Continuing The Pond People. If you missed the beginning, click here to Meet the Mirlings
On the morning of the tournament the sky rippled blue above the pond. The water was already warming as Flash arrived on the back of a goldfish. This particular dodger-fish had decided it was easier to ignore its hitchhiker than to throw him, and they arrived earlier than expected. As competitors began to drift into the shallows, Flash was twitchy and impatient to compete.
Grandad brought out new reeds and started arranging them by width and length.
Flo called her judges together for last-minute instructions.
Fish grazed above them.
He recognised one he’d ridden yesterday. He knew how this one moved, which way it would jump, when it would dive…. After this morning’s easy ride he reckoned he could out-think any fish.
Molly arrived with Eddy, looking relaxed and confident.
There was still time to undermine that confidence before the tournament started. He’d show them he could do anything Eddy could and do it better.
He hardly disturbed the water as he glided over the fish, sinking slowly, gently, ready for the first dive when the fish felt him–
His world lurched.
The goldfish rose through the water, taking him with it. They parted in the air, and for a moment they flew.
He slammed into the ground. The impact forced water from his mouth and out of his gills. The flapping fish threatened to crush him, until the cat’s paw swiped and the fish flew again. Captivated by the flailing goldfish, the cat pounced after its new toy.
Terror paralysed him.
He could hear the waterfall, but he couldn’t see it. He pushed aside blades of grass. Moving was hard work out of water. His gills burned.
Out of the grass, the brick paving burned, but now he could see water tumbling down the waterfall and spilling over its edge.
Short of oxygen and drying out, he dropped to his knees and crawled across the burning brick. Nearly there – he glanced over his shoulder.
The cat stood watching.
He tried to crawl faster, but his arms and legs wouldn’t move faster, and the edge wasn’t coming closer. With his heartbeat thudding in his ears, his eyes sought the waterfall, willing it nearer.
A blow sent him sideways, rolling over and over until he was back in the grass. He curled over his knees, with no strength left to crawl.
The strange insect fascinated the cat. It crawled like a beetle but was brightly coloured, like a butterfly.
The cat liked butterflies.