Josh grabbed the girl and pulled her back into the darkness behind the sailboat before she drifted away. The attack ship's engines died to a quiet rumble. Josh paddled to the front of the boat, towing the girl, and peeked around the point of the bow where it met the water to see the attack ship. It stopped on the opposite side of the sailboat, shining its searchlight on it like a laser beam. Josh could see men on the deck and could hear their voices, although they were still too far away to make out words.
The wake from the attack ship's bow rolled toward the sailboat. Josh's chin was in the water, and when the wake reached him, he took a mouthful of water. The girl moaned. He paddled back into the darkness with her in tow.
They were face to face and Josh held his hand over her mouth in case she awoke and started screaming. Something bumped his leg under water. He looked around but saw nothing. He reached down and felt in the water. Maybe the girl was kicking him. Then he saw what it was and his eyes grew wide. A grey, triangular shape stuck out of the water a few feet away, slicing silently through the water, outlined against the black sky. It moved out beyond the bow of the sailboat, where the glaring light of the searchlight passed over it, and Josh saw the outline of the shark's body under the water. His heart thumped and he was panicking. The shark was huge, as big as a house, and it wasn't alone. Another dorsal fin swam near the boat, attracted by the light.
He could hear voices speaking in Russian on the attack ship. An officer ordered two men to board the sailboat to search for survivors. They were a lot closer than Josh wanted them to be, but he'd rather take his chances with them than with the sharks.
The girl stirred. Josh was glad, because she was getting hard to hold. Her eyes opened a sliver and the first thing she saw was the fin of a shark passing a few feet away. Her eyes opened wide. Josh clamped his hand over her mouth just as she screamed. He hoped the noise of the attack ship's motor covered her muffled voice.
Josh leaned very close to her ear and spoke in Russian in a whisper. "I don't know if you speak English but if you don't stay still that fish will eat us and if you don't stay quiet your comrades will cut us to bite size pieces. Understand?"
She stared at him with her wide eyes and nodded. Her arms wrapped around him and she clung to him like a child, never taking her eyes off the shark. A third one appeared and passed very close. Josh could see its black eye staring back. He hoped they couldn't smell fear in the water, because he was shaking as much as the girl.
The Russian attack ship bumped against the side of the sailboat, which rocked in the water, startling the sharks. The side of the hull banged against the back of Josh's head. He heard shouting and a couple of sailors jumped aboard. Through the hull, Josh could hear their boots as they went below and opened cabinets and doors. The sailors shouted to each other.
One came to the gunwale and shined a flashlight over the water. Josh pulled the girl closer and pressed his back against the hull of the boat as hard as he could, staying below the bow where it curved out over his head. The beam from the flashlight passed over the sharks and paused on them for a moment. The sailor came forward until he was directly over Josh and the girl.
The other sailor said to shoot one of the sharks. Josh and the girl tensed up together. The ripping sound of a machine gun just above their heads startled them. Sprouts of water shot up around the fin of the shark Josh was watching. Its body rolled over in the water, showing the shredded red holes in its flesh. The other sharks attacked the body. The calm, undulating water turned to a violent, pinkish froth. Josh paddled away, towing the girl with him to get as far from the sharks as he could before they were attacked as well.
Copyright 2000 Burping Frog Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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