Global warming. Sea level rise. Floating Community. Attempted Robbery at a pearl farm.
Under the heavy mid-day sun, Andalib stood upon the catwalk outside the maintenance shed at the MacKenzie's oyster farm. She wore a tight, dark blue, string bikini swimsuit, with light green diving flippers on her feet, and a matching diving mask pushed up above her forehead, while tightly gripping a snorkel in both hands.
Ted also stood on the catwalk one step to her right. Eric Mann was on her left, gripping an open shotgun. Both men were casually dressed, in the garments they'd worn at the Amberjack.
Andalib breathed nervously, looking out across the opaque, glaring surface of the water inside the facility's outer fencing; at a rectangular patch as long and wide as an entire city block. She could not see beneath the surface of the waves. She looked out at the very long and very narrow catwalks, stretching out in a grid pattern across the entire facility, about a foot and a half above the surface.
She spoke in a clear but shaky voice.
"The watch-gator said he'd enjoyed the treat.
'Miss Andalib Elkart was fun to eat."
She looked at Ted. "Are you sure I can't have a spear-gun?" She asked imploringly. "I've never swam with gators without one before."
"Well then," Eric smirked as he goaded Andalib. "we'll see how brave you really are, now won't we."
"Mann," Andalib turned to him, "I swear to God, you are by far the most despicable man that has ever roamed the earth."
"That may be true." Mann said as he pushed two cartridges into the gun, "But at least I'm not the most despicable person that has ever roamed the earth. You're still wearing that crown proudly, Andalib."
Andalib narrowed her eyes and was advancing on Mann when Ted reached out and held her back.
Eric Mann smirked. "We want the gator to stay alive, so he can go on guarding the facility Miss Elkart. If you shot him, then Mr. MacKenzie's father would have to go through all the time and expense to purchase a new one.
"I'd like to stay alive myself, but if you're under the water where I can't see you, and you're holding a spear gun, the 'gator might not be your only target."
Ted said, "Sorry Andalib. I have to agree with him about that."
Taking a deep breath, she turned back to Ted. "So good-bye." She told him, "I wish things had turned out better between you and me."
He nodded. "So do I."
"I would have rocked your boat like no hurricane could ever dream of." She smiled and leaned toward him, pressing her body against his. "Do you believe me when I say that?" She whispered.
Ted uneasily cleared his throat. "I believe you." He whispered back and saw Mann grinning while shaking his head, so he took a step away from her.
Andalib sighed sorrowfully and looked back at the water, her breathing once again erratic. Then she spoke again. "You said you would pray for me."
"I will Andalib." Ted assured her.
"Can you pray for me now?"
"Oh yes." He hesitated a moment, then he prayed. "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I ask God, the Father Almighty, to send forth the Holy Spirit and cast out the Devil; so that Andalib will not be harmed in any way, while she's performing this task. I ask this in Jesus Name. Amen."
Andalib repeated "Amen." So did Eric Mann.
Then she asked Ted, "You think He was listening?"
"Of course." He told her, "He hears both our words and our thoughts, and understands our meanings, even better than we do."
Smiling she asked, "Yes, I know He heard you but -- will He answer your prayer? I am, after all, a sinner." She paused, "A great one at that too. So, will He answer you, Ted? Will He protect me?"
Ted remained silent for a moment then nodded. "I believe He will."
"You really believe that? I mean, really, truly believe that? No bullshit."
"OK." Andalib smiled, "If you believe it, it's good enough for me." She then turned to face the water and took a deep breath, "Should I pray?"
"Could we get this over with?" Mann asked irritably.
"If you want to." Ted said loudly while glaring at Eric Mann.
"What should I pray?"
He thought it over for a few moments. Then he told her, "You might say, 'Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.'"
She nodded. "Thank you, Ted."
Then Andalib sat down on the catwalk, with her legs dangling over the water, feeling the warmish water on her legs. She then lowered the diving mask, placing it over her eyes and nose.
Turning to face Ted, she smiled at him, placed the snorkel in her mouth, raised her arms with her hands together, took a deep breath and dove forward into the water, making a loud splash.
If the gator's inside this fencing, she thought as she began descending beneath the surface, that splash would have been loud enough to stir him up. They are, after all, attracted to the sound of things struggling and splashing in the water. He's probably on his way over to take a look right now.
