The flotilla did not move. It carpeted the still river like an emerald lawn. But underneath festered a stagnant water. The trees lining the bank reached deep. Their roots curled like toes in a thong, but their branches were bare, long ago stripped by the acid rain that fell in huge drops.
The children from the metropolis came to play. There was nothing else to do in this dead city. At least here they had some shelter from the scorching sun and from parents’ prying eyes. A hideaway among the paperbarks.
The children threw their nets in, disturbing the green flotilla and releasing sulphuric fumes from beneath. Their laughter was bliss in this still world, but there was no breeze to carry it.
A little blonde girl with tangled curls and a dirty face pulled her net out and dropped it on the bank. The children gathered around, looking at the squirming treasure. They watched in awe as it flapped back and forth trying to free itself. Its little mouth opened and shut, gasping for air. One boy bent down close and reached out. He screamed as it slapped his hand. ‘It’s wet and slimy and it hit me!’
‘What is it?’ asked another child poking it with a stick. Soon all the children had sticks. It gave up flapping and gasping and its body lay still on the ground. A streak of silver on the muddy sludge. Its sightless eyes dulled as its life drained onto the bank and trickled into the river. The children returned to their nets, but they found no more silver in the water.
Overhead, nestled in a tree, two beady eyes watched them meander home. It glided down on a breath of air and grabbed the silver streak in its claws.