The sting! - Part 1
The air was crisp as autumn dwindled to an end and winter began to spread its icy fingers. In Aquatic School it was time for a spree of games and sports. The aquatic creatures began their school day with warm-up exercises and then rounds of swimming races. This included swimming sprints, marathon swimming tournaments, diving contests and obstacle races. Olly the Octopus believed that physical activity was an essential part of their curriculum and vital for the health of his students. Apart from regular physical activity lessons during the school year, these two weeks towards the end of year were devoted exclusively to games. At the end of these weeks was their anticipated Sports Day.
This year's Sports Day promised to be bigger and better than before as the new Aquatic School campus at the coves gave them a much larger space for their activities.
"Oh! I love this time of school year!" exclaimed Delma's three classmates, the trio of jellyfish. "Nothing to do but enjoy different games and cheer our friends!"
"Yes," grinned Delma as they watched a group of fish swim a marathon of ten laps around the cove. "I also really appreciate the way Sir Olly and the other teachers also participate in races for teachers to set an example for us all. It’s commendable how sir Olly makes sure that every student in involved in one physical activity or the other."
"So I hear you're going to be opening the Sports Day event?" quipped one of the jellyfish slyly addressing Delma.
Delma blushed! "It was supposed to be a surprise!" she cried.
"Oh! Nothing can ever remain a secret in our school," laughed the jellyfish in unison.
Delma joined in the hilarity. "I am practicing every day!" Delma was an expert acrobat and she was ecstatic that O11y had asked her to open the sporting day activities with her act. Along with her, her five flying fish friends were also going to perform. Every morning they chose a part of the cove to practice where they could be hidden from other creatures. "We want to make sure our act is fresh and exciting for everyone!" said Fin the eldest flying fish.
One morning as Delma and the flying fish were practicing their performance of leaps and spins, Flyn the flying fish, suddenly gasped in pain and fell helplessly on the water surface with a splash. Her sisters and Delma swam towards her instantly. They saw that Flyn was floating on the water surface motionless. Delma quickly carried her on her broad back and took her to Olly's office while her sisters Fin, Fan, Foam and Fun followed.
"Sir! Look what happened to Flyn! She can't move! We were just practicing." stammered Delma as she rushed into the inlet which served as the principal's office.
Olly inspected Flyn carefully with his eight tentacles. He saw that one of Flyn's fins which helped her to stay airborne was swollen. "Something has bitten her," Olly said frowning. "I have a balm we can apply which will not let her fin get infected. She is just paralyzed due to shock. She will be fine," the octopus reassured them as he applied a thin layer of jelly from a bottle.
"Take her to the sick bay Delma and let her rest. The pain should wear off soon." In the area which was the Aquatic School's sick bay, Flyn soon began to recover. "I don't know what happened! I was getting into position to leap into the air when suddenly I felt a sharp sting! It was indescribably painful," she winced at the memory as her sisters listened.
The next day, a similar sting was suffered by Sally the salmon who was participating in an obstacle race.
"While I was swimming towards the finish line, I felt something bite me from below," Sally grimaced as O11y tended to her too. On the third day it was a sea horse who got stung; on the fourth day it was a trout and on the sixth it was a mackerel.
Every day, one aquatic creature or the other fell prey to a sting. Needless to say, all the creatures were alarmed and had their own theories to this sudden string of misfortune.
"It's a curse!" whispered the jelly fish who were always superstitious.
"The sharks are trying to sabotage our Sports Day!" cried Sally angrily. "Wasn't it enough that they took over our old school? I bet they are jealous that we have found an even better premises for Aquatic School."
All these rumours were making the Aquatic School students edgy and the enthusiasm for Sports Day had visibly dampened.
"Whatever can it be?" mused Delma as she helped Olly sooth the swollen area of the bitten mackerel fish with the jelly balm. Once outside the sick bay, Olly gestured to Delma to enter his office.
"Delma," said Olly in whisper."I think I know who might be responsible."
"Who?" cried Delma urgently.
After a lengthy silence Olly said, "The stings on all these creatures are like the bites of stingrays."
"Stingrays!?" cried Delma. "But aren't they ocean creatures?"
"Stingrays are a group of cartilaginous fish which have eight families. One of the families is of river stingrays who can live in fresh water," explained Olly with a frown. "I haven't seen stingrays in this lake for years now. But even if they have come to live in the lake, what I don't understand is why the stingrays are stinging our students without any reason. They usually use their stinger in self-defense.',
"How do they sting, sir? Is their attack like the bite of a snake?" asked Delma, worried.
"Stingrays have stingers on their tail; the stinger may reach a length of approximately 35 cm and its underside has two grooves with venom glands. The stinger is covered with a thin layer of skin, wherein lies the venom, explained Olly.
"Olly sir, do you think these stingrays are doing this deliberately? Our Sports Day is in two days...what if the stingrays try to sabotage our event?" asked Delma alarmed.
"That's what I am afraid of!" admitted O11y. "But again, why? Why?"
End of part 1
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