Once upon a time, in an ocean not too far away, there was a famous fish named Felix.
Felix was a handsome and strong fish known for how fast he could swim. He held many gold medals and trophies and was expected to win every race he entered.
All the sea creatures of the ocean praised him and he had many admirers. Even sharks were fans saying things like, “That boy Felix sure is fast… Wish we could swim like that… Just think what our dinners would look like..!”
On a certain day in that certain ocean not too far away, Felix entered the biggest race of his career. It was known to be very dangerous with countless obstacles full of razor sharp reefs and trenches.
This race was particularly close to the land. Famous sea creatures from near and far gathered to watch and Felix was the main attraction. Felix had never raced the course before but he was confident he would win because he had never lost and had always won by a large margin.
Felix waited anxiously at the starting line looking wide-eyed at the spectators. He had never seen so many in attendance before! There was OIlie the Octopus, owner of the world renowned restaurant, Ollie. And then there was the famous actress Carolina the Crab who just starred in the blockbuster hit, Out of Water, Out of Mind.
He then he noticed the boss of the sharks Al Sharkton watching intently from his private booth. The sharks surrounding their leader all had sunglasses on which made them out to be even more mysterious.
Felix felt a rush of excitement as the start was moments away…
“Hey, you’re Felix right?” A green eel asked who happen to be floating next to him.
“Why do you ask?”
“Yeah, you’re him. I know all about you.” Felix didn’t like this eel right away. Something about him was definitely fishy!
“You’ve never lost right?”
“Never.” Felix answered wondering what this eel was getting at.
“Well, there’s a first for everything right? I’m Gonzo. I’ve been training my whole life to beat you and now I am here. I’ll be cheering you on for 2nd place though!”
Felix laughed. “We’ll see about that buddy.”
“You’re time has come to lose my friend.”
At that the moment, the gun shot off signaling the start of the race.
Felix shot ahead of the pack right away. But the words of Gonzo still echoed in his mind. Nobody had ever talked to him like that before. Other fish were intimidated by Felix but not Gonzo. Gonzo was different and Felix didn’t like it.
No matter. He was far ahead of everyone already, including that jerk of an eel. Felix glanced behind and saw no one.
‘I got this.’ he thought to himself. ‘Forget about Gonzo. You are the best and you know it.’
By this time, Felix was halfway to the finish line. He swam through dark trenches, dangerous reefs, and the famous yellow submarine called The Beetle. The sunlight shined through the waters illuminating the vibrant ocean floor.
A few onlookers were cheering for him as he whizzed around the last corner. The finish line was directly ahead of him.
Suddenly he heard a familiar voice next to him. “Hey there, buddy. Not so fast are you?” It was Gonzo! “I told you that your time has come to lose.”
Felix could not believe his eyes. Gonzo came from nowhere and just a few moments earlier he was nowhere to be seen.
“See you at the finish line.” Gonzo winked and pulled ahead of him.
Felix felt a sudden rush of anger. The thought of coming in second to Gonzo filled his gills with disgust. He mustered every ounce of energy and swam faster. Like electricity, he felt his heart pounding flapping his fins with lightning speed.
Felix went faster, so fast in fact everything became a blur around him. He shot ahead like a bullet passing Gonzo and then crossing the finish line. He heard the roar of victory as he tried to slow down. But he couldn’t slow down!
He looked behind him and saw Gonzo pouting as he crossed the finish line second. Then all of a sudden Felix no longer the ocean.
Felix had gone so fast and so far past the finish line he hit the land and bounced out of the water high into the sky. Felix looked down and saw a jungle of thick green trees.
“Oh no!!” He was falling down fast towards the ground and it was going to hurt. Thud!!! He hit the ground hard, his head ringing like a hundred sirens.
“Ouch! My head!” Felix looked around and saw a world he had never seen before. “Where am I? I’m out of.. I must be.. out of the ocean? I’m on land. I’m on the land!”
“Yes, you are.” A gritty voice confirmed.
“What do we have here?” another voice asked.
“Looks like someone is lost. It’s a fish.”
Two monkeys stood hovering over Felix with their arms crossed on their chest.
“I’m Felix. The fastest fish in the sea.” Felix stood up dusting himself off with his fin. “I was in a race and went so fast I hit the land and shot up out of the water. That’s how I got here.”
The two monkeys did not look impressed. One of them knelt down taking a closer look at Felix. “Fast? How can you be fast? You don’t even have arms or legs.”
“He swims Jee Jee.” The taller monkey interjected. “Don’t be a dummy.”
The taller monkey gave a long and dramatic bow. “Please forgive my friend here. My name is Ju Ju and this is Jee Jee.” Jee Jee stood up and bowed as well. Felix thought this must be a tradition of some kind.
