Thought Catalog

Where Sharks Dwell And Illusions Begin

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Photo by Bernadette Lords
Photo by Bernadette Lords

Her mind carried her away to the sweet memories of all that was lost. Now it lay to rest; a horizon of illusions of what love was or might have been. She had always felt in her naivety, as though she were floating aimlessly in the riptide, getting sucked by the undertow and spit back up, again and again. The bride that never was, now dwelled at the bottom of the sea, bound by a deathly anchor of defeat, on the empty ocean floor. Heavy with grief, the once champion swimmer moved no more. She stayed there effortlessly, letting go of her limbs without struggle or strength, to float like dead weight in one place. Overhead in the distance the sun’s reflection was shining, reminding her and taunting her of the sunny life that once was. She no longer existed. A heart once alive and singing with joy was now stricken with heartache. Her heartache was a disease that paralyzed her, and now she mourned, drowning in sorrow.

A treacherous stormy sea is love,” she sobbed as she sank. She could think of nothing more. As if she were bleeding from all sides, her once lively spirit drained it’s joy. She was swallowed by devastation. Who would hear her cries? Who would come to her aid? Her bellows did not echo underwater. She was not heard. Painful memories flooded her head.

She was cast out into the breaking waves, to be lost and forgotten forever. How did she get here? Such a cruel act against her was done at the hands of the very key holder to her heart, himself. Her lover had betrayed her. How easy it was for him and his cronies to discard of her, like she were nothing more than a sickly salmon, accidentally caught and not even worthy of eating. He had convinced them of such. Why did he do it? Because she knew his secrets. She knew his dirty, ill-fated, monstrous secrets, which would do him in and shatter his precious image. He was not a good man. He was a pretender; a fool with many secrets, living selfishly, with no God but himself. He asserted control over her by force and violence. She had fallen for his lies and deceit. She remembered the day she had read a telegram he was composing. He must have accidentally left it open for her eyes to discover it. In the telegram, he wrote to a former lover about his plot to double cross his business partners and run off with the money. His business partners were his oldest and dearest friends. She could not believe her eyes. What was more ghastly was when she also discovered that he was a tramp. He was desperately jumping into bed with the wives and girlfriends of his comrades, for the sake of his ego. He was in every way, despicable. Needless to say, her heart was broken. When she confronted him with all of this, he became violent and threatened to end her life.

When she threatened to expose him and tell all, he held her by the throat and said, “No one will ever believe you, I promise. No one knows you, and you are outnumbered.” His voice was vindictive and wicked. She was mortified. Now he would stop at nothing to silence her, forever. An army of thieves, whores, fools, and friends alike stood behind him, manipulated by his phony act. It was then that he tied her to weights and tossed her into the ocean, with the help of a few thugs. He always seemed to know all the wrong people. Now she was being murdered, and as they threw her overboard, she heard her lover’s snidely say, “feed that bitch to the sharks.”

Now she sank to murderous sea levels. It was a royal betrayal to end all betrayals. Her love and her life now ends underwater. Love did not win, oh no, all was lost and she was love’s fool. A fool now buried in the depths of an unforgiving sea, to parish and soak in betrayal forever.

“Come with me, my love, to the sea, the sea of…” lyrics rang through her head repeatedly. This was the song her sham of a lover used to sing to her. Now the only truth was that the sea would be her death. There was no way up and no way out. Her lover had cursed her to haunt the “sea of love”. Sharks swarmed in the distance, keeping an eye on her every move. She couldn’t breath, but she could care less. She could have just died. “I feel no more and so I can hurt no more. My heart is broken. Leave me here, I don’t care,” she proclaimed to her lover as she sank.

