©2018 Garrett Clevenger
Episode I: Willy's Tale
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Willy, Finn and the Carcharodons
It is not easy wrestling a big shark. Whether a 300-pound goblin, a 500-pound tiger, or a 1000-plus-pound great white, sharks are strong, quick and have very sharp teeth. This bundle of muscle would intimidate most people. Those brave enough to enter a pool as a shark snatcher would be lucky to only lose a hand. Many shark snatchers retire early, taking a seat next to the others grossly disfigured by their foe.
Many boys have watched shark snatchers in action and dreamt of becoming a famous one. To join the ranks of the toughest Carcharodon, named after the biggest shark they were able to snatch, a great white, Carcharodon carcharias. Being young, they never thought they would be the one to lose an arm, their ability to reproduce, or worse, their head. When they were young, they dreamt big.
So it was with little Willy as his dad took him to this year's championship. After a season of shark snatching, seven heavyweight shark snatchers remained out of the hundred-plus who started the season late last winter. This year's finale was special as it was one of the few times a woman made it to the final round. Snatching was still mostly a man's work.
Willy and his dad, Isurus Finn, who had been an active shark snatcher before Willy was born, made their way through the throngs of musty bodies. Snatchers and their families were given special seating at the stadium, but the less famous ones still had to mill through the masses. Willy pulled his dad, who could not walk as fast with only one real leg. His right leg he lost during his final shark snatch.
Isurus Finn was named so after the last species of shark he successfully snatched, Isurus oxyrinchus, the shortfin mako. It was a 10-foot, 700-pound creature, and he proudly hung its large teeth around his neck. He could not help but remember that fight, and his final one, as he limped along, being pulled by his little son to the seating area. He remembered being that excited watching the games with his dad, who too had been a shark snatcher. This family had snatching in their blood, and their blood had been spilt snatching.
"Dad!" Willy exclaimed as they entered the section reserved for snatchers. "There's Carcharodon John!"
Willy pointed up to the area reserved for the elite snatchers, the ones who were able to snatch the biggest of the sharks. Carcharodon John was the current living record holder for snatching the largest shark, an 18-foot, 2300-pound great white shark. That would be unbelievable if not for the video that Willy had watched at least 100 times.
"Do you think someone will beat his record this year?" Willy asked his dad.
"No," Isurus Finn flatly answered. "None of the current snatchers are as big as he is, and they're definitely not as skilled. Top Carcharodons are rare, born once in a lifetime."
Willy was glad. He was one of Carcharodon John's biggest fans, and did not really want a new idol. He knew the games would be good regardless if a record was broken or not.
Willy and his dad took a seat next to the other similarly ranked snatchers. They were ranked by the size of shark they had been able to snatch. There were other Isurus's and Carcharodon’s near them. Behind him sat his friend Damon and his family, whose dad was still a snatcher.
He was a Galeocerdo, named after the 12-foot, 1000-pound tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, he had slain. Damon, too, wore one of his dad's shark's teeth around his neck. His was a bit bigger than Willy’s, but that did not matter to either of them. Damon and Willy were best friends, as they had known each other since they could remember. Their dads were good friends, as well.
"Hey, Willy!" Damon said, "Who do you think will win this year?"
"I'm betting Galeocerdo Shaun. Did you see the 14-foot tiger shark he took down last week? That was amazing!" he replied.
"Yeah, I'm with you," said Damon, as their dads nodded in agreement.
Willy looked around the stadium. They had a good view of the pools below, and the video screen in front. It was playing highlights from this year's season.
"Were you ever scared, dad?" Willy asked.
"Being a snatcher?"
"Yes. At the beginning, before my first snatch, I was. I almost couldn't walk, and that was before I had my armor on. My friend had just lost a hand. There was blood in the pool, which I knew only made the sharks more aggressive. I didn't think I could do it, but knew that if I did I'd be way better off. When I did do it, and came out in one piece, something changed in me, and that fear disappeared. I only wanted to snatch another shark, which I did, and was able to do, until," Isurus paused, as the fear of losing his final fight crept in. "I hadn't been afraid for a while, but am now."
Willy was confused. "Why are you afraid now?" he asked.
"I'm afraid now," Isurus thought, not really wanting to be honest with his son, then said, "I'm afraid because I see your eyes and know what you'll do someday. I'm realizing what my dad must have felt for me."
Isurus put his arm around his son. The video screen was playing a bloody scene of a snatcher being eaten. The usual cacophony of crowd noise was subdued as the spectators took time to remember that snatchers do not always leave the pool alive. The family of the slain snatcher was given respectful, and sorrowful, glances. Though they were compensated (an extra portion of bluefin tuna), they lost someone they loved to a sport designed to more than just entertain. Not much makes that better.
Chapter 2: Sharkville, Zland
By 2220, the year Willy was born, life had changed dramatically, while seemingly not changing at all. It was a combination of dark ages and science fiction, where the have-nots far out-numbered the have-mores. Where the have-mores ruled their kingdom utilizing cutting edge technology while the have-nots unwittingly ensured the have-mores would always have more. It was the Roman Empire meets The Road Warrior and The Running Man, the brutal past in a brutal present.
Humans had a huge impact on the planet during the 21st century. With unprecedented global reach and use of natural resources, it was not long before habitat was destroyed, drinking water and air contaminated, and war to secure the last scraps left most of the planet unfit for humanity.
During the 22nd century, those who survived lived simply in the refuge of the few hospitable areas. Zland became the dominant super power of the day, as they had more habitable land where the super-rich concentrated their power. A new society developed with the same class structure but a bigger discrepancy of wealth. The ones with the wealth ruled, and they had knowledge and technology to help them increase their wealth and power.
One thing they knew was that to keep the status quo, they had to keep the have-nots ignorant and happy. As long as the have-nots had some food and simple pleasures, they would not make waves. Shark snatching filled both those roles.
The land had been largely depleted of fertile soil. Most of the land was radioactive due to fallout from the various nuclear bombs that had been detonated two centuries prior. Zland was better off than other places.
The little arable land that was available required fertilizer to produce healthy crops. Since there was not a lot of fossil fuel left, it was impossible to create synthetic fertilizer or pesticides, or run large machinery.
For 100 years during The Green Revolution, humans were able to make high-quality nitrogen fertilizer and power a mechanized agriculture. It was a very energy intensive process and once fossil fuel became scarce, it became very expensive to operate these farms. The high human population that was allowed to grow during the days of cheap energy was not sustainable. Famine spread worldwide, and the human population plummeted. Industrial agriculture took its toll on the land, the days of cheap fertilizer were gone, but the need to eat remained.
The ocean held a vast quantity of nitrogen stored in sea creatures. As fisheries increased during the fall of the human population, it was only a matter of time until the remaining people tapped into that nutrient source to use not only as food for themselves, but to process into fertilizer to grow crops. There were also plenty of large sharks swimming in the sea, perfect for another purpose.
By the time Willy was born, a vast, highly mechanized fishing fleet had been developed to gather seafood from the far reaches of the ocean, and concentrate it at Sharkville's seafood processing facility. Ocean trawlers held separate ends of mile-wide nets that indiscriminately swept up any seafood in their path. They scoured the ocean looking for the most abundant fisheries.
Collecting the seafood was long, hard work. It was very rewarding, though, as millions of tons of this resource was caught. Once the nets were full, the fleet brought their catch back to Sharkville.
The ships emptied their catch into a huge funnel that was located a half a mile from the shore. The mile-wide intake funnel narrowed to a 20-foot diameter intake pipe that sucked whatever was funneled in. All of this made its way to the enormous processing facility that sprawled along the coast.
Dozens of trawlers traveled across the ocean collecting seafood at any one time. They made their way far from Zland's shores. They followed the migrations of all the remaining fisheries: tuna, cod, herring and a few others. That work brought in hundreds of millions of tons of seafood every year.
Seafood was the predominant energy source, both in terms of calories eaten by people, whether direct consumption or as fertilizer for the crops eventually eaten, and as a fuel. Fish oil was used to power the processing plants, the surveillance system, and the video screens at the stadium. If it was not for this plentiful and rich seafood, Sharkville would not be the same.
Along with all the seafood caught came numerous sharks. Smaller leopard sharks, colorful carpet sharks, strange shaped hammerheads and the fearsome great white sharks. The workers took great care keeping these sharks alive and ready to face the shark snatchers.
At first, it was solely a form of punishment and intimidation, like those persecuted by the Romans who were forced into a ring to face lions, bears and gladiators. It was only natural for the jocks to gravitate towards shark snatching, especially with the handsome rewards bestowed upon the snatchers. People would do what they could to make their lives better, even if it meant risking their lives being a shark snatcher.
The rulers knew that sports had always been a good reliever of public stress. Something to focus on instead of the plight most people faced, all while the rulers lived lavishly in their kingdom. So, the rulers promoted shark snatching fervently, and created a whole culture and fan base to make it the most popular pastime of the day. There was not much else to do on an impoverished land, except work to survive, play simple games, and watch shark snatchers in person and on the video displays spread around the city.
Shark snatchers were revered by the poor and used by the rich. Kids who wanted a better life for themselves dreamt of being shark snatchers. It was shark snatchers who got to visit the garden as non-workers. It was they, and the rulers, who got to enjoy the best fruits of the farm.
Seafood also made great compost. Soil erosion over time caused land-based nutrients to be leached into rivers that poured into the ocean. Sea life was highly efficient in turning those nutrients into flesh. The denizens of Sharkville were highly efficient in capturing that sea life and converting it into much needed fertilizer.
Zland had some great farmland. With the addition of fish compost, bountiful crops were grown. Organic farming was once again the only way to grow food.
