by Robert G. Archer
The small fish swam around again. He saw, at the bottom of the tank, a bright red rock, different from all the others. It was a new thing. It was the first time the little fish had seen it. It called to him so he swam down to it. He touched his lips to it, this new red rock that had never been here before. It did nothing except to be new. The fish learned everything he could from it. He swam on, away from the red rock. He circled the tank again, a happy circle, all of life contained therein. The first quarter of the circle. The second. The water felt good. The third. Perhaps there would be food around the next. The fourth. And then the small fish saw, at the bottom of the tank, a bright red rock, different from all the others. It was a new thing. It was the first time the little fish had seen it. It called to him so he swam down to it. He touched his lips to it, this new red rock that had never been here before.
The man opened his eyes, the man who had been dreaming of the fish. But even as his eyes opened, the fish dissolved like smoke, forgotten and nameless as the dream faded, and already the man could not remember it. He was dreaming something. Something about water. But then it wasn’t water. It was snow.
The man’s opening eyes began to clear and he saw stretched out before him a vast field of snow, white and waving off into the far distance. Snow as far as the eye could see. There was nothing else but snow. He felt cold. Why was he alone in the snow?
Then he perceived that the snow wasn’t horizontal, it was vertical. It was up and down in his line of sight. He must be leaning against a snow cliff. But the snow was smooth and wavy. If he was leaning against a cliff he should see rocks, and he should be able to tell what he was standing on, next to this snow cliff.
No, no, this isn’t right, he thought. He became aware of his body. He wasn’t leaning against a snow cliff, he was lying on something. The snow cliff wasn’t vertical, he was horizontal. He was lying down. What was he lying on? Even though he felt cold, where he was lying felt warm and soft.