John awoke with a start. The old man rubbed his bearded face, wiping the sleep from his eyes. How long had he been stranded here? How long had he been adrift? There was no land…no food…no water left…aside from the toxic salt water his little dinghy was now floating on. He couldn’t remember how he had gotten here. Sitting up, the elderly man rubbed his sore shoulders, his legs, massaging the cramps out of them, trying to get some feeling back in them. John looked around the small parts around his little boat, looking for supplies of some sort that could keep him going, keep him alive. He found nothing. Just his old, sore, creaky self in a little boat that shouldn’t even be out on open water like this. He began to realize, he was stranded out here. Panic began to set in.
“Okay, let’s think this through, just breathe…breathe and calm down. You’ve been out fishing before…maybe you just forgot and fell asleep and drifted….” He said to himself, trying to figure out the predicament he now found himself in.
He had heard it. Someone was whispering his name. As if they were sitting right next to him. But there was no one there. He was alone, except for the Sun above, and the open water. Then, he heard a splash coming from his left, the same side he heard the whisper. John looked and that’s when he saw a shadow just below the surface. Something told him that whatever it was, was there for him.
John watched as the shadow, which could only be described as such, was circling his small boat. He estimated it as being about 15 feet long, at a distance of maybe 20 yards away. He watched it move slowly, casually, around him.
It’s almost time. Maybe he’ll come out of it?
There it was again, the voice. He spun around in the boat, but couldn’t see where the voice was coming from. Another splash. The shape was closer now, and he could finally make out what it was at this distance. It had closed in about 10 yards. No mistaking it, this was a shark. John panicked. He checked his boat frantically, looking for something he could use just in case the predator came too close.
There’s nothing left of him there…we need to let him go.
The shark closed in on the small boat another few yards, circling quicker now. The old man began to yell at the fish. He had heard stories of sharks jumping out of the ocean to attack fishermen, and other tales of sharks slamming into boats, knocking over the people inside and then gorging on their flesh. He would not go out this way, he decided. He would fight until there was no fight left in him! The shark disappeared for a moment from his view. John looked around in all directions, but could not…There! He saw the dorsal fin further away, but this time the beast was moving quickly, coming at his boat at full speed!
We can’t just give up!
The massive fish crashed into the boat, knocking its single inhabitant out and into the open water. The boat itself flipped and sank incredibly fast. John came up from beneath and gulped down air as he kicked and tried to keep himself afloat. The dorsal still visible, John watched as it swam out and circled around him. He knew it. This was it. It was coming for him.
I’m sorry, Mom…
A flash. He saw his wife, Mary. “Oh…Oh Mary…I’m so sorry…” John wept. He could not be there for his wife. He could not be there for his kids. His grandkids. He couldn’t protect them. He did not want to leave them. He did not want his fate to be within the stomach of this beast of the deep.
The shark closed in and bumped John in the side, taking a little nip, then swimming away. He felt a pinch but it wasn’t enough to break skin or make him bleed. This was curious, but John had heard that sharks tend to test out things before feasting on them.
Another flash. He saw his grandkids, Julian and Bryan. Twins. They looked like his daughter. Strawberry blonde hair, hazel eyes, barely five years of age. He couldn’t help but smile, he loved those boys. He had taken them fishing the summer before. They caught trout on a river in Wyoming. Then he saw Mary…sweet, beautiful, Mary. She was always smiling at him. Always giving him hope. Full of life, even in her 60’s. He loved her more than life itself, and did not want to let her go.
Another bump, another nip, and the shark swam away again. John was beginning to tire; the constant kicking and the movements of the ocean were starting to drain his energy.
Dad? Dad? Open your eyes…please…let us say goodbye.
He saw his daughter, Julie, now. She was leaning over him, begging him, holding his hand. Wait. Holding his hand? John looked at his daughter. He examined her features, her hair, her face, her eyes. He saw it then, a shark necklace around her neck, a gift he had given her as a child. He said that the shark was his spirit animal, and that the shark would be her protector. John finally understood…and woke up.
The old man opened his eyes and looked around the hospital room, at all the faces looking down at him. He looked at Julie, Julian, Bryan, his son-in-law Mike, and his wife Mary. “It’s…alright. I love you…” he whispered. Then John closed his eyes, returning to the ocean. He grabbed onto the dorsal fin, descending to the depths. But there was no darkness…no cold. There was only calm, light, and love.
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