The rulers did not approve of synthetic pesticides, and since they had plenty of labor to tend the crops, they did not need to spray for weeds or bugs. A busy workforce does not have time to foment trouble, and organic food was healthier for a people already bombarded by the remnants of a civilization passed. They had to be plenty careful not to eat too much heavy metal and dioxin laced seafood. They were already affected enough by the toxins in the environment.
The farmers, though completely different in function than the shark snatchers, were only one step below them. They were not revered like shark snatchers, but they served an important function for the rulers: to make sure the crops grown were secure and healthy. The rulers appreciated having fresh salad greens every night, and knew that content farmers would produce better lettuce.
The farmers travelled daily to the farm, secure behind fences and a surveillance system. The farm was between the processing facility and the rulers' fortress. The fortress was perched on top of the hill that rose above the farm.
The rulers could peer down to the farm below, could see smoke rise from the processing facility, could see ships emptying their nets into the funnel, could see the dots on the horizon of the trawlers heading out to sea, and could just make out the stadium and the shanty town and market that made up most of the city. They could hear the buzz of the processing plant, and the cheers from the stadium echoed up to their ears. They could watch the games on their own video screens, and keep an eye on the people who attended. Cameras were perched throughout the stadium, the city, the processing facility and the farm, allowing the rulers a constant view of what happened below.
The rulers were content that people at the day’s championship were excited and complacent with the way things were. The people knew the brutality of life, and rarely thought about changing a system that seemed to be working. They all had created a society on a contaminated planet, a society that was trying to make life livable for people, and to prevent anarchy form breaking it down. They knew that without a guiding hand, and food, people would make things worse for everyone else.
There was plenty of seafood. People loved shark snatchers. Things were well enough compared to what the last few generations had been experiencing. This was Willy’s world.
Chapter 3: Galeocerdo Grace
Willy kept glancing up at Carcharodon John who was oblivious to any one stare. He could sense the overall awe from the kids and many of his fellow shark snatcher’s wives. He had his share of romping with his female admirers. He knew he was tough and desirable as a mate in a very tough world. What woman would not want a top Carcharodon as a father for their child? Their child would probably have a better chance of surviving as a shark snatcher, and thus a better chance of enjoying the benefits of being a shark snatcher. He was the dominant stag of his day, and proudly acted so.
Willy looked towards his dad. He was proud of his dad, and was glad he was his son. Isurus Finn still had his arm around him.
"I wish mom were here," Willy sighed.
His dad held him tighter. "Me too," he replied. "She'd be very impressed with how big and fast you're getting."
Isurus Finn sighed, then said, "She was a brave woman, but I think even she would feel some of the fear I have."
Willy thought for a moment, and then asked, "Can you tell me about her championship?"
"I can say that I was scared then, too. Grace was the second woman to ever make it to the finals. There was lots of hostility from some of the men, and I was afraid they'd sabotage her. I was more scared of them then of the sharks. She was strong and fast, and smart enough to know when to leave the pool while still in one piece. But if someone did something bad to her, how could she predict, or avoid it? Needless to say, I was on the lookout, very nervous and high-strung.
"I helped her suit up. Made sure all the armor was working. Made sure her knife was sharp. I put it in the sheath myself. I told her to be on guard. That if anything weird happened, leave the pool.
"She was very focused on winning. She seemed very at ease. I think I had enough knots in my tummy for the two of us.
"Your mom was the first to battle that day. The water was clean. The crowd very excited. There were occasional jeers towards her, but most people wanted her to win, and not just because she was the underdog.
"Shark snatchers can be boisterous and unpleasant, but not her. People loved her because she was a pleasant shark snatcher. And generous. Most shark snatchers don't associate with the underclass, but she did, giving them treats and moral support. She could relate with them given her grandfather's People's Crusade, back before shark snatching became so popular. In many ways, your Great-Grandfather James made shark snatchers who we are today by trying to buck the system.
"Your mom got in the pool and waited for the chute to open. I knew it was going to be a big shark, but when I saw it through the pipe as it swam towards the chute, I almost screamed for her to get out. It was a 13-foot bull shark. Her eyes got wider and she fixed her stance.
"The shark dropped into the pool with a giant splash and an even bigger tail slam that knocked her off her feet. She regained her footing as the shark swam around her. She took her time to gauge it as the shark calmed and slowed down.”
Willy’s heart was beating fast as he heard the story and felt the fear his dad conveyed. His dad could tell he was on edge, but he continued on.
"You don't want to make any sudden moves,” Isurus said, staring off into the crowded stadium. “You don't want to panic the shark any more than it is. The key to snatching is taking your time, and then striking quickly to kill it right away. Any slip-ups, or blood spilt without a mortal wound, aggravates the shark and increases your chance of being bitten, beaten and eaten.
"She crept up to the shark that was gyrating in place. She aimed her spear towards its head, and plunged. The spear sank and the shark bucked, slamming her down. She bounded back up as the shark swam away. The shark turned around and swam back, charging.
"She pulled out her knife to stab it as it lunged at her. She stabbed it, but the knife broke. That is the worst thing that could happen. The shark was inflamed, began flailing, and knocked her down. As she stood up, it charged her again and slammed her into side of the pool. As she was climbing up to get out, the shark bit her leg and pooled her into the pool. By the time I got to where she was, the shark had dragged her underwater. I tried to jump in, but they held me back. I guess they thought a one-legged guy wouldn't be much help. The shark was shot, but by then, too much damage had been done. She lost too much blood. I broke free and jumped in. I grabbed her and knew she wouldn't survive. She was unconscious, her torso was shredded and her breath was fading away. She died in my arms as I stood in the bloody pool.
"I was crying so hard, and was so distraught, that I didn't notice what was happening around me for a while. I then remember hearing people scream, 'No! Too soon!' It took a while for me to realize they were yelling at the video screen. I couldn’t believe when I looked up to see they were replaying what had just happened. It was horrific. I screamed and passed out." Isurus had finished the story, with tears in his eyes. Willy was crying, too.
Willy knew what had happened, but he had not heard this much detail before, or remembered being so disturbed. He had a feeling of sadness for what happened to his mom, but also a disgust at them for replaying the video right after it happened. He wanted to leave, run out of the stadium, and never return. He looked at his dad, who had his head down and seemed detached. He looked at the crowd, who was oblivious to their pain. He looked up and around and saw Carcharodon John looking down at him. The top Carcharodon smiled a proud smile and winked. Willy felt his heart lighten, and smiled back, holding back tears so Carcharodon John would not see them.
He put his arm around his dad and said, "I'm sorry, dad. I don't want to scare you, too."
"The last thing your mom said to me about you was that if you ever became a shark snatcher, I needed to make sure you do it for the right reason. The thing is, I don't know if there is a right reason," his dad said.
The games began and the snatchers paraded in. The music blared. The sharks dropped into the pools. Blood was spilt. Willy was right. Galeocerdo Shaun won the championship. It was an exciting day of snatching, but Willy did not remember much after the story about his mom. All he could think about was how scared Galeocerdo Grace must have been, how hurt his dad was, and what could possibly be the right reason for anything.
Shark snatching events were always high energy. There was the adrenaline of the fights themselves, there was the anticipation of seeing a famous snatcher, and there was plenty of much-desired seafood given away to the people. Everyone left with as much food as they wanted. That was enough reason for people to get excited.
The problem was getting the choice cuts. It was a dangerous free-for-all, and more people got hurt or were killed trying to get the food than were snatchers fighting sharks. You had to be tough just collecting seafood as people fought for the scraps chaotically.
Adjacent to the stadium were the fish pits, where the seafood was dumped for the people to collect. The processors did their best to keep the trash and rotting meat out, but with all the garbage floating in the sea, and at such a large scale, it was not all fresh and clean. There always was the unlucky person who grabbed an old octopus, a stinky salmon, or a pile of ancient, slimy plastic. It could not all be filtered out.
The games happened every four days from late winter until late fall. Training happened during the off-season and during the days between shark snatching events. Special events such as team shark snatching, and others featuring old-time shark snatchers showing off their skills, happened frequently. The public was encouraged to come to all of them, and was lured in with the promise of food. Many people did, not just to watch some shark snatching, but to bring home seafood.
Most people were not aware that eating too much of certain kinds of seafood had risks. Toxins built up in the fat of fish, and that in turn built up in the person eating the fish. It was no wonder that many people in Sharkville had serious disorders, from birth defects and brain damage, to fertility problems and tumors. Most people had some sort of abnormality.
This did not bother the rulers, who always got the freshest and cleanest seafood. They knew that the poor people's health problems only subdued any subversive behavior that otherwise may have ensued. It also meant a higher mortality rate and lowered birth rate, which was seen as necessary to ensure the population did not get too big.
The rulers were well aware that high populations led to overuse of natural resources. They knew that over-exploitation led to widespread contamination, ecological collapse, and war, which made the land largely inhospitable. The rulers did not want to repeat that mistake, so they did what they could to keep the population in check. If the people eating too much seafood, which was abundant, helped that goal, then that was fine for the rulers. It was better for small-scale disturbances that affected some people than for wholesale collapse that affected everyone.
Along with toxic seafood, the rulers periodically provided the poor people water laced with sterility agents designed to increase miscarriages in women and lower sperm count in men. They did not need to raise an army, so they did not need a large, expendable population. As long as there were enough workers to run the trawlers, the processors, the farms, and the other vital functions of the city, and as long as there were enough people who wanted to risk their lives trying to make it better being a shark snatcher, the rulers could keep on ruling as they were, isolated in their fortress, trying to give their own kids a better life than otherwise may be, while exploiting and manipulating the underclass. Shark snatching was a convenient, and entertaining, distraction for the poor people who could not see the bigger picture.
Working on a trawler was hard, dangerous work, without the rewards a shark snatcher hoped to see. There were storms with 30-foot swells to face. There were the long, tiring nights on deck. There were even active sea mines floating with other debris left over from a bygone era. A ship could easily have its hull ripped open if it hit a mine. Many a crew had been lost in unknown open ocean, perhaps becoming food for a shark a snatcher would one day get revenge on.