Beneath the glaring surface, the water was murky in a greenish, brownish soup color that would easily hide the gator. She could only see a few yards in any direction, small fish floated around her in an eerie gravity free way that was only known in space and in water. 'What I wouldn't give to be in space right now.' Andalib thought and then shook her head as she made herself concentrate on the matter at hand.
To her left, was a series of chorded lines, hanging from beneath the catwalk where she'd just been standing. The lines descended into the murk, where the oysters that were attached to them rested on the bottom. She could not see any of the oyster lines that hung beneath the catwalk to her right.
She would not be able to see the gator, until it was so close that she wouldn't have time to move before it began to eat her. 'Dear God' she thought, 'Have mercy on me, a sinner. And, if you don't want to spare my life, at least make my end quick and as painless as being chopped in half can be. Thanks. Amen. Oh, and Lord, don't keep the bastard waiting too long before he makes his move. Amen.'
Satisfied with her prayer, Andalib's thoughts then turned to the pearl gardens under the nearby floating homes of the townsfolk. 'Easy pickings.' Then she thought, Okay Mr. Watch-gator!
Come and get it! I want to check out the nearby jewelers. Andalib slowly swam a few strokes forward, then halted, watching and waiting for an enormous pair of jaws to chomp into her upper torso.
Sexy bad girl to eat, she thought. Long slim legs, slim waist, and a healthy pair of big full boobs that any healthy male would love to chomp his teeth into, regardless of species.
Chuckling, Andalib thought of Ted. He's a sexy guy and, depending on how this whole swimming trip turns out, I still want to rock his boat. Celibacy my ass. We'll see how long he can keep from flying the mast once I really turn on the charm. Bad, naughty Andalib.
"Bad girl?" she wondered. Yeah I'm bad, one of the worst in this region if you think about it but there are others who are much worse; like Clarissa Kellington. She wants me to falsely accuse my father of sexually abusing me when I was a child? She thinks that could lead to whatever she means by "Social Justice"? Bitch. I'll give her some 'Social Justice'.
Again she prayed silently, God. Could you feed Clarissa Kellington to the alligator, instead of me? Amen.
I shouldn't be praying that way, she thought. If the alligator did eat her, he'd probably gag! Poor creature.
Up above the surface, Ted MacKenzie remained standing on the catwalk, with his gaze fixed on the spot where Andalib had dove under the water. He could not see beneath the surface.
He told Eric Mann, "I hate the idea that I'm standing here, waiting to see her blood rise to the surface."
Eric Mann nodded.
Ted turned away from him and headed back inside the maintenance shed, shutting the door. He seated himself at the desk and thought, I shouldn't be doing this.
Then he prayed, "Lord, have Mercy on me, a sinner."
After she saved me from that alligator, he thought, I'm doing this to her?
Again he prayed, "Lord, if the alligator is inside the fencing, and if it comes near Andalib, please shut the mouth of the beast, or please only feed it fish. If it's outside the facility, please feed it only fish."
Under the surface, Andalib now floated beside a pylon that held up the catwalk, just outside the maintenance shed. She was ready to grab onto the post, and pull herself up and out of the water, if the alligator came within view.
I don't really want the alligator to eat that sleazy Clarissa Kellington, she thought. Well, maybe her legs or an arm. Just not the left arm. Not with those jewels. Besides, there's something much more satisfying that I'd prefer to do myself. At lunch in the Amberjack the TV star was wearing that necklace, and those bracelets, the rings on her fingers and those earrings, all of them containing precious gems. There's really no good reason why I have to confine myself to pearls.
Especially after seeing that ring. Marilyn Monroe had been right, 'Diamonds are a girl's best friend.'
Right! I'd like to see if I can get my hands on those rocks. The TV Star can easily afford to do without them. I'd feel better about that, than I would if I raided the tiny pearl garden, of one of these local families who've been thanking me for saving Ted. The people in this town are raising those peals to just supplement their very limited incomes. There's no way they could get rich, on the amount they produce. Which means that I couldn't get rich off the produce either.
