”
The window went back up.
The mansion was even more spectacular on the inside than it was on the outside. The escalator brought him to the master bedroom where a suitcase was already packed. Mr. Fish opened it and quickly looked through it to make sure that everything was in order.
Just then the phone rang.
“Someone ought to poke your eyes out you despicable cretin.”
“Who is this? How did you get this number?”
The person hung up. Bernard slammed the phone down in the cradle and headed for the escalator.
Outside the crowd of protesters waited at the gate for any activity. When the black Saab headed out it was once again pelted with tomatoes, eggs and the group tried to stop it. At the same time, another car, a blue Saab left the premises. The confused crowd was too stunned to do anything to it. Inside the decoy vehicle, Bernard laughed as he left the house and hoped that everything would be in order upon his return.
Bernard's little island paradise was a closely kept secret. Only Manny, the chauffeur, knew about it existence, but none were aware of its exact location. The chalet was a charming place and featured all the creature comforts of home. Best of all, it was isolated from all the nonsense that had consumed his life the past year or so.
He sat in his customary lounge chair overlooking the rolling waves as the sun sunk over the edge of the world with a drink in his hand.
“It just doesn't get any better than this.”
All of the troubles and trials of the past year melted away. The beleaguered industrialist remained hypnotized by the beauty of the sun sinking over the edge of the lake and only went inside once the mosquitoes became too bothersome.
It was five o'clock in the morning and Bernard woke up from a horrible nightmare gasping for air. He thought someone had invaded his private island and was chocking him to death. When he realized that it wasn’t a stranger, the man staggered out of bed and made it to the bathroom. He flicked on a light and screamed.
“This has to be a nightmare. It's impossible.”
That unique Bernard J. Fish face with the bug-like eyes, the carefully chiselled nose, the thin lips and the smooth, sallow cheeks had been replaced with...a fish head. More specifically, he looked like a trout.
He stared into the mirror for a long second and began gasping for air again. He pushed his head down into the sink and ran some water over his new-scaled face. The breathing became easier. But as soon as he took his head out from the running water he began to have problems breathing again.
The metamorphous from man to fish continued even further. His monogram pajamas ripped open and the fish scales quickly replaced the human skin.
He left the house and under the rising sun ran as fast as he could as one leg disappeared from underneath him and then the other to be replaced by a tail. He hopped and flopped the last ten yards before rolling into the water. Bernard was convinced that he would soon wake up from this crazy nightmare.
But once he was in the water, he felt at home. He stuck his head above the surface and looked at the chalet and his vision was much different then it had been only a few seconds before. He looked in the reflective water and realized that he truly was a fish.
But how can I be a fish? People don’t turn into fish do they?
While he was attempting to get used to the new him, he felt something lurking behind. Bernard turned around and noticed another fish; a much larger one (pike) that looked like it was searching for its breakfast.
Bernard did the only thing for someone who had just turned into a fish; he swam away. This surly individual with large razor sharp teeth and a seemingly insatiable desire to make the little trout its next meal was not going to be denied and gave chase.
Bernard wanted to tell this fish he was pursuing a wealthy tycoon, someone who had made large sums of money and enjoyed the finer things in life. But all of the logic wasn't going to work. The only thing that really mattered was running, or swimming, as fast as possible.
Will this nightmare never end?
The one great thing about being a smaller fish was that he was much quicker. Despite this singular advantage it was obvious that his pursuer was determined.
There has to be a way to give this big, stupid fish the slip.
He tried some evasive action, but the pike remained on his tail. The large fish bit down and just narrowly missed taking a chunk out of Bernard.
Bernard raced through the water and aimed for the bank hoping he could fly atop the grass and evade the pursuer. But the pike was cutting him off. Suddenly, a log appeared on the horizon and it was time for some clever maneuvering.
The trout dove under the log and then saw a hole that he was able to squeeze into. The hungry pike attempted to get through the same hole but became momentarily stuck. He fussed as much as possible but there was no getting out of it. When he noticed that the enemy was at a disadvantage, Bernard took off like a shot and made good his escape.
He created a lot of distance between the pike and himself in a relatively short amount of time. While being a fish was not the best situation, he started to realize that it was not a bad dream; somehow he had turned into a trout.
How had this happened? Did people turn into fish on a regular basis? How did one turn back into a human?
There were no easy answers and he realized that the best thing to do was try and get along as best as he could as a fish.
It was kind of fun to be able to swim through the water with relative ease. In fact, it felt so good to be able to cruise so fast that Bernard spent the rest of the morning testing his newfound abilities. It lasted until he realized that he was hungry.
What does a fish eat?
He thought back to his youth and all the times Uncle Dwayne had taken him fishing. It seemed they had baited the hooks with slimy, grubby worms.