Before the advent of the quick release nets on the trawlers, some were even pulled under by a too-heavy load. A one-mile wide by 300-foot high net can hold a lot of seafood, and that weight, if joined by a pod of whales, or pushed by a storm, can exert a lot of force. The nets were not made to break. Once a trawler tipped, it was not likely to flip upright.
Now, in an emergency, the nets could be released, but not too easily. It was bumpy and unpredictable being on deck during such an event. Crewmembers that fell off may have to endure frigid water or a net swarming with sea life. Those who were not rescued quickly might be left behind, as a speeding trawler was unable to turn around to pick him up.
Willy knew these dangers, but decided to join a trawler when he was 18. He figured it was a time to explore, do something meaningful with his life, and challenge himself. He was a big guy, so he was welcomed on board.
His first couple of days were horrible. He was seasick and homesick. He knew it was going to be a long trip and was regretting coming on board.
"Don't ya worry, mate," a crewmember said to him, as Willy leaned over the ship's side to vomit. "It took me a while to be seaworthy. Now I've been trawlin’ close to 20 years, and I get sick if I'm on land!" The man laughed as he put his hand on Willy's back.
"Did you ever wish you stayed on land?" Willy asked.
"Aye, mate, I did. 'Specially since I had a young son I left at home. He's 'bout yer age now, 'spose. I missed seein' him growin' up. 'Stead I've got these crow's eyes and calloused hands.” The main paused to reflect, then said, “The name's Patrick, mate."
Willy reached out his hand to shake Patrick's. He felt they were indeed calloused, more so than his dad's.
"I'm Willy. Willy Galeocerdo Isurus."
"Aye! A double shark snatcher son! We're honored to have you on board, Willy! Most of the privileged class wouldn't step foot on a boat, let alone sail out to sea!"
"After being out here, I can't say I blame them. I don't know if I have it in me to do what you do," Willy admitted.
"I think everyone feels that way, until they start doin' it. It's amazin' what people are capable of doin', 'specially if they're doin' it for the right reason.”
Willy looked at Patrick and knew he had here someone he could trust, someone who would look out for him.
"Thanks, Patrick. I appreciate hearing that. I'm still trying to figure out what the right reason is, but I'll give it my best in the meantime."
"Aye. I know what the wrong reasons are, and I suspect you do, too. So, from there it may be easier to see what the right reason is," Patrick added.
"Sometimes it seems confusing and contradictory. If the right reason for me to be out here is to try to catch fish we all can eat, then we'll be bringing back sharks. If we bring back sharks, somebody's probably going to get hurt."
"You've probably seen a lot of hurt bein' a shark snatcher’s son."
"My mom was killed in a pool by a shark, during the championship 16 years ago. Her knife broke. My dad couldn't save her. My dad already lost a leg to a shark, and now he lost my mom."
Patrick took a step back. "Willy Galeocerdo Isurus? You're the son of Galeocerdo Grace and Isurus Finn!" he stammered. His eyes were wide with disbelief and excitement. "Peter! David! This sea sick lad is the son of Galeocerdo Grace!"
The others walked over with their arms outstretched towards Willy.
"Jumping great whites! We have ourselves someone famous here," Peter said, shaking Willy's hand heartily.
"Well, I'm not famous, but I'm glad to be their son."
Willy no longer felt so seasick, or as homesick. He felt a surge of pride in his parents for being able to command respect in these hardened seamen.
"Bein' the son of two great shark snatchers means you're built to be tough. We normally press our newbies. You may think bein' famous would get you off the hook. It seems our job instead is to see how tough you really are!" David said.
"Aye, mate. If you can't handle life on a trawler, you certainly won't be able to snatch a shark," Patrick said.
"I'm not planning on being a shark snatcher. That's why I'm here," Willy said as the others laughed.
"No, mate. With your lineage, you'll be a shark snatcher, if you survive your trip on the trawler. You may be here trying to escape your fate, but we'll see to it that you'll be trying to escape the boat before long."
Willy felt a chill. He knew they were serious. Whatever fond feeling they had for him only meant they would test him even more. He just hoped they would not let him die.
After a week on board, Willy found his sea legs. He could look towards the horizon and not get sick, but he still missed home.
He would not be seeing his dad for 2 months. The fleet planned to sail up towards Southeast Asia and catch the tuna migration, along with anything else they could snatch. There were harpooning ships along for the ride, too. If they were lucky, the fleet could bring in some prime gray whale meat. They also hoped, as always, to catch some big great whites for the shark snatchers at home.
Willy reminisced upon the past year of his life. A lot had happened, and he felt his life had changed. He was not the innocent little boy he once was.
He had still gone to watch shark snatching games regularly with his dad, though even things there were different. They were not as exciting as he remembered them when he was younger.
Damon's dad had moved up one row, one short of the Carcharodons. He was now a Carcharhinus, named after slaying a 15-foot bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas. He had to quit snatching after losing an arm to a 16-foot great white, however.
Carcharodon John had his record beaten 3 years prior. Willy did not have the same affection for the new top Carcharodon as he did for the one he grew up with. He would still look up to Carcharodon John at the games, and every once in a while, he would wink, point and make a fake-menacing face at Willy. He knew how to work his fans.
The biggest thing to affect Willy was watching a shark snatcher that fought 15 years before. Willy watched the video of his mother’s death. He never thought he would have, as hearing the story was more than enough, he had heard so many good things about her from people on the street, and he had seen his dad suffer so much from her death. Why would he risk being traumatized watching something so disturbing?
Teenagers live dangerously. They take risks. They like grotesque things. That was enough for him to order the tape. As long as his dad was not around, he thought he would be ok.
He invited some friends over, ones who had seen it before, to be with him in case he panicked.
"You sure you wanna watch this, Willy?" Damon asked.
"No. Would you if you were me?"
"Probably not. I don't like to watch my dad's last fight."
"Oh, he'll be ok," Otto assured. Otto was a bit more provocative and sadistic. His dad was a Carcharodon. He liked to push Willy.
"Are you doing it for the right reason?" Damon asked, knowing what Willy's mom last said about him.
"I'm doing it because I want to see the reality of being a shark snatcher. This is what surrounds us. What took my mom's life, my dad's leg and his heart. If I'm gonna become a shark snatcher, like everyone seems to think I'm destined to be, then I need to see if it’s worth it. I need to feel what it’s like to see someone I love die. If I'm going to put my dad through that, I want to know if it’s something I could bare. If it destroys me, there's no way I'll risk destroying my dad if he has to watch me snatch and die. If I'm going to snatch for the right reason, I need to see if there's a right reason not to," Willy said thoughtfully.
"Works for me," Otto said as he pressed play.
On the screen came the championship games from 15 years ago. Willy was two then. He sat in the shark snatcher section with his grandma, his mom's mom. She had to be talked into coming, so that Willy could be there while his dad helped his mom.
Willy thought he would have a déjà vu watching the video, but his two-year young brain had no memory. He vaguely remembered his mom, but he suspected that was more from seeing pictures of her and hearing stories about her than actual memories. He watched what unfolded with fresh eyes, yet with a knowledge of how it ended. He was filled with dread.
The screen showed the packed crowd in the stadium. Championship games were always the most crowded, but this one had the beloved Galeocerdo Grace. Willy heard the chanting of the crowd. "Galeocerdo Gra-ace!" That gave him the chills and tears. He could see his friends were touched, too.
"You sure you should do this?" Damon asked.
"Shhh!" Otto hissed.
The camera zoomed onto individuals at the game, some holding pictures of Willy's mom standing next to the tiger shark she slain a few weeks prior.
"Galeocerdo Gra-ace! Galeocerdo Gra-ace!"
The camera zoomed in on her. She looked tough. She was six-foot, four-inches tall, and 250 pounds. She was standing next to his dad, who still had to look down at her.
He had his hands on her shoulder and was talking. Willy could make out certain words they were saying. He thought he heard his dad say, "Get out, fast!" maybe because he emphasized it. She nodded her head. He gave her a hug.
Willy thought he could read her lips. He saw her say, "Willy." She looked very serious, with almost a tear in her eye. He saw her say, "right reason," as she said it slowly, gesturing with her hand like that was the point. Willy was shaking now. The crowd was getting louder. The shark appeared, swimming down the pipe above the stadium. The shape of that 15-footer was clearly visible. The camera zoomed in.
"Holy shark!" Otto exclaimed. "I forgot how big it was!"
The crowd quieted as the shark neared the trap door.
He saw his mom brace for the shark. The chute opened and the shark exploded in, knocking her down. She got up and the crowd cheered. She stalked the shark, went for the kill, and speared the shark.
The story he often thought about was now clearly visible to him. He watched the shark circle around and charge. He saw her stab the shark and the knife break. Willy watched his mom scramble, fall over, and get slammed into the pool wall, as his dad rushed towards her. His mom was dragged under water. The pool turned red.
He heard the collective gasp of the crowd. His dad was being held back as shots rang out. The shark stopped thrashing. His dad jumped in.
"No! No! Too soon! Too soon!" the crowd was shouting as a replay was shown on the stadium's video screen.
"No! No! Too soon! Too soon!"
Chapter 7: Trawling
Willy was looking out at the endless open ocean, remembering those words. "Too soon." If those words had not been haunting him, he would not now be on this ship.
Willy wondered. Was it too soon to know? Was it too soon to forget? Everything takes time. But time eventually takes everything. If too much time was taken, it may be gone before the time was right. Sometimes things were best dealt with at the present time.
"Willy, mate! We need your hands over here! Quit daydreamin' and get to work!"
