The Boy and the Sea Dragon
Encounters with Sharks
Zuangeng slept all night and late into the morning. Xianjeng stayed awake all that time. He looked around. Nothing happened all that time. It was almost midday. Zuangeng opened his eyes. He sat up. He stretched out his arms and yawned. Xianjeng turned his head to look at him. Xianjeng said, “You slept for a long time. It’s time for us to go.”
“I’m hungry,” Zuangeng announced. He did not look at Xianjeng. He looked down.
Xianjeng said, “We’ll eat on the way. Now, get on my back and let’s go.”
Zuangeng put his hands behind him. He put them flat against the leg. He bent his knees. He planted his feet on the sand. He pushed himself up. He walked his hands up the dragon’s leg. He walked his feet back as well. His hands reached the top of the leg. He rested the hands on top of the leg. He gave a final push. He stood up.
He turned around. He put his hands back on top of the leg. He pushed himself up. He swung his legs onto the dragon’s leg. He stood up in the leg. He reached the elbow. He reached up to grab a pair of fins. Xianjeng lifted his leg to assist him. Zuangeng grabbed a pair of fins. He pulled himself up onto the back. He crawled on his hands and knees to the middle. He laid down.
Xianjeng got up on his feet. He turned left. He headed for the water. He walked into it. He kept his head up. He waded out into the bay until he could no longer touch the bottom. He paddled out of the bay into the ocean. There were swells.
“Take a deep breath. I’m going under. Nudge me when you need air,” Xianjeng said.
Zuangeng lowered the goggles. He grabbed two fins. He wedged his feet. He took a deep breath and held it. Xianjeng dove under water. He spread his wings. He flew through the water. He beat his wings as furiously as he could. He wanted to cover as much distance as he could before Zuangeng ran out of air. Zuangeng felt water flow around his body.
A while later, Zuangeng gave Xianjeng a nudge. Xianjeng surfaced. Zuangeng freed himself. He sat up. He breathed heavily for a while. He looked around. The ocean was all he saw. The island had disappeared. He recovered his breath. He laid down. He made the usual preparations. He got a fresh lungful. Xianjeng went back under. They continued the journey. Xianjeng had to resurface, again. Again, the ocean and sky could only be seen.
On the third dive, Xianjeng plowed into a school of fish. He snatched them with his mouth.
Zuangeng had to resurface before he could catch any. He freed himself. He pushed off with first his hand then his feet. He looked up as he swam to the surface. He swam straight up.
He reached the surface. His head and neck popped out. He tread water as he caught his breath. He looked around. There was the blue ocean water; but, still no land. He looked up at the sky. It was clear. The yellow sun shone down. Light glinted off the swells. White puffy clouds floated lazily in the sky.
He took a really deep breath and held it. He pushed himself back under to join Xianjeng. He rotated until he was almost upside down. He swam down. He looked around for Xianjeng. In the distance to his right, he thought he saw a large shape approaching. He stopped and righted himself. He watched the shape. It did exist. He looked down. He found the dragon. He flipped over and continued swimming to the dragon.
He finally reached the dragon. He was close to the head. He nudged Xianjeng. The dragon saw him. Zuangeng pointed to the shape. Xianjeng looked where Zuangeng was pointing. The shape was closer. It was a shark heading toward the fish.
Zuangeng separated from Xianjeng. He swam into the school of fish. He righted himself. He found himself within the school. He spun around completely. He was sur4rounded by the fish. They swam in circles around him. He felt some fish brush against him. He looked for a good fish to eat. He found the fish he wanted. He quickly reached out with both hands. He caught the fish. Some of his nails sunk into it. The fish bled and thrashed about. He left the school with it. He swam toward Xianjeng. He left a trail of blood. He held the fish with one hand. He used his free hand for swimming.
The shark sensed the fish struggling. It sensed the blood in the water. It followed the blood trail. It swam toward Zuangeng. Zuangeng saw the shark. It swam faster. Xianjeng became aware of the danger. He swam toward Zuangeng.
