by Walter G. Esselman
“Oh-no-no-no-no-no!” shrieked Brianna as she ran. The water nymph
knew that they were close behind and gaining quickly. Arms encircled
her waist, and she cried out as teeth nibbled her shoulder.
“Just don’t tickle me!” squealed Brianna joyfully as Gideon
pretended to gnaw on her shoulder.
“Too slow,” exclaimed Pavataro. The black and blue dragon grinned
as he ran past. At fifteen, the same age as Gideon and Brianna, the
dragon’s head only reached six feet off the ground.
“Quick, we have to get him!” called out Brianna, and she and Gideon
began to chase the young dragon. The kids all ran towards the sandy
beach that was just outside of the town of Bon Su Pear.
“You’re such a prey-animal,” said Pavataro as he looked
condescendingly at Gideon.
“Oh yea?” cried Gideon and the boy leapt onto the dragon’s back.
Pavataro started to buck up and down.
“Hey! Get off!” cried Pavataro indignantly. “I’m not a pack mule.”
Gideon jumped off and he and Brianna ran ahead laughing.
“That wasn’t funny!” complained Pavataro, but he scrambled after
them. They reached the edge of the sandy beach. The sun was bright and
glinted off the royal blue water. Gideon and Pavataro went right out
onto the sand, but Brianna yipped and jumped back. Gideon screeched to
a halt and looked back.
“You okay?” asked Gideon.
“Oh, that’s right,” grumbled Brianna. “You guys don’t feel heat
like the rest of us.”
“Is the sand hot?” asked Gideon.
“Only as hot as the surface of the sun,” said Brianna with a roll
of her eyes. “I guess if I run quickly...”
“Nonsense,” said Gideon and he walked up to her.
“What’re you doing?” asked Brianna uncertainly. Gideon was only a
hair taller than the young redheaded water nymph. He picked her up in
his arms. “Oh! You don’t…”
Gideon walked out onto the blazing sand as she put her arms around
his neck. He held her close as they looked for a good spot.
“You know, a girl could get used to this,” murmured Brianna with
amusement, and Gideon’s heart raced quicker. They found a good patch of
sand near a rocky outcropping called Tovell’s Caves. Gideon put down
Brianna who quickly put out a blanket from her small backpack.
“Ouch, ouch, ouch,” she cried before jumping onto the blanket. She
set the backpack aside. “Mental note, need sandals next time.”
Gideon lay on the hot sand next to her as Pavataro ran to the water
and plowed into an oncoming wave. Taking a deep breath, the dragon dove
under the water.
“I’m surprised that you’re not out there yet,” said Gideon as he
nodded from the water nymph to the ocean.
“I’m surprised you can lay on the hot sand,” retorted Brianna. With
a delicate finger, she prodded the hot sand experimentally from the
safety of her blanket. “I’m surprised your mother fed you dragon’s
As a baby, Gideon had been adopted by a dragon who had just lost her
“Well, from what she says,” replied Gideon. “It was kinda an
accident. She was saving me from getting eaten, and pulled me
protectively close to herself. And she was ready to start nursing, so
my baby brain...um...well...”
Gideon stopped with a blush because this whole topic was getting
really embarrassing. He did not want to think of his Mom nursing. Eew!
“Which allows you to do your whole changing-your-own-gravity
thing,” said Brianna. “So, how much power did you use to lift me up?”
“None,” said Gideon quickly.
“Good answer,” smiled Brianna. She looked off at the water
wistfully. Gideon jumped up.
“Come on,” said Gideon. “I’ll race you.”
And Brianna braved a few feet of hot sand as they ran into the
* * *
The predator slid through the water closing in on Brianna as was
“Gideon?” called out Brianna. She did not see as it moved closer
and closer to her.
It struck at her tickle spots. She dropped underwater as Gideon
tickled her sides. Brianna’s hands began to glow blue and the watermage
created a wall of water between the two. Gideon kicked up to the
“No fair,” complained Gideon cheerfully.
“I hate to be tickled,” sniffed Brianna, but with a little smile.