Upon noticing the sharks lurking in the shadows, she ordered them about. “Feast on me for dinner, if that is what you will. I don’t care!” She called out to them, but they were unresponsive. As if to torture her further by forcing her to live in this agonizing state of desolation, they continued to loiter in the distance. They would disappear and then reappear again to remind her of their presence. “I am nothing more than the feast of sharks now. Do what you will with me, and do it swiftly!” The sharks remained unaffected by her pleas. They didn’t seem interested in anything other than watching this hopeless display of anguish. She tried to instigate them to attack her by calling out to them with hostility and insults. She wanted them to end it for her, but they didn’t respond. “You left me here to be devoured by sea monsters!” She cried to her former lover, who was miles away indulging in his many women like a pig in mud, and gorging himself in wine like a glutton. “I will expose you! Oh how love forsakes me.” She was hopeless and all was lost.

She commanded the sharks again. “Take me now! Gnash your teeth and rip my flesh, drink my blood, let my bones break and crush into pieces in your mouths. I want no more of this body or this life. It is done, so end it. Please, I beg you.” She cried out to the distant sharks. She waited and waited for the moment to arrive where she would meet her untimely death, but it did not come. “Are you even listening to me?! Eat! I said eat!” She screamed desperately to the grey finned beasts. “Cowards!” She was hysterical. What followed was a long and lonely silence of defeat. When what seemed like hours had passed, the shape of a large shark emerged in the oceanic void. He approached her, coming closer than any other had. She knew it was time. “I don’t care!” She screamed in his face as he got close enough to touch her. “You cannot hurt me, my heart is already broken.” She muttered. “And you cannot kill me. I’m already dead.” Believing these were to be her last words, she closed her eyes in anticipation of a terrible end. Just then, a voice stable and steady, spoke to her.

“Are you ready?” It said. Was it God? She thought her hysterics had produced an audio hallucination. She was certain she had lost her mind, but the voice spoke again. “You are safe now.” It said. Her eyes popped open in exasperation, to meet the eyes of the large shark hovering in front of her.

“What?!” She snapped in anger at it. That is when the shark spoke.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said. Her eyes did not deceive her; the shark was talking.

“Lord help me I’ve gone insane. I’m having hallucinations of a talking shark that will most likely devour me at any moment now.” She began to wonder if the shark had already eaten her, and this was the afterlife. Perhaps she had become stuck in some kind of underwater Purgatory throughout the series of unfortunate events. She had been through a tidal wave of emotions and perhaps lost perspective somewhere along the way. She could not make sense of this but she didn’t care to. She was in a state of shock. The shark continued to talk to her attentively.

“If released now, you will most likely try to swim to the surface and find him. That is not in your best interest, since he put you here in the first place. You are delirious and confused. He and the memory of him, is not far away enough. Believe me when I say, you are safer down here, with us. For the time being, I have to watch you closely and see you through to recovery.” Recovery? What was he talking about? Was such an empowering and supportive conversation really coming from a creature notorious for manslaughter? She was convinced that her mind was doing this as a defense to get through her last morbid moments. Yet he continued…

“It will all make sense soon enough. Just try to relax and breathe. If you try, you will find that you can. Please believe me and try to breath or else you will die down here.” Breath? How was she supposed to breath? She was a lady, not a fish! For a moment, she was grateful for the shark’s oddly ridiculous yet comforting words, as strange as this all was. She listened quietly, taking in the delicious consolation being offered. Even if it were only a mirage, it was the first sense of relief she had and she needed it desperately. She decided to surrender to whatever trick her mind was playing on her. Lord knows that comfort was a luxury she could not afford. Following the (talking) shark’s instruction, she opened her mouth and took in a deep breath. Sure enough, she could somehow breath. It was the freshest breath of “air” she had ever taken. The shark seemed relieved at the sight of this.