The shark was very close. Its mouth was wide open. Rows of razor sharp teeth could be seen. It was ready to attack Zuangeng. Xianjeng got in front of the boy. He butted heads with the shark. The shark missed its target.
It swam away for a short distance. It circled around for another attack. Zuangeng rotated to see the shark return. He stopped swimming. He righted himself. Xianjeng had his eyes on Zuangeng and the shark. He flew under Zuangeng. Zuangeng rotated again and grabbed one of the back fins with his free hand. Xianjeng swallowed some water.
The shark came close. Xianjeng shot a powerful stream of water at it. The stream knocked the shark off course. The shark veered off. It came around for another attack.
Xianjeng started to surface. He angled up. The shark changed directions. It approached at an angle to match. Xianjeng started to roll. The shark was too close. It hit the dragon’s right wing. It knocked Xianjeng over abruptly. Zuangeng lost his grip. Xianjeng remained between the boy and shark.
The shark tried for Xianjeng’s right flipper. Xianjeng turned the flipper into a leg. He swiped at the shark. The sharp claws on the paw raked across the shark’s nose, leaving bloody gashes. The shark tried another attack. It left a blood trail. It was stopped by another forceful stream of water from the dragon.
Zuangeng had been calmly watching the proceedings. He had encountered sharks before. He was three years old when he first encountered one. He had been swimming with Captain Esiada and Iyoseching. They were in the shallows near the shore of an island. The Serikua was anchored nearby. The sails were all furled. It was a clear day. The sun was brightly reflected off the water. A gentle breeze blew inland. The water lapped the shore. Zuangeng stood waist deep in the shallows. The water was crystal blue. He could see his bare feet on the rocky floor. He looked a few yards in front of him. He saw his first shark. He looked around. He found Captain Esiada about a foot from him on the right. Captain Esiada looked at him. Zuangeng walked to him. He pointed toward the shark. He said, “Esiada, what is that?”
Captain Esiada looked in that direction. He said, “That is a shark.”
Zuangeng looked scared. He had listened to the men telling tales of sharks attacking and killing people.Celinga told of an encounter he had with a shark. Zuangeng and five men listened.
Celinga said, “One day, I was out in an outrigger. I was sittin’ in the stern. The sail was down, layin’ on the deck. The mast stood up bare. I was rowin’ along jist fine. I unexpectedly run onto a san’ bar. I was stuck fast. I was force to git outta da boat. I step out into ankle deep water. I picked up da bow. I pushed it until I was hip deep. I saw some sharks swimmin’ around.
“I lost me footin’. I lost me grip on da boat. Da boat floated away. I fell inta water wit’ a splash. I started to swim to da boat. A shark swum up under me. It grabbed me right leg in its mouth. It shook me somethin’ fierce. Da water turned red wit’ me blood. I managed ta turn so da shark was upside down. It went docil’ I pried da shark’s mouth open wit’ me hands. I pushed da shark from me.
“I swum to da boat. I quickly clum inta da boat afore any other shark reached me. Scent of blood attract sharks. I ripped me shirt off an’ wrapped it around da wound. I rowed home. To dis day I bear da proof.”
He stood up. He pulled his pants down. There was a semicircular gouge in his right thigh.
Captain Esiada advised, “Stay calm, Zuangeng. Calmly and steadily walk to the shore. The shark won’t bother you.”
All three walked up onto the beach. Iyoseching said, “Zuangeng, when you see a shark, never panic. Panicking only invites a shark attack. A shark will see you as a wounded fish.”
Zuangeng heard that advice numerous times. He still held onto the fish. The fish had stopped bleeding. He headed for the surface. He swam steadily with even strokes and kicks. He broke surface.
The shark gave up the attacks. It swam away.
Xianjeng surfaced after the shark left. Zuangeng saw him. He swam to Xianjeng. He pulled the fish off his nails. He held it in his right hand. He tread water with his left hand. He threw the fish onto the dragon’s back. He got onto the back. He sat up. He cleaned the fish. He finally got to eat.