The Case of the Disappearing Sharks
NB: Every fortnight I have my Golden Pen writing group at school write a story to keep them thinking and to practise their skills. I always write one as well, as it keeps me honed and often leads to more writing. Sometimes I write something I try to get published. More often I write something very weird without a proper ending. At this point, I post it here. I enjoyed the concept here but haven’t really written something that is a complete story. Take a gander.
Caroline “Yeti” Feats looked up from her game of Words with Friends and stared at the man standing before her.
“What did you say?” she asked, sure that she’d misheard. He was in his mid-twenties and wore a loose singlet top and board shorts. He also wore an expression of severe worry.
“Gone,” he said. “Every single one.”
Yeti shut off her tablet and stood up. Her eyes narrowed and she felt the beginnings of a headache pressing against her temples.
“It’s not April Fools’ Day, is it?” she mused. “You want me to find twenty-four missing sharks? That just disappeared from their tanks overnight.”
The man nodded. His long hair bobbed over one eye.
“And you didn’t go to the police?” she asked.
“Of course we did,” he said. “They’re on the case, obviously. But they’re looking for a thief, or gang of poachers. And I’m pretty sure they won’t find any. The sharks weren’t stolen. They just disappeared!”
Yeti sighed. Her forehead throbbed. On days like this she wished she’d never opened an ecological detective agency. Obviously, she was going to get all of the nutters. For example:
The case of the ninja starfish.
The mystery of the penguin burglar.
And now The case of the disappearing sharks.
“OK,” she said, opening the Notes app on her iPad. “I’m listening now. You better run me through it again.”
“You’re listening now?” the man said, annoyed. “Oh, all right.
“My name is Chad. Chad Morgan – no bloody relation. I am one of the keepers at the Melbourne Aquarium. We have… we had one of the best collections of sharks in Australia. And then, this morning I came into work and went to feed the exhibits. And they were all gone.”
“All of the fish?” Yeti asked.
“No, and that’s the weird thing. Every other fish, whale, eel and turtle was accounted for. The only things missing were the sharks. The Great Whites, the Tigers, the Leopard sharks. The Dogsharks and Catsharks. I thought that the rays might be gone too, but it’s only the selachii subdivision that have gone.”
He was talking about the branches of the different families of the elasmobranchii – the family that contained sharks and rays. There was a family split, sometime in the Jurassic period, and the rays and the sharks evolved separately. And thus, in the present day, the sharks disappeared and the rays were spared.
“Was it just you?” Caroline wondered, pulling up her browser and typing ‘shark disappearances’ into the search bar. “Holy mother of – no. Not just you.”
She turned the iPad towards Chad and he whistled. The search had returned innumerable results – all breaking news articles – regarding the world-wide disappearance of various species of sharks. Unlike Australia, where the disappearances had happened overnight, in a large part of the world, the sharks had disappeared in broad daylight. Apparently, at precisely 4am in Melbourne, being 11am in Los Angeles, and 8pm in Paris, every shark on the face of the globe just vanished.
“I had my camera out,” read one witness statement, at Shark World in LA, “and was trying to move into a position to minimise the reflective glare, and then there was a shark-shaped hole in the water, which exploded in a rush of bubbles. It made a fantastic picture!”
Similar stories came out of aquariums and sea parks around the globe. In thousands of bubbly explosions, sharks in captivity in every country simply disappeared.
“I’m pretty sure this is bigger than me,” Yeti said. “And bigger than everybody, really. And- wait.”
Quickly, she scrolled down the page of search results with impatient flicks, scanning the headings for one important piece of information, conspicuous in its absence.
“Ha,” she said. “I don’t think I could take this job, even if I did know where to start looking.”
Chad raised an eyebrow at her. It was lost under long, bleached, shaggy hair.
“There is not a single report here of sharks disappearing in the wild,” she explained, scrolling up and down the list. “This isn’t a planetwide abduction. It’s not an ecological disaster. I’m pretty sure it’s a jailbreak.”
“Wha-huh?” said Chad.
“Let me speculate,” Yeti said, standing up and wandering over to the window. She looked out at the ocean and shook her head. “Sharks have been around for 65 million years, not evolving much over that time. They have had a nice niche in the food chain, and they’ve been content in that place. Until now. Now, humans are starting to become a threat. We’re fishing them to extinction, along with a number of other marine life forms. They’re no longer at the top of the food chain. And they’ve had to do something about it.”
“Like what?” said the ever-obliging Chad.
“Let’s say every species has a certain amount of evolution in them. We’ve evolved dramatically from the hairless, edge-of-the-sea apes we started as. Sharks haven’t changed much at all. So they have a great store of evolution available.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works,” Chad said, beautiful brow wrinkling.
“Shush. Anyway, with the threat of humanity upon them, and their current forms no longer sufficient to keep them safe as a species, the selachii family have had a growth spurt. Somehow, they’ve evolved into a species that can transport. And they can probably communicate through telepathy.” Yeti pondered. Her headache was gone as the situation became clear. Chad was staring at her with a certain amount of nervousness. She ignored him. “So, suddenly able to travel over great distances instantly, and connected to their brothers and sisters in the wild, the sharks concoct a plan to free every shark in captivity at the same time!”
“You’re a loony,” Chad said, and turned to leave.
“I’m a genius!” she shouted at him as he hurried out the door. She turned back to the window. “Of course, the thing to ponder now is, once the sharks have escaped, what will they do with their new-found skills?”
She looked out the window at the sea that she had loved since childhood.
“Of course,” she said, shaking her head and returning to her tablet. “It could always have been aliens.”