Chapter Twenty One
Breath and Blood

   She hunts as she always has. I influence her in no fashion. They are simply on a collision course. A random lightning strike. Small good fortune for one, terrible misfortune for the other. Such is life.
    Had I been orchestrating, I would not have chosen this man. He is a dedicated school teacher, a good husband and father. But he is diving for lobster at the wrong time. He sees her first as a gray-white cloud in the water far above him. His soul chills. He is an experienced diver. Pressed against the bottom, he waits.
   She disappears. Shadow into shadow. A living poem.
  Rightly, he waits a very long time. When he cautiously surfaces, waves slapping against his mask, he sees nothing. Relief is like fatigue. As he turns, looking for the boat, his mask dips to the water. The pink mouth is yawing improbably wide, the serrated teeth God’s own scalpels.

   The impact snaps his jaw shut. The first items he parts with are his tongue and a goodly portion of his left thigh. Spinning in the water he sees pretty rose bubbles. He can only gurgle for help. A second sledgehammer impact. Again there are terrible sounds; the crunching is the bones in his arm. She takes him under. Imbued by the vision of his three-year-old son, he pulls his arm free. He is halfway to the surface, swimming queerly, when she hits him again, driving breath and blood into the water.
   Weighted by his diving gear, he sinks to the ocean floor. He lies there – what, precisely, he sees, I can’t say – the exposed bone of his right hand clawing pointlessly for the surface. Sometimes your will to live is strong. Briefly, love trumps agony. Finally the hand relaxes and the arm turns listless, wafting a conscienceless good bye before settling to the bottom.
   For some reason this shakes me. I remind myself that his demise is fate alone, and fate takes good as readily as bad. But always there is opportunity for lesson. I plant the thought. She surfaces and nudges the zodiac. The two men, searching vainly for something beyond a dissipating patch of blood, draw back with shouts.
  Her nudge – my nudge – is simply a reminder. You are not apart from these seas. They are only two men, but one dismantles monumental ignorance and hubris stone by stone.
  You are seven billion and counting. It took only a dozen years to add the last billion. Your future population forecasts are not heartening. Nine billion by 2050; ten billion by the end of the century.
   Sharm el-Sheik was my doing, a child’s petulant tantrum. But most of these encounters between man and purported beast are a simple matter of numbers.
  More of you everywhere, a tide that refuses to retreat.
 And our hunting could turn more purposeful. Your United Nations warns of the possibility of fishless oceans by the year 2050. One billion people, you estimate, rely on fish as the mainstay of their diet. What will they eat, you ask, if the fish are gone?
   Recall, it’s not just about you. Recently one of your scientists observed whale sharks feeding on plankton off Belize. Their feeding behavior, your scientist noted, was oddly frantic, “like the whale sharks just couldn’t wait to get food.” They couldn’t.  Thanks to pollution, ocean temperature change, and ocean acidification, plankton levels are plummeting. Even the docile whale shark grows desperate.
  Imagine the carnivores of the seas, with little to nothing on their plate.
  By 2050 there could be serious impetus to skip the swim.

Author / Speaker