Authors: Dane Hatchell,Mark C. Scioneaux
Tags: #Sharks, #Shark attacks, #Deep Sea, #Thriller, #Sea Stories, #Horror
Mark C. Scioneaux & Dane T. Hatchell
Copyright 2014 by Mark C. Scioneaux & Dane T. Hatchell
“How’s that hot dog?” Charles Rivers asked his stepdaughter, Mandy, after turning the ribeyes and closing the grill. The wind shifted and blew smoke in his eyes. He stepped out of the line of fire and snatched his beer from a side tray.
“Fine.” Mandy sat on a small plastic picnic bench, dressed in her
swimsuit. Little purple flip-flops dangled from her feet. Her stuffed rabbit, Bun-Bun, perched in a miniature highchair with plastic food on the tray.
“Is that all that kid of yours can say? ‘
.’ ” He mocked the little girl, using a high-pitched voice.
“She’s just five, Charles. What do you expect her to say? Be nice, or you’re going to give her a complex.” Carol untied her bikini top and exposed her large breasts to the afternoon sun. The Gulf breeze sliding down Pensacola Beach caressed her glistening body.
Charles felt his underwear grow tighter and regretted such a fine piece of ass came with 30 pounds of baggage. “It just seems she should show me a little more appreciation. When we got married, I moved you two out of that roach-infested apartment, and into a million dollar house on the beach. Despite that, she doesn’t really have much to do with me.”
“Mandy feeds off your vibes. Just be nice, and give her some space. She’s still adjusting.”
“Yeah? We’ll see.” He turned his gaze back to the little girl. She held the charred wiener in her tiny grasp and bit off another piece.
“Don’t waste your bread like that,” he said. “Put the hot dog back in the bun, and eat it.”
“I’m gonna feed it to the fishies.”
“You’re not supposed to waste food. You eat it.”
“But, Grey’ll go hungry if I don’t feed him.”
“Grey? Who the hell is Grey?”
“Grey’s a shark. He’s my friend.”
Charles’ brow crinkled. He closed one eye and swung his gaze toward Carol.
“Don’t worry, Charles. She probably names all the fish Grey— because of the color. There’s no shark by the beach for you to worry about. Let her have fun.” Carol raised her sunglasses. “I’ll make it worth your while tonight.” She smiled, devilish.
“I’m gonna feed Grey now. Bye.” Mandy hopped up and ran toward the boat dock.
“Don’t get too close to the water,” Carol called out.
Mandy cut across the sand and searched the water by the dock’s pilings. A small shark, nearly two feet in length, swam from the shadows beneath the pier.
“There you are.” Mandy smiled with delight, showing off a missing front tooth. “I brought bread. Your favorite.” She plucked small pieces off the bun and tossed them in front of the miniature bull shark. It ate mechanically, and, when its fin rose out of the water, a peculiar, sideways figure-eight, the sign for infinity, marked the creature. That’s how Mandy knew it was Grey. She did her best to come down and feed him at least once a day. No matter what time she came, he was always there, waiting for her.
The last of the bread hit the water. Grey gobbled it down, swam in a small circle three times, and headed back toward the Gulf.
“Bye-bye, Grey. See you tomorrow.” Mandy turned and ran the 200 feet to the house, kicking the sugar white sand of Pensacola Beach in the air, without a care in the world.
Shane felt the rush of cool air off the gulf. It sent shivers up his spine. The beer in the bottle held in his hand had turned lukewarm—wallowing in too much self-pity had slowed his drinking. The last gulps went down like sour piss. He raised his upper lip in disgust, belched, and tossed the bottle into the water.
The blackness of night swallowed the bottle as it left his hand. Seconds later, the splash resonated, sounding as hollow as he felt since she left. Shane grimaced as he plopped down in the small skiff. The boat rocked as his weight crashed down, and his head swirled with it. He reached for his final beer, the last of a six pack that had gone down like water. The half pint of whiskey he’d consumed prior to the beers had numbed his taste buds. He twisted the bottle open, and downed it, closing his eyes tight as the liquid ran down his throat and tears traced down his face.
He placed the beer on the seat and wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. His nose was congested, and he wished he had brought something to blow it with. He sniffed, trying to get the snot to drop in the back of his throat, but it kept poking forward. He gave in and blew his nose in his hands. The moonlight revealed a mass of goo that reminded Shane of the ectoplasm from a ghost flick. He leaned over the side of the skiff and vigorously scrubbed his hands in the cool Gulf water. His lack of equilibrium made him stumble, and he came within inches from pitching forward into the water.
Shane sat back and peered into the gloom. Lights flickered down the beach where he had spent some of the best times of his life. Those times were over. Forever.
Why? Why did you leave me, Katy?
They were inseparable, or so he’d thought. She’d left a note saying she was heading out to California to ‘find herself.’ A rumor going around saying she ran off with a musician didn’t make any sense. Katy seemed happy with home and school. She wouldn’t just leave her parents, or him. The weeks rolled by, and for a high school boy, each minute of the day was as painful as the last. Katy’s family vacation house was more than a mile down the coast. Shane wanted to go there. It was the last place they’d been together. Maybe there was a clue to her disappearance still at the house.
