Miracle Fish

8 year old Joe has a Birthday he will never forget. After friends bully him, he sneaks off to the sick bay, wishing everyone in the world would go away. He wakes up to find his dream may have become a reality.
by Luke Doolan
17 Min / Australia



Miracle Fish, nominated for Best Live Action Short at the 82nd Academy Awards, toys with the very seductive idea of being the last man on earth. Since the protagonist here is 8 year old Joe and his world is limited to the school he attends, that means when he suddenly finds the halls and classes suddenly empty and silent, he is not particularly perturbed. Like a Ghost Ship, everything is left as it were, like all the people vanished mid-sentence. He finds a book on alien abductions left behind and that is as much explanation Joe needs.
The world that disappeared wasn't perfect for Joe anyway. While his teacher tosses out characters from fairy-tales ("Who wants to be Cindrella? Who wants to be the Three Ugly Step-sisters?") at the class for a school play, Joe world is more representational. His father is in the hospital, his mother has bills to pay, they have a car with a guttering engine, and Joe is acutely aware of their poverty. His fellow classmates are willing to make things worse, as they will, by poking his wounds. Joe needs everybody to disappear. And they do.
The reason the story will stay in your memory is because of the ending. At some point in the story, before we realize it, it has become a dark fairy-tale. Joe roams the hallways of a large castle alone with a grumbling ogre following in his trail. In the sharp surprising resolution, we have left the fantasy world and entered the world of plausibly horrifying. But Joe is not aware of the danger or knows it does not exist. Early on the Miracle Fish his sick father had given him in the lunch-box had foretold his future-Compassionate. Now face to face with the ogre, this is his strength. The man in front of him isn't a danger, from his ramblings it is clear he very likely had a very similar life as Joe. And the people (Knights? or am I going too far?) who kill the ogre in front of him probably kill something in Joe too.