I wrote Angelfish after waking up from a lucid dream more than fifteen years ago. I’ve held onto the story ever since, and edited it some, but mostly it is intact. It’s an amateur work, but there is something special that brings me back to it again and again.
It’s a story about growing up with changing goals and desires; how different the world looks through the eyes of child, but more than that, how different it looks through the eyes of an adult remembering. I think the feeling of the story is still true for me today. I hope that you enjoy it.
He was six and a half years old with blonde hair and blue eyes that drove the women in his third grade class mad. Mad, not because he was overtly attractive—in truth he was quite average looking at that age—but mad because he would not use those blues to look at them. ‘What makes him so special?’ Jasper had a roaring imagination, and that is precisely what made him so special.
Jasper, in fact, was so concerned with the worlds of his invention that he sometimes forgot, altogether, about the real world. Besides, he was only six and seven months. Women didn’t interest him as much as robots and go-bots, fast cars and Tonka trucks, bikes, trikes, and ancient knights. So Jasper went on ignoring those ladies of the third grade. (They didn’t seem to know a whole lot about Dragons anyway).
It is important here to note that, although he didn’t follow society too closely when he was in school, he did mind the teachers very well. His imagination needed time to regenerate, and science, math, and English class allowed plentiful respite.
Every evening after school he allowed his imagination to have free reign. Jasper went on for years like that, until others said to ‘Grow up’ and ‘Stop that,’ ‘It’s unhealthy and childish.’ Those that said his behavior was wrong had never experienced a gift as strong as Jasper’s. It was trouble for Jasper though, you see, because he tried to do what was right and attempted to grow up, and put his imagination in the toy box.
As he began growing up, Jasper managed an extraordinary, healthy, happy lifestyle. He still took his breaks by hiding himself away. So long as he gave his mind a chance to unwind, and unleash all of its goblins and angels, he was able to interact with society and its trials. “Stress free as can be,” Jasper would say to his reflection happily each morning, as he neatly tucked his shirt and prepared himself for school. All those hours of uninhibited thought actually cured him of all the common modern day ills: stress, fear, anger, frustration. Releasing his mind took care of those. Now, all of this did make him rather strange, by comparison of course, to his peers. “How come he’s so great? Doesn’t he know we’re running late? O’ that stupid grin! Doesn’t he know the trouble we’re in!?” But he took no notice as usual. At least for a while.
Soon after college, Jasper realized that something was missing from his life. He had friends, but no romantic interests to be certain. He put his mind to work on solving the problem. The dilemma of life and love as they exist in the real world became his only concerns.
He was smart. He was good. He became more and more successful in that one real world, but his imagined realms disappeared into the Missed of Forgetfulness. The Missed is a fog that surrounds everything a person forgets he needs. And as his imagination slowly dwindled from lack of Love, it became sad and angry, and begged for attention.
His fancies roared from deep inside and caused him stress. Jasper’s back hurt. Jasper’s neck hurt. And there was this horrible space between his shoulders that tightened all the way around to his chest and squeezed his heart. But his car needed washing and the lawn a good mowing. Maybe if he finished everything first, he could sit and guffaw over larks and illusions. But until then, there were things to be done, and stuff that needed doing.
The Missed of Forgetfulness shrouded all of his dreams too, and he lost them, which made him tired. He slept more, but it helped him less. Sleep wasn’t restful, it was just that thing he did at night. It was harder to get up each day, and he didn’t know why. He didn’t know what he was missing, and that is the nature of the Missed. His cloud castles in the sky were gone, but how could he know to go looking for them if he didn’t remember they existed? But Jasper was lucky. He’d built his castles from clouds with so much strength and personality and character, that they noticed he was gone, and they did something about it.
One day, on his usual drive to work, ‘Curse the traffic!’ Jasper noticed that a fog had settled strangely in just one place off of the road. He slowed his vehicle slightly to get a closer look, but at forty miles per hour it was still an amorphous white mass. He came to a screeching halt, almost hitting the car ahead of him, ‘Learn to drive!’ at the red light. His mind had wandered for a moment and it almost cost him, but his mind had wondered for a moment if maybe he’d missed something.
Jasper peered out into the fog, and realized he couldn’t remember what was usually there in its place. He had passed that very spot everyday on the way to work for as long as he could remember, and still he could not pry the detail from his memory. ‘What is out there?’ ‘I should know this.’ The light turned green and Jasper pulled ahead and instead of going on to work, he pulled over onto the curb. He had to know.
‘Curiosity killed the cat,’ he heard in his head, but his imagination wouldn’t be dissuaded, ‘The first eight lives, sure, but that’s what they were for!’
He walked back to the spot quickly, fearing that the fog would lift and then he would have no way of distinguishing what parts were hidden from the ones he had seen. He would not know what he had missed.
