A Fish Out of Water, Continued
Part 1: The Hunter-Fin
I finished swallowing half a large tuna hooked by a fisherman near the big drop-off and a few other fish who thought they’d scarf a free meal off the bits. Didn’t live to be fifty seasons and the largest of the Great White Clan by chomping the whole tuna and getting snagged as well.
I fell into an easy glide to let the tuna settle when my laterals itched – again. Reorienting my direction to pinpoint its source, the overpowering stench of land persons interfered. There. Same frequency as before. I swam toward it as fast as my size allowed until reaching the place where the decapus, Bruno, lurked. The itching stopped when I arrived. Nothing. No sign of the multi-armed, boneless bottom dweller either. Without the presence of residual traces to follow, another false alarm. Third day in row.
Bruno was an anomaly among sea creatures who possessed a peculiar magic that often tricked my ability to sense if Merfolk dared to break the terms of the treaty. But the Great Ray, Legisladora, may she live long, deemed the decapus harmless. On the Great Ray’s next rotation through the seven seas, however, I’ll be sure to lodge a complaint.
I headed back toward the big drop-off to lessen the obnoxious boil of land persons in my ears. With the increase of their numbers along the shore, it had been a busy season dealing with brainless troublemakers in my own clan who couldn’t tell the difference between sea creatures and humans. Why the miscreants were attracted to humans who tasted like whale dung remained a mystery. Because of it, the moment our dorsal fin was spotted above the surface, humans sent deafening hordes of floaters with blood bait on hooks seeking to kill us. Let the smaller hunter-fins do the dirty work.
When the water’s upper layers absorbed the pink tint of late day, I recognized the approach of another hunter-fin reeking of the inland bay. “I’m surprised you found me with your senses dulled by the endless buffet of garbage-feeding fish.”
“Mona. Sphyra wishes to speak with you. She has been in distress the last few days,” Taurus reported.
The Hammerhead? She was a bit far from her standard post and too late in the season for her to bear pups. “What kind of distress?”
“Her ability to hunt has been compromised. She missed her second hunt yesterday and had yet to feed early today when it hit her. She has no drive to eat and is frightened.”
My best enforcement scanner, Sphyra’s extrasensory alertness surpassed any of her kind in known memory. My enhanced receptors detected frequency vibrations few of my clan possessed. As for Sphyra, her abilities took it to another level. Even the Great Ray praised the Hammerhead’s unique ability.
I thought of the recent incident involving a hunter fin from the Cownose Clan who chewed on a charged underwater line to get at a meal. “Is it possible she brushed against a land person’s tech?”
“Sphyra claims it progressed over the last three days. When I left her, her ability to see was failing.”
Three days. “Bruno,” I rumbled.
“The soothsayer decapus.”
“Oh. You mean that Bruno.”
Sphyra was no stranger to Bruno’s odd vibrations, unless …
“Take me to Sphyra,” I ordered.
Several of the Hammerhead Clan swarmed near Sphyrna as protection when we approached. My shadow from above made them zigzag in nervous circles.
“Stand down.” I toned down my voice, which normally quivered the water along my body. “Sphyra.”
“Mona? Is that you?” Sphyra cocked her cephalofoils this way and that. “All my senses are blinded. All I feel is – something that should not be.” She nictated her eyes as if in pain. “How can you not feel the magic?”
The other hammerheads swam in anxious tight circles at the mention of magic. Taurus drifted away with a swell of fear exuding from his laterals.
“I have detected strange vibrations from the decapus, Bruno. But when I investigated, the frequency dissipated and left no residual traces,” said Mona.
The water quivered from a tremor that coursed through Sphyra’s body. “The Great Ray herself gave you the ability to detect Merfolk magic. Have you lost it?”
Sphyra must be really hurting to disrespect me openly. Those who did so usually lost a fin or worse. But she was not just anyone.
“I am of no use to you in this condition. Do I have permission to migrate south until I recover?” Sphyra asked weakly.
Would Sphyrna have the strength to make it? “You and a couple others help her get there,” I ordered an older hammerhead. “Try to entice her to eat something.”
When they swam away, I drifted upward to where Taurus gulped air to remain close to the surface. The tickle that buzzed inside my ampullae jogged memories from when I became an initiate, barely mature in size to not be eaten by other sea predators.
Merfolk possessed powerful magic to sustain supremacy and once benevolent folk with attributes to swim with water beings and walk on land to communicate with land people. That is until the Merfolk became interested in using newer land-dweller technology to augment their magic.
Sea creatures throughout the world feared such temperament might poison the mindsets of Merfolk and cause the destruction of balance and order. Legisladora, may she live long, prohibited them from interacting with land persons and using their magic outside their settlements. Those still residing on land were ordered to remain and never return to sea. To ensure conformance, Legisladora appointed the hunter-fins as treaty enforcers. I was among the first assigned to enforce a new treaty to end the growing hostilities.
