I opened my eyes for the first time. All I could see was white.
I turned around to see if there were any other colours but it all was white.
I started to fret. Was I trapped? I was scared.
As soon as I thought there was no point in living if everything was white, a flood of nice, cool blue flooded in through a crack in the dreaded whiteness. There was something grey that kept pecking at the white stuff and it made a terrible cracking noise as I started to see more of the world. I realised that (I was really stupid not to know!) I was in an egg when a familiar voice screamed, “Do something! It’s going to kill my babies!” Soon there was a loud ‘CRACK’ as the egg fell apart and I was swept away in a tide. Then everything went black!
I woke up in some disgusting, multicoloured slime and I didn’t realise that I was in the stomach of my saviour. The barracuda that freed me from the white egg case! It was all gross! There was nothing but darkness but I had this feeling I wasn’t alone. Something grabbed my little fin and I fell into a hole of swirling slime.
Soon, I was swept out of the barracuda’s mouth as it breathed slowly. I was free! It was beautiful. I saw corals of all sorts, and a beautiful rainbow reef! It seemed like every fish of every colour was everywhere! I couldn’t help myself; I had to get closer to the beautiful colours of the ocean! It was like a trance!
I didn’t know that I didn’t belong in the ocean. When I was a little dot in an egg, I got washed through the mouth of the Murray River at Goolwa and into the sea! I was mixed up with Puffer Fish eggs and they had become my new family. I didn’t know that I was a Murray Cod fingerling!
The ocean was a dangerous place for a fingerling, where danger lurked in every shadow. Just waiting… waiting for a chance to snatch a yummy snack! At that moment, I was happy though. Everything was bright and cheery. I thought that everything couldn’t have been any better but I guess so was the barracuda that was hiding in amongst a pile of rocks.
It took only a split second for the long, sharp teeth to sink into my right fin, only just missing out on eating me whole. I was too fast for it, but its long teeth scraped along my side, clamping shut on my fin, determined not to let go.
One moment I was in total shock, paralysed, and the next moment a wave of fear and pain washed over my body like a dark shadow. I realised that it wasn’t just pain washing over me, there actually was a shadow creeping along the surface.
The barracuda let go of me painfully and darted away as fast as its jaws found me. I looked up to see the shape of a small boat, which, of course, was new to me. As I was scanning the boat for any strange movement, I got a strange feeling; like a shock going through me. I couldn’t move! I wasn’t scared or anything, I physically couldn’t move!
I started rising. The sight of the surface started to get closer and closer. That was when I started to get scared. What if I reached the top and I still couldn’t move? I tried and tried to move! I couldn’t even feel my fins! I realised that I could only move my head and got a glimpse of other fish rising to the surface. I could see movement on the surface but the unnatural ripples blurred my vision. I finally reached the surface.
My head bobbed above the surface and I saw an ‘air breather’ (man) sitting in the brown boat. It seemed to be muttering something to itself and writing something on a clip board. I struggled to breathe and dunked my head under the water long enough for me to take a quick breath. As I left the water again, I noticed that birds were gathering, perching on tree branches and ‘licking their beaks.’ I almost thought that the ‘grins’ the birds wore on their faces would be the last things I would ever see. I only narrowly escaped!
As the ‘air breather’ began to lose interest, the birds became restless, waiting for him to leave. One unlucky bird swooped too low towards a fish near the boat and got a nasty knock on the head from the ‘air breather’s’ clipboard.
The next bird was lucky and I think that it ate the barracuda that had nipped my fin!
Ha, ha, ha! Well, he deserved it! But I was still on the surface, easy prey! As the ‘air breather’ saw that other birds were copying the leader, it pulled out a small black remote, with 50 million wires attached to it, and pressed a small red button. My whole body went numb and my vision went blurry. I was passing out from the air, but I was sinking. I COULD MOVE AGAIN!
I woke up in darkness. I felt that I was about to be crushed from the pressure of the deep. It felt so heavy and I wondered how whales and creatures of the dark could adapt to the pressure! Ouch, I touched something prickly from behind. Aaaaaaaaaaah! It blew up in my face! A puffer fish! Oh, no!
I was stuck to it as the poison slowly entered my blood veins. Life was being drowned out of me like a wet sponge being squeezed! Everything went blurry and I passed out. I can’t believe that I actually woke up after being injected with the poison from one of those…uh…what do you call them? It’s coming to me…Hold on, hold on ….. uh hu I know, octopus!!
No…wait, that isn’t it… was it? Aaah, thank-you…it’s a Puffer Fish!
(I swear, I knew it all along, I was just joking!) Is it just me or am I going mentally INSANE!? I can’t believe that I am floating here, thinking of what the ridiculous fish’s name is that all most killed me! Hey, I am floating! I’m still alive! This must be a world record, surviving poison of a silly fish!
THERE I GO AGAIN!
Ouch! I tried to move. I looked at my side and saw that it had turned purple!
I know why I am still alive! The saliva from the barracuda attack must have some sort of protection! I really can’t beleve I am saying this, but, ‘Thank-you, Barracuda, for attacking me!’
