Big Ass Shark

Chapter One

 

 

Misty struggled through the sawgrass and shifting sand, dragging a beat-up lawn chair and a large canvas bag behind her. The chair bucked in her hands like a possessed kite as it danced in the stiff breeze, buffeting her from the ocean. Misty’s honey blonde hair, cropped in a short, ragged style, whipped across her face. She was pretty, slender, and had a dusting of freckles across her nose. A very cool pair of shades with tiny, rhinestone apples decorating the rims clung to the end of her nose.

 

Her bag, skating along behind her, bumped up and over a small, pitted, metal sign that read Private Road. She saw it, but didn’t care about it. Looking around, it was clear she had the entire area to herself. Her silver SUV, parked on the private road bore some dings, dents, and rust spots as well, along with a cracked and peeling sticker of the Canadian flag in the lower right area of the back window. The vehicle looked like it hadn’t been washed in years, which was about right. Misty preferred to let Mother Nature take care of that boring chore, and loved to drive through Los Angeles when it rained, to get at least some of the dirt off.

 

Today, though, the sun was shining. As she slogged her way towards a flat rock outcropping right near the water’s edge, she looked off to the left, towards the public beach known as Merrill Point, to see hundreds of people lying in the sand, splashing about in the surf, and of course, countless Frisbees sailing through the air. It looked like an ant farm.    

 

“Peasants,” she muttered contemptuously as she arrived at the outcropping and dropped everything on the ground.

 

Misty grabbed one leg of the chair and shook it furiously until the sad-looking thing finally snapped open. She plopped in down onto the sand where it canted a bit to one side, however, that didn’t seem to bother her. Spinning around she dropped into the worn, vinyl seat and released a sigh of contentment. So far, the tedious part of her mission was done and she looked forward to what she had planned next.

 

Setting her bag on the rocks Misty pulled a lightweight tripod and small digital camera out, then busied herself setting everything up. To help with the tasks, she also had an iPod player with her, and after studying her playlists, selected the perfect one for her morning by the sea. “Three Birds” blared out over the surf. The trek across the sand and grass was worth it. She was having fun. Soon the camera was ready to go, so Misty fiddled with the settings a bit more, composed the shot to capture the land’s end, and made sure the shot of herself in the chair in front of the waves was framed perfectly.

 

Just before she started the camera, Misty pulled a joint out of her big canvas bag and lit it up, inhaling deeply and enjoying the calming rush wash over her. She watched the heavy bottle-green water, topped with lacy bits of foam, slapping hard into the rock and sending a cooling spray over her legs. Inhaling one more deep toke, she pinched the end off to extinguish it and tossed it towards her bag. The half-used joint hit the edge of the bag, did a neat little flip in the air, and then landed on the ground.

 

Misty didn’t see its missed journey.

 

Ready for her close-up, she made sure her shades were securely in place to hide her glassy eyes, and, flashing her most adorable smile, faced the lens.

 

“Better do this thaaang. Thank God for sunglasses. And now . . . for a little touch of Spielberg.”

 

Misty turned the camera on and double-checked how the shot was framed, making sure she and the stunning ocean with its dancing waves were clearly visible. Satisfied with her efforts she was ready.

 

“Hi mom!” she shouted cheerfully into the lens. “How you doing up there in the frozen north? I know it’s only August in Canada, well, here too, but is it snowing there yet?”

 

She giggled a bit more at her own joke than she intended. She’d have to rethink smoking a joint next time she did a monologue. Usually it just calmed her down and helped with her focus, but this one was making her pretty giddy. After regaining her composure, Misty continued with her monologue.

 

“I gotta tell ya, I don’t miss the snow at all, but I sure miss you!”

 

That was certainly true, and again she was grateful for her dark glasses that now masked a hint of tears in her eyes.

Misty felt herself getting swept up in the emotion of the moment until a larger wave slammed up against the rocks behind her, sending cold fingers of icy water down her back. Snapping back into the moment, she yelped, then, turned to address the camera again.

 

 “Things are good for me, though. Working here and there, making the bills, seeing a few guys now and then. No! Not anyone special, but I did get a cat. His name is Dave. Don’t ask me why I named him that. Just seemed to fit. He’s black and white and super sweet. I know you would love him.”