Taurus interrupted my musing. “You – think a Merfolk crossed over?”
Before I could answer, a sudden shock wave blazed along my laterals. The intensity flooded my ampullae with static. It came from approximately the same location as before.
“Summon Carlukas. Tell him to bring his kin.”
Usually solitary hunter-fins, members of the Bull Clan were notorious for their vicious attack methods. The few times they hunted in groups, they peppered the kill zone with uneaten body parts, pretended to leave, and then rushed back to gobble hapless chum feeders for dessert.
“I want Carlukas to patrol the area where the meddling decapus lives.”
Bubbles blew out Taurus’ anus. “Are you sending them after Bruno?”
“No, you fool. Under no circumstances are they to harm him.” For now. “If they encounter any Merperson using magic outside their colony, they are free to dispose of the treaty breaker as they wish. Quietly.”
“Nothing the bulls do is quiet, especially if hunting with others in their clan.”
“This is no mere wandering Merperson.” My body stiffened from another surge. “Go. Now.”
“After I give them the order, think I will remain in the bay on this adventure.” With a swish of his tail, Taurus took off.
Still shivering from the vibrations, I had to find the Great Ray. Steering toward the big drop-off and the open ocean, I hoped Legisladora was near enough to find before things worsened.
— By BWG member D.T. Krippene
Top 10 Myths About Sharks
1. All sharks are cold-blooded. Sharks are fish and most are cold-blooded. However, some are partially warm-blooded: great white sharks, shortfin makos, longfin makos, porbeagles, and salmon sharks. These sharks can raise their temperature above the water temperature, which helps them move faster when hunting.
2. All sharks must keep swimming to breathe. This myth stems from the true fact that some sharks, known as ram breathers, like the Great White Sharks and Mako Sharks, need to swim to force water across their gills so they can breathe. Nurse Sharks and Bullhead Sharks, however, can stay stationary because they have buccal mouth muscles that can draw in water over their gills.
3. All sharks live only in saltwater oceans. Though most do, some sharks do survive in freshwater. Bull sharks often swim to freshwater through river channels during birthing season.
4. All sharks are aggressive hunter predators. Not all sharks hunt to feed. The whale shark feeds by filtering zooplankton through its gills like mammalian whales and is considered the largest fish in the world. The basking shark, also a plankton feeder, is the second largest fish in the sea.
Fun fact: The dwarf lantern shark is the smallest species and can fit in the palm of your hand.
5. Sharks are a threat to people. Movies and media have instilled an irrational fear in our culture that sharks hunt and eat humans. On the contrary, people are not part of their natural diet. The rare occasions when shark “attacks” are a product of curiosity, not hunger. If a shark spots an unfamiliar creature in the water, they might give it a nibble to see if it’s food. Despite their scary reputation, only about a dozen of the more than 500 species of sharks have been involved in attacks on humans.
According to the International Shark Attack File, which is a comprehensive database of shark bite cases that have occurred between the 1500s and the present, between 70 and 100 people are bitten by sharks each year. With the odds of being bitten at one in 3.75 million, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning.
6. Sharks have small brains and are unintelligent. Another myth based on movies that portray sharks as brainless eating machines, a shark’s brain may be smaller than that of a human, but its brain-to-body ratio is actually quite high for a fish and considered quite intelligent. A shark’s brain has millions of neurons and has the capacity for a range of higher functions, including social behaviors, curiosity, and problem-solving.
7. A drop of blood in the water will set off a shark-feeding frenzy. While true that sharks have an acute sense of smell and can detect the odor of blood in small quantities, the presence of blood in the water will not necessarily set off a shark attack, much less a feeding frenzy. In fact, sharks do not engage in feeding frenzies. When sharks feed as a group, there is a complex social hierarchy to how they feed. The sharks take turns, feeding quickly, and in order of dominance.
8. All sharks have a lesser life expectancy than that of humans. Most sharks live an average of 20 – 30 years. New research suggests the Great White may live seventy years or more. But the granddaddy of them all is the Greenland shark, known to live for more than 400 years.
9. Sharks lay eggs like most fish. Of the more than 500 species of sharks, only about 40% are oviparous, or egg producers. The eggs are encased in a protective egg case with tendrils that attach to corals, seaweed, or ocean bottom. Ancient sailors nicknamed the egg case a “mermaid’s purse” when they washed up on shore.
The remaining species give birth to live young, known as viviparous.
10. Sharks are plentiful and not considered a threatened animal. Around 100 million sharks are killed each year, mostly for the shark fin trade. Sharks are also killed for their meat and liver oil, and many are accidentally caught in fishing gear. The shark and ray populations have declined by 71 percent in the last fifty years. In total, more than 300 shark and ray species are now threatened with extinction.