Submerged Antique Vase is connected to one I did a couple of years ago now, to the WEP prompt Antique Vase. As that’s now in Greed and Retribution you can’t look it up (although you can buy that collection on Smashwords, on sale price till July 31). A couple find an old vase submerged in their harbour, and take it home. All manner of disasters befall them until they decide to ‘lose’ it, miles from anywhere.
Subsea was this week’s writephoto prompt from KL Caley at New2Writing.com. The second thing I thought of on seeing the picture was a comment I’d made in the introduction to Critters and Crises that I hadn’t yet written any stories featuring fish. When I finished the first draft I realised that I’d hit exactly 1000 at the first attempt. Of course, I’ve edited it substantially. It’s now 999 words. So here goes…
The Submerged Antique Vase
As far as fish communities go, ours didn’t need much. We had a pleasant stretch of land, with good sandy and shaley dunes that shifted with the air above us. The air was warm and rarely turbulent. Above the glass ceiling the sun shone through the atmosphere, and the night came and went.
With it came and went various predators, some of which hid in the dunes. You just had to watch out for regular shaped dunes that hid the vastness of a skate, or a halibut, or one of those that would leap up and destroy your world in an instant.
The trees waved about in clumps, but weren’t reliable: one storm and they’d uproot and sail away. Since we ate mainly small animals among the sand and cleaned up the crud on the trees (and any passing major fish that liked their skin cleaned), we missed the trees when they went.
“Why don’t we just swim after them?” I’d asked.
“That way lies doom!” my guardians replied.
We stuck together in a sort of family group, my group was called Uruhu. It was always fun when we met the nearest family, the Luhuua, because we played games with the ones of our own age, and avoided the nips and bites of their oldsters. There wasn’t much we could do to avoid our own.
The day the two round hollow rocks arrived in our garden was one of the days the Luhuua were visiting. They had seen things like it before.
“They are thrown at us by the gods, to test us,” their oldsters said. “Leave them alone. They are dangerous.”
Well, you can guess our reaction to that. We waited a while till they’d gone off behind the small reef and scooted off to investigate.
We have plenty of stones and rocks around, and the reef is full of big ones. But these were odd. They were so smooth on the outside and on the inside. We tried to work it out, me and Kau’i; we tracked each other moving over and under the curves of the rock. It was probably only just thicker than us at our widest part, just behind our ribs. And there was a tiny hole at the far end, compared with a huge gape at the front where we’d gone in.
One of the Luhuua youngsters was waiting by the reef and swam over when we came out.
“I’ve no idea,” I said. “I’ve not seen anything like it before. A smooth hollow cave-like rock. And the gods throw them at you?”
“Yes. We don’t know why. We know you should not try eating any food that dangles above you, though.”
“It’s a trap. Something horrible seizes you by the mouth and drags you through the glass ceiling, never to be seen again.”
“Oh, how horrible. Remember that, Kau’i. No dangling food.”
“But what about these rocks? Are they a trap?” Kau’i asked. I looked at the Luhuua youngster.
“Sometimes they are, sometimes they’re harmless. If they have something reaching up to the ceiling, be careful. They move at random.”
I tried to understand his words, and Kau’i and I discussed them afterwards. Not that it helped much.
That night we had a storm.
Storms don’t usually occur at this time of year, so we were caught well away from our sheltering ground in the reef. But maybe we were lucky. The air was so turbulent it tore the reef to bits, and many animals rooted there floated off into the deep. Several of our usual neighbours were dashed against the reef or trapped underneath tumbled rocks. Maybe that would have been me, or my family.
The air was filled with dirt for the next few days. Sometimes that’s helpful as we can still gather food as we swim. But this clogged our gills, and our Elder told us all to seek shelter. We breathed as best we could, and found food as it drifted down to the floor. I suggested we sheltered in these hollow rocks, but our elder said we should go to the other trees, a longer way from our usual haunts. Of course, we had nothing to do but obey.
Then, something really awful happened.
The air suddenly pulled us away, pulled us so fast that the heavier fish were left behind, left flapping and dying as they’d collided with the glass ceiling. I found myself with the Luhuua youngster, and called for Kau’i, but I couldn’t find him.
Then the tide turned and we rushed back again, tumbling over each other in the turbulence. I couldn’t work out which way was up, although the Luhuua had gone far away from me, it seemed they’d gone up, but were curving over above me and rushing back to where we’d come from.
What was going on?
Was it a punishment from the gods?
Had I defiled their home by examining the hollow cave?
Were the oldsters right?
Eventually the air threw us down, onto the land, but it was not our land.
There were smooth rocks, and metal things; huge structures of metal and plastic and glass. I collided with several of them, banging into them as the air drew us back again. There was a new type of tree underneath me, very short. I was swept back away from it by the air again, and eventually found myself on sand, but not the sand I knew.
Except it was the sand I knew, when everything settled down.
I was alone.
The two hollow rocks were still there, but broken at the edges. You could see they were the same ones though, by the patterns on them.
My family never came back. Some Luhuua came to talk to me, asking if I’d seen their family. Some strangers, too.
We found food.
We survived. But we wondered whether the gods had cursed us, and let loose their anger on us for trespassing in their hollow rocks.
© J M Pett 2021
Last few days!
The last few days before the summer/winter sale ends (July 31st 11.59 pm Pacific Summer Time).
The currently free books are:
- The Perihelix (Viridian System series book 1)
- The Princelings of the East
- BookElves Anthology Volumes 1 & 2
- Messenger Misadventures
- Time and Tinplate
- Weird and Weirder
The currently half-price or better books are:
- Curved Space to Corsair (Viridian System series book 2)
- The other nine Princelings of the East books
- Critters and Crises
- Greed and Retribution
Check out all my books at smashwords here: and use the discount codes shown next to the price on the individual buying pages.
News about Zanzibar’s Rings (book 3 in the Viridian System series) on Wednesday!