That was all Willy thought he had been doing lately. It seemed to him he had been working non-stop. Maybe not helping the crew all the time, but at least working his thoughts back and forth in his mind.
"Sorry, Patrick. I'm not used to all this work," he replied.
"You will be soon, son. We haven't even begun to do the real work yet, though. In a couple days, we should be on top of one of the biggest fisheries around. That's when we'll know if you're really the son of shark snatchers, or just some daydreamin' teenager tellin' tall tales."
For a moment, Willy wished he were making that up. He thought his life would be easier if there were not the expectations his lineage dealt him, and the trauma it had caused.
"Remember, Willy, when we start the real work, ya gotta stay hydrated. Drink lots of real water, not that fire water some of the other fellas drink. We can't be havin' yer muscles lock or ya passin' out when things get rollin'. We need ya alert and ready to respond. If someone falls overboard, we have 15 seconds to save him. If that person is you, ya better pray the other crew are ready, too. If it's dark and stormy, be doubly cautious."
Patrick had already told Willy this, twice. Each time Willy could see his dad in Patrick's eyes, so he actually liked to hear it. Patrick hoped there were other lonely fathers out there willing to watch out for his son. These two seamen filled a role in the others' life that was much needed, and appreciated.
The fleet found the schools they were after further south than was predicted. It also appeared the schools were larger than in years past. The crew prepped the gear to begin corralling the fish.
There were 8 trawlers in the fleet, along with 5 harpooners that spread out to find whales. Each mile-long net was spread between two trawlers. All the trawlers lined up in a row forming a 4-mile long chain of nets. The trawlers then fanned out, sweeping in a circle that spiraled out to maximize coverage.
Spotter ships had already set out to find where the fisheries were concentrated using sonar. Sonic bursts of particular frequencies were used to lure and concentrate sea life even more. The goal was to get every swimming sea creature in the area from the ocean floor up to the sea surface. The water around the trawlers began bubbling with life.
It took a couple of days for the process to unfold and almost a week for the process to reach capacity, all while constant monitoring, above and under water, occurred. Dive teams were sent in to check on the status, to find out what kinds of fish were there, how many there were, and to solve problems that happened. There could be any type of fish to catch, and any kind of debris to avoid.
Willy went on many dives. They left the trawler aboard a small dingy, and motored across the water. Their ship was in the middle of the chain, so it seemed like the net went on forever. All kinds of sea life were swarming about: fish, dolphins, turtles, whales, jellyfish, undeterminable creatures, and big sharks. Sea lions were cruising around the catch, too. It all was being kept together, for the most part, moving along with the trawlers as the catch grew and grew.
"Alright, Willy. When we dive down, you head towards the right, and I'll go left," Patrick told him on one of his dives.
Their job was to look for any tears, tangles, dangerous debris, or other problems that would lower their yield.
"I don't have to tell ya to watch for sharks, but watch for sharks," Patrick would always warn him. "They should be well fed being surrounded by so much easy meat, but ya never know when a feeding frenzy will start. I don't see many birds hovering above, so we're probably safe. Just keep yer eyes open and yer wits about."
"Got it!" Willy faithfully replied.
They dove in. The water was cold and shocking. Willy swam on the surface, using his motorized propeller to speed him along.
He was amazed by how much sea life they had collected. It was full of big and little fish. Luckily, they were mostly on the other side of the net, which was bouncing up and down with all the living weight it held. He dove down to get a better look.
As he was inspecting the net, he found a tear. It was a few feet wide, and fish were swimming through. He pulled out his rope and began to stitch it, fighting off the swarms of fish trying to get through. The net was bumping so he had trouble working the rope smoothly.
He knew a hole like that could only form a few ways, one being a shark chewed its way through. The rope did look frayed as if bitten, which gave Willy the chills as he realized there might be a big shark swimming on his side. He looked around.
No big shark. Just lots of other creatures he hoped a shark would try to eat first. He knew sharks were inquisitive, so he kept his guard up. He did not want to be surprised.
Willy finished stitching the net, and continued his patrol, constantly looking for that shark. He reached the end and began the return swim. He did not see any more tears, just lots of sea life and benign debris.
He could hear the bustling about, a cacophony of swimming bodies banging into each other in an unnatural chaos. Only humans could create such a concentration of diversity, he thought, and narrow it down to feed their own species. The top predator, by a long shot.
As a species, that was true, but he knew one-on-one, there were any number of individuals of another species ready to take him down. From a tiny bacterium to a giant great white. He felt humbled by that, and hoped he would not have to learn that lesson the hard way.
He thought about the shark that chewed its way through the net. That was a rebel shark, one not about to be snatched by a net. It was not about to be swept down to Sharkville to face a shark snatcher. That shark broke free. It survived. Its young would be even stronger and smarter than the ones hauled away. Even the ones who defeated a shark snatcher in a pool were eventually killed. They would never be able to strengthen their gene pool in the wild.
Willy made his way back to the dingy and told the others what he found.
"I wonder if that was the shark I saw on our side," Patrick said.
"What kind of shark?" Willy asked.
"Don't know, but it was big. I wouldn't want to get too close to find out."
They motored back towards the trawler, climbed on board, and reported their findings.
"One of the crew on another dingy was attacked," David said. "His leg was bitten as he was diving. He had a big chunk ripped from his thigh."
Willy and Patrick looked at each other.
"Meeting a shark in open water ain't like meeting one in a shallow pool. Seems to me you may be safer as a shark snatcher than a diver, mate."
"Maybe, though the chance of encounter out here is low. Being stuck in a pool, shallow or not, makes encounter inevitable. That sounds riskier," Willy replied.
"Aye, so it is. So, it is," said Patrick, winking.
After the final inspection and preparations were completed, the trawlers picked up speed and headed home. This was the tricky part. Hauling millions of tons of seafood over thousands of miles of ocean was fraught with danger. Going too fast risked tearing the net loose. Going to slow risked losing more of the catch. Some seafood was drawn into the hulls of the ship for storage. Some was processed on board during the roundup. The free-swimming sea life, on the other hand, might escape. The captain's job was to minimize loss and escape.
The fleet had sailed a couple of days when it was reported a typhoon was forming due south. No captain liked sailing into a storm. Doing so with a net full of fish drawn between another ship was even more dangerous than normal.
Moments like these differentiated the captains. Each pair of trawlers had the independence to get back home whatever way they saw fit. One of those captains was head captain, and the other attached ship had to follow his orders. The head captain was based on seniority, which hopefully meant more experience and wisdom on how to sail safely and efficiently.
Seniority effected people differently, though. One senior captain might avoid storms at all cost, knowing the violent nature of the sea had sunk many a ship. Better to get home late than not at all. Another senior captain might be restless and ready to get home. Not as cautious as age often makes people. Maybe there was a big bonus waiting for the first ship to make it back. Maybe it was pride in being brave, and though it may be sloppy stupidity, it was a race to get home. Who did not want to win a race?
Willy's captain was the head of the trawler pair he was on. The captain decided to keep heading the same direction, storm or no storm. Willy suspected the captain had too much pride to retreat from the storm. He told Patrick that.
"Aye, the captain is a proud man, but he's also one of the best captains I know. I've been through several storms with him, and we always pull through with as much fish as the ships that diverted. He knows time is precious and losing even one day can spoil your catch.
"There's also the Great Pacific Garbage Patch we've gotta avoid. If we veer off to the east like we'd need to do to avoid the storm, we may run in to it. There's no telling what's there and we'd be likely to scoop up so much garbage the seafood would be worthless.
"Either way's a gamble. But it doesn't matter now. The captain's made the decision," Patrick ended.
Willy was a bit ensured, but still nervous with what laid ahead. He knew he might be facing the most dangerous time in his life. He was glad Patrick was there.
"When we reach the storm, the captains will idle the ships after semi-enclosing the two ends of the net together to reduce fish loss. We won't be very far from the other ship. The swells will be big and may push us towards each other. The fish will be dragging the net, which will pull the ships haphazardly.
"If things get too chaotic, we'll have to dump the net. That's the last thing we want to do, 'cause it's also very dangerous. If we have to man the deck, we need to be roped in, as one wave can knock you overboard, and you'll be good as shark bait.
"The emergency release takes two people to operate. Willy and me'll work the first one. Peter and David, you'll release the second one. If someone goes overboard, don't risk yer life trying to rescue him. We'll hope he's still there when the storm breaks. That means no one should get knocked over!"
The team was silent. No one wanted to get knocked over, but the thought of leaving a crewmate dangling over the edge in a storm was hard to swallow.
The sky was getting darker with rain clouds, and the swells got bigger and bigger. The storm filled the sky in front of them. Willy could not believe what they were going to do.
Willy heard the ship slow down as he saw the other ship circle towards them, stopping a quarter mile away. Both ships bobbed like corks in water as the rain came lashing down. Now they had to wait for the storm to pass.
Willy could not relax as he was bounced back and forth in his room. It seemed to get more violent by the minute. He could picture the giant swells lifting and dropping the boats like a toy boat in a bathtub. He tensely waited for the crash of the other boat smashing into theirs.
When the alarm went off, it startled Willy from his trance. He did not know how long he had been rocking. It jolted everyone into action, who now had to hustle up to the deck of a ship on a violent teeter-totter.
"The captain orders release of the net! Release the net! Release the net!" said the captain on the loudspeaker.
The moment any crew dreaded was here. Facing peril in order to surrender the catch. A wasted trip, save for the cargo in the hull and refrigerator.
"Tie yourself!" Patrick ordered, and they made their way to the release. Waves splashed onto the swaying deck, knocking Willy off his feet. He scrambled up and grabbed the release.
"Pull!" ordered Patrick.
Grunting, the men used all their might to loosen the release. It budged, and the ropes loosened then pulled away as the other team released theirs.