He cranked the motor to head for the house, but a dense fog formed in the distance, obscuring his line of sight. Drinking beer and collecting his thoughts sounded like a better idea. The sadness poured out of him, and anger took its place. He balled his hands into fists as a surge of adrenaline empowered him. He yelled into the night, a cry of bitter loss. The tears came again, but this time exposing his foolishness.
If she didn’t want him, he didn’t need her. After this night, he was done thinking about her.
The urge to urinate stabbed into his groin. He raised himself on shaky legs and lurched toward the bow of the skiff. He unzipped his fly and dropped to his knees. The relief to his bladder felt incredible. So much so, he zipped up and fell backward, hitting the wooden bottom of the skiff.
The stars shone above, just barely visible through the cloud cover, but they were there. One twinkled and moved.
A shooting star. Maybe I should make a wish.
Shane made a wish on the airplane overhead. He doubted the wish would ever come true. Traveling back in time to change the future only happens in the movies.
The boat rocked violently, and Shane shot up. Thoughts of wishes left his mind, and he found himself surprisingly less drunk as a salty wave hit him in the face. The skiff circled, riding the wave, the anchor holding.
What the hell was that?
He looked around but saw nothing.
He thought another boat had run into him, but he was alone. He opened a small tackle box and retrieved a flashlight. It didn’t produce much light, but it would have to do. The beam cut into the darkness. Shane’s heart thudded inside his chest. He peered over the side from where the impact had come.
The hull had been damaged, so it hadn’t been his imagination. Something had hit the boat. But what? Could it be debris strewn into the Gulf from Hurricane Ivan? It had been seven years since that massive storm and stuff was still washing up. That was rational, and Shane started to feel better, until a second impact from the other side rocked the skiff.
He fell hard, and his shoulder struck the side of the skiff. Wasting no time, he sat up and pointed the flashlight at the water. A large swirl and a few bubbles greeted him.
A cold numbness prickled the hair on the back of Shane’s neck. There was something in the water, and it was coming for him. He reached in his pocket and grabbed the cell phone. He pressed the first number he could find and held his breath as it rang.
“Hey, it’s me! I know it’s late, I’m sorry. I’m out here close to Fort Pickens in my boat…yeah I know it’s dark—look something strange is happening…yeah, I’m drunk, but what does that have to…well fuck you then—some pal you are!”
Shane hung up. He had to get to shore. Taking a boat ride at night on the Gulf was a huge mistake. What the hell was he thinking? He grabbed the rope tied to the cleat and slowly pulled toward the anchor. He jerked on the rope, but the anchor wouldn’t budge. He pulled again, hearing the water splash as the rope grew taut. He knew he would have to lean over the water to get a better grip, and the thought of doing that terrified him.
Shane screamed as water splashed nearby. It was a short yelp, but he felt embarrassed just the same. Relieved there was no one around to hear, he summoned hidden courage. Shane dropped to his knees and reached his hands into the water, grabbing the coarse rope. He pulled up, straining his arms, teeth clenched. The anchor lifted from the bottom, and he pulled it up as fast as he could.
A flash of teeth caught the moonlight. Shane stared for only a second into the mouth of a monster, before the jaws came down on his hands. He fell back and looked up as the stumps of his hands spurted blood. Shards of tattered bone poked through ripped flesh. The moonlight made the crimson appear black.
Shane screamed. He felt nauseous. A stream of vomit erupted and hit the floor of the boat. The bite happened so fast the wounds didn’t hurt at first. As seconds ticked by, that changed, and Shane screamed again.
Panicked, he tried to get to his feet, unsure of what to do next. His feet slipped on the slick patches of blood at the bottom of the skiff. A final impact to the side of the boat, Shane pitched overboard, and into the murky water.
“Help!” Water filled his mouth as he struggled to stay afloat.
He knew no one could hear him.
A tug on his leg pulled him under briefly, and he shot to the surface like a cork, gasping and sputtering for air. He would have savored the short breaths more had he known they’d be his last. A terrible pain cut across his stomach. The beast seized him and took him under. Bubbles shot from his lungs, rocketing to the surface, followed by gushes of blood.
His last thought, before slipping into the mercy of death, was how violently beautiful his blood looked rising to the surface, captured by the moonlight. It was art and poetry mixed into one. Katy had always told him to look for the beautiful things in life. He finally saw what she was talking about.
Shane died, and the monster fed.
Two Years Earlier
Mandy snuck down the hall hoping her stepdad had gone to bed. She had fibbed earlier when dinner was ready, said her stomach hurt, and she didn’t feel like eating. Truth was, she couldn’t stand to be around the miserable excuse for a substitute father. She didn’t want to be around her mother, either, for that matter. The daily maternal routine included wine with lunch and afternoon drinks until her stepdad came home from work. Then both of them would suck down cocktails and hard liquor through dinner and beyond, until her mom passed out.
Mandy’s stomach growled. She wished she had hidden some food in her room so she wouldn’t have to risk being alone with him. Ever so quietly, she edged toward the study. Keys pounding on the computer signaled he was still awake.
