Category B: Third Place (2020) Monash Short Story Writing Competition
Author: Wesley Chen
Sharks are easily the worst creations on Earth. Just thinking of those ugly, detestable beasts makes me hate the entire ocean. In fact, every time I go to the beach, I would be reminded of these brute savages, and how my younger brother had once been mauled to death by one whilst surfing. He was an aspiring champion, and my whole family was proud of him. Yet on one fateful day last year, we lost him forever. Now all I could do was post blogs in his memory.
One hot summer’s day, five of us found ourselves sailing out to sea in a small skiff. We wanted to try our hands at shark hunting. This was my chance to seek revenge for my brother. I was determined to rid the ocean of those man-eating pests and do the world an honorable favor.
Twenty hours earlier, I had been interviewed on Studio 13, a small radio station, that had just begun broadcasting. A reporter there had been following my blog posts, and had cajoled me into expressing my opinions on air. I knew they only wanted a scoop, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to take revenge against the creatures. Any chance was one to take. As I spoke, I could visualize the dramatic headline.
“Man hates sharks to death”
But speaking wasn’t enough. I had to take action! So, I had accepted the challenge laid down by Shane, the owner of Studio 13, to accompany four shark experts on a shark hunt. He told me that if I killed at least one shark, it would make the story so much more captivating.
“Marketing tactics my friend!” he said.
The thousand dollars he offered was also attractive. It was a win-win! I kill sharks and line my pockets. He gains listeners.
As the rickety boat cautiously slowed in the depths of the ominous Eyre Peninsula, I suddenly realized the reality of my situation.
We were driving into the most shark-infested waters of Australia. The choppy waves licked hungrily at the side of the boat, each wave reminding me of a fin.
“Put on your suit,” Shane insisted with a smile, “and good luck down there! Remember, you’re doing the world a great service. And of course, don’t forget all that cash!” I nodded and tried to appear clam. Despite my bravado, my heart was thumping in my chest like a manic tom-tom drum, ready to leap out any second. When we were all equipped with a harpoon in each hand, we nervously lined up to dive.
“Back first. Don’t forget to equalize!” Shane yelled sternly, and we plunged into the dark depths of mystery.
The cold, salty seawater engulfed me as I headed downwards. I checked my air gauge. Two hours. The rainbow coral reef sat below me, looking oh-so-beautiful, but threatening to slash me like a razor. I flippered warily down in the emerald waters of the sharks’ lair. Every flicker of movement made me jump, as I raised my harpoon to defend myself. My hands clenched the weapon tightly, as the only hope of survival.
Minutes ticked by slowly.
My tension mounted.
Suddenly, I saw it! Above me! Dark shapes! Were they sharks? Had they finally arrived?
Then - my attention was diverted.
From the corner of my eye, something glimmered! Swiftly, I flicked my flippers and swam over to the glinting metal lodged into the soft sand of the ocean bed. My violent tugs gradually released it, as it lifted from its sandy bed. A bracelet! And it was heavy enough to be gold! I was rich!
Excitedly, I turned around to show the rest my find. But where were they? Swiveling around in the murky water, they were no were to be seen! Then I realized it. My team, of supposed “experts”, were beating a hasty retreat to the boat!
Fury began to grow inside of me. What were they thinking? I had trusted them to guard me, and now they left me all on my own. Vulnerable.
I froze. My heart stopped. I held my breath.
I felt it before.
I saw it, as a strong current swept through the water.
Sharks! I was doomed! Four gigantic beasts approached me. They were bigger than the boat! I couldn’t move as they stared at me though cold, ruthless eyes, and smiled menacingly though their fearsome fangs.
Looking at their rows and rows of razor-sharp teeth, I could already feel them sinking into my flesh. I braced myself. This was my end. I was to finally meet the same fate as my brother once did a year ago – to share his same watery grave.
Closing my eyes, I prepared for my end.
Had it been an illusion? Some sick prank by Shane?
As I slowly opened my eyes, I gazed around, confused.
Languidly, the sharks dawdled by, calmly surrounding me. One brushed my hip, its rough hide scraping my skin. They circled. They leered. And then my heart slowed.
They were beautiful! Kings of their domain. Then I realized that it was me who was the intruder! I had no right to be there or wish them any harm. Obviously, they had had their breakfast, because they simply gilded by, indifferent to my presence.
And that’s how I came to love sharks. Twenty minutes later, I did make it back to the boat. Shane didn’t pay me, but the bracelet led to the discovery of some buried treasure. More importantly, I had come to appreciate the majesty of these creatures.
“Man loves sharks to death” was the new cover story. Sharks were the making of me.