In the Shark Obliterator coliseum the crowd screamed for blood while they waved ones and fives in the air. They drank their cold beer and ate their processed hot dogs. Painted in black and blue, they showed their support for their favorite sea devil in the tank. Some of the fans watched the action from behind the thick glass while others sat in seats around the top of the tank. The tank was 200 feet long, twenty feet wide and twelve feet deep. Inside of it were stone castles and hides outs for the soon to be victims to pretend that they could survive in for their brief time inside. These areas bore more resemblance to children’s playground equipment or something seen in a small fish tank rather than strategic safety zones; but the only people who cared about that were the ones being punished to begin with.
Those that went in the tank were decrepit criminals on death row. They volunteered for the chance to win their freedom. All they had to do was live for two minutes in the shark infested water tank. Trouble was the rounds usually lasted more than two minutes because of how long it took to subdue the sharks so it was no surprise that very few convicts had gotten away with their lives. The lucky ones adjusted to life walking with one or no legs, eating through a straw or finding jobs that didn’t involve the use of their arms.
The ones who’ve foolishly volunteered to take their one chance at freedom were still alive; safe in a small, dark, damp concrete room at one end of the tank. Once the buzzer sounded, the door would open into the tank flushing all five of them into the cold water. Among the five was a 45 year old motorcyclist who couldn’t control his rebel spirit; a 24 year old crack addict who lost his cool, a 31 year old whore who tried robbing the wrong client, a 29 year old mom who wanted revenge more than anything and a small boy who was only 13 years old. Nobody knew how he got into the room. His face was covered with a large hood. He kept his head down. He was the only one who wasn’t afraid. While the others repented their sins to a priest, the boy listened to rap music over his earphones.
His last meal consisted of two cans of Red Bull, a bag of Dorito’s, an energy bar and a slice of pizza. While the others ate their T- bone steaks and lobsters in solace, he ate his listening to music and texting his friends.
Two hundred feet away, on the other side of the tank was where the hunter’s stayed. They were kept in the same size room as their victims. The three sharks had played the game long enough to know not to cause any commotion yet. They have noticed that when the little light in front of them changes from red to green, then it’s time to eat. The shark on the far right was the youngest but definitely the crowd favorite. He had only been at it for three weeks yet he’d racked up 26 kills and 4 wounded. The crowd and advertisers called him the ‘Prowler’ on account of how quickly he’d come in and taken all the action. The shark on the left of the room first started as a sideshow, but quickly turned to the main event when the trainer saw the hammerhead’s blood-lust. On the poster’s and at the bookie, they called him ‘Brimstone’ on account of his stats; he’d never wounded a convicted, he’d killed them all.
While theses two were rather new to the game, the one in the middle had been at it since the inception of the sport. He was the first shark that the network had found. When he was first bought, he was small but fierce with a carnivorous attitude and ability to survive that eventually he was dubbed ‘Veteran’. He’d eaten his share of killers and rapists over the years to know a thing or two about how they moved, what they’d do and who the biggest threat was to him. The other sharks were of no consequence to him. While they swam ahead to scatter the pray, he waited behind knowing that he’d end up the victor. Other sharks, better than Prowler or Brimstone combined, had come and gone on the circuit burning themselves out in a month or so. To him it was only a matter of time before Prowler and Brimstone went that way as well. He played smart for he knew that the human prey was the deadliest kind.
The crowd cheered and screamed for the show to begin. Their eyes contorted to red in anticipation of the blood bath. Shark Obliterator was called a sport but it was advertised and showcased itself like a game show, yet most of the world saw it as a form of a snuff film. It stood only behind football as the most popular sport but garnered twice as much criticism. People wanted to see the dismantling of it and waited continually for a reason to occur.
In a luxury box that looked over the middle of the tank were the people behind it all; the ones who thought it up and put it together. The people in the suite sat in leather chairs, sipped martinis, watched their flat screen televisions and ate filet mignons. Most of them were sales reps, advertisers, managers, idea men, thinkers that came up with more crap to shovel to the cold crowd. The owners were a husband and wife who sat rather bored at the back of the room, away from the glass. They’d grown disconcerted with what happened on their show. A life of luxury bestowed upon them by punishing the sins of the guilty had lost its appeal. They had wanted to see competition.
“Beer here!” yelled a vendor.
“I’ll take…uhh…Joe how many should I get?” asked a friend to a friend.
“I’ll take ten!”
“Twenty coming up!” yelled the vendor.