"Hold on!" shouted Patrick, who forgot to tell Willy that when the net was released, the ship would have less tension on it, and thus would be more susceptible to being rocked by the swells.
As soon as the net was released, the captain accelerated. A wave hit the bow, knocking Willy down and then over the edge. He was hanging from the rope as the bobbing ship sped along, pounded by the waves.
"Willy!" Patrick shouted.
"Help!" Willy screamed. He tried climbing up, but the rocking, the waves, and his cold hands kept knocking him down.
Patrick pulled the rope but could not lift Willy up. The other men had already left the deck. When Patrick and Willy did not return, they went back on deck to find them. They made their way to where Patrick was and helped pull Willy up and on to the ship. There was no time to lie there. They scrambled off the deck, into the relative safety on the ship, as waves chased after them.
Willy took a few minutes to calm down, catch his breath and warm up. He was shivering hard, then vomited. Patrick sighed.
"Thanks, you guys. I thought I was a goner. I thought you said no rescuing man overboard," Willy said.
"Aye, that was to keep you on your feet. But I forgot to tell ya 'bout what happens when the net's released. Ya may have disobeyed me, fallin' off the deck like that, but I would've felt really bad if we lost ya due to me not remembering to tell ya something important. Ya may have survived dangling from the rope, but I wasn't gonna let ya find out," Patrick replied.
"Thank you. I hope I would to the same for you."
"Me too, son, me too."
Chapter 9: The Captain's Tale
Willy laid on his bed in his cabin, sore from his flip over the ship. His legs were bruised, his hands cut and raw, and his mind shifted. He was tired, but also restless. He was ready to be back on land, but knew he had a while to wait.
The crew was upset at losing their catch. They did not want to go home with only the fish on board. They were far enough away from Sharkville to search out more seafood and sweep it up with their extra net. That was what the captain decided to do.
The two ships took a detour west through the Malaysian Islands. There were not as many fish here as up north this time of year, but they could spend a couple of days trawling and at least not go back home with an empty net.
The storm had passed, but the water was still cloudy from the upturn it caused. There did seem to be a lot of sea life around. The captain ordered the net to be splayed.
The crew attached the net to the two ships, which then began trawling. Two days passed and the divers were sent out to inspect the catch. Willy was too sore to join them or do much work. He limped around on deck, helping where he could.
The captain called Willy up to the helm. They had not spent much time together, so Willy was excited to talk with him. He walked up to where the captain headed the ship.
"When I was a youngster, I wanted to be a shark snatcher," the captain said. "Just like all little boys, I s'pose. I actually tried out and snatched a few smaller leopard sharks to get a feel for it.
"My parents weren't supportive. They thought it was risky, and not really work. They'd rather I do something more productive.
"On the opening day of the season's snatch, I lost my courage. A friend of mine was seriously wounded by a bullnose shark before my round. It was horribly bloody and I was too intimidated to enter the pool. I instead helped care for my friend, sort of using that as an excuse to back out. I never went back to the stadium after that. I joined the fishing fleet a while later, as that seemed less risky and more productive."
"And now you're a respected captain,” Willy added.
"Maybe not so much after what just happened to our catch. I regret not bypassing the storm. You probably wish I did, looking at your sore body."
"It's easy to have hind sight. Yeah, I'm hurt, but part of me is feeling like I needed to be knocked over the ship. Strange as it may sound, I actually feel better in my head now."
"Staring death in the face can do strange things to a man. I imagine as a shark snatcher's son you've seen death from a distance, but maybe not have had it be there for you."
Willy knew the captain was right. He had been traumatized by the death of others, but he had never faced it with his life. Somehow facing his death changed him, and he was less scared of death because of it. He was a bit desensitized, and almost ready to face death again.
"The crew still respects you, sir,” Willy said. "They know life on the sea is challenging and unpredictable. There's no saying our catch would have been any better if we avoided the storm. Besides, we can make up for it if we catch a lot of seafood here."
"I hope you're right, Willy," the captain said.
Willy stayed up at the helm for a while. They told each other stories of sharks they each had seen. It turned out the captain had seen the biggest one.
"Shark snatchers never see the biggest sharks. Those ones always get away. They are out there in the ocean still, getting ever bigger," the captain explained.
Willy could not believe that. He thought the biggest sharks were reserved for team shark snatching. Whenever a shark bigger than 20 feet was caught, a special shark snatching event was scheduled in the stadium.
The large pool was brought out and the giant shark was airlifted in, one of the few times people saw an aircraft. The shark was placed in the pool, and the best shark snatchers entered after a dramatic introduction of pageantry and pomp. Depending on the size of the shark, two or more shark snatchers faced the beast that was not easily going to be snatched.
The shark snatchers were more heavily armored than usual, and carried better weapons. This snatch was meant to be dramatic. Snatchers usually got hurt, some mortally.
The biggest shark Willy saw team snatched was a 30-foot, 4000-pound monster great white. It took 4 snatchers to slay it, and one of them was ripped to shreds. The jaws of all these monsters were displayed at the stadium, and the one from that shark was not the biggest there. The biggest was from a 35-footer that was slain before Willy could remember. He told the captain this story.
"Aye, that's a big shark. But I've seen an even bigger one. A few years back, the crew kept talking about a giant great white that had been swimming around the catch. They said it was at least 40 feet long. That's the shark of legends, and I couldn't believe it. I wouldn't have, if I didn't see it myself.
"One day, it leapt over the net, in the biggest shark leap I've ever seen, and snapped it off one of the boats. That ship almost tipped over in the process.
"Its mouth was as big as a boat. Some men in the dingy fell over in fear, then quickly climbed back in!
"Earlier, there had been birds circling over all day. We had an enormous catch, just waiting to be eaten. Then the feed frenzy began," the captain told Willy.
Willy had heard about feeding frenzies. Schools of fish vanish into the mouths of all the predators surrounding them, from sharks and other big fish, to turtles and sea otters. The birds, meanwhile, dove down as mini-torpedoes, grabbing mouthfuls of fish. The fish in the schools got plucked one by one, further concentrating the schools and eventually, there were no more left save for their fish bits and blood.
"That shark must have been circling below, waiting for the right moment to burst through the water. It snatched a sea otter in its lunge out of the water. When it landed, all our hearts sank, knowing the men were still out there in the dingies. No one was hurt, but no one was going back out there after that," the captain said.
Willy’s heart was pounding, thinking how awesome that shark must have been. There's no way he would want to be out there, either!
"It was easily 40 feet long. The crew tried to harpoon it, but missed. That was the last we saw of it, but I always expect we'll see it again one day."
"It would be incredible if we caught it,” Willy said, suddenly feeling excited about shark snatching, only from the safety of a boat.
"Aye, but part of me wants to let it be. Some sharks should just be left in the ocean, though I'd hate to see one of our men eaten by it," the captain solemnly said.
The divers came back to the ship and reported that all was well and that the net was full. They also said they captured a 27-foot great white. Willy left the helm and helped the other men prepare for departure.
He was more impressed by the captain than he was before. It looked like their catch was well worth the delay. The captain had made the right decision, despite their setback.
Mostly, Willy was excited to be heading home. He was ready to be back on land and to tell his dad and friends his stories. He just hoped they’d believe him.
Chapter 10: Coming Home
"Land ho!” Willy heard in the distance as he laid in his cabin. He rushed up to the deck to see Sharkville not too far away. The fortress, the farm, the processing plant, the stadium, and city were wrapped by a majestic mountain chain. This was a view he had only seen once, when he left almost six weeks before. He realized how much he missed being away, and how much differently he felt compared to his first few seasick days. He actually thought he would miss being on the open ocean. Maybe not enough, though, to go back out.
The processing plant was buzzing as usual. The other ships from the fleet had returned before them. Willy's crew was the last to come home.
It turned out, though, that they had a good catch compared to the others, despite losing their first net. The detour the other ships took had a toll on their catch, and a few nets snagged mile-long tangles of trash that created a big mess. They had only just finished emptying and cleaning their nets when Willy’s ship entered the bay.
His crew was ready to unload the catch into the funnel pipe. The ships slowly approached the funnel and the seafood concentrated towards the pipes entrance. It all was sucked in, a smorgasbord of seafood, some bad, most good, but all usable. The ships then emptied their hulls.
The giant great white the crew caught was unloaded into a holding pen designed for the mega sharks. News of the capture had spread, and people came down to see it. The dorsal fin was visible above the water as the shark inspected its new, temporary home. Occasionally, it lifted its head out to see the gawking people who gasped at the size of its mouth.
It would be a couple of days for the team shark snatching to occur. That would be a special event as it had been a couple of years since the last shark this big was caught. The people were excited, and wondered who would be on the shark snatching team. Obviously, the top snatcher, Carcharodon Zeke would be. There would only be two others joining him, as three snatchers would be enough to slay this great white.
Willy’s dad had come down, looking forward to seeing his son. Willy wrapped up his work on the ship, then walked off. His dad waited for him on the dock, then saw his son limping in his direction.
"Willy!" he shouted, to be noticed in the crowd. Willy gave him a big smile, approached, then gave him an even bigger hug.
"It's good to see you, dad!” Willy said. "It seems like I've been gone a long time."
"You were gone a long time, son. I heard about what happened to you guys, losing your catch, and you almost being lost, too. You don't look too good. You're limping like me!"
"You've seen worse. I'll be fine. Just a few bruises. I'm actually feeling pretty good,“ Willy replied.
"I'm excited to hear your stories," his dad said as he gave his son another hug.
Patrick approached them, and reached out his hand. "You must be Isurus Finn," he said. "I'm Patrick, and very glad to meet you. Your son made a fine sailor. You'd be proud of him if you saw him in action."
"Thank you. I am proud of him," Isurus Finn said. "I wish I could've seen him, though he don't look too good now. I'm just glad he made it back. You guys had me worried coming home so late."
