By Emmy Kirk (Second Semester MFA Candidate)
It’s late, and I should know better than to walk along the beach at night in a foreign country, completely drunk out of my fuckin’ mind, but even in this alcohol fueled state of mind, there are no bad decisions, just the sound of waves crashing against the shore, and the spray of cold water onto my heated and exposed skin. I shouldn’t be here, I should go back to my room, shower, sleep, and pray that I don’t get a hangover, but out here it’s different. It’s nice, it’s quiet and my mind and thoughts are at ease.
I keep walking. Every now and then I glance at the crashing waves, a small part of me wanting to strip out of my clothes and dive into the water, but that desire is something I have to resist. Despite my confidence in my strength and endurance, I’m in no condition to fight against the waves and heavy currents.
Weird, I think to myself, as I stop to watch a large wave rise and break, sending the white sea foam towards my legs. The sea is more violent now than before. Late in the afternoon, when I was here, the waves were still big, and the current still looked strong, but now, it looks deadly and dangerous, like lava churning, bubbling, and boiling in an active volcano. It’s as if there is something hiding in these waters, a sea monster out of some Greek myth, or a megoladon, thought to be extinct only come out at night when no one is around to see it. I smiled. One can dream, right?
As I proceed further down the beach, I stopped when I recognized where I was. Up ahead is a large sand dune, that looked like a large wall separating this side of the beach from the other, and jagged rocks in the water that would make swimming around it impossible. When I saw it in the day time, I wondered why this sand dune was so high, and why there were so many rocks? Why was it made? I trust that the sea, that Mother Nature, as complex and complicated as she is, couldn’t make something like that.
Walking or running up the sand dune would be hard, especially since it was like my limbs had minds of their own, so the only option left would be to crawl up. I carefully stepped forward almost jumping back and falling when a wave splashed against the rocks and sand. I looked to the deadly and churning ocean and I was seeing stars. It was a long way down. I could knock myself out on one of the rocks and drown, or I could get swallowed up by the strong currents, and drown that way. Both were equally horrific, and both thoughts made my stomach feel funny. Despite those feelings, I was still going to climb up this thing and see what was being hidden.
I dug my hands and feet into the wet sand and started to crawl. I could feel the sand rubbing harshly against my skin but I kept going, determined to get to the top. Whatever was being hidden, there is a reason for it, but no one has told me why. Or maybe they did, but I drank too much to remember what they said.
A splash of cold water onto my back made my heart skip a beat, and made me panic when I saw a chunk of sand from the wall fall into the dark abyss below. I’m feeling dizzy, my vision is blurry, and I have to force my eyes close because it’s a long way down and I could see my own death below on those rocks through my eyelids.
After a few deep breaths, I make it to the top. I get to my feet and was instantly hit with the smell of rotting and decaying fish that reminded me of trash bins behind a fish market on a hot day. I pull my shirt up to my nose. If this was what they were hiding, I understand why.
I look down, half expecting to see dead fish, but through the moonlight I was shocked and confused to see sharks. Great white sharks, tiger sharks, bull sharks, and many others that I couldn’t name. I watched as they swam around in this watery pit, but through the night I could see bodies of dead and rotting sharks ripped to shreds and stuck in the rocks, where the waves washed against their decomposing bodies.
There was one shark, though, a great white, beached on the shore torn in half, with its blood and organs leaving a trail from the water onto the shore. Apart of me ached for this dying shark alone on this sandy shore.
Against whatever judgement, or lack thereof, that I had left, I slid down the sand dune, and started walking towards the beast, which seemed so much bigger up close. My heart tightened, and I could feel the tears falling down my cheeks as I watched the pained-filled rise and fall of the great white’s trembling body, as it shook and jerked. Every breath it took, had to be like gasping for air while being engulfed by fire, just searing and torrid with no chance of escape. Here he was, this king of the sea, this apex predator that my dad had tattooed on his arm, suffering and dying before me.
When I was close enough, I reached out and touched him. His heart seemed to race at the contact but I petted him, like he was my cat laying in my lap after having dinner. The shark’s skin was smooth, slick, and wet and every stroke down that large strong body, just felt more human-like. I kept petting him, while meeting the scared, frantic, and desperate eyes of a beast so terrified, and not ready to die.
A sad smile played across my lips. “H-Hey, buddy.” I could see the panic and fear in his eyes, and I don’t think he understood that I wasn’t going to hurt him. I just wanted to be in his presence. I wanted the both of us to be at peace even though there wasn’t much time. “It’s okay,” I continued. “I-It’s scary to be out here alone, and away from your friends and family but it’s okay. I won’t leave you. I hope that’s all right.” His terror seemed to have faded and I knelt beside him, feeling his warm blood soak into my jeans, and his intestines start to pool around me.
The shark didn’t respond. I fought against the urge to cry when I saw the agony and pure anguish laced in those black eyes as he struggled to breathe, the expanding gills frantically searching for some kind of life force. I moved my hand to his nose and gently pet that area for a few moments. Why is he holding on, when every breath just causes more suffering.
Just die, I thought, gripping his flesh. Just die and go away. Die because it will be easier for both of us. Die because you’re not human. Die because you shouldn’t mean anything to me but you do. Just die… Please. Just die.
I don’t know if he read thoughts or maybe he realized it was time for him to go. I felt him inhale quickly and then exhale.
I run my hand down the shark’s body, before looking out into the water, where I could see the sharks fighting and ripping one another apart, and the bodies of dead sharks slamming repeatedly into the sharp jagged rocks. A small wave carrying blood and bits and pieces of shark washed up around me. When the water went back to the sea, I noticed a shark tooth in the sand.
I shouldn’t be out here. I should be in in bed, sober, clean and sound asleep but here I am. I turned back to my shark. My shark, it sounded funny, but under this moonlight, in this place blocked off and unknown to the world on the other side, he was mine, even if it was just for a moment.
Photo of Rebecca Renner, taken by Emmy Kirk