“There we go. When all else fails, no matter where you are and even if you think you can’t, just breathe. You may surprise yourself,” he said. With that, he did a swift lap around her. Then swam directly overhead, and his beautiful silhouette at that moment was striking against the sun. For a moment he was not scary, but rather stunning and sleek. This graceful creature entranced her. He then returned by her side with a big piece of seaweed clenched between his teeth. At the feeling of his mouth to her arm she was startled and flinched, but soon realized he was slipping the seaweed onto her wrist like a bracelet. It was a gift! “We’ve learned a lot about people, haven’t we?” He said in a friendly manner. Now he spoke with a tone that was calm, cool, and deliberate.

“We have some things in common. People have been conditioned to fear my species, and so we are feared. We are persecuted for living in the environment we were born to live in. It seems that in most cases, people are afraid of what they do not know or understand, and people will alienate those that are from other places, if they feel threatened by them in any way. Maybe they are losing at life, maybe they are in competition. Love stems from understanding and respect, and sadly they do not know what love is. People, who don’t know or understand where you came from, may bully you. You may find yourself speaking a different language than those within your own species. In a worst-case scenario, like-minded individuals may outnumber you. For sharks, it is man who means to profit from the meat of our flesh, to wear our deaths like a crown after they slay us, and present our dead bodies like trophies as self-proclaimed heroes. Those who fear our strength don’t understand that we are simply from an ecosphere of which requires that kind of strength for survival, and so they villainize us. What they know of the ocean is what they see. They do not live here, breed here, and feed here night and day as we do, and they do not respect our lifestyle. We are believed to be horrible, angry murderers with an insatiable appetite. This harsh judgment, spawned our anger, of which I will admit, at times we acted out these heinous accusations against us, in spite. Anger is a dangerous disease of the mind. In a world where we understand each other, there would be no anger. When we are displaced and thrown into a foreign environment, we are at the mercy of those who inhabit it. It is our responsibility to each other to understand and respect life to the fullest. People will pull us out of our natural element so that they may win. A shark cannot swim nor defend itself on land; it was built for ocean life. What I mean to say is, that it is easy for a group of people, comfortable within itself, to lump something they do not understand onto a pile of all that is threatening or bad. I speak for my species when I say we never mean to hurt anyone. We only mean to live and survive; it is our right, just as it is yours. We are parents. We are life under the sea. We are also dying at the hands of a greater species. And you, my dear, have experienced a similar punishment within your own species.” He paused and watched her face as though to examine it for signs of compliance. She bore an expression of astonishment and disbelief.

He continued, “You are a great swimmer, and there is a part of your heart that belongs to the sea. You have been so respectful of our world and the life within it, even since you were a child.” Flashbacks of her youth by the ocean flooded her memory. He went on to say “We saw how you handled us, and it was always with delicacy and love. It did not go unnoticed. Well, my dear, you are safe here with us, and far more safe than you are up there, with those people, as hard as that is to believe. We are your friends. Language is a funny thing, you know? Just because we have no words, does not mean we suffer less. You are able to understand me because there’s a part of you with a deep and great understanding for all that is alive. The love inside of you is the language we are able to share. We are all animals, after all.” She began to think she was in a dream, because how could this be true. She didn’t want it to end because it was just the thing she needed to hear right now.

“We are watching over you now, and if he comes back to hurt you further, we will get rid of him. Please do not worry. Just rest, and when you are ready, I will lead you to your new life. Right now, you are very hurt and angry. You are a hazard to yourself. Believe me, I know the feeling and I understand. For now, just be. You just escaped your own death. It’s time to fall in love with yourself again, like you are in love with the world. Right now you need to escape the harshness of your reality.” With that, the shark swam away slowly.

All of a sudden, time seemed to stand still. A quiet came over her, and when she looked at the once frightening, empty ocean floor that surrounded her, it was now alive rather than empty, calm rather than alarming, and altogether peaceful. The shark resolved to swim around and nibble on bits of food from the rippled, sandy, ocean floor. Other sharks would come and go, all of them docile in demeanor, and he seemed to communicate with them subtly. When she really paid attention, she could understand what they were saying. A swift motion of the rear fin meant “hello”. A nudge with the nose meant, “Join me”. They had a whole language all their own! She no longer felt the fear and sense of urgency she had before.

