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The Silent Predator

Updated: Jun 17

Have you ever read a short story before? They are stories that range between 5,000 and 10,000 words. But really, it just has to be over 1,000 to enter into this classification. If it is under 500 words, it is considered flash fiction and that is another story (ha-ha). The story you are about to read is just under 2,000 words. Enjoy!

 

“Arnold’s body stiffened with paralyzing fear. Blood was creeping its way through the water in his direction as he watched with sheer panic in his hazel eyes. The mad frenzy of people screaming and running for the beach could have been taking place on another planet for all he knew. His mother was shouting his name repeatedly, with each time increasing an octave out of desperation, but he couldn’t hear it. Shock had gripped his muscles as the shark took another bite into his brother’s once life-filled being.


The water danced around him as his body softly lowered under the waterline from a lack of treading to stay afloat. Arnold’s mouth closed up once the water hit above his chin and his blood went cold when his eyes caught the shark’s. Lifeless, black dots that held no shred of proof that a spirit even resided within the silent predator.”


Jeremy slammed the book shut. It was his kryptonite and he cursed under his breath at his college professor for punishing him unjustly. In two day’s time, he would have to submit a research paper based upon sharks, in connection to a fictional story written by an Australian author. The past week had been a struggle for him, only being able to endure forty pages of the novel thus far. Each turning of the page increased the threat of long lost emotions resurfacing from the depths. Catching a glimpse of the medicine bottle, from his peripheral vision, Jeremy popped the cap off and thrust two white pills into his mouth. Luke warm water flushed them down his throat with a small soda chaser. Closing his eyes, Jeremy tried driving away the memories clawing at the edges of his brain. He shook his head forcefully, as if the mental pictures of his past could be literally thrown from his mind.


Professor Morecka was infamous on campus for being an older hardball with an axe to grind against anyone who dared challenge his narrow mindedness. Unfortunately for Jeremy, he ended up on the wrong side when he stood up for a fellow student a month before. The professor had scolded the student in front of the entire class for arriving late and Jeremy had respectfully asked Professor Morecka to grant the student some leniency. What the professor had not known was what Jeremy had overheard in the hall before the day’s class had started. As he journeyed his way toward Room 207, Jeremy caught part of a saddened conversation that the student was having on the phone. Of what he could decipher, the student’s mother was having some bad health issues and it was not a favorable prognosis.


Eavesdropping was not something Jeremy would internally do. He believed that everyone has the right to some privacy in their lives, but it was hard to miss a young man with watery eyes, trying to hide the sorrow in his voice as he asked for an estimate of remaining time. Because he had objected to the Professor’s show of discipline so publicly, Jeremy had become the Professor’s new target to torment. Somehow, Professor Morecka had discovered an article pertaining to Jeremy’s family, from two years ago. When visiting the Professor’s office, for a copy of a lost assignment sheet, Jeremy had seen a print copy of the article lying on the desk before Morecka shuffled it under his attaché case.


At that moment, Jeremy knew that he was screwed for the midterm assignment. He could see the glint in Morecka’s eyes as the assignment sheet was being passed down the row of students. Dread clogged Jeremy’s throat when his eyes read over the theme of the paper. Sharks. Jeremy looked up to find Morecka’s eyes against the pale of his skin and the baldness of his head. Fear enveloped his body when his mind suddenly saw the small, black eyes of his professor. The same black eyes of the shark that had killed his brother two years ago.


Jeremy and Patrick had taken their first international flight to Australia that year. A friend of his brother’s had moved to Brisbane a few months prior and invited them to join him for a week of fun. The trip had started out like a photo on a postcard. Patrick’s friend took them to Kingscliff Beach, about an hour away from Brisbane, for some surfing and sight-seeing. The outstretching view over the water was breathtaking and Patrick had to pinch Jeremy to make sure it was real. The three grown kids raced down to the water and plunged into the comforting waves.


Due to psychological trauma, much of what happened in the water had become blocked out of Jeremy’s memory. Bits and pieces of the people screaming and shouting would wake him up at night. Images of his brother’s body being devoured haunted him periodically. When the horror had first occurred, Jeremy had been rescued by Patrick’s friend moments before he was about to join his brother. Fear had rendered himself frozen and unable to move. Panic had trapped his mind and he had sunk under the waterline just as Arnold had done in the novel.


That was something Jeremy didn’t understand. The author had written the scene so realistically and very close to what little memories Jeremy had left of that day. It was as if the author had been there, watching the catastrophe unfold as he jotted down notes with a pen in his notebook. Jeremy gazed down at the name that consumed a quarter of the front cover. Harry Brownstone. The name wasn’t familiar, but remembering names was never a strong suit of his. Given that the book was a hardcover, with a book jacket, Jeremy removed the jacket and read over the flaps. A photograph of the author, no bigger than an inch square, was printed on the inside flap for the back of the book. Despite the author’s face being tiny enough for a magnifying glass, it was one that Jeremy had never seen before.


