Eventually he would be known as Tiktaalik roseae, a ‘fishapod’. We will call him Albert.
In a shallow lake in what would become Canada, Albert swam back and forth in the shallows, giving the fisheye to the scattering of bugs just out of reach on the shore.
If you took the time to hang around with the old fish, they talked about days when the fish had to swim deeper and faster to catch food. To Albert it was so much gillwash. His grandfather was always going on about how much better things were in their day: the fish were faster, the food was more abundant, the young fish were more respectful. Albert could repeat the lecture verbatim. Particularly the part about being more respectful.
Fish ate smaller fish that swam in the warm shallows. Occasionally, they would feast on bugs that had been caught in the plants as the land moved down twice a day. The land moved back up, the plants receded, the fish waited. It had been that way all of Albert’s life.
Except that Albert was hungry. Prey fish had been scarce lately. Low land wasn’t due for a few more hours. He wanted to eat now. Even when the land got low enough, he wasn’t sure it would get down far enough to bring this particular small bundle of plants within reach. It was that lovely dark greenish-purple stuff that housed such tasty, meaty bugs. If it did come within reach, any food would be gone in a flash when the whole school found it.
Sure, he had nosed as a younger fish. Everyone did. Friends would dare you to stick your nose up into that curious non-wetness. Albert’s best friend had held stuck his entire head into it for 14 tail-strokes before he collapsed. Albert hadn’t done it in years.
Now he wondered if he could combine nosing with a small fin push and reach plants before they came down. He swam and pondered, pondered and swam.
Suddenly, he revved his tail for several beats, took a big gillful of water and lunged up the land. It was farther than he thought. One fin push. He tried not to panic at the empty feeling in his gills. He drew in, but no comfortable surge of water washed through. A second fin push. He was into the non-wetness with everything but his tail fins. He grabbed a bug and faded back into the water.
Albert swam away with a proud fin-waggle. He’d never heard of a fish doing what he had just done.
Two fin prints glittered in the sand. They would leave no mark after the next high tide. The planet would never be the same.
Reposted from [Off Topic:GMiFE] 2015.