The fog was white and misty, but thick. Jasper reached out a finger and was startled as the fog dimpled where he touched. ‘That’s impossible,’ he thought. He reached out again though, tenuously. His hand slid through with the slightest resistance, like pushing his hand into water. A trail of ripples followed his hand as he swirled it around and around. In the distance, a loud redundant noise came to his ears, but it only distracted him a moment. He took a deep breath and a big step.
Clouds of imagination are living things. What you may not know, is that every cloud can become a Missed of Forgetfulness. The fog is really a cloud that is so sad from being forgotten and unused that it eventually falls out of the sky.
A cloud comes to the earth in fact, to regain its happiness. That is why the birds and fish and deer and insects all come to greet it and swim around inside of it. They know that clouds love to look out over the world, but they sometimes get lonely up there. So all of those who know, come out to say hello, and thank you for the rain and the days of shade. And of course, they say thank you for all of the wonderful shapes the clouds make, to paint the sky and make it new every day.
Well, this particular cloud was very sad. She came down to find someone special and wake him up. ‘Jasper!’ It was the boy who spent all those years looking up at her and wandering with her across the sky. (It was people like Jasper who kept the clouds in the sky where they belonged, uplifted and happy.) The two of them had made quite a few giraffes and monkeys, spaceships and starfish, and castles of course. She saw that he was sad too, though, sad because he had no Angelfish. People, she knew, especially ones with mischievous, rampant imaginations, needed something tangible, something real that existed beyond imagination, beyond what just a cloud could give. That, as everyone knows, is an Angelfish. They are kind of like the clouds, kind of like the stars, kind of like angels, and they swim through the world all day. But there are not plenty of Angelfish in the sea.
Jasper needed his clouds to be happy and an Angelfish too!
The cloud opened up. She was delighted and happy to have found Jasper and she would help him. Losing friends like him made her sad. If she could help him be happy, she would rise again.
Jasper walked through the cloud, a little afraid at first and then more boldly. He thought he had come to the edge of a pond, but he continued on without a care at all for his shoes and socks. Something, called to him, he was looking for something, something that was missing.
He finally came to a stop when he realized that he was completely disoriented. He had felt the water as it came up to his ankles, but now he was completely submerged with the cloud all around him as watery wet as any lake. And, more importantly, nothing but white existed in every direction. He certainly could not find his way back to the shore, but he didn’t feel lost. He reached down, he was pretty sure he’d find the surface, but farther and farther down he reached, until he was all the way down to beneath his feet!
Not only was he able to slide his hand cleanly beneath his feet, but his shoes were gone. His socks were gone!
Out of his peripheral vision flashed something blue. He turned to look at it—or thought he turned—but still there was nothing but misty whiteness as far as he could see.
Then there were colors. Red above him? Something grey? Green? Then, right in front of him, something pulsing, throbbing, and yellow-orange, crossed. It changed colors, moved swiftly then slowly, always serendipitously. It danced and changed shape, smiled and floated happily around Jasper. (Jasper, who, by the way, completely forgot about work that day.) Then there were two of them and then four! Dazzling him, they turned into lightning bolts of pulsing aqua and then auburn. The lightning coalesced trailing into a single ball of splashing fulgurant shapes and sounds! Jasper realized that there was music playing. Voices singing in unison some foreign song accompanied by piano, violins, brass instruments, and drums. Then instruments that he could not understand making sounds he had never heard before! He was vibrating with sound.
The music built, a crescendo followed by less and less of a diminuendo until it became a rushing sound and washed away the scene, turning the ball of lightning inside out. A ball of blackness with lightning fingers reaching out and scratching away the sound. The blackness might have been two inches wide and two inches in front of his nose or it could have been light years in diameter and twice as far away.
The white vapors of the cloud rushed away after the sound. And Jasper, naked as he now realized he was, followed soon behind. Everything was black.
Silence. Jasper tried to move, but it made no difference. He floated in the darkness, but he did not feel alone. Auburn waves flowed to a point in front of him. Faint at first, then stronger, the waves grew. He tried to find the origin of the waves, but when he turned the ball of auburn glowing water was always before him and the source of the rivers somewhere behind. He heard a voice in his head: “We can start again from somewhere near the center, colliding into the birth of something new, to light the oceans yellow, sparks on a sea of blue.” He woke up!
Auburn and blackness.
He pulled his head back abruptly and saw that he had nuzzled his face neatly and deeply into the wavy hair of someone special. She was naked like he was. He could feel her skin against his. She was sleeping, but lightly, and woke a little to his movement. “What is it baby?” The voice was beautiful, cute and drowsy. Jasper told her the story. Afterwards, she kissed him.
“Maybe it was just a dream, but still, so vivid,” whispered Jasper in her ear, “I think it’s the story of how I found you.”
Finally, he floated his face over to her face and peered into her eyes. They danced and sizzled, sparkled and glittered. At the center of each existed a blackness that grew as he moved closer. He closed his eyes and slid around to her ear. ”You must be my Angelfish.”