Checking the clock, Jeremy calculated out what time it would be in Brisbane and texted Patrick’s friend to see if he recognized the author. The analog clock on his living room wall ticked away the minutes until Jeremy saw his phone light up with an incoming call from Bret. His finger slid the bar across to accept the FaceTime call and greeted Bret with an awkward “hello.”


“Hey, Jeremy. Been awhile.”


“Yeah, I know. Roughly two years. You saw the text?”


“Yeah. I’m guessing you are still experiencing some memory block?”


“I don’t think I want to regain it. The parts I do remember, just haunt me, and wake me up in cold sweats some nights.”


“I don’t blame you. How did you come across the book?”


“Short version is that I managed to get myself on the bad side of my professor and he is making us write a paper on sharks. He found an article from the accident and is trying to give me payback.”


“Man, what did you do?”


“Stood up to him. That’s beside the point. Do you recognize him?”


“He was there. As I was pulling you from the water, he came up on us like a vulture, and started bombarding you with questions. I guess he made sense of the mumblings spewing from your mouth. I tried getting him away and ended up in a fight that almost landed me in jail.”


“Okay, thanks for telling me. I found it strange that parts of the story resemble some of the pieces that my brain does have left. Sorry to trouble you.”


“Don’t mention it.”


“At least I don’t have to ask Morecka now.”


“Did you say Morecka?”


“Yeah, why?”


“Your brother had him as a professor, right?”


Jeremy felt like an idiot. “I forgot. That’s how he knew about what happened.”


“I would watch your back if I was you.”


“Why?”


“Because I don’t think it was your defiance toward him that caused his dislike in you. Well, maybe not entirely.”


“What are you talking about?”


“You remember the girl your brother was dating that year?”


“Shelby, I think. I never really met her.”


“She is his daughter.”


“What?!” Jeremy’s head was beginning to pound.


“Yeah. The day before the accident, Patrick had told me that Shelby was pregnant, but it wasn’t by him, because they had only started to date two months before. But her father didn’t see it that way.” A female face came briefly into view on the phone. “Got to go. Good luck.”


Jeremy nodded his farewell and ended the call. Looking up at the clock, he watched the second hand slowly tick its way around the round measurement of time. Determination set in. He was not going to allow Professor Morecka to get the better of him. Gripping the book firmly between his hands, Jeremy drove himself to finish the novel that night. The next day, he would write his report.


***


Jeremy placed his paper in the tray for finished assignments. Professor Morecka was grinning from ear to ear. “So, how did you like the read?”


“I found it well written and a nice metaphor for fear.”


Professor Morecka’s eyes widened.


“Isn’t it? The shark is a metaphor for fear.” Jeremy smugly returned. Nothing came from the Professor’s lips. Turning his back, Jeremy couldn’t help but feel a little pride that he didn’t cave. He had beaten the man at his own game. Sliding into his usual seat, about three rows back, Jeremy unzipped his backpack to pull his notes out. Now it was a waiting game to see what grade the professor was going to give him.


***


A week went by before Jeremy was given the opportunity to see his grade. Typing his username and password into the login screen, he boiled with rage at seeing a “C” for English. His hand clicked on the square, containing the “C,” to view any comments left by Morecka. He fumed over the words.


“Lack of deeper thinking and supporting evidence to a weak thesis statement.”


Jeremy flew out of the library and headed straight for Morecka’s office. When he wasn’t there, he asked his secretary where he could find him. She refused ‘til he calmed down and told her it was an emergency. He stormed down the hall and into Room 315. Morecka glared at him for interrupting his class.


“HOW COULD YOU?! A “C?” IT WAS WORTH AN “A” AND YOU KNOW THAT!”


“We will discuss this later, Mr. Barner. Now is not the time to be discussing grades.” Morecka was fighting back his temper but Jeremy wasn’t going to be pushed off that easily.


“You Bastard! My brother wasn’t the one that got your daughter pregnant.”


Even the students that had fallen asleep were suddenly very intrigued with the class now. Someone in the back row popped open a bag of chips for the showdown. Morecka’s face was turning red and his cap had blown. “You little piece of ..!”


“It’s true. He wasn’t the one. So, you made me go through hell just for stupid revenge on someone who didn’t deserve it.” Morecka was about to protest, but Jeremy didn’t let him get a word in. “It was someone else, before she started dating my brother.”


“So who was it then? Since you seem to have all the answers!”


“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask her?!”


“I can’t. She’s sleeping.”


“It’s 11 a.m. Does she work night shift or something?”


“It’s 1 a.m. her time. She lives in Australia!”


Jeremy’s eyes widened with sudden realization at who the woman was from the Facetime call with Bret the week before. He almost felt sick to his stomach as things were getting twisted around. “Bret Fairview. She’s with Bret Fairview.”


“No, look.” Morecka showed him a wedding photo of the same woman, from the call, with a different man named Dean Greenwood. “Married since last year.” Jeremy didn’t know what to say.

 

#authorlife #artist #mystery #sharks #shortstories #collegeprofessors #australia

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