"Patrick was my dad away from home, dad. He's the one who fixed my head, and saved my life."
"Thank you, again! I'm glad there was someone on board keeping an eye on him."
"I have a son about his age that I don't see much, so it was nice to be able to act like a father out at sea," Patrick said.
Isurus Finn felt sad for Patrick, as he missed his son while he was away. At least he was able to be there for Willy while he was growing up. He could not imagine being apart most of the time.
"Maybe we can all get together sometime while you're on land, Patrick. I'd like to meet your son,” Willy suggested.
"That would be good with me," Patrick replied.
"Great! Maybe we should set a night to have dinner at our place, dad?” Willy asked.
"Sure thing. How about three nights from now? That might even be the night of the team snatching on the great white you brought back."
"It's nothing like the one that broke the crews' net the captain told me about," Willy said.
"Aye, he told ya that story, eh? Tis true, me lad," Patrick affirmed, then said "I'm sure I can talk my son into dinner with you folk."
Willy gave Patrick directions and a pass to their place. They bid Patrick farewell. Willy and his dad walked home as Willy told him stories of his adventure on the sea.
Chapter 11: A Really Big Shark
The day of the team shark snatching arrived. Willy and his dad sat in the stands watching the shark snatchers below get ready for the great white to be dropped in the pool. It was exciting for Willy to watch a shark he sort of helped catch.
Willy waved to Damon.
"I wanna hear your stories on the sea soon, Willy!" Damon shouted over the buzz of the crowd, down to Willy.
"I plan on stopping by your place in a couple of days,” Willy assured him, and gave him thumbs up. "You're gonna love the shark we're about the see."
"I'm gonna love seeing it die!" Damon joked back, but seriously.
They heard the sound of the helicopter coming closer, echoing off the mountain. It grew louder and louder, then appeared above the stadium, carrying its giant load. The shark was still. It was not meant to be flying.
The shark was lowered into the pool. When it hit the water, it was clearly not dead. It thrashed around violently, trying to break through the pool walls. Men pulled the chain the shark was attached to and held the shark as best they could on the wall, while others released the shark.
The helicopter flew away as the crowd cheered. They always loved to see a really big shark. They always loved to see a giant shark die.
This was an event meant for show, more so than the usual games. This was not a competition between men, but between species. A display of the toughest shark snatchers versus the biggest sharks. The more the drama, the better.
Shark snatcher clowns, who were suspended above the pool, teased the shark. The shark leapt up to try to get them. The clowns were pulled up just in time.
It might have been as much anger as hunger that fueled their leaps. Every time the shark tried to bite the clowns, the crowd went wild. That only seemed to enflame the shark more.
The shark began to realize it was not going to catch them, so it stopped leaping. Now it was time for the clowns to be dunked. They were lowered into the pool. When their feet entered the water, they kicked to attract the shark that once again tried to bite the clowns, who were swept up before the shark could get them. The goal was to entertain, but also to infuriate the shark, who would be extra dangerous for the snatchers when it was their turn to enter the pool, without any rope to yank them out.
The shark snatchers began to bang on the tank, and Carcharodon Zeke threw a live 20-pound bluefin tuna into the pool. The shark hesitated at first, then chased it and gulped it down. It was ready to eat more.
It was time for the snatchers to enter the pool. The three were spaced evenly apart around the pool's perimeter, and slowly stepped in. While this was fun to watch for the crowd, these men knew they were risking serious injury or death. This was not fun for them, but one of the most frightening shark encounters they ever had.
They each wielded a large, sharp, metal spear, and they each had a very large knife strapped to their side. They were not going to mess around. They wanted to kill the shark as soon as possible.
The shark kept an eye on one or another, but could not see them all at once. The snatcher out of view crept closer, but the shark was on the move. The men were on guard. They knew the shark could be quick, could be on them in a second.
They moved this way and that for several minutes. The shark was done playing and bolted towards one of the snatchers. This was it. They needed to kill the shark before one of them was killed.
The snatcher being charged held out his spear and punctured it near the eye. He was knocked over, as the others stabbed the shark repeatedly. It was flailing, flinging pink water out of the pool.
The shark charged another snatcher and was able to bite his shoulder. His scream sent chills to everyone who watched. The other snatchers pulled out their knives and began slashing and stabbing the shark anywhere they could. The shark slowed down. A few minutes later, it stopped moving.
The injured snatcher was pulled from the pool as the other snatchers climbed on top of the shark. They embedded their spears in its body and raised their arms in the air, doing the shark dance. The crowd went wild.
Willy watched the bitten snatcher being carried out of the stadium on a stretcher. He put his arm around his dad, who was silent. The snatchers kept dancing as the replay was shown on the video screen.
"You're right, Willy!" Damon shouted down. "I loved that!"
Willy turned to his dad and said, “It doesn’t seem as exciting as it used to. I kind of feel sorry for that shark. After being sailing out into its home, I wish we would have left it alone.”
“Me, too, son. We should just leave well enough alone. Even your great-grandpa James wouldn’t want this, even if it’s done in his memory. Finn said, as they stood up to leave.
Chapter 12: The Processor
Willy heard the door knock on their house. He opened it to find Patrick and his son. He gave them a smile.
"Welcome, you guys!” Willy said. "I'm glad you came over."
"This is my son, James," Patrick said. "James, this is Willy."
"Pleased to meet you, James."
"Likewise. I've heard a lot about you."
Willy invited them into the house and introduced James to his dad.
"This may seem strange," Patrick said, "but James is named after your great-grandfather."
"Really? That's an honor,” Willy replied.
"My dad was part of the people's movement your James helped organize. He often told me how much James meant to him, and how much James was persecuted for making a stand. Naming my son after him was my tribute to someone who was trying to make the lives of poor people better. Someone who was not appreciated by the powers that be," Patrick explained.
Willy looked at his dad who said, "James did what he did for the right reason. They didn't succeed in their movement because the wrong reason prevailed. But who's to say things would be any better today if things ended up differently."
"True. At least we all wouldn't be right here now if things were different," James said. "I'm pretty happy with the way things are."
Willy offered them drinks as they sat down.
"Are you feeling better, Willy?" Patrick asked. "You don't seem to be limping, at least."
"Yeah, and I'm getting more sleep. I never really got used to sleeping on the water. When I do lay down now, I get the feeling of bouncing on water before I fall asleep."
"That'll last for a while," Patrick said. "I've been sailing long enough where I don't notice it anymore."
"Do you think you'll head out to sea again?" James asked Willy.
"Maybe. It wasn't all bad,” Willy joked. "There's a lot to see out on the sea, and I'd love to see one of the giant great whites the captain told me about."
"Aye. The captain can tell tall tales, but I've seen those big ones. I was in a dingy when one leapt out of the water, and it left me wet with more than just water! I'm sure there's a 50-footer lurking out there. Sounds like you want to be part of a harpooning ship," Patrick said.
"I don’t know. I don’t really want to kill them. I probably wouldn't go out right away even if I did, though."
"What are you gonna do then," James asked.
"Don't know. I guess I'm waiting to see what comes up."
"Are you interested in working in the processor? That's what I do," James said.
"Maybe. I've actually thought about it. It would be interesting to see what goes on there."
"We're always looking for new people. I can set you up with an interview if you want. I'm sure they would hire you."
"Yeah. Why not? That would probably be good for me,” Willy replied.
The men ate dinner together, shared stories, and realized they had a lot in common with one another. Willy planned to meet James at the processor in a couple days. He still wanted to take some time to rejuvenate before starting work again.
The processing facility was one of the dirtiest and most dangerous sectors in Sharkville. There was a high turnover due to injury and people just not wanting to work there anymore. The facility was always looking to hire people to work this hard job.
One could smell the facility from afar. Most of the city stunk bad, but this very sickly seafood odor clung to the workers who brought the smell home with them, an oily fishiness that eventually was no longer even noticed by them. They could not smell their own workplace most of the time.
Willy met James at Plant Number 4, which dealt with the larger seafood. There was much activity, countless machines moving about, and piles of seafood. He almost slipped as he approached James.
"Hey James, this place is impressive, if not disgusting."
"Watch where you step, Willy, the floor is slick with seafood oil," James warned, shaking his new friend's hand. "I'll introduce you to my boss. He's very interested in meeting you. He’s a big shark snatcher fan, and a friend of your parents. Grew up with your mom."
That excited Willy. He liked talking with his parent's friends. This would give him more insight into his mom, someone he never met yet was said to resemble so much.
James introduced the two men to each other. “Willy, my boy! You won't remember me, but I knew you when you were a baby. You definitely are Grace and Finn's son."
It was rare for people to refer to shark snatchers by their real name. Only people who were close to them did so. This touched Willy.
"Thank you, Samuel. It's good to meet one of their friends,” Willy replied.
"I grew up with your mother in the same sector. She used to beat me up. We all picked on each other, so she became tough as any man. She wanted to be a shark snatcher like us boys, which was rare for a girl. She proved she'd be better than most."
Samuel started to tear up from his reminiscence, which took the others back a bit, especially Willy. They did not need to say that shark snatching also took her life.
"I haven't seen Finn since you were a baby. He changed when Grace died. He had been such an outgoing, caring person. I can't say I blame him for closing up after that. I tried to be there for him, but over time we drifted apart. How's your old man doing?" Samuel asked Willy.
"Same as usual, it seems to me. I didn't know what he was like before, but I think he's doing pretty well. He can be tough to deal with sometimes, though. I always assumed it was because he was a shark snatcher, who in general act like tough guys."
There was an awkward silence until James said, "I'm thinking Willy could help me sort out the sharks. Give him a chance to see them up close, maybe kill a few that are still moving."
Willy was unsure about that last part. He did not really want to kill a shark. That was a disjointed thought for him. He was born to kill sharks. If he could not kill one here, how could he kill one in a pool in front of thousands of people?
