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  • Writer's pictureAlex Zoubine

Shoal's Way

Rivers of blood oozed down the beached leviathan’s blubbery skin, darkening the foam of incoming waves and staining the sand. Frenzied sharkaraks thrashed in the surf, tearing flesh and circuits out of the carcass, their carbon-steel teeth scraping on bone. Next to the mountain of meat and glittering metal, Edric’s daughter and her skiff were mere specks.

Edric slip-slided down the shoreline dunes, thanking the gods under his breath as he ran. He’d reached Shoal before she set out to sea.

“Shoal, I beg you, please don’t leave,” Edric said, fighting to catch his breath after dashing the length of the island.

“I need to do this, Baba,” she said, tightening the rigging, knotted as the muscles flexing across her sun-dark back. When had she become so strong? He remembered teaching her the knots and ties as a little girl, her fingers always quick to pick up a new weave. She was destined to become an adventurer like her mother and her mother’s mother. But when she turned to face him, Edric still saw his little girl. He couldn’t bear to think of her alone on the wide ocean under a sail barely twice her height, great leviathans in the deeps below and semi-flesh sharkaraks stalking the waves all around.

“I know you do,” Edric said, touching her arm. She burned with life even the cool ocean waves couldn’t wash away. “But can’t you wait? Just a little longer?”

“The currents will shift any day, Baba. I won’t wait another season. You said so yourself, that by my age, mamma had voyaged and started her life here.”

Edric sighed and let his hands tremble. Shoal would leave and there is nothing more he could do to protect her, the only family he had left in the world.

Shoal smiled like the sun.

Then, without warning, Shoal’s arm shot out and shoved him backward with more strength than he could have dreamed she had.

Time slowed as a frenzied sharkarak burst through the waves, jaws snapping at the spot in the surf where Edric had stood a moment ago.

Shoal spun and leaped into her skiff, grabbing her harpoon. With the fluid motion they had practiced together over years of fishing, Shoal launched the harpoon straight into the monster’s glassy eye. 

The sharkarak veered towards her but Shoal leaped again, away from the hungry maw. In a last burst of fury, the beast sank its teeth into the boat and tore a chunk away. Still snapping, it retreated into the sea, churning bloody foam in its wake.

“Are you hurt, Baba?” Shoal helped Edric to his feet, her hands strong and steady. Shoal’s breath was no more labored than if they had been pulling fishing nets in for the day. Edric leaned on his daughter as he stood.

“Shaken like a palm tree in a storm, but still here. Thanks to you,” Edric said, squeezing his daughter’s shoulder. He tried to step away, but his knees buckled and Shoal helped him down to the sand.

“Maybe I can stay another few days,” Shoal said, a look of concern in her eyes.

Nearby, another wave crashed against the leviathan’s body, sending a cloud of rainbow spray high in the air. When the wind and water changed their direction, what was left of the giant would wash away, ushering in the season of isolation. The island would be unreachable to all the world.

“You should go. I’ll be fine,” Edric said. He was proud of Shoal. He would be more proud thinking of her as she flew over the water to new lands. “Can I help you repair your skiff? The currents will shift soon.”


Alex Zoubine lives outside New York with his partner and dog. When he's not writing speculative fiction, he can be found learning new languages or geeking out over technology.


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