Opening excerpt of "The Shark Engine Enigma", now published in Satirica

The Shark Engine Enigma
By Victor Giannini


Porter Grimhause turned his back to the volcano, and carried his world down to the beach. His wetsuit clung to him like a desperate lover, a black seal skin mask to cover the scars of his burnt and naked body. Under his left arm, a 9 foot Robert August Wingnut II. Under his right, a coffee can, spray painted gold, loving inscribed with silver marker, vessel for his entire family.

The sand pressed into his feet, hot and cool at the same time. Grains mixing between his toes, slipping under the nails. His calves flexed and strained as he kept a constant stride against the shifting earth. He reached the shore, and knelt. He fastened the leash to his right ankle, while looking up at the pink and orange sky. Behind him, the tips of the city top, the mouth of the volcano. But the beach was empty. The sun would set soon. The deep beasts would rise to hunt, hammerheads and great whites. These were the hardcore hours, when only those who had to surf, surfed.

Emotion took precedence over logic. Only the freezing burn of loss, envy, and doubt filled his heart. Ever since the trucker smashed into their car, tearing his parents apart, ever since his fiancé burned in the back seat, and their child cooked in her stomach.

He carried the board into the water, holding the coffee can high. Like a warrior making an offering to his Blood God, Porter gave himself to green ocean. He threw his board forward, leapt onto it without impact, sliding into position on its glistening surface. The wax caught his chest. Back arched, head held high, he began paddling. Slow and confident, conserving strength which he held in abundance, each palmful of salty water pulling him further and further from the shore.

The sea’s gentle swell calmed him. The water licked at his face, cooling his brow. His hands became liquid ice, free from pressure and strain. He paddled out far, beyond the break. He sat on his board, perfect posture. The city faded in and out of view as the mother ocean lifted him up and down, but the volcano never vanished. Dark clouds were forming about its peak, even as the brilliant sun cast its countless shards across the water face.

Porter tore at the duct tape, releasing the vessel's seal. He hesitated for a moment, looking at his whole life, his past, his dreams, his future, gray and dry in this tiny hole. His throat tightened, and then he turned it over. Slowly, methodically, sprinkling his love around him in an even arc.

He watched the ashes melt into the sea, clinging to the sides of his surfboard, his legs, his hands. At last, he turned the vessel over, now just a coffee can once more, and banged on the bottom. He laughed. A circle of darkness wafted about. He sat in his circle, watching it slowly fade back to green, and his laugh lilted until it became nothing but strange sounds.

Another darkness swept the water. The cries of circling gulls drowned against his beating heart. Hands on knees, Porter squinted into the abyss. His chest tightened. The darkness faded from view, then swiftly returned, only to vanish once again. It writhed at it passed, like the demon ghost of a long dead belly dancer. Porter laid his chest against his board, calmly, and began paddling. Still slow, controlled, he felt the ocean begin to drop and drag him back. He prepared to catch this gift, to fly to the shore and escape.

The Wingnut II was a real down the line board, with a pull back nose, narrow tail, and single fin. With enough luck, grace, and skill, Porter would be shore side before the monster could rise.

The water level dropped. He kept his eyes on the shore, letting his years of instinct and experience time every movement perfectly. The volcano loomed above the beach, above the swaying palms, above the steel towers. He focused only on its silent peak.

Paddling faster now, shoulders burning with adrenaline, he seemed to lock into one place. His momentum met the gathering wall, and he was lifted up. Like countless times before, he gripped his board, and in one swift motion, lifted, sucked his knees under, and rose to his feet. He crouched, every muscle fiber tensed and ready, yet totally relaxed. Reaction, not thought. As Porter dropped in on the most important wave of his life, he wondered what happened to the coffee can.

Something bumped the bottom of the board. It was so casual, yet Porter lost everything. Pitched forward, he took a breath, only to see an opera house open before him. The water slowed around his head, huge drops hanging in mid-air. His lungs were burning, filled to capacity. He stared at the opera house, at the rows and rows of little people lining its ceiling and floor. Little triangles. No show on stage. Only flesh, and red darkness.

The teeth dug into his shoulder, wrenching Porter from stasis. Flesh stripped away like brisket. A stench of burning piss flooded his senses as black and red closed in, his face engulfed in razors and slime.

A burning light exploded behind Porter's eyes. This is it. The answer. The end.

Endure the final pain.

Porter fought back. He struggled like a fish being scaled. Flailing, seeking an eye or a gill to dig his fingers into. The beast clamped down, a force of nature with a soulless face.
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