by Nicholas J. Salzmann
The shark follows the moon out of the water.
For a moment, the shark lets himself believe that he will never land again, that he will continue to move up into the sky, attacking schools of gull and pelican, carried up into the moon itself. In this moment, the shark catches a glimpse of the dark water chopping below, but between the crests sees himself in murky geometric glimpses that are constantly moving and disappearing as the water recollects, expands, and thrusts upward again
This is death, the shark thinks happily, seeing the glimmering stars through his flat black eyes, feeling numbness. He is a night song of gaping white speed. He imagines he can hear the gulls crying as they fly from their disturbed sanctuaries, water dripping from wings, calls curdling the sensitive jelly canals he uses to detect electrical fields when he isn’t leaping out of the water.
But the shark cannot hear the gulls as they truly sound, and cannot fly.
The shark falls.
It is an automatic process, seeking the electricity generated by other predators or prey.
In his head, in the jelly sacs preceding his brain, the shark instantly registers and dismisses hundreds of signals. The shark is skimming under the surface of the water, preparing to dive down to build the speed for one last jump when he feels It, and he straightens out to a flat cruise at the moment when only a skin of water separates him from the moon.
He feels it again.
There is another creature, something that does not move in any way that he understands. The shark knows by the electricity in muscle contractions that it is struggling.
It feels far away yet, perhaps only a memory freshly stirred from the shark’s encounter with death.
Perhaps wishful thinking. Perhaps.
Because the shark never sleeps, he dreams while he swims, and his encounter with death has brought him new dreams to consider.
His eyes are only half-focused as he passes currents of varying temperature and electrical fields and several times the smell of blood. He feels her arm behind his neck, and her hand on his shoulder, pleading.
My name is Eric, the shark admits in his dream, I am an alcoholic.
He passes glittering schools of fish and small brown sharks feeding on the fish, the quivering jelly sacs and his half-dumb eyes making reports to him even during his dreams, a small part of his brain acknowledging that there is food nearby. Though hungry, the shark does not arouse.
She is squeezing his shoulder, harder this time and with her nails. There would be tiny dents visible later that night that he would discover while undressing himself. He would show her, and in the morning he would find himself in bed alone.
More than half-asleep, the shark passes her.
But she slips away like a solitary fish, like a drop of oil into the hinge of a squeaky bedroom door.
Nick Salzmann is a senior studying English at Illinois Judson College, where nondenominational chapel attendance is mandatory. A while back, in a fit of get-me-the-hell-out-of-here-ism, he almost enlisted with a Marine recruiter, who to this day is still trying to close the deal.