Meet the Mirlings

pond

I’m in the process of revisiting a story I wrote a couple of years ago and didn’t finish. I plan to post it here in bite-sized instalments, in the hope that this will motivate me to finish it.

I’ll keep each post short – we’re all busy people – but I welcome any feedback as the story progresses (if you’re still with me).

Pond People is suitable for family viewing

1 Pond People

The tiny black swimmer glided below the surface as the morning sun warmed the water. Its shade travelled the pond floor, where a weathered bronze figure basked in filtered sunlight, his eyes glazed and his feet twitching. Goldfish grazed the weed at the edge of the pond.

The watcher looked on from the cover of the water-mint as slender arms broke away from the swimmer’s sides, and fins became hands to sweep the water and steady her descent. Her legs kicked free of each other to move independently, touching down on flat, triangular feet which, moments ago, had served as a swim-tail.

The bronze sleeper shivered as a shadow blocked his sunlight. Fish dived and scattered.

The watcher retreated further into the foliage and glanced up through ripples at the surface. A cat’s face loomed over the water’s edge, watching the fish disperse. Unhurried, the black cat rose from its crouch and paced around the pond to the warm brick paving by the shallows.

On the weathered bronze face at the bottom of the pond, eyes moved.

‘Molly, lass. How are things at the deeps?’

‘Stirring. The fish are on the move now the weather’s warmed up.’ She ran webbed fingers through hair that clung to her shoulders like blanketweed. ‘Your feet were twitching, Grandad. Were you dreaming?’

‘Aye, lass. I was back in the river, riding a rain surge with the sticklebacks and dodging the stones. Don’t suppose I could do that now without getting battered.’

The watcher in the water-mint strained to pick up the conversation. The old mirling was missing a scale or two. His gills laboured as he wistfully eyed the waterfall across the pond. He took a shard of clam shell from his belt and used it to carve a sliver of reed to suck on.

That shell had been sharpened – a useful tool. The watcher wanted it. And the belt of plaited blanketweed. Had his own people made things like this?

He was still sizing up these pond mirlings. Those he’d met so far had been easy to impress, but this old mirling might be harder to fool if he had been raised in wilder waters.

Molly had sneaked away early, before she could be assigned to fry-watching duties. She preferred to be here listening to tales of the river. When Grandad spoke of it, the water around them smelled of meadowsweet and bluebells.

Grandad wintered in deeper water with the other mirlings, but when the sun grew strong enough to warm the shallows, he would move here to be close to the waterfall.

No fish or mirling rode the pond’s waterfall. It cascaded from the filter outlet, high above the deeps, and its channel formed a wall around half the pond. Birds came to drink and splash in the water that sparkled over its stones.

It emptied into the shallows, where people from the house came to scatter fish food, and where a goldfish now grazed under the watchful eye of the cat.

Molly saw the cat tense at the same time as Grandad shouted. But fish aren’t frightened of mirlings. This fish carried on nibbling its way towards the cat.

As Molly launched, a paw descended, dark as death. She found herself hurtling into a swipe that would scoop both fish and mirling out of the water.

big fish

There – I’ve done it! I’ve started, so now I must finish.

Can Molly escape the cat? (Do we care?)

Find out next week.

6 thoughts on “Meet the Mirlings

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