There is a runner in the Incan empire whose job is to carry a fish. Normally he carries a message, running a leg and then passing it along to the next man. Today his charge is a fish. It is fresh from the coast and bound for the emperor in Cuzco. One fish. All that way.
As the runner bounces through the Sierra, his mind wanders. Maybe he thinks of birds overhead or the far off jungle and its secrets. Maybe he thinks of empire and emperor or his place in the world and his own self, past and future. His fingers start to slip on what seem to be still wet scales. He realizes and tightens his grip but loses track of his footing. He slips and falls.
When he reorients himself he sees only the tail of the fish. It has been hewn in two, impossibly so, and the head is missing. It has gone over the cliff’s edge. It might find an alpine lake, grow a new tail, and go on with its fishy life. It might have already. The half fish mocks him. If the head were still there it would speak to him and laugh. He is doomed and he knows it. He feels shame, sadness. To the llamas grazing on the hillside above it is no great disaster.
News reaches the emperor and he summarily executes the runner. Then he has a trout from the river for lunch.
Patrick Harrington is from San Francisco and currently resides in Madrid where he teaches English like a traveling salesman. Contact him at email@example.com