Once a salmon broke the surface and kept right on going. Mile after mile it had battled against ocean tides and river currents to reach this point. Thunderous cascades and sharp rocks had taken their toll, wearing away its strength and forcing it to use up fat reserves it never knew it had. Then, just when it thought itself at the limits of endurance, all of those trials had fallen away as quickly and completely as if they’d been a recurrent nightmare from which it had finally awakened. Finally escaped. Escaped not just from the bears that waited to snag its companion salmon by the thousands as they fought their way upstream nor the eagles that swooped in to take their share, nor even from the stream itself, so wild with snowmelt, but from the inborn compulsion that drove it to risk everything in such determined struggle. Gaining altitude now, looking down on the tops of giant firs receding below it, the salmon felt the forces that had dictated its life for years fade like the beads of water drying on its scales. Those urgencies had sent it from shallow creeks to the unfathomed sea, only to bring it back again to complete a cycle from which there seemed to be no exit, a cycle within cycles within more cycles as generations followed one another to the same rhythm of necessity. But no more. Not for this salmon. It had slipped the pull of physical limitations and felt as light as the air around it, free of the laws of birth, maturity, and decline that had governed every move in its life. Defying both time and biology, it was no longer condemned to ending its days in slow water, wounded and grotesquely aged, the color of burnt spirit. With unrelenting willpower, one could break through the limitations of nature, it had proved, and make the leap to a realm of celestial fish-flight. One could wrench oneself from all the troublesome facts of existence and become a companion to the clouds. Find new meaning in a great beyond. There was only one difficulty the salmon hadn’t anticipated. It couldn’t breathe up here.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans