(What I'm concerned about with this draft is comprehension. I want to make sure that everyone arrives at the end of the story knowing exactly what's going on. I would also like feedback on the thin parts of the stories, and which parts you feel could be enhanced.)
Anton remembered the shadows beneath the boat looked
like an ink spill in the water. Tenebrous tendrils
cajoled darting little fish into the gloom, luring
them with the promise of safety from oceanic
predators in their midst. The water churned as a
school of silver fish swam past him. He watched as
they wove in and out of the shifting light, before
vanishing into the murky swirling shadow.
It was too easy to lose your senses; your sense of time, your sense of direction, your sense of danger, in the vast body of water. The pageantry of fish
amused Anton like few other things. They were fast
moving patches of color, or fragile glints of silver propelled effortlessly through the depth. He lingered just out of the reach of the boats intimidatingeclipse and watched until the last twinkle disappeared.
A sudden realization shook him from his reverie. The water was empty . Smaller fish had departed at once,and even large throngs of the silver fish had thinned out. Anton saw something stirring in the gloom. A mackerel. A trout. Hell a Barracuda. He didn’t give a shit what, so long as it was not a-
His mind did not have the chance to dread the
possibility. With all the seeming of a monster, She slid from her hiding place.
There is a misconception about sharks and shark attacks. People believe that JAWS bursts out of the black, mouth open, and swallows it’s victims whole.Death is instantaneous.But the first bite is far more likely to wound than to kill. The mark almost never sees it coming.
Anton saw her for an instant, a single second that
seemed far longer than it should. The doctors said the shark must have been moving very fast, but she didn’t appear to move at all, rather she seemed to float towards him. Anton likened the sound to the start of an engine, but anyone who hasn’t heard the water roaring could possibly imagine what it is like.
Suspended in space, it’s image grew, and Anton
watched it’s eyes. “They won’t ever know the way it smiles,” he thought.
The teeth are so sharp you can’t feel the bite. If it wasn’t for the bump and the red, you wouldn’t know you’d been bitten at all. Anton felt the hard bump before he was engulfed in a cloud of his own blood.
As she clamped her jaws around him, Anton was already being pulled upward. The last sight he recalled was the shark vanishing like a ghost into the open ocean.
The ocean vanished as Anton’s eyes jerked open. He’d felt the pressure on his chest, a tight tearing sensation. It haunted him in the remnants of his nightmare. In his subconscious he loathed the white of the ceiling. It reminded him of the hull of the boat,the belly of the shark, anything and everything that terrified him.
Though it had been 12 years, Anton recalled the attack with excruciating clarity. He had not thought of her in his waking life for quite some time. Only in his dreams did She exist, swimming in and out of his fantasies. In fact, She had become the thing in the corners of his mind; the part that exists in twilight and silence. But She was here now. He sensed Her presence as he scrutinized the translucent shadows on
the white backdrop above him. The scars across his
chest ached fiercely, throbbing with the burning sting of a freshly inflicted wound.
Anton drew himself to his feet and gratefully inhaled the blessed , sweet, stagnant non-liquid air. Each gulp of dry atmosphere put an ocean of distance between him and his nocturnal predator.
Unwilling, his eyes turned to the window, staring
through the pane of glass at the rolling ocean beyond the beach. Caught in the firm gust, the crests of low waves resembled shards of cracked obsidian churning in a vast and vacant abyss.
**Anton has to move downstairs
Light posts that dotted the beach illuminated the inland. Their yellow light bled across the water for several yards, before dissolving in the tides. They’d been placed there to discourage rouge midnight swimmers, and so far they’d been successful. The lights were comforting. Surveying the shore and shallows below Anton saw no signs of life.
Miriam was in denial again. Kaylie had left deep scratches across her forearm. Anton tried to suppress his conversation with his mother, but the image of Miriam sitting wilted at the breakfast table haunted him. Kaylie absorbed much, if not all, of his mother’s attentions.
“You’re not going to tell the doctor about this are you?” she had asked. No. Why would he? She would be sent away again. Perish the thought. His insides churned.
The thought of Kaylie came to him unexpectedly, as he looked out over the waves. She had a strange lingering hold on his mind, like a half-formed thought that remained forever out of reach.
The inside of Dr. Larson’s office was crisp and clean. Dr. Larson had taken X-Rays and physically examined the bite, but Anton already anticipated the diagnosis.
“There’s nothing medically wrong with you, Anton.” Dr. Larson informed him in his authoritative little voice. Anton looked up and swallowed hard, pushing Kaylie and Miriam deep into the pit of his stomach.
“Well, I’ve been having these chest pains for about a day and a half,” Anton insisted. He didn’t want to push the issue with the good doctor any further than he needed to.
“Anton, I can tell you for certain what isn’t wrong with you. There are no fractures, blood clots, bruises, sprains, tears, fluids or any other abnormality which would cause you to suffer from the type of pains you are describing. Your pulse is normal, and you’re healthy. Usually that’s good news.”
Doctor Larson was a petite man, so much so that his pointy little head had a tendency to become lost in his starched, white scrubs; but his voice rang with such confidence that contradicting him was impossible. It made him bigger than he was, and Larson seemed keenly aware of it. The doctor offered Anton an envelope containing his x-rays.
“I can’t get any sleep at night. If there’s nothing wrong with me, than what am I supposed to do about it?”
“Well, I’ve heard of amputees who have suffered pain or itching in limbs that had been gone for years. It might be a psychological problem. But that isn’t my field.” Larson offered up the envelope again. ”Or you could get a second opinion.”
Dr. Larson was a good doctor. Anton had looked at the x-rays himself over lunch and though he had no idea what he was looking for, he was sure there was nothing there. The appointment was scheduled for the late evening. Anton sighed and looked into the mirror. Tender, pink ridges bisected his chest like the stitching on Frankenstein’s monster. The jagged bite patterns coalesced forming beautiful, whip-like arch draping itself over Anton’s scrawny shoulder and cutting into the delicate skin on the back of his bicep. Miriam had tried many times to convince him to have the scars removed, but over time Anton had grown to admire the equilateral lacerations and cited ritual scarification as a rite of passage in some cultures.
He was 15minutes into his session and Anton couldn’t imagine why Yates kept making him repeat himself.
“So you’re here because you’ve been experiencing chest pains that prevent you from sleeping?” Yates’ twitchy mustache danced back and forth on his face, brushing across his upper lip.
“Yes.” Anton replied.
“On occasional, these incidents occur due to outside stress. Have you been experiencing any unusual stress?”
“I don’t know. There’s a thing with my sister. She cuts herself. It’s a thing with attention for her.”
“Is your mother aware of this behavior.”
“Yeah she knows. She’s always been that way though. When I was on the basketball team she made this half ass attempted suicide and got put into the hospital. Even when I got the shark bite, she had to go and one up me. ”
“Tell me about that.”
Anton could see clearly the ridged outcroppings that cradled the sandy beach . His stitches were still healing, wrapped beneath layers of white gauzes. He was still far too young to have processed his fear into phobia, but he remembered the day like it was his best Christmas because it was the last time he had entered the ocean. Kaylie had disappeared for too long. Miriam and Anton’s father were so absorbed with the well wishers that both he and Kaylie had become invisible. Anton had seen her perched on a rock just beyond a patch of scrub bush. Then he felt a bump. The cheese and crackers guy. When he looked back, Kaylie was gone. “Kaylie?” the scream escaped his throat before Anton had realized it. She’d disappeared beneath the waves. The salty surf first burned, then numbed the stitches across his chest. “Kaylie?” he screamed. His parents must have noticed him screaming, and were significantly alarmed to see him standing knee deep in the surf. For 30 minutes Kaylie was missing before she turned safe and sound in the rushes that lingered just around the corner of the sprawling beach home. She had admitted to swimming into the choked tributary as a joke. Miriam had set a precedence by sympathizing with her, but Anton was furious.
The story erupted like a long dormant volcano waiting for the proper moment to demonstrate it’s fury. Yates was listening. It was a gratifying feeling to be listened to. When Anton left the office he felt vindicated. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, defined as ”PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder can occur as an acute disorder soon after a trauma or have a delayed onset in which symptoms occur more than 6 months after the trauma. It can occur at any age and can follow a natural disaster such as flood or fire or a man-made disaster such as war, imprisonment, assault, or rape”. The quantifying element is any kind of severe trauma, and shark attacks apply.
The breeze was stiff and cool on the peak where the lookout station surveyed the so called “Red Triangle”. It was home to one of the world’s greatest monsters, The Great White Shark. Allegedly the small patch of ocean got it’s name from the depredations of the sharks and the tell tale evidence left indiscreetly pooling on the surface. The animals fed on the seal population, big fat juicy seals that pop like over-ripe strawberries when the shark’s enormous jaws come clamping down on them. Disgusting but uniquely colorful.
Anton laughed. He ascended the narrow metal staircase still clutching the little pamphlet in his hands. Up top was the Observatory Station, which was open to visitors only a few days a week. Cloud cover had set in.
“So you watch sharks?”
“Um, yeah, I watch shark attacks actually. I monitor them, and record their coordinates and details about them.”
“Wow, that’s sort of a morbid job.”
“Really, how so?” Daniel asked.
“I’m sorry. I was bitten by a shark.” Anton lifted his shirt revealing the signature of a large marine predator.
“You’re pretty lucky. Very few people have ever even seen a Great White Shark, let alone be in the water with them. And survive an attack all in one day.”
“Whatever you say Daniel,” Anton laughed. “So have you seen any today?”
“No not yet. I’m not looking for shark attacks right now. I’m just watching the water.”
“Well there’s a story in these parts about a shark. Allegedly this was way back in the 1920’s. And she was terrorizing all the fishing boats. She was just this huge shark. They named her Blue. Well anyways, I guess there was an accident, because on day y they found the contents of Blue’s stomach floating in the water in a pool of blood. No one knows what got her. My guess is it was a boat that probably collided with her. But Blue didn’t want to die. So she hung around.”
“You mean a ghost shark you can’t be serious!”
“No I’m totally serious. A colleague of mine told me he actually saw it. You She’s not like any other shark. She just appears from no where. And on the surface, you know it’s her because she appears to be a faint blue. It looks like a discoloration, but it isn’t.” Daniel laughed.
Fossilized teeth discovered in ocean sediment indicated that the early ancestors of the Great White Sharks evolved some 65 million years ago, a time when sharks themselves were already old. In Ancient cultures they had been symbols of longevity. Great Whites are said to be able of living up to a 100 years. Anton scrolled through the search results for “Great White Shark Facts”. Anton did a quick post-mortem on the Library’s Reference section. Towers of Encyclopedias and Dictionaries were empty, and the area was clear of patrons, save one student seated at remote lonely table. A man with beady round eyes kept glancing over at the Computer Station before diverting his attention back to his own monitor. Anton penciled his name into the white box on the Sign In sheet for an additional half hour.
Blue had been some what of a local celebrity in her time. Even for a species known for it’s longevity, Blue’s span of existence seemed exceptional. Local reports as early as 1888 referred to a large, native shark that had taken a fancy to harassing local fishing boats as they hauled in their catch. At the time of her first sighting’s the depiction of her size represents a shark already of considerable age. Theories speculated that the shark had swam inland to pup, in an effort to prevent her offspring from being devoured in the open water by it’s adult relatives, and simply chosen not to leave. Despite best efforts, the elusive animal evaded capture, eventually passing from fact to folk lore. Well into the 1900’s the legend of Blue was regarded as a myth, circulated by fisherman to explain botched expeditions. One faithful night a fishing boat reported that a large Great White Shark grabbed hold of a net and engaged in a bizarre tug of war, nearly spilling the crew in the resultant battle. The crew reported that some of the catch and the equipment had been lost to the monster. Several nights later a boating enthusiast discovered an enormous slick of blood and the remains of what appeared a large animal floating alongside an array of fish remains and less identifiable objects. It was later determined to have the stomach contents of a large shark, and the remains of the equip lost in the battle lost by the fishing boat nights earlier. Newspapers reported that the fishing legend Blue, had indeed been real, and had met her demise when she collided with the propeller of a large vessel as she swam near the surface of the water. Fisherman and other sea goers believe that believe that Blue wasn’t ready to give up her depredations on the coastline, she quite literally became the ghost of the ocean, soundlessly patrolling the waters; recognizable by the faint bluish hue to her skin.
The water was cold and pulsing with movement. Tiny fish swarmed around Anton’s face. They moved desperately, writhing and dodging on the swift current seeking to avoid something. Anton recognized that frantic movement. He remembered the shimmers of sleek silver darting and weaving through the rippling shadows on the day he was introduced to the Great White predator. Sharks are attracted to frantic motions and erratic pulse. The light from the shore barely penetrated the surface of the night time ocean. There was no way he could see her from beneath the water, but perhaps he could feel her. He was unaware of how far he had swam. When Anton surfaced he could see the gleaming boundary of artificial light in the distance. He was alone in dark water.
“Kaylie?!” Anton called her name in strangled gasps, but every moment at the surface was another second of drift pulling him from the safe boundaries of the light.
“Anton, help-” Kaylie was choked by droughts of water and the bobbing motion of the water. Kaylie slipped beneath the water once again. For a moment her hands remained, gesturing frantically.
“Kaylie, you’re drowning me!”
Near the surface Anton could see Kaylie’s eyes bulging from the sockets. Her lips were pale, the color of a cadaver. She was pulling them down into the depths. Until the light faded. Something large brushed against Anton’s arm. Below a certain depth, the water is an opaque curtain of blackness. No light penetrates. Kaylie must have lost her way. Anton managed to pull them both to the surface. Kaylie’s features remained stiff.
“Kaylie. Kaylie, breathe.”
Anton repeated it like a mantra, as he swam. Kaylie. Kaylie, breathe. Arm in. Kaylie breathe. Arm out. There were several small rocky shoals, nothing more than scraps of land, not too far from shore, where the banks begin to close the gap on the water. The land there tapered off sharply to the south, rising like a phoenix out of water, but to the North the water was deep. Anton believed this was their only hope.
“Kaylie?” Anton asked. Her eyes stared at him, never blinking. “Kaylie, please. You can’t be dead.” Anton pressed his mouth over Kaylie’s, titling back her head. Her mouth felt slimy, and slick; cold to the touch. He fought the urge to recoil, and forced his air into her lungs. Kaylie’s chest rose obediently, and Anton resumed the position to give her another breathe. The wet musculature of her tongue brushed against his and he felt a trickle of cold water fill her mouth.
“Did you just fucking tongue me?!” Anton spat the brine onto the sandy deposit. Kaylie, rose trembling from the frigid water.
“I’m sorry.” Kaylie shivered from shock and heat loss.
“Kaylie, where’s mom?”
“She said she saw someone in the water,” she spat out in between gasps. “She went to chase them away and then she went under the water and she never came back up.” Her voice came in broken blips then dissolved into sobs. “I went out to look for her-” She was shaking violently. “But I got lost. I’m sorry.”
Shocked and exhausted Anton fell to the sand. The water rose and fell, covering his ankles, but he could not will himself to move. It was as if a fog had swallowed up his mind, and in an instant he was dissolving into the ground, falling asleep.
The pain rousted him before the sunlight had the opportunity. Blue’s jaws came from no where, clamping down hard and shaking him awake. Even with eyes clenched he could feel the warm fresh blood pouring onto the sand below him. If she was going to take him again, then he did not want to see. The pain surged again, and Anton opened his eyes.
Dawn was breaking in the east. If Blue was here, then she wanted something. She had brought him here. Kaylie stood naked, ankle deep in the white surf. Anton wasn’t certain if his dream had left him. He blinked his eye. The blood was gone, only the pain remained. It crushed his chest . He fought it to draw breathe.
“Kaylie?” Kaylie turned around, strands from her blond hair clinging to her soft round breasts. Her features were soft like an angel’s face. She looked pleased. Anton was ashamed to be titillated by the sight of her in the morning sunlight. “Why are you naked?”
Kaylie smiled, her lips curling into a sweet heart shaped pose. “It fights hypothermia. Never mind that. I think I’ve found something.” She motioned for Anton to join her. “I think it’s mom.” The momentary shock he felt dissipated. “There’s something there.” Kaylie gestured down to the steep drop off on the north side of the shoal.
Anton joined her. Beneath the blue he thought he caught the glimpse of something below, wedged near the bottom between two rocks. He stared as hard as he could, trying to bring the diffuse image into focus.
“I don’t know what it is-”
Kaylie wrapped herself around him. Dance with me Anton. He wasn’t sure is she had said it or merely thought it. But she forced him beneath the waves. You’re drowning me Kaylie. She had a strong grip on his shoulders and Anton’s feet couldn’t find the ground. His mind was fading, even as his feet instinctively struggled for leverage. She let him bob to the surface. “You’re drowning me!” He spat before he was once again forced below the water.
When Kaylie released her grip Anton returned to the surface.
“What are you doing?!” Kaylie smiled, then her face turned dark.
“I’m sorry. I’m just grateful to be alive.”
“You’re seriously deranged, do you know that?!”
“Anton, I can’t go down there to see what that is and you need to.”
“Kaylie, I can’t hold my breathe that long.”
“I think you can. Don’t you want to know if that’s mom down there?”
The familiar silhouette terrified as it thrashed and waved at the bottom of the ocean. The tail swayed back and forth . As he fled, it dawned on him that the skin did not move of it’s own volition. The water gracefully animated an empty husk, like a snake’s skin caught in a spring breeze. Anton freed it from the rocks and brought the prize to the surface.
“It’s a skin. It’s a shark skin.” A tremendous skin, perhaps more than 20 feet in length. It had been difficult to fetch the cumbersome trophy from the depths.
“What?!” Kaylie approached the skin, which was suspended benignly between them on the cushion of sea water.
“It’s a skin. A big skin.”
“Can I… see it.” Kaylie reached out and touched the skin. Anton turned to shore. An infant thought gnawed inside his head.
“Bring it on to the shore Kaylie.”
Silence answer him. “Kaylie?” The panic was familiar. She was gone. “Kaylie!” She had disappeared and claimed the skin with her. Something surfaced and floated towards him fast. Kaylie’s body floated face down, her blond locks pooling in the water. Kaylie’s body brushed against the rocks, the skin coming ashore like a vacant wet suit. It was so thin that it was nearly translucent. HE could not believe what he held in his hands. It washed ashore empty, no muscles, no organs, no blood, no body. The skin was far too small to accommodate Kaylie’s adult frame. This was the skin of a child.
The attack happened so fast, he never saw it coming. The snout struck him with authority, slamming him head first into the rocks. Below the water he could see her coming. He knew her by her familiar toothy smile.
Shark attack victims almost never see it coming. Blue’s jaws caught the creature who had the audacity to wear it’s form like a tawdry garment. The bite caught the creature a few lethal feet from Anton. It’s mouth open, prepared to strike, it thrashed in the grasp of the large predatory fish who emerged from no where. Anton clamored to shore. The shock and blood loss disengaged the skin. Lifelessly it floated to the surface, near enough to grab. Anton reached for it but the creature halted him.
On a foggy day, she could have been mistaken for human. Her skin was cold, click and green with a reptilian quality. The webbing between the fingers betrayed it’s aquatic ancestry. Her eyes were black, as empty as the ocean at midnight. But still they seemed beguiling, huge against the backdrop of her fragile features. She clasped her hands around Anton’s throat. They are so cold.
His skull grated against the rocks beneath him, as she drug him to land. She was injured. Blue had left her mark on the creature. Her eyes cast some sort of spell. She wailed a shrill cry, sounding reminiscent of sea bird call. Anton closed his eyes tight and groped the ground.
His fingers found a large stone, and he placed it squarely to the creatures templates. She screeched again, a cry of pain and alarm as the blow sent her toppling into the surf. She charged at him, but Anton slid into the water. Blue was coming. The dorsal fin broke the surface moving at an incredible speed.
Anton dived for the puddle of shark skin. The creature gripped it from below. She surfaced and Anton saw futility in it’s black eyes. There was finality in her expression, as if she had finally understood the futility of her endeavor. Blue seized her. Beneath the water they vanished.
Anton had a singular opportunity. Standing there on the unnamed shoal Anton sunk to chin level and drew the skin over his head. The scar throbbed, visably swollen. The pain, the pulse pushed outward from his rib cage. Anton screamed. He felt as if his body were being inflated. The pain was terrible. Without thinking he clutched the skin tightly over his head.
Pain became numbness, his body couldn’t feel his feet moving, but he was moving towards home. He saw it coming into focus, faster than he imagined. He must have swam at the surface quite fast. Panic must have moved his body faster than he ever imagined. Like the women who had lifted cars off the trapped children.
Anton entered the shallows and he released his grip on the skin. For a moment he felt like he was floating. Fragments of his life flashed before him in an instant. He could see the sky, very blue, with white clouds.
The sand was soft and he could feel the blood seeping from the gash on the side of his jaw. His hand was still clutching the hollow length of skin on the shore. Terror pried open his eyes. He could see in the distance something breaking the waves, slowly circling the shore. If it was Blue, then he understood who had won the duel. The ghost of the ocean had claimed it’s murderer. Anton drew his legs safely onto shore and pushed the skin out into the water. He watched it as the current gently carried it out of his grasp. The spilling of the waves drug the skin into the water. Slowly it disappeared completely, sinking to the bottom. Anton imagined it coming to rest on the sandy sea floor before being devoured by lesser animals.
The ordeal was over. Soon they would search for his mother, and perhaps find her. Anton sank deep into his pillow, staring at the ceiling. Weariness was heavy, pulling down his lids. His body was sleepy but his mind was still reeling. Don’t skins float?