Part II

“When the wrong man uses the right means, then the right means work in the wrong way.” (Chinese proverb)

Many months passed, and the humble fisherman continued to live his life of love and leisure. One day, while out fishing in the bay as usual, the fisherman thought back on his encounter with the businessman. He wondered where the man was now – whether he was in another small village chatting up another lowly fisherman. He laughed at the thought. Surely there are plenty of fisherman who would be easily convinced. The world would soon be filled with fishermen-turned-fancy-businessmen. The fisherman’s brow furrowed. What if they empty the sea of fish? What will he and his family eat then? What if there is another fisherman in this very village who has already begun to strategize his burgeoning business? He imagined a world full of wealthy fishermen traversing the globe – going from village to village and disrupting the perfectly peaceful lives of fisherman like him. Convincing them of a life, without which they would likely be better off. “No, no, no,” thought the fisherman to himself as he yanked on his line, “That won’t do.” He was suddenly charged by a sense of obligation to protect the ocean from being raped off all its life and the peaceful lifestyle that he cherishes so dearly from being squashed by busy, busy business and blatant greed. Is this what the world is fated to become? The fisherman could think of only one solution: to join the trade, act upon the enfranchisement scheme, and become like the posh businessman so that he, too, could travel from village to village. Only, with a different message. From a place of power, he could share a vision of a different kind of life. A life where everyone lives modestly, peacefully together in a world without the need for reckless competition.

And so, the fisherman quickly built an empire. He shared his prosperity with his village. In turn, he was made mayor. The village, nourished by its new wealth, grew into a city. And the once-lowly fisherman was appointed king. As king, the former fisherman gave fishing jobs to all the villagers so that they could live simple, peaceful fisherman lives. But it wasn’t so simple. The seas had already been greatly depleted for the sake of growing the king’s empire. The fleet couldn’t be reduced because the king now oversaw an entire city that needed to be fed, clothed and cared for. If he stopped his fish-export business, the city would crumble. The city folk also saw how the king had built his empire from nothing. They, too, strived to be extraordinary. Captains began to divide their fleets to compete with one another. Like pirates, they raided and sank neighboring ships. Some fishermen took as many fish from the sea as they could out of greed and spite. Black markets thrived while many humble fishing families had nothing and starved. Excess piles of fish rotted under the hot sun on the once quaint and quiet pier.

The king was dismayed. He prayed to the Gods to bring peace to his kingdom. The Gods replied, “My dear fisher, that which is out of balance shall be restored to harmony once again. Only she who offers her soul to the shattered sea holds the eternal key. The moon will rise again. And all the lost souls, forgiven.”

Comforted by the sign of hope, albeit ambiguous, the king continued to watch over his kingdom. Yet nothing seemed to change. Years passed and the wicked, power-hungry men grew richer while the poor became ever more desolate and disparaged. The king prayed again and again, pleading to the Gods for a solution, but they never replied.

In the early days when the fisherman was crowned king, a soothsayer visited the palace. He eagerly welcomed the old woman, hoping that she would come with news of how he might be able to save his kingdom. They sat together over tea and she began to tell the king of a vision she had of his son. “In the vision,” she slowly explained, “a mighty demon rose from black seas. With one hand, it held the poor boy by his gaping jaw, forcing his mouth wide open. In the other hand, the howling demon, whose eyes were stained black with tears of oily ink, clutched a giant ladle. The demon slowly lowered the ladle into the black water. As the ladle rose from the sea, its contents began to boil. Then…” the old soothsayer paused, staring grimly into her teacup with thin, dry lips. “What?” the king implored, “Then what?” The old woman wrung the loose skin on her scrawny hands. She looked up into the king’s frantic eyes that searched longingly for a twinkle of hope in her grey, filmy gaze, but saw found only pity and despair. “Then the demon tipped the ladle” the old woman mimicked the gesture with the steaming teapot over her little cup, “and poured the bubbling, scorching liquid down the poor boy’s throat.” The king retreated in speechless horror. He never thereafter spoke of the soothsayer’s visit that day. And he swore that his son would never go near the sea again.