One of the spines from the fish was still in my little fin! Ouch, it hurt soooo much!
I needed help. Well there’s only one way to get it… ‘HELP. I AM WOUNDED! HELP’
Well, that got everybody’s attention. Not in a good way.
‘Ah…Everyone seemed to attack at once, probably thinking, ‘Yummy, yummy snack. This little shrimp must be from inland! He’s so unwise to tell everyone at the top of his voice that he is sick and most likely dying. Perfect prey’
I darted out of the group. Hey, and they think I’m brainless! They’re ripping each other to shreds and I’m just standing there watching! Talk about dim witted!
I decided that someone might see me so I left quickly, hiding in sea weed and coral, dodging basking sharks.
Woo hoo. I was surfing a current! It was so dreamy, pulling me into a long, peaceful sleep! EEEEW! I woke up in murky, disgusting water. Where did the beautiful corals and reefs go? I need to get out of here! Where am I? Which way do I go?
Who would make this water so disgusting? I saw a fish doing something really weird on the sand. As I got closer, I was disgusted. This filthy fish was like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up everything that got in the way, but then spitting out a foul and disgusting substance I am guessing what it ate for lunch last week!
I need to get out of this place! I got the fright of my life as something bright red roared over the surface, leaving a trail of bubbles and thick, oozing oil behind! It was exactly like the thing that ‘air breather’ was in when I was paralysed, only it had something on the back that made all the bubbles!
The oil covered me as I tried to escape the blackness that I had fallen into so many times before! Blinded, I darted in a direction as fast as I could, the oil peeling off my face. I looked up, but instead of black, there was a bluey-green thing seeping across the surface. It looked furry. Unpleasant and slimy! All the more reason to get out of here!
Hang on a sec! The water has changed. It seems so close to air, but I am 3-4 metres beneath the surface. The oxygen level was dropping and I didn’t know why.
I swam 20 metres away from where the slime was covering the surface, but it was seeping everywhere from all angles. I was trapped! It was getting hard to breathe. I took big gulps through my gills but my sight began to go fuzzy. I fled to the top of the water and dived out into the air just as I felt my body was going to explode.
I landed with a splash and the slime covered my scales. I was stranded, above air.
What is this stuff? Its blue-green. . . . . . . ALGAE!
I am not smart or anything, however it said it on the sign on the sand over there…
WATER MAY CONTAIN BLUE GREEN ALGAE THAT MAY CAUSE:
SUFFOCATION TO NATIVE WILDLIFE AND SEVERE ILLNESS TO HUMANS!
There are so many reasons I need to get out of here and I just happen to be stuck in Blue Green Algae! Hang on, I can read!
I stopped breathing.
I am not going to wake up this time. . . . . .
Wait a second. . . OUCH!
Be careful with me for goodness sake!
Wait, that hurt!
Hmmmmm, I didn’t think that being dead would hurt, but I guess ‘death’ doesn’t sound peaceful. I am thinking, I can’t be dead because you can’t be thinking that you aren’t dead if you are dead!
I think I tipped off the psycho scale right about when I said ‘… I can’t be dead because…..’ Yes. I’m not silly. I know that you think I am totally whacko!
Ok. I’m alive but I see nothing but black, but I can feel pain!
Where does that get me?
Crazy scale 9.9?
Open eyes! My brain screamed at me but my mind suddenly went blank and I didn’t remember how to open my eyes. Were my eyes all ready open? I think that they read minds.
More ‘air breathers’ stared down at me and I was almost blinded by the light.
They had uncovered the plastic bag that had been carrying me out of the disgusting Blue Green Algae and into clear, fresh water.
The bag was suddenly untied and I felt myself falling, falling… ‘PLOP’ I landed in a mini pool of water except much cleaner and there was no Blue Green Algae floating around.
Wow. I loved this place, but there were so many ‘air breathers’ staring at me.
It freaked me out! I am not a Museum Artefact! I dove down deep, hiding behind some green weed. I wish they would stop staring at me! I went closer to the surface to see if they were gone, but there seemed to be even more. I fled to hide again but found myself swimming into another bag. I got the same feeling as before. The feeling that I was trapped! I tried to swim through the opening of the bag, but it had closed. I pushed against it, rising to the top, hoping a bird would come and attempt to snatch me up but then get the bag off. There were no birds in sight.
I was floating to the edge of the mini ocean thing, and the next thing I knew, I was stuck in a net and being pulled out of the water. I can’t believe how many times I have been close to death. Here it happens yet again.
One ‘air breather’ snatched me out of the net and took me out from the bag.
It muttered something along the lines of ‘…inconsiderate people chucking their rubbish in the river and killing fish…’
I was just about to be dropped in the water again but the ‘air breather’ stopped when it heard a small voice say ‘ Mummy, can we take him home! Please! We still have that little fish tank out in the shed!’
And… that is the end of my story as a fingerling!
Here I am telling all my own little Fingerlings, ‘A Fingerling’s Life!’