Shark Dive This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 8, 2009
I moved aside as the awed couple stepped out of the large white cage and onto the deck. The boat rocked. My stomach churned. I held my spinning head in my hands.

“You first,” my dad teased. Great. I sighed, pushing away the nausea, placing my mask over my nose. Eew, I hate this. The tight strap squeezed my head, and I felt the rubber cut into my cheeks. Ouch. Awkwardly breathing through my mouth, I made my way to the stern, taking large, clumsy steps, stumbling over my flippers. I don't see the point of wearing these stupid fish fins in a cage. It's not like I'm going anywhere.

Suddenly I lurched forward, having stepped on my own flipper. I watched the deck rise to meet me. Oh! My face bashed into the boat, and my nose went numb with pain. I let out a whimper.

My mom gasped, grabbing my arm and pulling me up. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” I mumbled, rubbing my nose.

Slowly, valiantly, I lowered myself into the cage. The water was icy on my bare skin. Still holding my nose, I treaded in the frothy, churning water as my parents climbed in beside me. Wow, I really hope I'm not bleeding. That'd stink.

I tightened my mask and bit down hard on the mouthpiece. As I impatiently waited for my parents, a chaotic thrashing caught my attention. Water splashed and bubbles broke on the surface in front of me.

My mom beckoned me to go under. I took a deep breath and lowered my head underwater. She did the same. The cold water felt like needles prickling my scalp.

Through the plexiglass wall, I could see churning water. Tail fins thrashed as the greedy sharks took turns shredding a fish carcass in a wild frenzy. They surrounded the bait, struggling to lock their jaws on the fish head. One shark took the bait between its pointed teeth, chomping and gnawing at it. I watched as he tried to rip it from the string. It slipped between his teeth, and he swam away. My heart was leaping in my chest, hammering my ribs. The churning water spiraled around me. Nauseated and overwhelmed, I grasped my head to steady myself.

Suddenly, with a thud, the whole cage heaved, throwing me against the wall. My heart leapt in panic. A large gray Galapagos shark had joined the fray of thrashing tails and slashing teeth, shoving through the melee. The ocean was a tornado, swirling, thrashing, swallowing me whole.

I turned from the commotion, attempting to steady myself. I felt my breathing slow, my head clear. On the other side of the cage, the water was dark, motionless. Suddenly, the bitter taste of salt sloshed into my mouth. I tried to blow the water out of my breathing tube, but it continued to pour into my mouth and down my throat. Gagging and choking on the bitter saltiness, I surfaced, ripped the tube from my mouth, and emptied it.

Underwater again, I adjusted the mouthpiece as a dark shadow emerged from the ocean's depths. I squinted, trying to make out the shape. As it drew nearer and its features became more distinct, my eyes widened in horror. It was a demon fish – brown like the desert floor, with long, jagged teeth.

I saw her come straight toward us and I began to panic. Her eyes were narrow, and I felt them boring into mine. As she turned just feet from the cage, I reached for my dad, grasping the thin fabric of his T-shirt and tugging hard. As he turned to see what I was looking at, I reached for my camera. Click. I rolled the film with a scratching sound. Click.

I could see the monstrous silhouette in full detail now. Long dark stripes ran down her sand-colored back, with hollow spots scattered in between. Her nose was long and pointed, pulling into a large dome-shaped head. Her eyes were black, lifeless, and her dagger-like, violent glare shot fear down my spine, piercing me with hatred. Her dorsal fin was shredded and scratched. On her face she wore knife-like teeth, scars, and hatred.

That's when I realized the water was completely still. It was eerie, really. There was no chomping, no thrashing … no sharks. They had all fled.

As she approached the bait, her massive iron jaws opened and her monstrous face became belligerent. Those lifeless black eyes rolled over white. In a sudden frenzy, she clamped down hard on the fish tail, thrashing back and forth, the torque slowly prying it from the rope.

My heart leapt in my chest and my mind raced. I knew this fish, this unmistakable fish! I started to kick, and the flippers pushed me upward. I clawed at the surface. As I threw my goggles off with excitement, I scanned the deck.

At the stern, our guide watched the bait rope jerk, though no sharks were visible. Excitement built up inside me, boiling and bubbling. I felt it shoot through my core and I couldn't contain it any longer. I wrenched the mouthpiece from my mouth, spitting out salt and bitter ocean.

“IT'S A TIGER!” I burst. “A TIGER!”

His head snapped up. He knew as well as I did that tiger sharks didn't belong in these waters. He snatched a pair of goggles and ran toward us, nearly throwing himself into the cage next to me. I turned from the explosion of water and pulled my goggles back on, ducking beneath the surface.

Irritation showed on the tiger shark's face. She grabbed the whole fish in her mouth, and the rope snapped from the tension. I smiled, putting the camera to my eyes again. Click.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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bblawas said...
Oct. 9, 2009 at 6:02 am
This is a very descriptive piece that made me feel like I was actually there. When the author was describing first entering into the cage in the water, I was able to visualize the bubbles in front of me. I was able to visualize putting on the snorkel gear since I have done this before. I also don't like to walk around in flippers like the author did. I think the author did a great job describing sights, sounds and emotions.
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