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by Kathy Hoyle

Fish looked at Man through an ancient, grey eye. Man was silhouetted, dark and looming, with the sun as a halo. Man proclaimed himself.

“I am Man and you are Fish and you have no right to look at me that way.”

Fish felt the air withering his thoughts and saw Man’s shadow shift uncomfortably. Fish whispered upward towards the sun and outwards across the ocean.

“This is not the natural way. First the light, then life, then death, then darkness. Light, life, death, darkness.”

And the sun and the ocean listened, and Fish waited but they offered no reply.

“What’s that you say?” said Man. “What’s that you say, Fish?”

Fish caught a flash of Man’s amber eye and held his gaze.

“What will you give, if you take me, Man?”

The man frowned, then smiled, then frowned again. He thought a moment more, then a great chuckle came up from the pit of his belly and spilled over Fish, parching his slick, speckled back. Fish felt the air feathering through his gills and the heat of the sun scorching the spindles of his dorsal fin. He gasped for the ocean.

“It is you who gives, Fish,” said Man, bending low. “Your sweet flaked meat, your vitamin rich oil. Think of how blessed you are, Fish, to give all that is essential, to me. You were designed to die, so that I may flourish.”

When Fish whispered again, the air tightened the words in his mouth. They puffed out in small, dry clouds.

“When you take, you must give, that is the natural way, the order, the ancient laws, it has always been so.”

“It is not so!” cried Man. “I have taken you, Fish, as I have taken many before you. There is no law, no natural way.”

Man waved his hand in anger and the shadow cooled Fish.

Fish rasped at Man with a steady, grey gaze. “We are the same. Predators, scavengers, fathers, sons. When we are gutted with a knife, we are skin and spine and soul. We both dwell in the circle; the laws are mine and the laws are yours. There WILL be sacrifice, Man.”

Man chuckled and shook his head and raised his priest.

Fish regarded Man and thought of light and life and death. He called to the ocean to bring him home and the ocean listened. He saw the flash of Man’s angry, amber eyes and pity flooded him.

Fish looked at Man for the final time. Man smiled and brought down the priest. The circle turned and the darkness came.

Kathy Hoyle is a Creative Writing student with the Open University. Her short fiction has appeared (in audio) on Brum Radio’s Tale Tales programme and in print at Firefly literary magazine. She has been longlisted for the Sunderland short story award and the Bedford international writing competition, and was recently shortlisted for London’s Spread the Word Life Writing prize with her story Scab. She is currently working on her first novel whilst consuming her own body weight in Jammie Dodgers. She can also be found procrastinating on Twitter @Kathyhoyle1.