 

Movement, in the water, caught Misty’s eye. She turned to look out over ocean, but didn’t see anything unusual. Just the pirouettes from the waves. She turned back to continue recording her monologue for her mom.

 

 

“So let’s see. Where was I? Oh yeah! I’m at day 284 of my quest to be the next great actress to grace the silver screen, any screen I guess. Today, I’m gracing my own little screen out here next to the blue, errrr, green Pacific Ocean . . . . ”

 

Misty froze in mid-sentence and pivoted rapidly in her chair to watch a large torpedo shape glide past her in the water, just below the surface.

 

“Wow! What the . . . what is . . . !?”

 

She jumped up and ran to the edge of the rocky outcropping that hung over the water, straining to get a better look at what had just moved by her. She could just make out something large, down in the deeper water under the rocky lip, still going by. The choppiness of the water made it difficult to make out any detail.

 

“Oh my God! It’s a submarine or a . . . no! That’s stupid! It’s a whale, or a really big seal!”

 

Misty looked back at the camera and continued, “Mom! Wow! Maybe it is a whale! Maybe it’ll come back.”

 

She ran over to the tripod and popped the camera from its mooring, then dashed back to the water and looked to her left where the shape had disappeared. Several moments later, the torpedo-like form reappeared, gliding towards her. She didn’t know much about the coastline by Los Angeles, other than where to find the cutest guys surfing or the best tacos. What Misty didn’t know was that the rocky edge she was standing on hung out over a steep drop-off to deep water, where the coast started its gradual curve west before turning north, towards Santa Barbara.

 

She made sure her camera was still recording and juggled to get herself—and the shape—into the same shot.

 

“Mom! Mom! Watch this! This is going to be so cool. A whale! I’ve been out here nearly a year and haven’t see one yet. I see them on the news all the time, though. They’re supposed to swim up and down this way all the time, but they’re always further out. This should really be something. They’re supposed to be super friendly.”

 

Misty pulled her sunglasses off, faced the camera she had balanced in her hand, and watched what was happening behind her on the playback monitor. She had pivoted the screen around so that she could see her own image recording along with whatever was out there in the water behind her. She watched the shape in the tiny monitor, coming towards her at an angle from the south. She could see waves forming about it now, as it got closer to the surface, and then, incredibly, she watched an enormous triangular fin break the surface of the water. Even looking at the small image in the monitor, she could see how large this thing was.

 

As the form grew closer, Misty stopped looking into the monitor and turned to watch the fin approach. As it came nearer, she had to look up to the see the top of it, which towered above her. The enormous sail cut a large and frothy wake as the fish that owned it turned to pass by her again, and then disappeared below the water.

 

Whatever this was, it wasn’t a whale . . . and she had a feeling it wasn’t super friendly, either.

 

“Oh mom. Mommy . . . . ” she cried.

 

Misty turned to face the water, her camera now dangling in her hand but still recording. She watched the water, stunned by what she had seen. What had she seen? What was that thing?

 

A hundred feet or more out in the water, Misty saw the fin break the surface again, and then turn as it moved towards her. She backed away from the water’s edge as it came closer. Just as the large form gliding under the water neared the rocky edge, Misty grabbed her old lawn chair in her free hand and held it out in front of her, much like an old-fashioned lion tamer.

 

A massive shark’s head popped up out of the water and the open jaws, large enough to swallow her battered SUV whole, bit into the edge of the rocky outcropping. The water displaced by the shark shot up and over onto the rocks, pushing Misty off her feet. She fell to the ground, slamming hard onto the rock surface and experienced panic when she felt the cold water seep into her clothes.

 

The water rushed back towards its home in the ocean, dragging Misty along with it. She dug her glittery nails into the rock, feeling several snap off as she fought to keep from being swept towards the ring of teeth that ground relentlessly in front of her.

 

Her lawn chair flipped up and over, and then landed right side up, directly in front of the shark’s maw, as if someone were planning on a ringside seat to the most terrifying show on earth.

 

Misty was mesmerized with this thing in front of her, bigger than an 18-wheel truck as it bit hard into the rocks. The beast released the rocks for a moment and snagged the chair, pulverizing it in less than a second. Bits of frayed nylon and pieces of aluminum went flying.

