Dear Reader, this is a short story I wrote several months ago for a writing assignment. We were to take a real live event and reproduce it in the science fiction genre. This was my first attempt ever at sci fi. The next week’s assignment was to take the same story and re-write it for an older audience. I have posted the revised story, “The Fish Landing Net” already in “Mrs. Agnew’s Corner” but thought you might enjoy reading the original story. Hang on to your seat!!! And if you haven’t read the revised story and would like to, you might want to have a tissue box nearby – but, hopefully, you will want to cheer as well!!
The Landing Net
He was afraid. In his mind, all was almost dark. His thoughts were heavily blanketed by possessive shadows, preventing an acknowledgment of the bright morning winter sun that gaily lit up the ensconced snow – snow that for months had been laying claim to the job of healing rough edges of old, wooden fencing and rusty, forsaken plows. Cold gusts of wind pushed past his pale cheeks, through his hair, and into the warmth of the shed’s interior as he hesitated in its threshold. His left hand clutched the cold, aluminum pole of the landing net, his right hand the pouch of life-giving pellets the winged creatures loved so much. Was today the day? He had tried so many times before. Though he knew courage was gained by facing fears, and not by fleeing them, the many unsuccessful attempts to battle the beast had not removed from him total and absolute fear. Fear reigned. Yes. But because of the fishing net, he had always felt within himself the very smallest hope of hope. With each failed attempt, however, even this very miniscule hope was fading into mortality, leaving him more afraid than ever.
The offbeat cadence of the winged creatures reached the cold, red ears of the boy. He gripped the handle of the landing net firmly, crunched onto the snow, and into the healing sunlight. The landing net was his hope. That’s what they said. If only he knew how to use it. He had asked, “How?” several times, but they always said, “If we tell you, it won’t work. You have to figure it out for yourself.”
As the boy began to unwillingly trod the well-worn path toward his destination on this cold, winter morning, his fear was paralyzing, and his gait became slow-motion. Sighting the enclosure of the winged creatures with his wary eyes, he noticed with disconcertment that the path to it appeared to be shorter than usual. Heightening this new uncertainty, the clouds above in the flat blue winter sky began to rush beyond him as if to get to the other side of the world as quickly as possible. Then the snow-cloaked fencing bordering the path began tearing past him in a parallel race to some distant finish line behind him. Underneath his booted feet, the snow-covered ground sped as if to compete with the fencing. Even all the barnyard animal voices were in fast-forward.
It was hard for the boy to process what he had to do. He had never experienced this sensation of rushing before and decided it must be his nerves. Nerves or not, there was no time to try to analyze once again how he should use the landing net. There was almost no time to be afraid. Because suddenly, all was still. All was quiet. And he was there, at the enclosure, panting, and out of breath – as if he had been racing.
The winged creatures, six of them, stood waiting, calmly, for their food. But where was the seventh? The beast? Did the boy really arrive so quickly this time that the beast did not know he was there? Or was his speed of arrival just the illusion it seemed to be?
The light of the sun reflected off the winged creatures’ enclosure and found the landing net pole, making it glow. The boy began to distribute the life-giving pellets. He watched as each winged creature came forward to partake. Though their feathers were of muted browns and subtle reds, the composition was a warm richness that the boy had always admired.
Then it happened. And as always, it happened without warning. Out of nowhere, the beast, vibrant in iridescent green, bright blue, shinning red, and blinding white, with outstretched wings, a thrusting sharp beak and threatening claws, rushed at the boy in a violent fury. Without thinking, the boy raised the landing net and stabbed it into the air toward the beast. As the beast continued speeding toward its target with hurtful purpose, the boy was amazed to see that not only the pole of the outstretched landing net glowed brightly, but that the ring and the netting, as well, scattered out powerful, sharp luminosities. A split second later, all coalesced into a single laser beam of almost blinding orange that found the beady eyes of the colorful, rushing beast. As if hitting an invisible wall, the destruction-bound bird slammed backward and to the ground. The boy stood stunned, breathing hard, still holding the landing net out like a sword. The conquered bird lay still, breathing steadily, but not making a sound. Then, slowly, with a great adjustment of wings and feathers, the rooster righted itself. The boy, unsure of its intentions, brandished the landing net again, and the bird responded by hopping back two feet. Almost completely sure that the beast was subdued and under his control, the boy waved the landing net a few more times at the bird. At each movement, the now humble bird moved farther away. When the winged creature found himself at what he thought was a safe distance, he began to casually preen himself as if he had no concerns in the world.
Turning to the curious and slightly startled hens, the boy finished the work of the morning, gathering eggs and filling up the water container. As he headed back toward the shed through the bright, snow-covered barnyard, the fresh winter breeze invigorated his sure steps.