Once upon a time there was a goldfish. It was a pretty goldfish with long beautiful fins. She lived in a pond that was full of koi. They were very old koi and she loved to listen to their stories. The one named Hanako was over 200 years old! Hanako was a brilliant red koi and the goldfish loved to swim near her. Hanako had the best stories. The things that she had seen and the places to where she had moved were fascinating but the little goldfish loved the stories about koi becoming dragons the best.
If a koi swam up a waterfall they could become a dragon. The little goldfish wanted to be a dragon. She wanted to become a dragon so badly! The kings and queens of the air still passed overhead occasionally and Hanako would point them out to the little goldfish. Hanako said it used to happen much more frequently when she was a fry. They were so majestic and lordly.
Sometimes at night they would fly low over the pool. Low enough that their whiskers would drag the surface of the pool just to let the koi in the pool know they were there. They were all water dragons of course, because what else would a koi become but a water dragon.
The little goldfish watched for them every night when their fluorescent scales would light the night sky over the pool and she longed for the day when she could join them swimming through the sky. There was only one big problem with her dream her pond had no waterfall. Something that Hanako pointed out to her but that never stopped the little goldfish’s dreams nor did the fact that as Hanako also pointed out that she wasn’t a koi for only a koi could be come a dragon.
The koi lived on a big estate and so they never knew that there were people that might catch them for dinner when they swam in their pools and hunted for mayflies and amused themselves with catching bits of rice cake that the children who lived near the pool would come to throw in the pool. They were so tame that they let the man who tended the pool caress their beautiful fins and would eat from his hands. The koi and the little goldfish grew fat and happy and swam in their pool enjoying the sun hitting the pool through the leaves and the air that would leave little riffles across the pond, playing tag around the lotus that grew in there.
But one day they noticed the children weren’t coming to bring them rice cakes and they grew lonely because the old man had stopped visiting too. Where were their friends? The fish didn’t know that a great sickness had passed through the land and that there were no longer people on the estate to admire them. They didn’t know that there was hunger in the land because there weren’t enough people to farm rice on the estate. They just knew they were alone.
Time passed and the goldfish grew and swam along with the koi and still she dreamed of being a dragon but she wondered too why the world had changed. One day a boy came to the pool and the fish gathered thinking he would bring them some rice cakes and give them pats but he had a pole with a hook and a fat snail on it and he threw his line in the water and the koi and the goldfish backed into the mud at the bottom of the pool. What was this? It was something new and not something that looked friendly and so they waited, for koi are smart fish and they know when something isn’t right in their world.
The goldfish was feeling brave so she went up to watch him from under a beautiful pink lotus that was blooming. The boy was sitting on the edge of the pool rubbing and rubbing his tummy. She wondered if his tummy was hurting him. She didn’t know he hadn’t eaten in a long time and that this was the only thing he could think of to do.
“Boy, why do you look so sad and why do you rub your stomach so?” The boy jumped up with a terrified look on his face. The fish ducked back under the lotus. The boy had never heard a fish speak before. The fish was pretty surprised too for she had never done it before either. It had just happened. The boy knelt down and peered under the lotus’s leaves into the water.
“Was that you, little goldfish?” asked the boy.
“”Yes, I think so,” replied the goldfish swimming out to give him a better look. He looked it very skinny. He looked like he had been ill and his clothes were torn. “I’m not quite sure. I’ve never done it before.”
“So why do you look so sad?” the goldfish asked again.
“Because I’m hungry and I’m the only one left in the village besides the old people.”
“Oh, but what were you doing with that stick and string?”
“I was going to try and catch a fish. I didn’t know you could speak.”
“Does that make a difference?” asked the goldfish who really didn’t want to be someone’s dinner.
“I think it must because if you speak you are like me and I can’t eat someone like me.” the boy replied.
They both sat staring at each other wondering what to do next. The fish wondering if she should go join the koi on the bottom of the pool and the boy wondering if gingko leaves were edible because that was about all that was left besides tea.
Kwan Yin had been watching the people sicken and wondered what a Goddess of Compassion should do. Kwan Yin had been granted the power to relieve children’s suffering and she thought this was definitely something she should do. She had the feeling though that something important was about to happen and so she thought she’d watch for a bit.
The goldfish regarded the boy from the center of the pond. He was very skinny and his clothes hung off him in a way she hadn’t seen before from the people that visited the pond. She thought about what she could do and she came to the conclusion that the one thing she could do was going to hurt a lot but it was really the only caring thing she could do. She swam close to the shore. “Take me but please make it quick. No hooks.”
The boy looked at her. “You want me to eat you???”
“Well, not really but where else will you find food?” The goldfish closed her eyes and waited. Kwan Yin decided that was enough and walked down the hill to the pond as the boy was reaching into the water to grab the goldfish she reached down and stopped his hand.
“Go back to your home and you will find enough food to feed your village waiting for you. Go!”
Kwan Yin pointed back in the direction of his village. The boy needed no further urging. Meeting a Goddess even a Goddess of compassion is not something most humans feel comfortable with. Most humans tend to think that goddesses are great in the abstract but terrifying in person. The boy ran!
“What am I going to do with you, little fish?” The Goddess sat down at the edge of the pool and watched the goldfish as she swam back and forth. The koi had come up from the bottom of the pool and surrounded the goldfish looking at the Goddess. The Goddess reached down and stroked all the fish that came up to her.
The koi and the goldfish swam patterns for Kwan Yin. The Goddess watched with a fond smile on her face.
“Little Goldfish, because you were willing to give of yourself I will give you a gift but I have a better idea than being a dragon. Dragons are so big that they have to hide themselves. Would you like to be a dragonfly instead?”
The goldfish thought a bit and then nodded enthusiastically. Kwan Yin reached down and held the goldfish cupped in her two hands and blew gently on the goldfish. The goldfish’s body began to stretch and become more slender. Lovely diamond wings replaced her beautiful fins.
She began to test her wings and lifted out of the Goddesses hands, hovering in the air in front of Kwan Yin.
Kwan Yin smiled and waved at her. The dragonfly zipped back and forth over the surface of the pond admiring her reflection in the pond. She sparkled in the surface of the water like a golden gem. Hanako and the other koi watched her and shouted encouragement to her. She thought she had the best of both worlds. She was near her friends and she could fly like a dragon.
So next time you see a dragonfly wave at her and make a wish because you are seeing someone whose dreams came true.