That is utterly disgusting. I am not eating worms.
But there was no denying the fact that he was hungry and food was a necessity. He looked around for other fish that could tell him what to eat but there seemed to be none. So he decided to go and find some.
Bernard cruised through the water and saw a school of minnows up ahead. They were shiny silver and appeared to be a smiling, happy bunch. But when he approached them they scattered before there was a chance to even say hello.
What are they afraid of?
So Bernard chased them. He went after them hard and fast, but the little minnows were quick and elusive driving him crazy. Eventually he gave up.
I can find my own food.
He had cruised a long while and only grew hungrier when he noticed another trout up ahead. He swam over and smiled.
“Hello do I know you?”
“I am new here. My name is Bernard.”
“My name is Tatiana. Where are you going?”
“I'm looking for food.”
“Well you are headed toward the home of Spike.”
“The trout eating pike who rules this part of the water. He is very dangerous and mean.”
“I think I saw him today. Scary fellow with all of those teeth.”
“Yes lots of large, sharp teeth. If you follow me then I will share my food with you.”
“Really? That would be fantastic.”
“Great. Let’s go.”
Tatiana led and Bernard followed. They swam for some time before she stopped to a large garden of underwater plants.
“This is our main food supply. Best of all, if Spike ever decides to chase you again head over here and you can easily lose him in the vegetation.”
They ate. Bernard was so hungry he thought that he would devour every plant in the vast underwater garden. But, the hungry trout stopped at just a couple of plants.
“That was delicious.”
“I'm glad you like it. So what part of the area do you live in?”
Bernard thought about it for a long second and shook his head. “I don't know.”
“You don't know where you live?”
“It's kind of hard to explain. Where do you live?”
“Not far from here. There are a couple of empty places where I am from. If you want to, you could stay there, I guess.”
“Great. What are we waiting for?”
“Well, my father is the king and you have to gain his approval.”
“I'll do my best.”
“Come on then.”
They swam away from the underwater garden and were soon in the territory of Tatiana's and her kind. She took Bernard before her father the king.
King Sloan looked at Bernard and didn't seem to have a smile for him.
“What water were you born in?”
“Well I wasn't born in this water.”
“He's a stranger. They are often trouble,” said Luther the biggest fish amongst the crowd. He was also the King’s right hand fish.
“If you weren't born in this water then where do you come from?”
“I wasn't born in water. Until a few hours ago, I used to be a human being.”
King Sloan grew angry and all the other trout moved back in horror.
“We do not like humans.”
“What's wrong with humans?”
“They use metal hooks to catch us. Sometimes they use nets to scoop a lot of us up at once. They also pour chemicals into the water that make us sick and often kill us. Humans are our sworn enemy.”
“King Sloan, I think he should be banished.”
“But he doesn't know the area and Spike almost ate him this morning.” Tatiana pleaded with her father and the rest of the colony.
“If Spike eats him, then he might leave the rest of us alone.”
“Luther, I will decide if he stays or has to go. Tell me about your battle with Spike.”
“I was exploring an area and saw him coming at me with all of those teeth. So I swam as fast as I could and he followed me and no matter what maneuver I tried, I couldn't shake him. Then I saw a log and went through a hole that he couldn't get through. I hid in there and then left on the other side.”
“You have earned your place among us.”
“I still think he's trouble.”
“We are a peaceful kingdom and help one another out as much as possible. If you can abide by this code then you can stay.”
“It would be a pleasure to be part of your kingdom sire.”
“He needs a place to stay father.”
“Then show him to the mud bank and a suitable empty hole.”
Tatiana led Bernard to living quarters where he found a practical mud hole. It wasn't the lap of luxury, but it was better than being left out in the elements with Spike lurking about or worse, a sturgeon or large channel cat.
Bernard adjusted to his new world. Life in the Kingdom of Sloan was good. There was lots of food and with each passing day, he became more accustomed to being a fish. He also grew close to Tatiana who taught him how to survive in the water. The only problem was Luther who watched him closely.
One day, King Sloan summoned for his daughter. She swam over to his private chambers.
“Yes father, you wanted to see me?”
“I think you have been spending too much time with Bernard.”
“But, father, he is new here and needs someone to guide him along.”
“Besides, he is very nice.”
“But, he was not born a fish. Someday, he will want to become a human again and will leave.”
“Maybe he will decide to remain a fish.”
“Perhaps. Remember that you are going to marry Luther when the time is right.”
“Luther is nice, but I do not want to marry him.”
“Luther will be the future king. He is strong and brave.”
“I do not wish to discuss this any further.”
Tatiana swam away.
“Come back here,” Sloan shouted.
Some time later, Bernard found her crying in her mud hole.
“Nothing. My father and I have a strong difference of opinion.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Do you like being a fish?”
