Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Sherri Ward, on her blog A Candid Thought. Find MckLinky there for more fantastic Friday Fiction.
This week, we’re winging our way across the Pacific Ocean for our Fiji vacation, so it’s only fitting that we check in with Timothy again on his tropical getaway. If you’re new to this story, I encourage you to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 before diving into this week’s Part 4.
Reef, Her Madness
By Rick Higginson
The lagoon that was serene and inviting by day, looked unpredictable and foreboding by night. Though the waves were actually calmer than they had been that afternoon, the distance to the reef seemed a far more daunting swim than it had appeared under the bright, tropical sunshine. Timothy waited on the sand, staring out across the water as he struggled with second thoughts.
Teresa sat beside him, apparently no more eager to dash into the unknown than he was. She held her snorkeling gear loosely across her legs with one hand, and the bulky dive light in her other. Her right heel plowed a curved furrow in the sand, but beyond that she didn’t do or say anything.
He turned on his dive light, and sent the beam scanning across the surface ahead of them. The white LED flooded a narrow swath with intense light, far brighter than what he had expected of a hand-held, battery operated device. Nothing revealed itself within the beam – not the dreaded dorsal fin of a prowling shark, nor the welcome sight of a dolphin popping up for a breath of air.
The moon was higher and a little bit brighter than it had been at the same time the night before, and the scattered reflections of her glow created the illusion of organic motion at the periphery of his vision. Whenever he cast the beam in that direction, though, there were only the peaceful ripples of the sheltered lagoon.
He took his eyes from the sea and looked at Teresa. She gazed out across the water and took no notice of his attention. He felt an odd sensation in his stomach, and realized he was more afraid of appearing scared in front of her, than he was of anything that might be hiding just out of sight.
With a determined breath, he crawled forward to the water, and scanned his light on the sand in his path. Wouldn’t do to stick my hand right down on an urchin or stingray, he thought. He continued until the water was deep enough for him to float, and then swept the light back and forth. Small fish darted into view, charging after potentially edible detritus his motion had stirred up, but nothing threatening appeared anywhere he could see.
A moment later, and Teresa floated next to him, pulling her fins onto her feet now that she was deep enough that she didn’t need to walk. Her light swung from a wrist cord as she occupied her hands with the fins, sending its beam out in a chaotic manner until she finally took hold of the handle again.
Her breathing was rapid, and sounded louder through the snorkel than it had on their previous swims together. Just as he had done a few minutes before, she scanned her light around, searching for the source of her fears. She found, just as he had, that there was nothing in the shallows that warranted such trepidation.
Transferring the light to his left hand, he reached over and took her free hand in his, and then started a slow, gentle kick for the deeper water. When they arrived at the first formations of shallow coral, he gave her hand a squeeze, waited for the pause in her breath, and descended for the bottom.
A crab scooted slightly under the edge of the coral, turning to keep his face – and claws – towards them as they passed by. Fish hovered within the protection offered by crevices, hoping to escape the notice of nocturnal predators, while a sea slug made a lazy track across the sand at the coral’s base.
He turned his light upwards, and followed the beam on a lazy ascent. Exhaling before he reached the surface, he poked his head up just long enough to inhale before returning his attention to the reef below, and gave Teresa enough time to clear her snorkel and take several breaths.
When she gave his hand a squeeze, he towed her down along another part of the reef. For a moment, he turned his light to look behind them, and smiled. Her legs trailed relaxed, rather than kicking to help propel her through the water. She’s letting me do all the work, but that’s okay. She won’t need to surface for air nearly as often this way.
He stopped short. A group of reef sharks sped across the bottom, just a short distance away. At their size, one alone would be of little concern to him, but this was a decent sized pack. Teresa’s grip on his hand grew tighter, and he weighed his options. If we bolt for the shore, will it attract their attention? If we stay here, are we just as likely to be noticed?
The sharks’ movements seemed disorderly, making the decision process all the more difficult. As he watched, though, he started to notice a certain method to the madness. Sharks on one side of a rock or coral formation would scare fish into darting out the other side, where more sharks waited to make the catch. They weren’t lone hunters all crowded into one small space – they were a cooperative team, working together to catch enough food for all.
The revelation was both fascinating and frightening. If they want us, they’ll surround us and leave us no avenue for escape. They have to know we’re here, though. This is their world, and they can sense us at a much greater distance than we could see them. If they wanted us, they would already be closing in, but they’re not. They want the fish they’re herding out of the reef.
They floated slowly to the surface, where they both caught their breath, and then they followed a short distance behind the sharks. Dolphins hunt at night, when they have the advantage of their sonar. These sharks don’t have sonar, but they have the advantage in the dark nonetheless, and they coordinate like a pod does.
The sharks eventually sped off into the distance, and Timothy turned back towards shore. All these years of swimming in the ocean, and I’m still discovering His wonders in the deep.
To be continued...
To be continued...