Gizmo and Lake Xochimilco


Gizmo and Lake Xochimilco

An Excerpt by Alex Hsu

A May 2024 Monthly Story Challenge Winner 

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The sun was rising on an early Winter day in Xochimilco Lake when an adorable pink axolotl jumped out of its hiding spot to catch its morning breakfast. This axolotl was named Gizmo and he had a pretty good life except for today. He woke up and something felt a little bit off.

Gizmo had always been a mystery to himself. 

One time, he was in a competition with his friends to catch as much fish as they could. Gizmo found that he could catch 30 times more than what his friends could catch. Another time, Gizmo found himself able to solve the most difficult problems that his friends had, like getting too hot on sweltering days, finding the perfect fishing spot, or inventing a new game to play. These strange events that happened to Gizmo were odd, but he didn't think much about it. 

Just as he was about to start eating his breakfast, he waved to his squid friend. He heard him talking, and discovered that this time he could understand and speak to him. After chatting, Gizmo was excited about trying to talk to his other lake friends. Before he could only wave, but now he could have a conversation. 

As the day turned to noon, tourists came to see the great lake, as well as the people who took care of the plants and crops nearby.  Every single time the tourists and the caretakers came, both groups would always throw litter into the water. It had been a year since Xochimilco Lake had opened to the public, but now there was so much trash. It looked like a beaver dam, and goop had built up all around. Now the water levels rose causing minor floods. Gizmo saw those floods and swam up them, having fun with his other axolotl friends. 

One time while swimming up one of the floods, Gizmo saw some shrimp. Shrimp was his favorite food, so he decided to try to retrieve some but he hesitated. His father had died from suffocation trying to get these shrimp. These shrimp were raised by Gizmo’s whole family but when a fisherman cast his net,  the shrimp fell into it. Since then, they have lived near the fisherman’s hut. Gizmo had always wanted to have the shrimp because it was his and his family's favorite food. “I have to do whatever it takes to get the shrimp, for my whole entire family,” thought Gizmo.

The next day, Gizmo made a team consisting of his axolotl and other lake friends to complete the first step in retrieving the shrimp. This would not be so easy because no  one could get out of the water. There were many people waiting for one of the axolotls to get closer to the edge of the lake so they could snatch one up and sell it to tourists and breeders. He had told his mom about this plan, but she ignored him when he asked for help because she knew that Gizmo would be breaking the number one rule in The Axolotl Book.

Although she wanted the shrimp back in possession of the axolotls, she was still worried about Gizmo and told him not to go. Of course, Gizmo did not listen to her and started planning. Their plan looked something like this:

  • Step one: locate something to carry the shrimp in
  • Step two: figure out how to get the shrimp out of the tank
  • Step three: transport the shrimp
  • Step four: get the shrimp into a hidden place so the humans can’t find them again.

This was the plan and they were going to start the next day. As Gizmo fell asleep that night, he had a dream about the beaver dam of trash. It was dark and cold and the birds had gone to sleep, but there was a beaver in a black cloak. This beaver named Woody was the smartest out of everyone and everything on Earth except for humans. Woody was at a table with some other beaver companions planning something. On the wall, there was a picture of Gizmo with an “X” over it. Beside that was a picture and a drawing of a plan to get the shrimp! Just then, Gizmo heard a whisper in his ear. 

“Gizmo are you alright? You were shaking,” Axi asked Gizmo. Gizmo then told Axi what he had seen in his dream. They woke everyone else up and told them about the dream. Everyone knew that this mission just got a lot harder…

Meanwhile, the beavers were planning how to stop Gizmo and his friends. The beavers made plans for a third of them to intercept Gizmo’s part of the team that was on the way to get a container for the shrimp. Another third would head towards the Gizmo team that was tasked to discover a safe spot to hide the shrimp, just in case they somehow got the shrimp safely into the lake. The last team of beavers would spy on Gizmo and try to make it as hard to get the shrimp. This plan was carefully carried out because if the beavers were found doing this, then they would no longer be known as the smartest.

At 2 in the morning, Gizmo, Axi, and Echo, Gizmo’s best friend, started toward the hopefully unguarded beaver dam, hoping to find a container to transfer the shrimp into. Gizmo had suspected that the beavers would have some part of their team try to make the process of getting the shrimp harder, but he was hoping that they would not be there. Just in case, he and his friends had set up a trap just for that kind of situation.

“Let's go, come on,” said Chopy, a beaver. “They can’t possibly have planned for us to come.” The trio of beavers started swimming through the lake, but after a split second, they realized that they had been tricked.  There were a bunch of squid around them. Confused, the beavers tried to swim around the squid, but it was no use. There were too many squid with too many tentacles and arms. 

 “Everyone, try to swim as fast as you can,” said Woody. Instead of swimming as fast as they could, the beavers were met with icky, squid ink. The beavers instantly knew that the only way out was to get on to land. Thousands of people had gathered around the beavers and were now taking pictures of them. It had been New Year’s Eve, but the people noticed a strange event happening in the lake. The beavers fled to their beaver dam and didn’t come back out for two days. 

Now that Gizmo and his friends were not being followed, they quietly swam towards the trash. They knew that there would probably be someone guarding the rubbish. The plan was for Echo to go in and try to get a container and for the others to be able to help him when needed. Echo went to snatch a bag as quickly as possible, but when he grabbed the bag with his mouth, he found that it was stuck.

“Come over here,” whispered Echo. Axi and Gizmo came over to see what was going on and discovered that the plastic was stuck together.

“What the heck,” whispered Axi.  They tried some more but didn't notice the beavers creeping up on them.

“NOW,” cried Chopy. All of the beavers instantly rushed toward the axolotls and tied them up with strong, reinforced seaweed.

“This is bad. What should we do?” whispered Gizmo.

“I don’t know, but we have to do it quickly before we are trapped forever,” responded Echo urgently.  

They were taken to prison cells that were under the beaver dam. And were laughed at by all of the beavers that passed. There were two beavers making sure that they couldn't escape.

Later in the cold night Gizmo found a stick in the corner of the prison cell. He looked at it and picked it up. A plan started to form in his head. He took the stick and tried to jam it into the walls. He knew he had to find the weakness in the walls. It was about 3 in the morning so most of the beavers had gone to sleep including the ones watching them. In the back corner of the room Gizmo found a hatch that led to what looked like an escape. Gizmo couldn't be sure of this but he woke up his friends

“Wake up,” Gizmo whispered.

“Ahh!” exclaimed Axi “What is it? It's so early in the morning?”

“Look, we might be able to get out,” said Gizmo

As they examined the hatch, they realized it was locked. Echo remembered a trick he had learned from watching the caretakers, using a piece of hard seaweed to pick the lock. With some patience and teamwork, they managed to open the hatch and slip through into a dimly lit tunnel.

To be continued....

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