"What do you think, Willy? You wanna help James?" Samuel asked.
"Sure. That'd be alright," he replied, trying to hide his true feelings.
James led Willy to his work area and explained the process. After the catch was piped in, it was graded for size and distributed to the various plants. Their plant got the big seafood.
There were dolphins, seals, octopus, squid, whales and sharks among the other unknown animals. There was also a lot of trash. There were barrels and bundles of plastic, rotting who-knows-what and logs. The ocean had turned into a trashcan where all kinds of debris still remained.
"Our job is to sort out the sharks from that pile. We need to tag them with the date and then load them on this cart. We'll then transport them to the butcher, who will sort out the good meat from the bad. We'll start here, and see how things go," James explained.
"Sounds good. Show me the way."
The men geared up and drove the cart to a pile of seafood, where they began sorting out the sharks. Willy had never realized how many different kinds there were, nor how beautiful. He did not know the names of all of them, but he saw a camouflaged carpet shark, a thorny bramble shark, a flattened sand devil, a venom filled horn shark, a plain looking milk shark, a baby whale shark (but still big as any shark in the pile), a big-eyed bigeye shark and an odd-looking hammerhead shark. Willy thought there were at least 100 different species of sharks in the pile.
"Whoa! This one’s alive!” Willy exclaimed as the predatory fish he picked up violently squirmed out of his hands.
"Yeah, you gotta be careful because they can still bite you. I've been bit. That's why we wear our outfit," James said, adding, "You gotta kill it."
"Why, won't it just die on its own?” Willy asked.
"Don't tell me you can't kill a shark! That would be ironic."
"I can kill it. I just wanna do for the right reason. Why do I need to kill it?"
"Alright, just put it to the side. It'll die in a few hours. That's not long to suffer. Don't worry about it. Just keep sorting sharks."
Willy looked down at the shark. Now he felt guilty for not killing it. He dragged it to the side as it squirmed, thinking how to get out of this one.
He went back to the pile to sort more sharks, occasionally glancing at the one alive. "A couple of hours?" he asked.
"Who knows? It could be dead by now, or maybe not until tomorrow."
Willy went back over and kicked it. It squirmed. "I guess I can't drown it," he joked.
"I'd scramble its brains," James said. "Let me show you."
He walked over to the shark and said, "We gotta strap it down over there."
They dragged the shark over and strapped it down. James pulled out a thin knife and stuck it in the shark’s eye and scrambled the brain. The shark spasmed and then went still.
"It's better to put it out of its misery then let it drown slowly in the air. We also don't want the butchers to be surprised by a live shark. You'll get used to it. I did."
The men went back to work as Willy thought about what just happened. This was going to be challenging for Willy. He was not looking forward to scrambling brains.
Willy worked with James at the plant for three months. The two friends were both ready for a different job by then. So, they worked sorting the mammals. Then they worked sorting all the other stuff. Six months passed and they no longer wanted to sort. They both were transferred to the butchery.
They got a completely different set of gear, including a set of very sharp knives. They got to see what was on the inside of all these animals. They learned to cut the meat quickly and safely.
They heard stories of men losing fingers and even hands in some of the equipment they used. There was a lot of meat that was butchered, and a lot of activity around them. Carelessness could cost a butcher a valued body part.
"Willy! Check out this shark!" James called out during a usual busy butcher day. A 15-foot great white had been hauled in.
"Holy shark! How are we gonna butcher that thing?” Willy asked.
"Like the others. We'll take it out back. We have special equipment for the really big ones," the head butcher said.
The men hauled it out back and winched it into the air. It weighed almost 2000 pounds.
"Who will do the honors?" James asked.
"Willy," the head butcher said, then handed Willy the big knife. "We gotta gut it first as usual. Slice it on the belly from above the head up to the tail. The guts will pour out, so be careful."
Willy climbed up the platform that had been wheeled near the shark. He was amazed by the size, being so close. It was more than twice as big as he.
"Look out below!” Willy warned as he inserted the knife and sliced the shark open. The innards mostly spilled out. He had to use his hands to scrape the rest out.
"Oh my god!” Willy exclaimed. "This shark was pregnant."
Willy had pulled out a shark fetus. On close inspection, he noticed there were actually two baby sharks there. One had partly eaten the other.
The others gathered around.
"Sorry, mama," the head butcher said, putting his hand on the mother shark. "You never know what you'll find inside a shark, but that is one of the strangest."
They all pitched in to finish cleaning out the shark. They rinsed and sliced it, packaged and labeled it, and put it in the refrigerator. Great white meat was not the best, but it was good enough for the hungry people who would eat it.
Willy worked as a butcher for six months, and then was once again ready to do something different. He was transferred to rendering, one of the smelliest jobs at the facility. It turned out to be one of his most insightful jobs.
There were two rendering plants. They took all the waste generated at the facility and turned it into precious compost, oil, chemicals, and heavy metals. It was a hot and stinky process that involved high tech equipment that did not always work right. Explosions, spills, poisonings, and other accidents took the lives of many people.
Willy was truly amazed that seafood could be turned into something so completely different. He began to appreciate the expertise the rulers developed. How did the figure this all out? He felt they were truly special people, being so smart. He was thankful they were so good to the people.
"I wanna go up to the fortress,” Willy said one day to his dad.
"You can't do that. Only a few people go up there. You know the rules."
"I know. I appreciate why. The rulers don't want their germs to spread to the people. But deliveries are made from the processing plant to the fortress. I want that to be my next job."
"Well, I don't see why not, though I'm not the boss," his dad replied.
Willy talked with the facility manager the next day. He requested a new job. The manager said it was time for him to have more responsibilities, that he had proven to be someone impeccable and trustworthy. The manager was wanting to give Willy clearance to make deliveries to the fortress.
Willy understood that what the manager was trying to say was that if the manager was wrong about him, Willy would be in big trouble. Willy had better not mess up if he started deliveries.
Willy went through the normal screening process for anyone given high clearance to the fortress: psychological evaluations, blood tests, DNA sampling and a background check. It was intimidating for Willy to be subjected to such interrogations. The manager called him in to discuss the results. The decision stunned him. He was denied clearance.
"It seems that everything was good except your background. They don't like that you're related to James McCurry. They fear you'll have the rebel streak, that you'll sabotage something, that you're a security risk."
"Wow. I can barely kill a shark, and they think I'll take down the system?"
"That's probably part of the problem. You're rebelling against your shark snatching nature. They look at that as subversiveness. They're afraid you don't approve of shark snatching, that you're against the system.
"That's ridiculous! I love shark snatching. I go to all the games. I'm not against the system,” Willy said angrily.
"Well, there's nothing you can do about this. I'd just let it be. If you're not against the system, then respect what the system concludes. There are plenty of other things for you to do here."
Willy sat back, frustrated. "I'm just wanting to do things for the right reason. Why is that so wrong?"
The manager did not say it, but thought that was exactly why Willy would never get clearance. He knew the right reason was not on the system's side. The rulers did not want to give clearance to people looking for righteousness. He knew the system was wrong, but he bit his lip, not wanting to rock the boat.
"I like you, Willy. I want you to keep working here. I can find you something else."
"Thanks, I appreciate that. But I like to try different things. I think my time at the processor is over."
"I understand. We have a lot of turnover here. Come back if you do want to work here again, OK?"
"Of course,” Willy said, knowing he was not one to turn back.
Chapter 13: Great-Grandpa James
Willy was pretty jaded about his security clearance denial. What were the rulers so scared of? He figured it was more than worry about disease. Why did Willy make them feel dis-easey? This was political. Were they really afraid he could take down the system?
Willy began to ask about his Great-Grandfather James, about the people's movement, and about his mother's beliefs. His dad usually kept quiet about these things, but opened up when Willy inquired. He was glad Willy was of an age to ask these questions.
"I used to be pretty interested in that stuff, before your mother died. I really did care about the injustice I see."
"You mean like how there are all these poor people around, and yet we as shark snatchers live so well?"
"The rulers live way better than we, I'm told. We ourselves didn't always live this well, though. We were poor people once. We knew what it was like.
"I learned that you can rise above being poor by being a shark snatcher. I worked hard, became famous, and then met your mom. She changed my view of a system I took for granted.
"I ended up paying the price in the end, and forgot what she believed in. Now I've realized I deserve to not be poor any more. I'm due my pay.
"The injustice is that I turned my back on her reason, the other poor people who are stuck and have no way out. Not everyone can be a shark snatcher. I was a lucky one, so to speak. But I gave up feeling guilty about that long ago. I once wanted to help the poor people, but now not so much."
"What about my mom, and her grandfather?"
"They believed that by helping them have a better life, the whole system would be better. They did not understand why the rulers lived in the fortress and ate healthy food, while poor people lived in slums eating garbage.
"Grace was a real folk hero. She became a shark snatcher to honor her grandfather and use her fame to further his cause. She made the rulers uneasy like Grandpa James did.
"Things were a lot worse back in his time. He dedicated his life to changing that. He did change that, though it took a while after he died for it to occur. The whole scene we now have is due to Grandpa James."
"Great-Grandpa James led a rebellion?"
"Yes. They weren't gonna take it anymore. They started with a boycott, which shut down large parts of the city. There were other poor people in the city who didn't approve and led a counter rebellion. The poor people began killing each other as the rulers watched from up high. They never felt a blow.
"James was finally captured after a bloody civil war. The movement surrendered. Grandpa was tried for treason, and he was sentenced to death by shark.
"It was a new punishment at the time, but his execution was the biggest and most controversial. He was slandered by the rulers, and these poor people began to see him as an enemy to them, as someone who wanted power for himself so much he was willing to take down the system to do it. The people turned out in droves to watch him be eaten.