“I guess so. I would rather be a human being, but I am not sure how to go back to being my old self again.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Everyone, come quick.”
All of the fish swam out of their holes and dropped what they were doing.
“What is it?” asked Luther.
“Spike was seen cruising around looking for a meal.”
“He's probably looking for Bernard. I knew that fish would be trouble.” Luther glared at Bernard.
“I outwitted him once, I will outwit him again.”
“You were lucky he didn't eat you.”
“Father what are we going to do?”
“There is no reasoning with Spike.”
“If I tell him that I used to be a human maybe that will scare him away.”
“Spike is not easily scared.”
“For now, I don't want anyone to go out of the safety zone. Does everyone understand?”
“We will start night watches. Luther, can you organize that for me?”
“Consider it done.”
Later that night, Bernard was on his watch. All was quiet on the watery front and he started to relax a bit. He didn't like the first encounter with Spike and certainly wasn't looking forward to a second one. Suddenly, he heard a noise.
Should I go and see what it is? Perhaps it is Tatiana?
He moved slowly and carefully toward the source of the noise when something attacked him. He fought the unknown assailant thinking it was Spike. In a split second decision, he realized it was best to lead the danger away from the group.
Bernard high-tailed it out of there and could not manage to shake the pursuer. In the darkness, there was a terrific battle between the two combatants. Bernard who had never really been in a fight in his entire life--as a human or as a fish--struggled with everything he had. In an effort to end the nightmare, he bit down on the enemy as hard as he could.
“Dirty fighter.” It was Luther's voice.
“Why are you attacking me?”
“Because I don't like you. Tatiana is mine. Leave and never come back.”
Bernard managed to survive the next few days on his own. Lost and afraid to go back to the kingdom because he was sure that Luther would be waiting for him, he wandered. He found a muddy little hole that was not as comfortable as the one in the trout village, but it was home.
It wasn't easy and he was very lonely, but there was food available and the deeper waters were much more open and kind of fun to explore. However, he kept one eye out for Spike and all other potential enemies.
While being a fish was not the most pleasant life, he had come to accept it as his fate. He longed for the days when he was human and ate gourmet meals, enjoyed an after dinner drink in his monogram pajamas in front of a roaring fire, while he read a book or watched a classic movie. There was an excitement going on vacation to some wonderful tropical island or a different exciting locale. Those days seemed so distant.
Each day he explored a different part of the great water. There was always something new to see and found a sunken boat that seemed like a good hiding place. There was also a lot of garbage on the seabed.
It is a shame the way people dumped garbage in the water like it was a landfill site.
But there were enjoyable parts to his excursions. There were turtles and schools of minnows that numbered in the thousands. There were also a couple of larger fish, bigger than Spike that cruised right by without even looking his way.
One morning he decided to venture to a new part of the great water. After a solid breakfast, he headed out. He cruised through a neighborhood that didn't seem to have any inhabitants when he saw a fish much larger than Spike. But the old sturgeon was blind and after a brief chase was out of breath and could no longer pursue him.
At one point, Bernard swam to the surface and stuck his head out for just a second and noticed a log with a number of frogs sunning themselves. When they saw him they dived onto the safe grass. He returned to the water and swam off.
Two hours later, he had discovered more of this strange new world that included sunken boats and a different food source. Although it was inviting to remain there, he decided to head back to the mud hole that had become home the last couple of days.
Upon his return, something shiny caught his eye. It danced in the weak sunlight teasing Bernard to the point that he couldn't stand it anymore. The silver minnow was tantalizing and in a quick second, he bit down on it. The hook sunk into his bottom lip and a tremendous pain shot right through his entire body. The more he struggled, the deeper the hook became imbedded into his lip.
He was being reeled in and struggled as hard as he could. Visions of ending up in someone's frying pan were dancing in his head as he broke the surface and heard the fishermen scream with delight at the size of their catch.
Bernard continued to struggle but it was of no use. He stopped to catch his breath and the fisherman only reeled him in at a quicker pace.
I am going to be on someone's supper table tonight.
He was almost in the boat when the line snapped. In an instant, Bernard was gone and could hear the curses from the fishermen of the big one that got away.
After much effort, he made it back to the place that had become home with the lure still dangling from his lip. There was the occasional drop of blood and he feared that Spike or some other menacing fish would pick up on the scent. But for the moment he was free and tried to figure out how to get the fishing lure out of his mouth.
But before he could enter his mud hole, it collapsed on him and he was out of a home. His lip hurt and the night would soon fall down over the water where predators like Spike cruised looking for victims.
Later that night, he was huddled near an old twig when the rain started. It came down hard and cold penetrating the surface and chilling the water very quickly. Despite the pain in his lip and the fact that he was out of his home in the cold, sleep eventually came to him in one great wave. After all, he had traveled far and wide for most of the day and was very tired.
