Monday, November 29, 2021

Microstory 1766: Pisces

I’m the best scuba diver in the world, which is saying a lot, because I was afraid of it when I was a kid, and I come from a family of masters. I’ve since surpassed all others in skills and experience. I can venture to the deepest parts of the ocean that are humanly possible to survive. I can use any kind of tank, and complete any task. Today, I’m about to set the record for the deepest dive ever, and cement myself as one of the absolute best in history. I’ve already passed the last record, but I’m not satisfied with that. I have to get to 600 meters. No one will try that depth after me without a submarine. I check my watch. I had to have it specially made to survive these pressures too, and so far, it’s done me well. I’m at 570 meters, and so pleased with myself. No one has ever seen what I’m seeing right now. Of course, like I said, submarines can descend this far, but they haven’t, not around here. My cousins are going to be so jealous, I can’t wait to run it in their faces. None of them thought that I would make it, and I’ve yet to prove them wrong. It’s not really the deepest dive if I die down here, is it? Maybe they’ll still count it, and sing songs of my brave and tragic end. I keep going: 580, 590, and...600 meters! I reached my goal. If I stay too long, I really will die, though, so I immediately prepare to ascend. Then something catches my eye. It’s a fish. No, it’s two fish. Wow, it’s an entire school. There’s something strange about this species, but I can’t put my finger on it. Oh, yeah, they’re swimming in pairs.

These fish are exhibiting behavior that I’ve never heard of. I’m no ichthyologist, but I know what species live around here, and this ain’t one of them. Every single fish is paired up with another, face to tail. They’re swimming in circles around each other, or more appropriately, around some mutual barycenter between them. Since they’re not going straight, the only reason they go anywhere is because the spin isn’t constant. They nudge themselves in one direction, like propellers. Why the heck are they doing that? Is there some sort of evolutionary advantage to spinning? Perhaps it has more to do with the pairs, and less to do with the way that they swim. I obviously have to take photographs and video of this phenomenon. If I’ve discovered a new species, it will only make me more famous, which is kind of what I’m going for here. I don’t even have to survive. The footage is being automatically beamed back up to the boat. There’s no way for me to communicate with them directly, but I can.imagine my mother urging me to begin the ascension process. It’s going to take an extremely long time, and the extra tanks they left hanging for me at my stop intervals won’t be enough if I don’t maintain my schedule, not to mention the risk of getting bent. I’m about to let it go, and save myself when the fish change behaviors. They stay in their paired circles, but also begin to circle me. They’re aware of me, but probably aren’t sure if I’m a predator. I’m amazed but frightened, but the latter grows faster once they start biting at my equipment. They tear off the straps, and cut the breathing tubes. Welp, I guess I really am gonna die. Except I don’t. I suddenly stop feeling the intense pressure, the freezing cold, and the need to breathe. They’ve somehow transformed me into one of them, and once I realize what an amazing gift this is, I all but forget about my past life as a human, and together...we dive deeper.

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