 

“My mom gave me that!” she screamed at the thing.

 

In shock, not yet giving way to full terror, Misty saw the beast start to slide back under the water, letting gravity drag its enormous weight under the waves. Just before it disappeared, she saw one of its teeth snag into a crevice between the rocks. The tooth, which appeared to be the size of a dinner plate, tore free from the shark’s mouth with a gush of blood just before it slid below the surface of the water. It bounced once, then twice on the slick rock surface, and plopped into the water.

 

Misty was startled when she heard someone screaming and then realized that she was doing it. Stifling the next scream in her throat she jumped up onto her feet and watched the water as the huge shape appeared under the surface again, heading towards the public beach that was to her south. The fin broke the surface of the water, then, gradually slid out of sight as it continued moving forward towards Merrill Point.

 

 

She looked into the direction the huge shark was headed and saw the waves of humanity slathered all over the public beach less than a mile away.

 

“Oh my God!” she cried out, then grabbed up her canvas bag and raced back to her SUV. Her little iPod still spewed music where she had left it behind on the rocks. The Marley tune had ended and Willie Nelson’s soft voice began crooning a soulful song about cowboys.

 

Misty’s legs were screaming in pain from struggling to run as fast as she could over the sand, which kept slipping out from under her. Finally, she reached the SUV and quickly opened the driver’s door, tossed her bag across to the passenger side, and leapt inside. She started the vehicle and instead of heading back up to the main road to access the beach, she drove across the rock-strewn sand, towards the hundreds of people who had no idea what was in the water with them.

 

Her SUV bounced up and over the rocks that smashed into the bumpers and tore holes into the undercarriage. Misty drove as fast as she could, feeling the SUV bucking wildly beneath her. Numerous times, the wheel nearly tore free from her fingers as the vehicle slammed first this way, then that way, over terrain that even an SUV couldn’t handle at such high speeds. Nearing the edge of the beach, she laid on the horn, and drove right onto the sand, sending people running in all directions. Having left the rockier terrain, and now skating along on smooth, wet sand, her SUV really picked up speed. She saw a lifeguard station and drove straight for it.

She very nearly careened into the base of the station, but was able to stop just in time, her brakes locking badly. A sheet of fine sand flew over dozens of people in the area, temporarily blinding them. Misty turned off her SUV and leapt out, stumbling over a blinking sunbather who grabbed her ankle.

 

“What the hell is wrong with you?” the sunbather yelled at her.

 

Misty shook herself free and screamed at him, “Shark! SHARK!”

 

She jumped over him as she stomped towards the lifeguard shack.

 

Another woman, wearing a bikini that was too small for her, snapped, “What did she say?”

 

“Shark!” Misty screamed again, as she windmilled her arms about, and ran through the sunbathers, kicking sand into their faces. Frustrated, she pointed out towards the water and screamed again.

 

“Out there! Shark!”

 

Two male lifeguards, young, tanned, and wearing bright orange bathing suits, ran down the steps of the shack towards her.

 

“What do you think you’re doing?” one of the lifeguards yelled at her.

 

“You can’t drive here!” his partner shouted.

 

“Oh my God! You idiots!” Misty screamed at them. “There’s a shark out there!”

 

“Where?” another beachgoer asked.

 

She looked at him as if he were a moron. Where did he think a shark might be? At the ice cream vendor?

 

“A shark?” a fat woman in a bright red suit cried out. “Get the kids out of the water. Harry! HARRY! Get the kids out!”

 

The chorus of screaming people fanned out from around the guard shack. People slammed into each other, tripping and falling over towels, boom boxes, and coolers filled with beer that was not allowed on the beach.

 

 

Seeing the chaos forming around them, one of the lifeguards vaulted over the railing of the ramp leading up into the shack and grabbed Misty by the shoulders, screaming into her face.

 

“Where? Where did you see the shark?”

 

The other lifeguard peeled off and raced into the shack, climbing up to the perch and scanning the waves with his binoculars. Hundreds of people up and down the beach screamed and ran from the water. A few of the more panicked beachgoers felt that just being up on land was not safe enough, and tried to drive away. Misty could hear glass shattering and metal crunching on metal as some of these cars slammed into each other in the parking lot up near the highway.