“If you’re so fast, why don’t you show us?” Jee Jee smirked. “We have our own races here and we happen to have one this afternoon.”
“Sure. I’d be happy to.” Felix loved a challenge especially from someone who underestimated him. He loved proving doubters wrong.
“Come with us then,” Jee Jee beckoned. Ju Ju said nothing but instead studied Felix with growing curiosity.
Felix, Ju Ju, and Jee Jee walked through the dense forest. The sun was at its highest point in the sky now which made everything bright even with all the trees sheltering them. Felix saw animals he had never seen before: slithering snakes, wild boars, rabbits, even a tiger lurked in the distance.
“Don’t worry,” Ju Ju could sense Felix’s anxiety. “No one will hurt you while you’re with us. You are safe.”
“Sure, ok. I wasn’t scared at all.” Felix took a deep breath.
Ju Ju chuckled to himself. He was beginning to like his new friend. Felix reminded him a lot of himself.
The three continued on until they reached a large clearing filled with dozens of other monkeys. In the middle of the clearing stood one absurdly large oak tree that reached high up into the sky. Felix looked up and could not even tell where the top was.
“This is the 552nd annual tree climbing games,” Ju Ju pointed at the massive oak tree. “The best athletes of our kind from every corner of the continent gather here to showcase their climbing skills.”
Jee Jee gave Felix a nudge with his elbow, “We’ll see how fast you really are Speed Racer.”
“Wait, it’s a climbing race?” Felix felt his stomach tie up in knots.
“You got a problem with that?” Jee Jee asked.
Ju Ju again came to Felix’s defense. “Be nice, Jee Jee. Felix is a guest and it is an honor for him to participate in our event.
“Sorry.” Jee Jee backed off turning his attention back to the oak tree. A handful of monkeys were gathered at its base stretching and warming up. The race was about to begin.
Ju Ju gave Felix a pat on the back. “Are you still up for this?”
Felix couldn’t back down now. He had his reputation to uphold. And coming off the greatest victory of his career he was feeling invincible, unstoppable.
But it was a tree…
Felix had never climbed a tree before. He didn’t even have arms or legs to climb with. But what Felix lacked in physical tools, he would definitely make up for with his experience and determination. Right?
This is what Felix kept telling himself as he approached the trees base.
A loud booming voice pierced the crowd noise as Felix made his way forward. A very old monkey with long white hair and a flowing beard stood on a podium. He was leaning on a pearl white staff which looked to be made of glass.
“The 552nd annual tree climbing games is about to begin.” He said. “Are there any other challengers who deem themselves worthy to be counted among the greatest?”
The elder monkey’s body looked frail and weak but his voice boomed like thunder.
“I am worthy!” Felix shouted at the top of his gills. “I deem myself one of the greatest.”
The crowd of monkeys fell silent as all faces turned and eyes transfixed on Felix. It became so quiet you could hear a feather drop. Then the crowd burst into laughter.
“Is this a joke?.. It’s just a fish... What an ugly looking monster…” Felix could hear the voices judging him but it did not deter him. They didn’t know who he was and what he could do.
“I am Felix!” He shouted even louder. “The fastest fish in the sea. Five time gold medal champion of the Underwater Games. 1st team All-Pacific and the youngest ever to win the World Games.”
The crowd of monkeys erupted again with even more laughter. Felix was beginning to get angry.
Jee Jee seemed to enjoy the crowds reaction but Ju Ju had a worried look on his face.
The other competitors didn’t know what to think. One minute they were warming up preparing for the race, the next minute, a fish standing no higher than their knees is shouting at the top of his gills, boasting about how great he was.
Ju Ju took Felix’s fin and led him to the starting line. “Never mind them, Felix. I got your back. You just do what you do, and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks of you.”
“Thanks.” Although Felix could still feel his veins pulsating with anger.
“Very well.” The elder monkey said with his booming voice. “We have a new challenger. May the worthy take home the crown of fastest monkey alive… Or in this case… fish.”
Felix and the other competitors surrounded the giant base of the oak tree staring up to its top. It seemed like it went all the way up to the clouds.
“On your mark… get set… go!” The elder monkey commanded bringing his white staff down onto the ground. Thunder clapped in the heavens as it struck.
The monkeys jumped from their starting positions onto the trunk of the oak tree and quickly began climbing up and up. Felix jumped as well onto the trunk but could not get a firm grip with his fin. He slipped down onto the ground and fell hard on his back.
The crowd once again burst into laughter entertained by Felix’s failure.
“Get yourself together, Felix. Get up!” Felix said to himself.
“You can do it, Felix!” Shouted Ju Ju from the crowd. Jee Jee was laughing with the rest.
Felix got up and dusted himself off. He jumped up onto the trunk again. This time hanging on for a brief second before falling down again on his back. He was in shock.