He dreamt of the first day the company opened its doors and how so many people were very excited. There was a large and lavish ceremony with a ribbon cutting, champagne, a large cake, dignitaries present, and a hope for a sound, financial future. But everything had fallen to pieces with one little mistake. He awoke and then dozed off again.
The second dream was not as pleasant. He was with the board of directors who were discussing how to exert some damage control after the spill. There were many who just wanted to come clean and admit to the mistake, pay the fine, then move on. But he refused to bow to environmental pressure and vowed to fight them to the end. Profits were the most important thing.
He awoke again to the driving rain and a few seconds later dozed off again. The third dream was more of a nightmare. He was taken to the site where all the fish and wildlife had died. The water was a strange pink color and the dead fish glared up at him with open eyes that seemed to scream for some kind of justice. Suddenly, one of those fish was he, dead in the water, and a victim of a severe chemical spill.
He woke out of his reverie. It was morning and the rain had stopped; the sun had begun to warm the water. Tatiana was floating around in front of him.
“I’ve been looking all over for you. Where did you get that fishing lure?”
“I caught it.”
“You have to help me. The entire kingdom is caught in a giant net.”
“What can I do?”
“You will think of something. Come on, we don't have a minute to lose.”
They rushed off.
The pair arrived at the sight where the entire village squirmed in a large net.
“You are sitting on my face,” screamed one fish.
“You know, you don't smell so great,” announced another.
“How are we going to get them down?”
“I have a plan,” smiled Bernard. “Come on.”
They raced away and not more ten feet from the boat Bernard jumped with all of his might and knifed through the water's surface in a spectacular display of aquatic gymnastics catching the attention of the two fishermen who just the day before had almost hooked him.
“That's the guy who got away yesterday. Look, my lure is still in his lip.”
The two fishermen forgot about the net for a second and concentrated on catching the one that got away. But Bernard who had adapted to being a fish and had much practice swimming was too fast and powerful for them. They tried to scoop him up with a net attached to a long pole but missed.
Meanwhile, Tatiana had managed to chew a hole in the net that allowed all of the fish to escape. One by one they raced out and discovered freedom.
“We must help Bernard,” said Tatiana.
They all turned to see him entertaining the two fishermen who were not impressed with this fish that seemed to be getting the better of them. It was then that one of the guys pulled out a gun and a shot rang out across the calm morning waters.
Bernard, bleeding profusely, was convinced that he was going to die. He started to rise to the top of the water. Tatiana was by his side and crying.
“Oh, Bernard, please don't die.”
King Sloan and all of the other fish surrounded him in horror unable to do anything to save the fish that had rescued them.
“How did you know they would let the net go?”
Bernard opened his eyes and smiled. “Sometimes humans are too greedy.” He closed his eyes again.
The light started to fade and things went black. Bernard floated to the water's surface not breathing. Suddenly, he began trashing around and changed from fish to human. The other fish all scattered.
“I am human again,” shouted Bernard from the top of his lungs. He started to find his stroke and made it to shore. He was out of breath and coughing up water. He rubbed his shoulder and touched his lip; the lure was gone.
The two fishermen were stunned.
“Hey, you’re that guy who everyone is looking for.”
“How would you guys like to catch a really huge pike?
“Great this is what you have to do.”
Once the two fishermen had left, Tatiana cut through the surface and watched Bernard walk away.
Bernard stood in the sunshine in front of a large group of people that included environmental protesters, company officials, and reporters.
“I am truly sorry for all of the environmental damage that I have caused, the heartache, and the anger. As humans and on top of the food chain, sometimes we think that we are invincible and have license to do whatever is good for us. We forget that the food chain is a delicate balance and when one upsets one end of it, the entire structure suffers.”
There were a few people clapping, but many just stood there in total disbelief.
“I know deep in my heart that I deserve jail time for my actions. However, instead of rotting away in prison where I will be of no good to society, I would rather continue as my post as CEO where I plan to donate some of the proceeds of our profits to environmental causes. Furthermore, we are going to produce friendlier products and I can assure you that will no longer dump chemicals into the river and lake. I am looking forward to working with all of you on several proposed ecological projects.”
The crowd clapped and some even cheered, but certain individuals didn’t believe what they were hearing.
Amanda Stevens, the reporter, looked up at him. “Mr. Fish, what made you change your mind?”
Bernard shrugged his shoulders. “Some things are best left unexplained.” He smiled at Amanda.
The sun was setting over the great water that surrounded his cottage. Instead of sitting on the deck, Barnard sat at the edge of the knoll grass and threw corn that hundreds of fish, mostly trout, ate with great relish.