 

Misty tried to answer the lifeguard as she pointed over to the rocks at the end of the private road where she had encountered the beast.

 

“Back there,” she gushed. “It bit the rock I was standing on and ate my Mom’s chair. I saw it. It was right in front of me. It was huge!”

The lifeguard she was talking with turned and looked back up to his partner on the perch.

 

“Anything?” he asked.

 

“No! I don’t see anything.”

 

The lifeguard continued to scan the waves, twisting slowly from side to side.

 

“I saw it!” Misty screamed, “I did. I’m not lying. I even vid—”

 

“You what? What did you do?”

 

Misty wasn’t sure yet why, but she didn’t want to tell the lifeguard she had caught the enormous beast on her camera. She continued.

 

“I saw it. I thought it was a whale!”

 

“A whale? Oh geez . . . !” the lifeguard, clearly frustrated and growing angry, snapped at her.

 

Beachgoers continued to stream around them, panicked and running for their lives.

 

“Calm down,” the lifeguard who had been speaking with Misty shouted. The other lifeguard who had been up in the perch came down to join them.

 

“She says she thought it was a whale! A whale that . . . what was that again, it ate your chair?”

 

The lifeguard who had just rejoined them stared incredulously at her then asked, “A what? What exactly did you see?”

 

“I told you already,” Misty snapped at him, “I saw a shark. You know what those are, don’t you? I mean, didn’t you get some sort of training about them?”

 

Misty turned her back to them and looked out over the waves. She was startled but relieved to see that everyone was out of the water. She turned back around to address the lifeguards again.

 

“It was there, right in front of me. I saw it. It was huge. I don’t care if you don’t believe me or not. I know what I saw. Everyone is safe now.”

 

The events of the past several moments caught up with her in a rush. She felt her knees get rubbery and she turned to head back to her SUV, which now appeared almost comical parked next to the lifeguard’s shack.

 

Abandoned coolers, dented Frisbees, torn umbrellas, and beach towels littered the wet sand.

 

“Where do you think you’re going?” one of the lifeguards hollered at her.

 

“Just keep the people out of the water,” she said, then turned and bolted for her SUV. There were still enough people running pell-mell around the beach that she was able to get a group of them between her and the lifeguard who ran after her. The lifeguard who had been up on the perch stayed back and watched her get in and drive away. He was able to see her tag and called it out.

 

“Victor, Charlie, four, eight, Delta.”

 

His partner, having failed at grabbing Misty before she was able to drive off, bounced back up onto the ramp leading to the shack and looked hopefully at his partner, who was watching her through binoculars.

 

“Got her tag number,” the lifeguard with the binoculars said. “Going to radio it in right now to the park ranger.”

 

His partner sighed heavily and watched the few remaining people still left on the beach. The panic had subsided, and now he could see that dozens of people doing their best paparazzi impressions had wandered back and were lined along the water’s edge, all training cameras or their cell phones on the sparkling waves. The whole scene looked like an ad for a cell phone company.

 

 

He looked out over the water, but still could not see anything that looked even remotely threatening.

 

 

Misty, rather than bouncing over the rocky terrain as she had before when making her mad dash towards the crowded beach, was able to scoot up to the shoulder along the freeway. She drove along perilously close to the oncoming traffic until she was able to cut down to the private road again.

 

 

She knew she did not have much time, and wanted to grab up the iPod she had left behind. She didn’t want to leave any of her belongings there and wanted to get out of the area as quickly as possible before police, or anyone else, might want to question her. She really just wanted her player back, and then she wanted to run the hell away from the water.

 

 

Misty had always loved the water, but as she eyed the dancing waves suspiciously, wheeling her vehicle closer and closer to the land’s end, she viewed the ocean as an alien realm holding something truly terrifying.

 

 

Guiding her SUV back to where she had parked it before, she jumped out and cringed when she saw some of the damage to her front bumper and running boards caused by the rocks she had raced over. Shaking her head, angry over the damage, she headed back to the rocky outcropping, determined to grab the player and run.

