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Climbing High

Stephen S. Power's first novel, The Dragon Round, will be published by Simon451 in August 2015. This is his third story in Daily Science Fiction. He has stories forthcoming in several venues, including Nature and Stupifying Stories Showcase. He's also a Pushcart-nominated poet with work recently published in Measure and soon to be read on "StarShipSofa." He tweets at @stephenspower, and his site is stephenspower.com.

Before I introduce the provost, who will address the rest of your concerns, I just want to say, and with all due respect to the parents, I think you're missing the upside here.
For the past several years, my team has raised fish out of water. As much as I admire my colleagues at McGill who studied the birchir, they managed to do so for only eight months, and their fish lived in special tanks. Our fish, thanks to minimal funding, slosh around a muddy yard. Nonetheless, they mature early, they spawn repeatedly, and through careful husbanding the phase one generations developed increasingly sturdy walking fins. These fish have already added a great deal to our understanding of how the early tetrapods became adapted to land.
Yes, as was made clear last spring, their yard should have been enclosed by walls more flood-proof than those built from chicken wire and two-by-fours. For every fish, however, that was washed away, another dozen walked back to the college, their heads held high, wanting to do their part for science.
These are inspiring creatures. Who could blame us for continuing our work? And who hasn't thanked them for relieving the countryside of so much vermin? We owed it our fish to proceed to phase two.
Our results speak for themselves. Having freed the fish from their watery confines, we tweaked their genes to help them reach their full potential. Each new generation had a digit in their walking fins grow longer while drawing out webbing behind it. At first the fish stood taller. Then they bounded about their yard. And the other day, well, as proud as we are that their parents spread their wings figuratively, we're overjoyed that our youngest fish can spread their wings literally.
I've said several times that before we rebuilt the enclosure, we did request money to put a roof on it. The provost will now explain why he rejected us, so I'll leave you with this.
Some in the media have questioned our choice of fish. They call the northern snakehead ugly. Rapacious. A "frankenfish." They obviously haven't seen a flock of them launch itself into the sky, soar glittering over campus, then dive, gaping with joy—even if it's at a crowded playground.
They will, of course. For want of a simple roof, they will.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Author Comments

"Climbing High" is based on the actual McGill research referenced in the story, coverage of which can be found here: Unusual Fish.

- Stephen S. Power
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