The king’s son grew into a young lad, not quite a boy, not quite a man. He was tired of his father’s seemingly irrational over-protective rules that kept him from seeing the world beyond the palace. It came as a surprise, since he had been free to roam the village as a child and his father would often take him out in his little boat to teach him how to fish. Impatient and endlessly curious, the young prince snuck out of the palace one night to see the city beyond the walls. He saw the poverty on the street and the war between his own people. He visited the docks where rebels lived in the ruble and ship scraps. They told stories of great adventures out at sea. One story captivated the prince most of all: the tale of a giant demon fish the size of a ship with the face of a beautiful goddess. At night, she would leap from the deep waters and sweep across the ship decks, swallowing fishermen whole as she went by. The little prince’s eyes glistened as a scruffy pirate leapt to his feet and spread his arms as wide as he could to show the width of her colossal fang-laced mouth. As the prince walked back to the castle that night, he made a silent promise to himself: “I’ll catch that demon fish and restore my father’s honor.”

The following night, the cloaked prince slipped into the shadowy eve. Instead of joining the rebels around the fire at the docks, he wandered further down the beach until he reached the row of little wooden boats, like the one his father used many years ago when he was a simple fisherman. The prince picked one at random, shoved it by the stern through the sand until it bobbed in the shore. He hopped in and began to paddle into the darkness.

Soon the boy was alone with the lapping waves. The black horizon blended into the moonless sky. He cast his line into the unseeable seas.

The boy stared into the abyss as his little boat rocked back and forth on the ocean waves. He tensed anytime he felt the slightest tug, although it was only the current pulling his line. Hours seemed to pass. The boy began to doze off when he suddenly felt his fishing rod jerk from his hands. He leapt to his feet and caught the rod in mid-air, nearly topping the boat. He righted himself and the boat and leaned back to counter the growing pressure on his line. “Ha!” the prince exclaimed with a wide grin and a sparkle in his eye, “Gotcha!”

Tension mounted. His rod nearly folded in half. Then, suddenly, the line released and he topped into the boat. “No!” He gritted his teeth. “The line must have snapped!” The prince clambered onto his hands and knees and peered over the edge of the boat into the black depths below. He hopelessly stared into his own wobbly reflection. In an instant his reflection morphed and he saw the face of a woman. It rapidly grew larger and larger. The boy reached down next to him and wrapped his fingers around the handle of a mighty broadsword that he snatched from the pirates’ loot. He rose to stand in the middle of the boat and braced himself. The black water erupted as the enormous fish rose straight into the air. She flew high into the night. Her rainbow pearl scales glistened to reflect the stars. She glowed like moonlight, even though the moon was completely out of sight. She flipped her tail and dove back into the water. The boy was dowsed in her spray and rocked by her splash. He was also focused and ready for her quick return. He widened his stance and clutched the sword with both hands. A ripple on the water snaked its way toward the boat from afar. A glorious fin began to rise from the glassy surface. “Here she comes,” the boy whispered as he swung the blade into the air. She rose from the water, this time head-on. Face-to-face, the prince saw her crimson lips, powder white porcelain skin, long dark hair wisping across her cheeks and temple, and china blue eyes filled with rage, sorrow, hate, despair, twisted laughter and abandoned love. He had never seen anything so beautiful. He smiled, dropped his sword into the water, relinquished his fate, and reached his hands into the empty air so that his palms could catch the spray from her glorious fins as she swallowed him whole. A sparkle glinted in her furious eyes and she twisted herself higher into the air. Flying up above the prince, she let her silver belly glide along his outstretched fingertips. The boy laughed in ecstasy. He closed his hands around her tail and followed her into the black sea.

The king never saw his son again. He became apathetic to the destructive fate to which he had bound himself. As the sea grew ever more barren, he turned to the land. The jungle around the city was demolished to plant rubber orchards. All the wild animals were rendered extinct. The kingdom, the graveyard of a million-year-old jungle, became the most powerful empire in the world. The king eventually died, but his legacy lived on. The hunger for more never was never satiated. A thousand years passed and the city grew into a mega-metropolis with buildings that reach higher than the eye can see. Plumes of polluted air drift along titanium passageways.

The layered web of metal links endless rows and circles of buildings that stack on top of one-another until the raw earth is buried under an inconceivable heap of concrete, littered with tiny specks of glowing plexiglass squares, out of which people peer and wonder how all this came to be.

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