 

Approaching the flat outcropping, she could see a small piece of her lawn chair, snagged in the rocks right at the water’s edge. A small piece of the vinyl straps used to make the seat fluttered in the breeze coming from off of the water. This unnerved her, but she was determined to get her player and flee.

Quickly, Misty grabbed the iPod, and after shutting it off she looked back at the piece of lawn chair waving at her. Fearful but intrigued, she inched to the edge and looked over into the water. Half expecting to see the bus sized fish staring up at her, she was relieved to see only water, and another smaller ledge of rock just under the surface.

 

Misty stared down into the water, truly not sure at what she might find. Looking cautiously about, and not seeing anything, she inched closer to the edge for a better look.

Right below her, on a ledge of rock, about 3 feet under the surface of the water, she saw the tooth. The raggedy edge that had been torn free from the shark’s mouth was being picked clean by small fish and what she thought were perhaps some shrimp as well. Her jaw dropped open as she stared down at the massive tooth.

 

Off to her left, she saw something blinking, and watched a Land Rover with emergency lights on top making its way carefully to the lifeguard station. A man in a khaki-colored uniform got out, and Misty saw the two lifeguards speak briefly to him, then point in her direction.

 

“Dammit!” she said.

 

She turned and looked back down into the water and saw a fish, about the size of her hand, staring up at her. It startled her, and she jumped to one side and immediately slipped on the still-wet rocks. She fell down, banging her knees hard and immediately panicked when she realized that she was slipping forward.

 

Trying to find traction with her hands on the rocks, she was not able to hang on because they were coated with slick seaweed.

Misty plunged into the water face first, and the saltwater stung her eyes. She was not able to see anything in the brine except for dark, menacing shapes from the rocks around her. Popping back to the surface, in a full blown panic, Misty swallowed a lot of water and felt it filling her nose and spilling down the back of her throat. She grabbed at the slick rocks, struggling to get back up onto the outcropping, certain the leviathan was racing up from below, ready to rip her to tiny pieces just as it had done to the chair her mom had given her. It took several attempts, but she managed to get up and was soon lying on the smoother top of the outcropping, huffing air in and out of her lungs, shaking badly from the overwhelming fear of having fallen into the beast’s world. She had never experienced fear like that before and felt as if she was never going to be calm again.

 

Misty was still right at the edge of the rocks, and she saw that the tooth was still there, sitting on the small ledge a few feet below the surface. Impulsively, she thrust her arm down quickly and grabbed it, feeling the terrible sawing edge bite into her fingers.

She stared incredulously at the massive thing in her hands, then turned her head and threw up all of the salt water she had swallowed during her perilous plunge into the sea.

 

The prize retrieved, she jumped up, making sure that she had the iPod, and then ran sobbing and gasping back to her SUV. Misty could see the Land Rover approaching the private road and knew the man in the khaki uniform, who had been down on the beach, talking with the lifeguards, was going to want to talk with her too.

 

With trembling fingers she barely got the key into the ignition, but was finally successful, and then stunned to realize she was so terrified that all of the strength had left her arms. She couldn’t get the key to turn in the lock. Holding onto the steering wheel with both of her hands, Misty pressed her forehead against the rubbery covering of the wheel and whispered through chattering teeth, “Momma, momma help me here. Please help me get out of here. Help me, mom.”

 

Taking a huge breath into her lungs, Misty held it for a few seconds then slowly released the air and reached for the key in the ignition. Keeping her eyes closed and focusing on an image of her mom in her mind, she slowly turned the key and was rewarded with the engine coming to life.

Her eyes snapped open. Misty set her jaw firmly and she slammed the SUV into drive, then, floored it.

 

The Land Rover was approaching her, but she raced past it, forcing it off the private road as she fishtailed onto the freeway, cutting off other cars that were blasting their horns at her.

 

She didn’t care. Nothing mattered right now except getting away from the ranger, but more importantly, to getting more land between her and the water.

 

I hope you enjoyed the read. Would you like to finish the book now? Just go here, and, enjoy!

http://permutedpress.com/book/big-ass-shark

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The greatness of a nation and it's moral progress can be judged by the way it's animals are treated - Mahatma Ghandi

©  Briar Lee Mitchell, 2014