Fiction High School

“What happens underneath the water’s surface?”

“You mean beyond the reflective ribbons made by schools of fish?”


"I’m not sure; I've never been down there.” 

"Have you always roosted way up here?"

"I have. For many, many years. In that time, I've grown ears that listen, a beak that glistens, and an apptitude for detecting rhythm. From this view point I collect astute observations and have accrued wisdom from time at post. What else would you like to know?"


"Wisdom; understanding the classification of all living things, the principles that develop within a specified civilization, an aerial perspective, perched high above an enclosed exhibit."

"Is that where I am?"

"Or rather, 'is that what I am'?"

"I see."

"Do you? Well then, prove it. Ask your questions."

"Is there really a word requirement?"

"There is."

"But doesn't that hinder the possibility of beautifully pure, untainted creation? Seems a bit unfair."

"Take that question up with the judges, I don't make the regulations."

"But I feel forced into soliloquy."

"Again, that is between you and the judges...if you ever meet. Our sole purpose here is to dialogue uninterrupted. Proceed. Describe what you see."

"Birds. Humans. Fishes. Plastic trees and concrete passages. Sign post arrows and placard descriptions. Aisles of encased school exhibitions."

"Accurate. And what do you hear?"


"Exactly. And?"

"All of it exists in the same space. All occurs simultaneously. Some spectate, some flutter, and some are swimming, but how do they all relate?"

"With brevity, the connection can be explained clearly. Tsk. Tsk. What shame to enforce word requirements. It creates such limitations. But alas, the judges' place the constructs; their will rules supreme. I can only respond to your inquiries."

"Well, I shall begin. Can a bird catch a fish?"

"In the open sea, birds can."

"Can a bird catch a human?"

"Depends on the state of the carcass."

"Only in the open sea, I assume. Not in repositories." 

"Yes. All is as seems...out in the open."

"Do fish construct language?"

"Fish communicate."

"Do they tweet like birds or do they speak like humans?"

"Fish current through water."

"Like birds throughout the air."

"Precisely. My, aren't you a sharp lil' wren."

"Do humans current?"

"Some do. Not many. None of the humans in here."

"Have you ever caught a fish?"

"I touched a fish. Once. One night, the uniformed attendants left behind a plastic bucket. Curious, I approached and peered in. Piled limp upon each other, mouths slacked open, dozens of fish looked dull, darkened, and bloated. I only jabbed with a quick claw because the stench from the bucket lifted my feathers. Those fish appeared nothing like the fish swimming in schools behind our glass windows."

"What happens to the fish in buckets?"

"They're fed to sharks and seals."

"But sharks are fish. Wait...do fish consume each other?!"

"Yes. There is a natural order."

"Do humans consume each other?"

"Humans destroy each other. Within the species, too. It is puzzling."

“Do humans kill within their own schools?!...My god, you nod so solemn. Don't humans have trainers like the dolphins?"

"Yes. They’re called teachers."

"Don't teachers guide humans to superior acts like the trainers of dolphins?"

"They try. But humans destroy their teachers, too."

"I...I don't understand."

"There there. Go ahead, you may cry, my lark. Come, nuzzle close. Humans can be incomprehensible."

"You say some humans current. Where?"

"I know not. I only know life atop this museum. But I've heard stories from far away places. Tales passed throughout generations. 'History', I think they call it."

"Like the story about whales."

"Do tell."

"Though whales may venture out alone, they return, after thousands of miles travelled. They cross arctic sea to migrate beyond borders unseen in search of their long-loved relatives. And eventually all will convene to celebrate as a reunited family. If the story of whales is real, can it, too, be considered 'history'?"


"Can the same be told of humans? You shake your head. I might understand. Humans are so obstinate."

"I'm sorry, child. You sit silent. Tell me your thoughts."

"Why are there no whales within these pools or encasements?"

"Whales are too great to contain. They need deep, deep recesses to swim."

"Do whales communicate?"

"Whales sing."

"Like birds?"

"Yes, but in a song far richer. Whales chorus in harmony with the unknown. Understood only among their own. No school is needed for whales; they are an entirely distinct being."

"Have you ever seen a whale?"

"No. I've never ventured beyond this containment."


"Be cautious. Some answers shall not be given."

"In here, humans and fish interact but are separated by glass. Porpoises' performances are applauded behind roped, walled barricades. Out in the open, is it the same?"

"No. Human, fish--birds alike--all intertwine ‘in the wild’, as they say."


"Ocean. Sky. Movement."

"Do humans swim in the wild?"

"They do."

"Do birds swim in the wild?"

"Some birds float and some birds dive, yet all birds fly. Birds are different."

"Do humans fly?"

"Don't be silly. It is evident when one attempts to stretch the word requirements. Don't make the judges angry."

"But I'm not being facetious. I'm endeavoring to glean wisdom."


"Yes, wisdom. The classification of principles. The order of constructed education. The meaning of which we advance upon conversation without attributives. It's the reason why we perch upon this damned birds-eye view of descriptive-less biological institutions! Blippity bloopity flippity flop, what an asinine request of manufacturing rational discourse with prescribed etymological prerequisites. Screw the judges. Screw the requirements. Have I reached the limit yet?"

"You do see."

"I do not! I'm completely befuddled. Tell me. If whales are distinct, and birds are different, then what the hell distinguishes fish from human if both can swim 'out in the open' as they say?”

“Not sure."

"Answer the question."

"Very well then. All I know is—from this vantage point—fish float belly-up to the surface in the end. Humans sink to the bottom."

"Is that it?"

"Such is water, my friend.”

February 25, 2023 03:58

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Mary Bendickson
15:04 Mar 20, 2023

Oh, Blippity bloopity flippity flop! This explains it all non-stop. (You know spell check does not like those words, don't you?:)


Éan Bird
23:52 Mar 22, 2023

Neither did the judges 😉


Mary Bendickson
00:08 Mar 23, 2023

Oh, I think they have a sense of humor. Bet those words made them smile.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Noc Cito
19:11 Apr 04, 2023

Such a well written ending ! "Very well then. All I know is—from this vantage point—fish float belly-up to the surface in the end. Humans sink to the bottom." "Is that it?" "Such is water, my friend.”


Show 0 replies
David Sweet
20:25 Mar 31, 2023

Enjoyed this story. The science teacher coming out in you. Great observations and commentary on the human condition.


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.