Was this heaven? Something inside of her was wildly relieved, and it sent a vibration through every vein in her body to the point where she laughed out loud. The shark soon began to bring her gifts and bits of food to feast on. He brought her a starfish, a conch shell and sand dollar. He would bring little friends for her to meet like a seahorse, an octopus and a school of angelfish. When she was hungry, he would bring her a bucket of shrimp, which was her favorite. She became quite comfortable in this hidden little paradise, under the sea. He even brought her pearls to make jewelry from, which her birthstone! She soon forgot all the woes of her heart that once defeated her, and was happy, really happy. Soon the shark cut her loose and she began to swim with him up to the surface and back down again. They would go treasure hunting, lobster catching, and play hide-and-seek in the coral reefs. Other sharks would sometimes join in, and it was a sight the Discovery Channel would have feasted its eyes on. She was happy, truly happy, in this strange, new world. Her once noisy life was now quiet and she learned to meditate in it’s grace.

Then the day came when the shark came to her with a in a way he had not before. “Are we going lobster catching?” She asked jubilantly. It was then that he dropped a white dress at her feet. “What is this for? Is this a new game? Where did you get it!?” She exclaimed like a child. He scooped up the dress with his nose and plopped it on her head. She didn’t catch it in time so it sank, floating to the ocean floor in a most elegant way.

“You’re going to need that,” he said sternly. She picked it up and instinctively put it on. Underwater the gown seemed to move and flow poetically, and she felt beautiful in it. She began to swim around.

“What do we need this for?” She asked the shark as she did flips and somersaults in her flowing dress.

“Not we. You. It’s time my dear,” he said.Somehow she knew exactly what he meant.

“But…” she protested instinctively. “I don’t want…”

“Don’t worry my dear, you are ready,” he said. The shark seemed certain of what he knew to true. He motioned for her to follow him, and so she did. She new at that moment that something big was happening, and that something big had happened. She would not return to this place. It was time for her to go. Although scared, she trusted her friend and followed behind him as she always had before.

They journeyed for miles. When she became tired, she held onto his fin as he pressed on. Soon the depth of the water became more and more shallow. The waves were breaking overhead. “Hold on, the tide is coming in, we just have to stay below the surface until we hit shore,” the shark assured her. She held on while turbulent waves crashed overhead. Then her beloved friend stopped. “I can go no further,” he said with regret in his eyes. At that moment the sadness she once new returned. “It is not goodbye,” he said, “I am a part of you now. I live in your heart, and there I will always be.” With that, he nudged her away into the shallow waters of a beach. She paddled and waded with her head above the water for some time, until it became too shallow to swim. She turned around and looked back to catch her friend in the waves, swimming away in all of his glory.

“But how will I live without you?” She cried out to him.

“You will! And you will find love, my dear, and it will be greater than even this.” The strength of his words gave her confidence. When she had almost reached the shore, dawn was breaking. She turned around again, only to find that her friend was gone. Then, for the first time in months, she stood up on her own two legs. It felt amazing.

And that is when life began…

I cannot report any details of what happened to her after that, other than that she found the most joy and love she could have ever dreamt to find, just as the shark had promised. Occasionally she would be woken in the night by strange dreams and thoughts of a life in the ocean. She was haunted by the odd memory of a shark whose strength and wisdom was enough to get her through the most difficult of times. This faded memory would often drive her to the beach, where she would look out into the waves by the light of a lantern and call out into the night “Hello! Hello!” She didn’t even know whom she was calling to, and no one ever came. Was it all a dream? Sometimes our experiences only exist in memories and dreams, so who is to say? Either way, a single sentence echoed within her from a place she still couldn’t quite remember, “We learned a lot about people, haven’t we?”

Yes, we have. TC mark

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