The other vendors went up and down the aisles selling shrimp on a stick, battered fish corn dogs, crab bits dipped in cheese sauce and lobster strips in a shell relished with salsa and sour cream. Everything had to fit the motif of the idea men. All of it fit into one another becoming their machine. The crowd had fun losing their minds to the sea of red that came after every match. They all died; the convicts and this lust for their death was the only thing that could control the crowds’ desire to see the underdog win. If they left the convicts out for too long, the crowd might grow sympathetic towards them.
“How did you get in here little boy?” asked the whore to the boy.
He ignored her and turned up ‘Slap the ho!’ on his I-pod.
“This is not right! This kid shouldn’t be in here. We need to get a security guard or something.” The mother said. “Security!”
“Let him stay,” the rebel said. “He might grow some hair on his chest.”
RING! RING! RING!
The red light blinked in front of them and the floor below slowly filled with water while the announcer’s voice came over the intercom. They all got scared and yelled and prayed…except for the little boy. He turned the volume up even higher and mouthed the words to the song.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS, CHILDREN OF ALL AGES, WELCOME TO THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. ELECTRONIC WORLD AND RAZZ COLA ARE PROUD TO BRING YOU THE MAIN EVENT! FIVE NEW CONVICTS ARE HERE TO TEST THEIR WITTS AND INSTINCTS AGAINST OUR MONSTERS OF THE OCEAN, OUR DEVILS OF THE SEA, IN ORDER TO WIN THEIR CHANCE AT FREEDOM. BRIMSTONE LOOKS TO EARN BACK HIS RESPECT WHILE PROWLER MAY BE ON THE LOOKOUT ONCE AGAIN TO BREAK THE MONTH RECORD OF 29 KILLS TODAY. VETERAN HAS HIS RIGHT TO THE FLESH MARKET THOUGH AND WON’T LET HIS OWN RECORD BE BROKEN IN FRONT OF HIM WITHOUT PUTTING UP A FIGHT. PLACE YOUR BETS NOW GENTLEMEN AND SEE WHO SWIMS AWAY TODAY AS THE NEW KING OF THE TANK!”
The red light moved over all the sharks faces. Their worn and beaten faces had scratches and marks on them. They all waited with that fierce look of murder in their eyes. The red light blinked one last time, then it went green and the door opened.
The five convicts were flushed into the water. The two women flapped around trying to gain their composure right away. The rebel couldn’t swim so he tried to grasp onto the first thing that he saw. The crack addict swam fast towards the weapons that were dropped into the water. The small boy went along the bottom, making his way to the middle towards a harpoon. Brimstone and Prowler advanced on the women right away. Brimstone nicked the whore with his head but Prowler snuck up behind him and grabbed her before he could finish the job. Prowler ripped her in two and swam past, not even bothering to stop and claim his prize.
Veteran waited in the back for his opportunity to strike. He saw the boy and worried. The crack addict found time to grab the harpoon but was unable to fire it before Prowler made his move on him also, shedding his legs gruesomely to make them nothing but bones and tendons.
“28 LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! PROWLER IS WORKING QUICKLY FOR THAT RECORD! ONE MORE AND HE’S TIED WITH VETERAN!”
The crowd yelled and hollered at the news. Brimstone was getting angry. He wanted a kill. He didn’t want to be upstaged by Prowler anymore. He wanted his glory back. Brimstone saw the rebel hiding in one of the castles, trying to hold his breath and last till the end of the round for his safety. He saw nothing else but the old man, his whiskers floating up in the water and his eyes bulging, trying to see past the blood for the monsters. Brimstone went angrily and hit the castle as hard as he could and knocked the rebel loose. The old man let go and started to drift towards the surface. Brimstone could see Prowler coming and went for the old man faster then he’d ever been. The rebel swam towards the surface. Prowler came like a bullet through the water. Brimstone struggled to keep up and had the rebel and almost-
“OH!! BRIMSTONE STEALS ONE FROM PROWLER KEEPING HIM JUST OUT OF REACH OF THE RECORD! BUT THERE ARE TWO LEFT, CAN PROWLER STILL GET IT?”
Some of the people in the crowd began to notice the tiny convict in the tank. Some could see that he was a child whereas others thought he was a midget. Those that knew that he was a child became appalled and a general wave of disgust broke out over the crowd. Soon people were asking questions. They yelled and pointed at the kid with the harpoon taking aim at Brimstone and sending a spear soaring through towards the shark’s head.
“Oooo!” the crowd yelled.
“BRIMSTONE TAKES A LETHAL SHOT AND GOES DOWN! A GREAT SHARK AND A GREAT PLAYER!”
