It happened as of a sudden that The Fish got totally fed up of the horizontal plane & decided trying out being An Upright Fish for a while.
& if you saw The Upright Fish as it funnelled itself up from the utterdark of the lower depths through ever brightening ultramarine towards the open air where verticality had long held sway you might have thought a silverglimmering firework had been launched by an octopus & indeed The Upright Fish was, as it rose and it rose, thinking how promising it would be to become a Firework some day & so colourfully blow up a nightcloud like a rainbow that exploded.
What kind of Fish was The Upright Fish? Mackerel? Salmon? Perch? Rainbow? Megalodon? Look, it could have been any species of particular Fish, but rather than name the particular and exclude all other species of Fish from our story and so no doubt raise a tide of quite understandable general indignation throughout the myriad splits and factions of the biosphere, and at the risk too of losing the clarity of our image, we invite you instead to place in The Upright any Fish of the deep that you please, or indeed a Fish of your own invention.
Suffice that it has a mouth & gills on the top end and a tailfin at the bottom end, joined by a length of shimmering, flexible meat.
At length The Upright Fish broke through to the air & found itself walking on water and the breeze was an unprecedented nourishment and the sunshine was a draught of gold to its new upright bones & all around the ocean glittered & sparked in a Mesozoic summer noon and it was beautiful to behold in every direction. And also empty.
Empty. As far as the gills can see. As far as the eyes can smell. As far as the nose can jog. Empty.
Now, thought The Upright Fish, this is a disaster! Nobody told me I would be the only one up here! And The Upright Fish began to doubt their recently acquired convictions. Even though the sun continued to shine directly down upon it like a beam of fire, The Upright Fish shivered with the cold of midwinter night.
It was back to the deep, the horizontal life of liquid, having failed in the great metamorphic adventure, & now to be the laughing stock & Icarus of all the shoals in all the oceans for all times hence until curtains came down in eternity’s show on Oceans and Shoals.
Luckily, at that instant an asteroid struck the ocean right adjacent to The Upright Fish and cut off its melancholy deliberations before any real damage was done. It was the asteroid that killed off the Dinosaurs. It was the six mile asteroid that vaporised the oceans and the forests & killed all animal life on planet earth, save for one lucky crow & one lucky rat, and of course our Ovidian hero, The Upright Fish.
That now instantaneously found itself, borne by the asteroid’s tsunami of lightspeeding fire, half-way across the world, somewhere in the sandhills of Utah.
& it was empty of the living in Utah, where only a moment before life had teemed everywhere.
Empty. As far as the teeth can hop. As far as elbows may sprint. As far as nipples will march.
The Upright Fish was again suddenly overwhelmed with a shivering dread, even though the air temperature in the nuclear aftermath of the asteroid was still well north of 10000 degrees.
It was at this moment that The Upright Fish, previously a flippant agnostic, became religious as Abraham. Was it myself, it asked itself, since nobody else was left to ask, was it my actions, was it my decision, my leap, my transgression, my unconventional abandonment of my assigned position, my launching myself off in a novel plane of motion, that brought down upon this bluegreen sphere of misfortune the curse of annihilation, the sunhot tsunsamifires of a general extinction?
Am I to blame for everything?
For the murder of life itself?
By way of a deadly decision I mistook for liberation?
Once again tho, these suicidally inclining ruminations of a theological kind were fortuitously interrupted by a grand surprise.
This time it was a human in the middle distance, on its belly swimming nakedly through the pinkhot radiations of the eerie Utah sands.
Before long The Horizontal Human had swum his way close, but not too close, to The Upright Fish, who, being Upright, naturally spoke first:
Where you off to at this hour?
I’m looking for the ocean, the one that’s full of gigantic sharks. I want to swim into one of their throats.
I just came from that ocean.
Oh good, which way is it?
I just came from the ocean full of asteroid-sized sharks, but none of it any longer exists.
Actually I’m at a bit of a loose end myself, admitted The Upright Fish. Damn asteroid.
Any idea what you are gonna do next?
Not a clue.
How about we breed? See what happens.
How about it tho?
Love to. But will you lie down, or will I stand up? asked The Horizontal Human, reasonably enough.
But then the world’s last crow tunneled up through the sand from an abscess in the mantle it had reached in its attempt at becoming a mole. And the world’s last rat flew down from the stratosphere it had reached as it tried out being an eagle.
What about us? they pleaded in unison.
Can we not breed with ye too?