"James was placed in a pool with a knife and forced to fight an 8-foot tiger shark. He fought it and won. People were stunned and impressed and demanded more. Another shark was dumped in his pool. He fought it and won again. He was the first shark snatcher, without any armor, weakened by the abuse he had endured while imprisoned. Yet he killed two sharks, inspiring a whole culture to want to watch shark snatching, and a whole bunch of boys to want to be shark snatchers.
"But he wasn’t going to be allowed to live. They dumped another shark in his pool. A 15-foot great white. By that time, he was exhausted. The pool was bloody. The shark was hungry. Grandpa's time had come. He slit his wrists, and sank into the water. He died before he was eaten."
Willy did not know this story. It gave him the chills, and a whole new view of shark snatching. Though shark snatchers became shark snatchers to rise out of poverty, they were also honoring his great grandfather by making a similar sacrifice. It was a sort of offering to someone who was deemed subversive. Someone now widely respected by those he tried to help, who realized he did help them despite the massive carnage that swept through the city.
Willy realized what the right reason for being a shark snatcher was. To honor Great-Grandpa James and his sacrifice trying to make things right.
"Dad, I want to become a shark snatcher."
"That's the last thing I want you to say, but the one thing I knew I'd someday hear. You figured out what the right reason is."
"Yes, I believe I did, dad."
"Oh well," his dad sighed with a heavy heart.
Chapter 14: Willy's First Kill
Shark snatchers could not compete until they were 21. Willy reached that age during his shark snatching training that winter. He had a steep learning curve, as he unusually had not tried to snatch a shark, let alone a big shark, since he was 14.
Finn's nervousness gave way over time to excitement for his son. He remembered his training and how challenging and rewarding it was. Watching his son, he also remembered how girls paid more attention to him. That, of course, only encouraged him to snatch more sharks.
The first phase of training was with small sharks who had their mouths sewn shut. The trainees practiced snatching the sharks, getting a feel for how to handle them. Over time, the size of the shark was increased.
Willy was facing a 5-foot tiger shark. This was his first almost real snatch where he would kill the shark. He wore thick armor and wielded a spear. The only difference was the shark still had its mouth sewn shut, lessening the ability of it to maim, but still could harm a man who was careless.
"Now when the shark drops, it’s going to be very nervous and curious, but it won't attack you until it's sure you're not too big a threat. It will get more and more curious and eventually take a taste. Your shark won't be able to, but the point is to take your time. The shark usually won't attack right away. Take time to get a feel for it and where to strike it. You want to immobilize it as quickly as possible, which means spearing its brain," his coach said.
Willy knew all this. He had seen a thousand sharks snatched, but there was something way more different about doing it himself. The time had come for him to be a shark snatcher.
Willy stood in the pool, the standard 3 feet deep for this size shark. He watched the shark swim down the pipe that zigzagged across the stadium. It passed near him, so he could clearly see its eyes, its markings, and its sewn-shut mouth. He was glad he could not get bit, but nervous as to the force the whipping shark could make. The shark reached the end of the pipe and entered the waiting chamber. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, the chute opened and in bound the shark, who zipped passed Willy.
This pool's diameter was 25 feet, half the size as a competition pool, but still big enough to have distance between them. Willy kept his distance for a while to let the shark calm down. It swam passed him a few times, but lost interest. It meandered about, and then settled down.
Willy was encouraged to spear it. He crept up. The shark seemed to ignore him. He got closer. The shark turned his head back to see Willy. Willy stopped.
The spear he used was 5 feet long, the standard size. Willy held it tightly. Being in the pool with his spear brought back memories. He often held his dad's spear, wielding it to spear imaginary enemies when he was a little boy.
Willy waited a moment, crept closer, and lunged the spear towards the shark's head. It only went in an inch, and fell out as the shark snapped away. The shark thrashed and knocked Willy down. It rammed into him as he was trying to stand up.
Everyone around was laughing. Willy retrieved his spear as the shark swam swiftly around. Willy was mad.
"When you spear it, the sharks gonna move and you'll lose momentum. You need to pierce it deeply. Come down from the top and pin it on the floor so that it'll hold still while the spear enters. You gotta be quick and forceful," his coach said.
Finn was watching from a distance, trying not to distract his son. He knew Willy would be alright. The shark might bruise him, but not seriously. He was worried, though, because he knew Willy really did not want to kill sharks. Willy thought it was cruel and a very odd thing to do. Finn also knew that shark snatching would grow on Willy and after a while that would be all he would want to do.
Willy crept up again after a few minutes. The shark was way warier of Willy now. It did not let him get close. Willy then tried a different approach. He charged towards it. It swam away then spun around to face him. It swished its tail, and then charged Willy. Willy dodged it, then stood his ground. This was going to be an extraordinary fight.
There were times when the sharks got very aggressive. They always never just sat there and let the shark snatchers kill them. They did fight back. Rare times were when the shark seemed to have a fighting spirit, and would become the master of the pool. All the shark snatcher could do was dodge it, kill it, or leave the pool in escape.
Willy’s shark was that shark, only it could not bite Willy. It just kept charging him. Willy stabbed it as it passed. It would come back. He stabbed it again. It came back. This time, Willy leapt up as it charged, and slammed the spear strait down onto its head, piercing it through to the pool floor. Willy landed on top of it as it squirmed, slowly losing its life.
People were clapping when Willy looked up with a huge smile on his face.
"Wah!” Willy screamed, a very primal reaction to his first kill. Everyone echoed him, and that echo rang out of the stadium, through Sharkville. Excitement was stirring.
Chapter 15: Too Soon
Training days became more crowded as news of Willy’s snatching ability spread. The people liked when a natural was discovered. He had snatched 15 sharks so far, ranging from 5 to 8 feet. All, of course, with their mouths sewn shut.
Willy somehow understood the sharks better than most. He could read them and anticipate their moves. He was also extremely fit and agile, and it was his moves that gathered attention.
Most shark snatchers understood the need for making it dramatic, but the way Willy moved in the pool was artful, acrobatic, and very accurate. He also invented a move where he fell to the bottom of the pool onto his back as the shark charged him, and he would slice it open from the jaw to the belly. People called it the butcher roll.
The first time he did it was controversial, partly because it was so gory. Guts dumped out of the shark creating a very disturbing mess. Most of the people loved it and eventually everyone was encouraging him to do it again. He did, again and again, improving all his moves. Willy became a young master shark snatcher as his training days ended.
On opening day of the shark snatching season, Willy thought he was going to collapse. He was so nervous. His dad came into his room as Willy was preparing for the big day.
"Nervous?" he asked.
"Dad, I can't do this. The shark will not have its mouth sewn shut. What if I slip? What if it bites me? I don't want you to be afraid, but I know I am."
"I wish I could tell you don't do it. There are so many reasons I can't. I am so amazed, though, by your ability that I know you have to snatch."
Willy looked at his dad. "What if I die?"
"You're not gonna die. There is so much you will do. You will be a famous snatcher. Carcharodon Willy has a good ring to it."
"Alright, let's go,” Willy ended.
Willy would compete in the lightweight round. There were 100 first time shark snatchers in his class. He knew a few of them, including Damon.
"Good luck, Willy!" he shouted to his friend across the pool.
"Thanks. You too. I'm pretty nervous. How you feeling?"
"The same. Couldn't sleep much last night. I'm gonna learn your butcher roll one of these days!" he promised as he was led away by his coach.
"I'm sure you will!"
The crowd was roaring as the start of the games began. There was the traditional opening ceremony. Kids paraded through, performing plays of single and team shark snatching, the band leading the way. Beautiful cheerleaders, some with big shark jaws around their necks, some with spears, danced around each other as only women could do, with a sometimes too-close-for-comfort movement. Spears and shark teeth are sharp.
The first shark snatching of the year was Carcharodon Zeke facing a 15-foot great white. This was his duty, to snatch the beast and defend his role as master of the games, defender of the people. After all, that was James McCurry, the first shark snatcher these people knew still lived.
The lightweight round went on. Willy saw some impressive snatching, some retreating, and lots of blood. Nothing too serious, at least for the men.
Willy’s turn came. He was armored and ready to go. His dad led him to the pool.
"Thanks for letting me use your spear and knife, dad. Wish me luck?"
"You're not gonna need it. You'll do great. People are gonna love you."
He gave his son a hug, "Kill a shark, son."
Willy climbed into the pool. The shark swam into view. A 6-foot bull shark, its mouth open as it sniffed its way down the pipe.
"Those are big teeth,” Willy thought, as his hands got clammy.
The shark dropped in the water and made a dash for Willy. He jumped out of the way, not used to such an aggressive shark. Bull sharks are not timid.
"Whoa!” Willy exclaimed and took a very defensive posture.
"Take yer time, son," his dad yelled out.
Willy was very focused and did not hear much of what was going on. He was on pure adrenaline. This was primal. Man versus beast. Kill or be killed, and both parties knew that. The shark circled around him, getting closer each time.
On one pass, Willy stabbed the spear into its side. It rolled over, with the spear sticking out, and swam away. Willy pulled out his knife, turned and approached the shark, which spun around to face him. It charged. Willy dove out of the way. It charged again. He dove again. As it charged once more, Willy dropped on his back to butcher roll it as it passed over him. When it did, it bit his neck and carried him to the pool's wall. It lifted him up. Willy looked around, stunned. He saw his dad.
"Dad!" he tried to yell as his dad ran over.
"The shark backed down and dragged Willy under. The last thing he heard was his dad screaming "Noooo!" as Willy’s world blackened. The shark was serrating his neck, cutting off his breathe. He was drowning and suffocating and bleeding to death. Shots rang out, but the shark did not let go. It bled to death with Willy pinned underneath the bull shark, lifeless.
"Nooooooooooooooooooo!" Finn screamed.