The Sea is Not Kind

He was a sailing man, Saul. He went out into the deeps for fish. And now and then, he’d catch a shark. And he’d kill the shark, of course, and sell it for meat, because fish have no souls.

But there was one. Once. A young one. A small one. A great white.

Its eyes were deep black pools. They were cold. But there was a spark. And it did not snap at him as he dragged it up, but only lay there limply, defeated. It takes a soul to be defeated, Saul thought. It takes a person.

There was animal there, too, in its eyes. There was mindless hunger. But there was something more.

Soulless things know not surrender, thought Saul.

So he armored his hand in mail, and he took the hook from its throat, and he shoved it back into the sea.

And as he took his boat to shore, he saw it following him, slick and grey in the water. And not until he came to port did it turn, like quicksilver, and flow away.

He went out again, the next day; and the shark was there.
And again, the next.
And again.
And not every trip, but two in three at least.

It would fight him for a fish, sometimes. But mostly it simply watched. And it grew larger every day.

He drank in the tavern one night, and he heard the stories. “There’s a shark at the beach,” they said. “It knows no fear of man.”

People were dying.

“I’ll teach it to fear me,” said Saul. And he went out on his boat. And he took a spear. And when he saw the shark, he drove down the spear, over the side, and it pierced the creature’s flank; and it thrashed and twisted as he drove the spear home. Then he let it go, and he turned around, and he sailed home, and it did not follow.

Sometimes, people died to sharks. It was that kind of beach. But he did not think it was his shark again.

The sea is not kind.

4 thoughts on “The Sea is Not Kind

  1. This makes me feel sad. I don’t really know why, either. Perhaps it has to do with how we form attachments, and how pain creates bonds in the suffering and those who cause the hurt. That’s what I got from it, anyway.

    Thank you for writing it.


  2. :cry: That one is sad. The shark was saved, mysterious and incomprehensible creature, and then it was hurt by that same creature, and for no reason a shark might know…

  3. Partly due to ArchBeth’s comment, I’m reminded of a brief piece by Borges about the leopard that Dante put in Inferno.

    *pulls Collected Fictions off his shelf* Okay, it’s called “Inferno, I, 32”, and a little poking around on the internet finds a copy of it here at the bottom of the page.

    The machine of the world is exceedingly complex for the simplicity of men.

    Or for that matter, of a shark.

  4. Re-reading this entry, I followed the link to “Inferno, I, 32,” and it reminded me of Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, which is an extremely complicated narrative, partly a Christian allegory, that tries to make the case for the vicissitudes of life being expressions of an ineffable divine justice. In the novel, the self-sacrifice of the Christ-analogue permits everyone in New York City to step outside of time for a moment and experience the viewpoint of God, from which the city (and the Universe as a whole) can be seen to be a perfectly-balanced machine in which every event, no matter how beautiful or horrible, is ultimately justified.

    Then the moment ends, and everyone goes on with their lives.

    I wonder whether Helprin was inspired by Borges.

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