Okay, this is a story I wrote a while back – a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid featuring a shark attempting to find purpose in his life and battling his dark side – but I’ve made revisions and added illustrations. Enjoy!
‘God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.’
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
When the sands are all dry, he is gay as a lark,
And will talk in contemptuous tones of the Shark:
But, when the tide rises and sharks are around,
His voice has a timid and tremulous sound.’
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
The ocean. A beautiful, magnificent place. Nothing could compare with the sun’s rays shining through the rippling waters, the multitude of fish making their way through the waters and the host of plants that grow on the bed. The mere sight of this place inspired many to write poetry and stories based upon the foundation of beauty. With its many perfect residents and its myriad plant-life, nothing could ruin the splendid perfection that is the sea.
Well, nothing except me, that is.
My name’s Derek and…and…
I was a shark.
But I kept asking myself:
That’s what I kept asking myself, especially after one certain incident. One day, I once again smelled blood from a lesser being; a baby fish. He was looking for his mother too. The scent of his blood overpowered my sympathy. I tried my best to resist it, I tried to control my cravings but…but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I pursued the prey throughout the ocean, until I finally led it to its doom. After the deed was done, I couldn’t help but imagine how its mother would feel if it knew what I did. She would hear the news, stare in shocked silence, and just weep. That fish could’ve grown up. It should’ve grown up, become more beautiful and could have fed a hungry family.
Were my species nothing more than greedy vicious predators, who rip apart their prey at every chance they get? Were we destined to kill thousands of ocean life and endanger hundreds of species of fish for the rest of our meaningless lives? Had we no purpose other than to strike fear into the hearts of others and eat whatever we see?
I knew that some of us are eaten for food, and that probably counted for something. I tried to keep that thought in my head, but all it meant was that I could only be beneficial when I was dead.
Why couldn’t I be a rabbit, I thought? Humans ate rabbits, but they also LOVED them. Rabbits were cute and fuzzy and bounced and were snuggly. They didn’t have fangs, or dead eyes or anything like that.
Humans showed no LOVE or respect for my kind. We were seen as an affront to humanity and all it stood for. We were cold, bloodthirsty killers, nothing more than wretched villains whose deaths were celebrated. Why would an entire species be created, just to be hated and despised throughout the world? Were we supposed to perform these barbaric acts that make people think of us as nothing more than wretched, twisted monsters?
I spent days manoeuvring around vast waters, trying to figure out these puzzles I challenged myself with. Why couldn’t I just break free of these chains which were holding me and others of my kind? Why wasn’t there something that could cause my kind to be respected, meek and peaceful, like so many other animals which were LOVED, so I could finally be free of these emotions swirling around in my head like a whirlpool?
Love. The word burned in my mind. The only thing I can think of that burned underwater. Many people would LOVE to hear that word but all it did to me was erode my soul.
Every time I escaped from a savage human that merely wished to see me destroyed with some weapon of murder, LOVE came to mind. Where was my LOVE? Did anyone give me any of their LOVE? Or was it reserved for people who deserve it? What did I deserve? A lifetime of hate and fear? Being shunned away? Living life as an ugly greedy beast who gives into temptation so easily?
I had tried to talk about this to others of my species. I say something like ‘Do you ever wonder what our purpose in this world is?’ or ‘Do you ever think about LOVE?’ and I get whacked in the face with a tail, with the cries of ‘What are you talking about?’ or ‘Don’t be such a pussy.’ There was one time I tried to mate. I met a shark named Acacia. Since she seemed quite interested in me, I tried to talk to her about my feelings. She continually told me to ‘lighten up’ and tried to persuade me that killing was fun and was our main priority. I knew it wouldn’t work out.
Sure, leave me lonely. That’s just swell. Perfect.
Did my own parents give me any LOVE? No, not even they did. Sharks didn’t have happy families. Sharks didn’t have LOVING parents, giving LOVE to their children. Shark parents just want their offspring to go out into the world on their own, killing and eating everything they can. I was abandoned by my own parents, a sign that I was destined to be alone, without LOVE.
My kind were hated, despised and scorned by the rest of the ocean. I was a ferocious boogeyman monster, spreading fear and trepidation. As I watched the ‘cute little fishies’ that you humans LOVE over sharks swim away in terror, with screams of ‘AARGH! A SHARK!’, I…I envied them.
Why in the world was I born, I thought? Who was compelled to create a savage beast like me? The same person who created those cute little fish? Was I made by some twisted evil force who had plans to ruin a otherwise perfect world? Whoever created me and my species must have had no LOVE for us, especially me, if I was going to live with these thoughts and ponderings. Maybe I was just trapped in the wrong body. Did something cast a spell on me to make me this way forever? Is the only reason I think these things is because some sadistic force enjoys my suffering?
So many unanswered questions lingering in my mind, my mind probably being the only one containing such questions, and these questions would probably never be answered. Was I just going to spend the rest of my existence pondering about my existence?
And every time I thought these things…
Forget it, just live with it.
…he would pop up.
You’re a shark, deal with it.
Go get your dinner, you must be hungry.
No, no, shut up.
Sharks must kill to eat, you know.
Shut up! Shut up!
KILL KILL KILL
SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!
The strongest burden that came with just being a shark was the voice that echoed within you, the voice that was impossible to ignore, the voice that spoke when I sniffed out my lesser prey, and thought about the purpose of my existence and LOVE. This side of me came out when I smelled my prey’s blood, even at a long distance, that was when others saw the side I didn’t want them to see, my monstrous, ruthless, uncaring alter ego. When people thought of me, they thought of him. I wasn’t the killer, he is.
Maybe, I kept thinking to myself, someday I will accept the fact that I am meant to be a shark, and always will be and I might as well go along with the crowd. It’s not like anything’s going to change what I am, what I was destined to be…
Or perhaps, I then thought, I’m just to spend my life wondering about why I was put on this wretched earth and why I never get any LOVE until the day I die.
I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.