Adeela Hameed

Frank and the Dead Fish: A Tale from the Ocean

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Frank had a large family. He could not remember names of all his grand kids. Yeah, he had that many! It was a funny, nonetheless his treasured, family. He boasted of their accomplishments to his friends; the shrimps, clownfish, sea turtles, stingrays, jelly fish and even the ginormous whales. You could consider Frank a highly extrovert seahorse, making friends wherever he went, whether on long expeditions to other marine habitats or short trips made to those beautiful coral reefs near azure waters.

He was content, obeying all rules established by Mother Nature, and never exploited resources for sport. Frank believed he could maintain the peace and quiet needed for survival following this scripted way of life.

One afternoon, Frank and his friends went out to the reef for some fresh water and sightseeing. It was always beautiful at the coral reefs. You could see young couples walking fin by fin amidst multi-coloured ocean panorama, sunlight filtering through white and blue, painting the surrounding waters in a brilliant hue. Many elderly ocean fauna found this place rejuvenating, and would often accompany their families for a day out. These reefs served as the greatest water purifiers of their ocean and kept nearby coastal areas safe from destruction caused by tsunamis. It was a safe place, filled with life and festivity, joy and fervour.

During their tour, Frank noticed something floating around the reef but he was not able to discern the composition due to their odd appearance. They seemed like fish but dead. Not quite familiar to Frank. No eyes, no gills, just floating around as if lost in space. He was puzzled.

Just then, his friends called out to him. Dusk was approaching and they had to set off for home. So he turned around to leave, still thinking about those seemingly dead fish.

One month later

On a quiet summer afternoon, Frank was suddenly jolted awake from his sleep. He heard a commotion. Peeking out from his room, Frank saw his family moving around in an excited frenzy. He couldn’t for the life of him understand what was going on. Only after exerting a lot of effort, did he remember. The family was planning a vacation to the reef resort. This was them – packing and check-listing.

Frank sighed. He was too old now. His trips to the reef had stopped too. Although he visited his friends at times, his body felt more tired these days. But Frank couldn’t let his family down. He was their only grandpa. And it was a well deserved holiday for everyone. For the first time in a long while, all members were spending time together. So, Frank buried his weariness, feeling fortunate enough to have this caring and comical seahorse family by his side. They were his heirs after all. He felt complete.

At long last, everything was carefully stuffed in bags and everyone slept soundly, though excited about their fun vacation. The next day, each member was bundled up and ready to enjoy the tour. Regrettably, in their hullabaloo, nobody had listened to the warning issued by guard dolphins the night before. Thus, they set out unaware.

Frank and his family lived a bit away from their closest neighbours, so it was rather unfortunate that they didn’t run into anyone who would inform them of last night’s news.

They cheerfully swam together, singing along the way to brighten their mood. On the way to the coral reefs, the family observed that the number of sea creatures travelling were less than usual. Although, different kinds of coloured fish floated towards the surface – moving idly – staggering aimlessly along the waves. It wasn’t too odd for them as it was way early in the morning. So the elder members thought the ocean was asleep. Frank didn’t think of it being anything weird either.

But when they arrived, the seahorse family found the reef gone and eerie dead fish surrounding the area. These resembled the ones they had passed by along the way. They couldn’t comprehend the situation. All they could do was tragically gape at the scene unfolded before them.

Loitered around the reef were dead corals, broken shells, murky waters, and a dense black fog. Nothing could be seen. No rainbow coloured patterns or clear ocean. No fish or clams. Sensing trouble, the older members led the rest of the family away. They wanted to return and ask someone about the reef. It was no good waiting here.

But, before they could leave, a sudden rush of sticky, greasy dark mass fell from above. It seemed to cause the ocean to wither in pain. The sea moved restlessly. Its waves were confused – grunting, cursing and pulling everything into the whole mess.

The seahorse family always travelled holding each other by the tail, looking quite like beautiful jewelry adorning ocean tides. And even now – in this polluted mess – they were holding tails, helplessly tossed around by the vicious black waves. Frank – too – was holding on in spite of everything. His body was weak yet he couldn’t and wouldn’t let go.

Just then, a giant cyclone of dead fish wedged in between him and his family. In an instant, he lost hold. The only thing he could latch on to was a straw. He didn’t know what it was, yet clutched it firmly and closed his eyes – not loosing his adamant grip. He thought that his family would still be there when he opened his eyes. So, he waited for the cyclone to withdraw.

The storm passed. Frank felt the waves calming down. Carefully, he opened his eyes. Only to find he had lost everything.


Frank spent the rest of his grief-stricken life holding on to that straw, constantly reminded of his family. His comical, beautiful, seahorse family. Caring mothers, hard-working fathers, naughty young ones. Innocents – all of them – lost in black greasy waves, consumed by that dark mass of waste. And killed by cruel, heartless dead fish.

Frank came to know a while later what those were. Oceans had always carried everything with them. Love, grief, whispers, death. Now they carried plastics from the human world.

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