Clarissa Kellington says she wants to bring about "Social Justice", and that's just what I'll give her. I'll be redistributing her wealth. Then the gator can have her. Andalib thought in retaliation. He can start by chomping onto one of her legs and then --
Andalib swam quickly up to the surface and grabbed onto the pylon, spitting the mouthpiece out of her mouth.
"Eric!" She shouted. "Get me out of here! The gator's coming!"
Eric Mann quickly reached down and with one strong arm, he lifted Andalib up out of the water, the other arm holding onto the shotgun, finger on the trigger, ready to shoot if need be. Andalib quickly scrambled to her feet, as Ted rushed out of the shed and hurried over to her and Mann.
"The alligator's here, Ted!" She pointed toward the water. "It was coming for me!"
"Are you okay?" He asked, "You're not injured in any way, are you?"
"It's okay Ted. I'm okay. Not even a nibble."
"Oh thank the Lord!"
"Yes Lord." Andalib said, "Thank you for keeping me safe." She paused. "You had them close up that hole in the fence, didn't you Ted?"
"Yes?" Ted said confused as he saw her staring at the water, a look of dread on her face. "Why do
"This gator of yours is smart."
"Why do you say that?" Mann asked as he looked at the dripping wet woman before him.
"He didn't make a straight run at me."
"What?" Mann asked incredulously. "Come off it, they always go straight for their prey."
"You don't think I know that?" Andalib fumed. "This isn't the first time I've swam with gators, you know."
"It's in their primal instinct to go straight for their prey. It's been scientifically proven."
"What does that mean?" Ted asked as he watched Andalib and Mann argue.
Ignoring him, Andalib held her hand up, pointing her slender finger at his face, "I'm telling you, this gator was preparing to swim around and make a sideways attack."
"They attack straight!" Mann hissed. "They do it to build up speed so that they can knock the wind out of their prey should they miss the first bite. Most times, they knock their prey senseless and then clamp down on them. I've been hunting them for years -- I know this is fact."
"Then why don't you get in the water with this one and prove your theory?" Andalib asked softly. "You can give me the shotgun to watch your back and we'll see who's right."
Mann took a deep breath. "Look," Andalib said softly, "I'm not bullshitting you on this one, Mann. That gator really, well and fucking truly, swam around me in a circle."
"What does that mean?" Ted asked again, louder than before, agitation evident in his voice.
"It means," Eric Mann said, "That we had better get that hole in the fence closed because we're dealing with a devil gator."
"A -- what?" Ted asked quietly.
"A 'devil gator' is a term people in the business use for a gator that's -- wise to the world, Ted. One that's adapted to their environment. That's completely changed the way in which they're supposed to act." Eric said softly and watched as Andalib dried herself off with a towel.
"They're rare." She added as she slowly ran the towel down her neck and breasts, making sure that both men were watching her, especially Ted. "I've only encountered one other before and -- let's just say, I never want to run into one again."
"You know how many people say that gators are at the top of the food chain?"
"But people are -- " Ted tried to say but Andalib cut him off.
"Only because we have guns and other weapons. Without our guns, knives, gadgets and ability to communicate, we're pretty much at the bottom of the food chain, Ted. Gators and sharks are at the top because they're cold, Ted. They kill without batting an eye but, and this is important, most gators and sharks only kill when they're hungry or threatened. There's nothing more to it than instinct. Their 'prime objective' in life is to kill to eat and to survive."
"Devil gators kill simply because they can." Eric added and saw Andalib nod in agreement.
"So," Ted said softly as he looked at the murky water around them, "You're both telling me that I have a gator that kills for -- for pleasure?"
They stood in silence until Andalib nodded, "Basically, yeah." She then smiled and said, "At least it's back in the facility, Ted. You don't need another killing on your hands."
Ted felt sick. As he watched Andalib pull on a pair of shorts, he realized just how risky it had been to have her swimming with the gator.
"I've completed my community service." She said, "Now how about my salary, Ted?" She smiled broadly as though nothing was wrong.
"Right." He said softly, "I've got an entire pearl necklace for you, right inside the shed."
She grinned, "I can't wait to see it."
Now Eric Mann asked, "So everything's okay with the alligator?"
"Right." She said, "Now after this, it won't be harming anybody."
"That's good to know."
She thought, At least I hope it won't harm anyone, wherever it may be, and I haven't got the slightest idea where that is.