It was the middle of June, but she wore her thickest winter robe, tied tightly around her thin waste. In an attempt to hide her full breasts, the robe, instead, accentuated her shapely figure. With the lightest of steps, she crept past the opened door of the study, and down to the kitchen, praying he didn’t hear.
The cadence of striking keys didn’t waver as she passed. The butterflies in her stomach almost had her hyperventilating by the time she reached the refrigerator. The air seal on the door broke with a soft whoosh. She reached in and grabbed a Diet Coke, then slipped it in her robe pocket. She retrieved a pack of sliced turkey from a drawer and closed the refrigerator door. Mandy slowly opened a cabinet so the hinges wouldn’t squeak and pulled out a box of crackers. Her feet tingled, and her heart raced as she risked the flight back to her room.
As she approached the study door, only silence met her. Did he go to bed? Was he about to walk out the door?
His fingers hit the keys again, washing tension from Mandy’s shoulders. She hurried to her room and gently closed the door. The click of the door lock cut the air like a banging gong when she pushed the button. Mandy cringed. Her heart plunged to her stomach when the light in the hall flicked on, creeping under her door.
The door knob rattled. Mandy dropped the crackers and turkey, backing up to the opposite wall. The door opened. The hall light streamed around his darkened figure, forming a sinister silhouette. Her stepdad put a key in his pocket, walked in, and closed the door.
“I heard you up. Is your stomach feeling any better?”
The security light from outside her window lit the room enough for her to see him reach and untie his robe.
“How about I lie down next to you in bed. You know. Like we do sometimes.”
“I…I want you to leave.” Mandy’s voice shook.
He moved closer, and she leaned so hard against the window she thought it would break. Mandy closed her eyes. He was so close she could smell the whiskey on his foul, hot breath.
“I’ll be gentle...if you cooperate.” He reached his hand out and pulled at her robe belt.
Mandy grabbed the can of Coke from her pocket and smashed it against his temple. It made a thud when it hit. He yelled out a curse and staggered backward.
“Stupid bitch! I’m going to—”
The piercing wail of the burglar alarm cut off his words. Mandy had opened the window and dove to the ground, taking the screen out with her. She didn’t look back as she ran toward the dock.
The door to Mandy’s room burst open. “Mandy!” Carol called. Charles lifted his hand to his eyes when she turned on the light. “Charles! What happened?”
“That crazy daughter of yours. I came to check on her, to see how she was doing. She freaked out and hit me in the head with a can, then jumped out the window. There’s something wrong with that girl. She delusional. You can’t believe a word she says.” Charles felt the side of his head and looked at the blood on his fingers.
“Where’d she go?”
“She was running for the dock. Let her go. She’ll come back. She always does.”
“No, Charles. I’m going after her.” Carol turned and ran down the hall.
“Shit. Carol—come back!” Charles chased after her.
The couple was a hundred feet away when the 36 foot boat’s dual motors roared to life and pulled away from the dock.
“Don’t let her leave. She’ll kill herself. Hurry!” Carol called.
The boat pulled out several yards into the bay, and the engines died.
“Get in the bay boat. I bet she forgot to open the valve to the fuel tank. If we hurry, we can stop her before she figures it out.” Charles helped Carol into the boat. Charles could barely suppress a smile. The bay boat’s motor had a clogged fuel filter, and it had trouble starting. He untied his boat from the dock, flipped a switch on the trolling motor, and headed to stop Mandy’s escape.
Mandy kept cranking the engine. She saw her parents approaching and was so scared she couldn’t think straight. The increasing whine of the electric motor told her they would soon be there. It would be another night where they would shove a handful of pills down her throat for her ‘own good,’ and she would go comatose for twelve hours. God only knew what her stepdad did to her in that state.
The electric whine stopped. She ran from the cabin and saw her stepdad standing in the bay boat reaching for her ladder. She frantically looked for something to hit him with.
A great splash erupted from under the water. A dark mass emerged and latched onto Charles’ arm, dragging him down. The ruckus was so great that salt water sprayed over Mandy. Carol screamed Charles’s name, and stood in the boat, turning in a circle, scanning the water for her husband.
The waters calmed. Carol looked up at Mandy, who looked down from the larger vessel. “Do something!”
Before Mandy could tell her mother to go to hell, something large hit the side of the bay boat. Carol lost her balance and spilled into the water.
Gaping jaws waited. An angry mouth filled with rows of sharp teeth caught Carol around the waist. The ferocious sea monster thrashed its head about like a dog taking out his aggression on an old slipper.
Carol’s screams of anguish sounded sweet to Mandy’s ears, lifting her spirits. All the dread and gloom she had felt moments before vanished. Mandy giggled, and then laughed uncontrollably as Carol’s vacant stare fixed on the brilliant diamonds in the night sky.
The shark finally slid back into the water, taking his latest victim with him. Mandy leaned over and watched the ripple grow where they disappeared. “Thank you.”
She climbed down the ladder, into the water, and pushed off for the short swim to shore. The coolness of the Gulf brought goose bumps to her skin, but the death of her parents warmed her soul.