The river water is cool and smooth between my claws. It guides me downstream, pushing me slowly and gently toward my prey. The pace suits me fine. With my missing tail, it’s hard to get much speed in the water; this wouldn’t be the right place for a showdown. Whenever I make my move, it’ll be on land. That’s where I’ll be able to close the distance before they’ve even realized their mistake. I just need to be patient. Someday, they’ll push their luck too far. Someday they’ll get too close. I don’t need to be fast… not yet.
I focus my eyes on the river in front of me. I’m passing under the large bridge, fish gathered in its shadow. When I look farther up, I can see that there are several humans on the bridge, speaking in their loud and discordant tones. They seem to be following my movement. If I was closer… If they strayed off the path…
But no, I have different targets in mind. I dip my head briefly down into the water and return to the scent trail. My enemies passed through here just minutes before, and if I continue, perhaps I’ll catch them with their guard down. Perhaps I can finally enact the revenge that I’ve been dreaming of for the last four years.
What a beautiful day! What a lovely time to be alive! My family’s fur is dazzling in the sunlight as we race through the water. We are together, and we are happy!
I try to catch a fish, but I’m too slow. It darts away. Oh well. There’s always next time! There’s always plenty of fish, and plenty of fun, and plenty of time. Today is good— no, today is great.
I chirp at my neighbor and push myself toward the large pile of rocks where we like to play. Let’s explore! Let’s see if something is different!
Together, we clamber up to the top. We are the kings of the mountain!
The ground is so, so far away, and I am so hungry, and the world is so bright. My life is small. My parents brought me all the food I could eat. That’s the way it should be. That’s the way it has been for all 30 days I’ve been alive. Bugs, and fruit, and warmth.
But now something is different. Now I don’t know when my parents are coming back. Something in my head keeps telling me that all the food I need is outside the nest— but the ground is so far away.
I am so hungry.
I know that I look beautiful. I know that I am the finest specimen, bar none, that any of the nearby female mudskippers have ever seen, and certainly the finest that has ever lived in this small tidal area, if not the world. If a female was nearby, I would raise my beautiful dorsal fin. And my spots- my lovely spots! They shine like stars— no, they shine brighter than those distant celestial objects. The luminous glow of my spots is like the energy that the humans blast into the sky each night. They are a beacon of promise.
The water has gone away; I am left exposed to the air. I bury myself in the mud. I tell myself that I am a rock. I tell myself that nothing can see me. Nothing knows I am here.