Taps played over the intercom to signal a fallen soldier. Children cried for their favorite shark. Men yelled at how they had lost money. Women thought it was a shame. More of the crowd looked at the gunman to see that it was a child. Even more became enraged and appalled. They tossed their shrimp at the owner’s box.
“Sir, we have a situation going on,” said one of the thinkers to the owner. The owner got up, irritated by the interruption. He approached the glass and saw the little boy in the water. “What should we do?”
“Let him play,” the owner said.
Veteran watched all the action as he swam around the tank. He saw the kid go for another gun, snatch it and evade Prowler at the same time. The kid was quick in the water and even quicker with the trigger. His body moved like a snake in water. Veteran swam slowly and watched Prowler circle the poor mom who was desperately trying to work her harpoon gun. The young shark opened his jaws wide and took her head clean off in one quick swoop.
“29 FOLKS! THIS MAY BE THE DAY THAT THE RECORD IS BROKEN! HE’S NOW TIED WITH VETERAN FOR IT WITH ONE CONVICT LEFT TO GO! THIS MAY BE A DAY FOR HISTORY!”
The crowd reacted little to the news and hollered for someone to notice the child in the tank. They yelled and pushed over vendors. They tossed their beer cans in the water making it murkier. In his box, the owner didn’t listen to the producer telling him to pull the plug, dart the sharks immediately and keep their fan base. He watched the kid swim through the water with both Prowler and Veteran on his tail. The owner watched because this was what he wanted to see; competition. Not some strung out and desperate convict who didn’t know how to swim. He wanted to see who was the stronger of the two, the best predator; man or beast?
Prowler swam close, diving in and out of the water around the kid as he sought the piece of fame that would be attached to him once he killed the kid. He was insane with glory, caught in the glamor, starving for the attention and blinded by the lights that flashed on him.
Veteran came in too and grabbed the kid by the shirt pulling him along in the water. The kid shot the harpoon but it barely grazed Veteran’s flesh with the spear going out the water’s surface hitting a beam in the ceiling above. The rope on the spear held the gun suspended in the water. Veteran chomped down on the harpoon and grabbed it from the kid’s hands. His jaws got closer to the kid as he went for the kill. He didn’t smell any fear from the child. He only smelled blood, old and tainted with beer, bones and guts. As he went for the final chomp, Veteran’s body was pulled away and the kid got loose.
“OH WOW! PROWLER JUST RIPPED VETERAN’S THROAT! THAT IS ILLEGAL FOLKS AND WILL DISQUALIFY HIM!”
“Stop the match!” a thinker yelled.
“No!” the owner said. He knocked the thinker to the ground and regained his ground. Everyone in the club box was in shock. “Nobody do anything. We let the game play out.”
“Boo!!” the crowd yelled. No one was drunk enough for this.
“We’re gonna lose our whole fan base!” one of the producers yelled.
The owner stayed silent and watched like a little kid.
The game continued and elapsed two minutes. The game was going to be to the death. The kid didn’t fret in the tank. He was still calm. His shirt was torn but that didn’t deter him. He swam for the guns and not for his life. Prowlers took Veteran’s bloody fin, jumped out of the water and tossed it onto the crowd.
“Boo!!” the crowd yelled.
Prowler dove back into the water looking for his prey. The kid was small but he couldn’t elude him. He was the next greatest thing to happen to entertainment. Nothing could stop him. He saw the kid playing with the harpoon that was still in Veteran’s head. His eyes narrowed on him as he glided through the water. The shark got close, but still the kid messed with the gun. The rope, that connected the gun to the spear, was still stuck to the beam above the water. Prowler got close. The kid still hung on. He suspected the kid to go for the rope but he didn’t.
“Ahh!” the crowd screamed.
“Yes…” the owner said gleefully. He was like a child blowing up army men with fire crackers.
“We’re screwed,” a thinker said.
Prowler went for the bite. The kid pulled a harpoon shot from the gun he’d hid behind his back, letting loose a spear into the mighty shark gutting him.
The crowd jeered as they saw their most beloved of sharks fall to a small child. They all grew quiet. They didn’t stay. The announcer stopped speaking. The thinkers all left to update their resumes. The water drained from the tank slowly. The water with all its blood, beer, organs and remains of the day. It filtered in the drain at the middle of the tank. Only the organs and guns remain after all the murky water went down. The kid walked back to the room, put his I-pod back on and left without saying a word. The owner sat, smiling; his business was destroyed but he was happy.