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Fish Stocks Limited

Moonrise and her friends had evidently wasted no time in telling the whole of the
Hundred Boughs that “No-Fish” Ambrosius Codwich was out after a Bass. The
crowds lined the boughs as he tramped doggedly across the branches to his fishing
spot on Bough Twenty Four. The faces in the crowds showed a range of emotions
from mirth to disdain. He ignored most of them, but there was one face at the back
that was not so easy to pass over. Sunbeam stood on one of the side branches, a sad
look on her face, trying to keep out of Ambrosius' line of sight. As Ambrosius made
eye-contact with her she shook her head and looked away. Amb rosius felt ice stab at
his heart, but he carried on. She would see; when he had caught a Fish she would
know she had married the wrong man, promptly divorce Fathead and come rushing
into Ambrosius' arms. Life worked like that, didn't it? As he thought this to himself
Fathead towered behind Sunbeam, kissed her lightly on the head and put his arms
around her in a proprietorial fashion. He looked menacingly at Ambrosius, who
quickly looked away and continued his journey.
After a short but humiliating walk the spot that he arrived at was,
piscogeographically speaking, a perfect one. It was away from the competing lines of
the more populous boughs, sheltered from the Smug by a thick canopy and free of
lower branches to snag ones line on when casting. Ambrosius sat on the bough, his
legs dangling over the edge. He opened his Box of Things and extracted the Bait, the
Line and the Hook.
“Sorry, little fellow. My need is greater than yours.” Ambrosius hated this bit. He
skewered the cheesy Hookworm with the cruel Hook, passing it twice through its
body to make sure it would stay on. He took hold of the bail of line, holding the fork
of the mounting loosely so that the line was free to pay out. Then he swung the Hook
with the Bait on the end round his head the traditional eight times and let go. The
Hookworm squealed as it shot though the air and fell towards the Mist far below. It
was a good cast, perfect in fact. Everything was perfect. Nothing more could be done.
The waiting had begun.
The crowds were persistent, new people popping along to stare and stifle a laugh
in a constant procession throughout the day and into the evening. Ambrosius tried
hard to ignore them, but their interest pressed home the fact that he had made a one-
way decision now – there was no going back.
He contemplated the subtle pastel colours of the Smug as it set, then the stars in
the velvet sky and the unimaginable vast blackness between them. He had to make a
concerted effort to tell himself that the Universe didn't go on forever as many peop le
had previously thought. If the Universe was finite, how could anything within it be
considered infinite? Where did such a concept come from? Was it just something
Piscadors had made up? Such questions were heresy, for the infiniteness of the
Infinity Fish was something deeply drummed into every young Piscador. But when he
had looked into that Fish's eyes, he had seen it. An end, looming terribly at the back
of those sacred retinas. What was happening? The Piscadors had hunted the Fish for
the whole of history without even denting their numbers – this was testified to by the
constancy of their catch. Fish and Fisher had mutual respect, and the relationship
between the two was inviolate. Something was changing though, something big. The
huge hulking yellow monster swam vividly across his mind's eye again. Perhaps the
monster was eating all the Fish. That made sense. But where had the monster come
from? Big yellow things didn't just appear out of nowhere. Something told Ambrosius