Once upon a time there was a group of people who wanted to catch fish. A lot of fish. More than they could ever use for themselves. They came to the place where I lived with my people, more than a day’s journey away. They began to fish in our stream. They did not throw any of the fish back in, not even the little ones. They depleted the stream, and left. We began to call them the Fish Robbers.

The Fish Robbers had told us they needed the fish to build schools and fix the roads to the market, which would benefit even those who lived far away, as we did. But the roads never got fixed, and when we sent our children to the schools, they came back stupider than before.

The Fish Robbers said we could put fish back into our stream if we could find any. But they told us that every 4th full moon we would have to give them a percentage of the fish. We would have to deliver the fish to them on a certain day, or else have to pay a penalty of extra fish the next time.

So we started looking for other things to eat. Pretty soon we discovered all sorts of edible plants growing right there by the stream. We also realized that some of the plants could be made into medicines, and we became healthier.

After some time, however, the Fish Robbers saw how healthy we were and said we were not allowed to grow the plants anymore. But the plants grew by themselves. They were plants, after all.

Soon the Fish Robbers came back to our land and uprooted all the plants and carted them back to their own area, along with some of our people who knew a lot about the plants and had accepted the offer of being slaves for the Fish Robbers in exchange for room and board. Also, they got two weeks vacation every year. The thing was, they could only go where and when the Fish Robbers said it was okay to go, and only if they had the official permission slip with their picture on it, and the signature of one of the Fish Robbers who was in charge of permission slips.

Meanwhile, our people were getting more and more creative with preparing food and medicine and making shelters and so forth. We had decided that instead of borrowing what used to be our fish in a thirty-year loan deal, we would make shelters out of mud, straw, and recycled materials. We liked living in these shelters.

We started thinking it might be a good idea to build a big wall around our land, and make some weapons to defend ourselves from the Fish Robbers, who never seemed to be content with what they had already taken, but always wanted more. We did these things, and the Fish Robbers sent an emissary with a white flag to negotiate with us. The emissary said we were mistaken, it wasn’t the Fish Robbers who were our enemy. They were only trying to protect us from the real enemy, who was beyond the borders of both our lands. Apparently the Big Enemy was very powerful, and the Fish Robbers said it would be better for all of us if we banded together. The strongest young people of our land went over to a special camp the Fish Robbers had built for this purpose.

What followed was a sad time. Some of our children we never saw again.

One day the emissary from the Fish Robbers came back and told us they had found out Big Enemy had planted spies amongst our people. They would surely be the death of us. Therefore, if anyone did anything “suspicious” (we were left to our own judgement on this) we were to report it to the Fish Robbers.

Soon I was the only one left on our land. Everyone else had agreed to be a slave for the Fish Robbers, or gone to the special camp, or became ill and died from not having the medicines we used to have, or was taken away for being “suspicious.”

Thereafter, whenever the Fish Robbers came around, I hid in the caves or in the trees. I wrote this message so you will know what happened. I made the paintings on the walls of this cave so you will know what happened. By the time you read this, I will be dead. But it’s better that way, because I’m lonely for my family and friends.

If there are any real people left, you must tell the others: do not trust the Fish Robbers. They will betray you.

© 2016 Su Terry

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