‘How ridiculous I must look! How weak and slow they must think I am! I can’t hold onto the tree and I can’t climb it.’
For the first time in his life Felix felt helpless and weak. He looked around everyone pointing fingers at him and laughing. They were saying some pretty awful things and he could hear every word.
Tears began to swell up in his eyes as his hope and determination faded. The reality of the situation weighed him down like a bowling ball in a backpack.
“What a fool!.. What an arrogant idiot!.. Fastest fish in the sea? More like slowest snail in the galaxy…” The monkeys all forgot about the rest of the competitors and focused their attention on Felix. More and more their words were like daggers piercing Felix’s heart.
Tears were now streaming down his face as he wiped them off again and again with his fin. He sat there underneath the oak tree just taking everything that was said to him.
“Silence!!!!!” The elder monkey brought his pearl white staff down. A deafening thunder clap came from the heavens muting each and everyone’s laughter. “You shall not utter one more hateful word to this creature.”
The elder came down from the podium and walked slowly over to Felix. Not one monkey said a word as they watched intently on what the elder was going to do.
Felix looked up at the Elder completely stripped of his arrogance and ego. The elder raised his staff and as he did Felix felt himself being pulled up. Yet nothing had touched him and Felix had not gotten up by his own accord.
The elder was now standing next to Felix and turned back to face the crowd. “This small creature of the sea has more courage and heart then all of you put together. You should be ashamed of yourself. All of you. Except you, Ju Ju. You believed in him and guided him to us.”
The elder pointed his staff at Felix. “Felix is indeed the fastest fish in the sea. I have seen him race many times before and have become quite the fan. He swims with no fear and is like a bolt of lightning shooting through the water.”
“Excuse me, sir.” Did Felix hear the elder correctly? “Did you say you’ve seen me race many times before? But how is that possible if you live here on land and I live in the sea?”
The elder gazed down into Felix’s eyes and smiled, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Felix, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
He then turned back to the hushed crowd and stepped forward. “You cannot judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, nor can you judge yourself by your ability to fly. You do not have wings to carry you and sustain flight, just as Felix does not have arms and legs to climb a tree with. We are all, for better or worse, limited by what the is given to us, yet it is what we are given that makes us unique. Do not fault a creature for its inability to succeed but rather its will to succeed against all odds. It this will that defines us etching our footprints in the sands of eternity.”
“Now as for you, my friend,” the elder turned suddenly back to Felix with a surprising youthful precision. “You are clearly out of your element.”
“What do you mean, sir?”
“You are out of the water!” The elder smiled warmly. “And how I wonder have you been breathing this whole time? You do not have lungs!”
“I don’t know, sir. I guess I never thought about that.” Felix looked around him and realized he had been out of the water now for quite awhile.
The elder raised his staff and touched Felix’s forehead with it. “Well, how about we fix that? I believe you have a trophy to accept?”
At that moment, Felix found himself suddenly looking up at Al Sharkton the boss of the sharks. He was no longer on land with the monkeys but back in the ocean at the finish line of his race.
“You okay, Felix? You hit the ground pretty hard after you crossed that finish line.” Al was holding Felix by both fins. A large crowd had gathered around Felix. Worrisome but relieved faces watched as Felix slowly got up.
“Yea, I’m fine. Thanks.” Felix’s head was throbbing as his vision came back into focus. “How long was I out?”
“About 20 minutes.” Al gave a huge sigh and relaxed, “Boy, I had never seen anything move that fast before in my life. You just turned into a bright yellow light. I had never been that frightened of someone’s well-being before either. You had me scared. You had us all scared.”
Gonzo the eel swam up to Felix holding a gold trophy. “You got that right. I’m sorry for being a punk to you during the race. I’m just really, really competitive and I had worked so hard. I wanted to be like you. I was jealous. This belongs to you.” Gonzo handed over the 1st place prize. “They were going to award it to me if you… if you never…”
Felix raised his fin to interrupt. “Its fine. I get it. And I forgive you too. I’m just glad to be alive right now. Medals and trophies are great but being alive and healthy is what matters.”
The many bystanders watched as Felix smiled holding the trophy. One of them shouted, “Long live Felix! Long live Felix!” Others joined in and soon the massive crowd were all chanting Felix’s name.
Felix had never felt so happy in his life. He gazed out at the crowd around him who were all applauding and smiling with joy. He saw many faces, some he knew, some he didn’t.
Far off in the back of the crowd, Felix noticed a familiar face - an old monkey with long white hair and a flowing beard. The elder smiled at Felix nodding with approval. Then he disappeared among the crowd as thunder clapped in the heavens.
© Martin Fogarty, 2017
The author lives in Bangkok, Thailand
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