“But revenge is sweet.”
“Wha…?” started Gideon. Under the surface, Brianna’s hands glowed
blue again, and a large watergolem rose out of the water next to him.
“No fair,” said Gideon softly.
The watergolem dropped on him and pushed the boy under the water. He
swam away from it and, undeterred, went after Brianna’s tickle spots
again. She swam quickly to the shore followed by him.
“I gonna get you!” cried Gideon and Brianna squealed in delight.
Suddenly, she froze and he almost ran into her.
“What’re you…?” asked Gideon.
Brianna pointed urgently towards the sand.
“Save the boy!” she said quickly.
A little boy was tottering towards Tovell’s Caves. Behind him,
cutting through the sand, was the fin of a sand shark ghosting the
“What the…,” started Gideon.
“Sand shark!” cried Brianna. “Go! Now! Hurry!”
Gideon stopped thinking and moved. He lowered his gravity and leapt
past Brianna. He started to jump at great lengths. He might get to the
boy first, maybe. He poured on the speed. The boy turned and saw the
fin cutting through the sand. The child froze.
Dropping in front of the boy, Gideon grabbed him, lowered their
gravity and they jumped high up into the air. The sand shark leapt out
sand, its jaws extending to snap at Gideon who only just pulled his
feet away at the last moment. The sand shark fell away from them as
they descended slowly towards the caves. When he hit the ground, Gideon
sprinted over the last bit of sand and jumped on to the cave’s rocky
exterior. The shark used multiple hard fins, like blades, to dig back
into the sand and disappeared from view.
“Again!” cried the boy happily.
“What was that?” cried the boy’s mother as she started to walk
towards her child and Gideon.
Brianna focused on the group of beach goers who were drawing closer
to the caves.
“Stay back,” commanded Brianna. She ran towards the lookie-loos who
were ignoring the hot sand. Glancing left, she saw Gideon and the boy.
“We’re good,” replied Gideon. Carrying the boy, he followed the
stone caves to the grasslands while giving the sand a wide berth.
“Right,” said Brianna as she reached the beach goers. “Everyone
needs to leave the sand right now.”
“Listen little girl,” said a condescending man as he thrust out his
hairy chest. “You can’t just order people to leave a public beach.”
“Duchess,” said Brianna as she looked him right in the eyes.
“What?” he asked in a confusion.
“I am not a ‘little girl’,” said Brianna with steel in her voice.
“I am the Duchess Brianna Sur of the Nymphari nation. That was a sand
shark, and if you want to stay on the beach, that’s fine. It’s probably
very hungry. But everyone else, I suggest you Get Off The Sand.”
The condescending man blinked first and the crowd slowly shuffled
away to the grasslands. The mother had already run over to Gideon who
put the boy right into her arms. The child, for his part, burbled
happily about sharks while she squeezed him close.
Gideon walked back over to Brianna.
“Well, that’s one way to get the beach to ourselves,” suggested
Gideon. “But what’s that thing doing here?”
“I don’t know,” said Brianna. “But I have an idea.”
Gideon followed Brianna as they carefully walked from the grasslands
and on to Tovell’s Caves. Over the rocks, they stopped close to the
site where Gideon had first picked up the boy.
“Sand sharks don’t usually bother humans,” said Brianna. “If they
see a human, they usually avoid it.”
“That would’ve been nice,” murmured Gideon.
“But they can become territorial during the year,” said Brianna.
“How do you know about this?” asked Gideon.
“My Uncle Taddeus studied them,” said Brianna. “And he’s going to
be so jealous when I tell him about this.”
They found a cave entrance near the water. Moving into a cave, she
saw what she had been looking for. She squatted next to a small pool of
water sunk into the floor of the cave. Gideon peered over her shoulder
“Is that…?” asked Gideon.
“Exactly,” said Brianna in a smug tone when Gideon suddenly grabbed
her shoulder. “Ow, that…”
“Shh,” said Gideon urgently. She stopped and slowly looked up.
The sand shark stood in the entrance to the cave with a look that
was neither vicious nor cruel, but it would kill if necessary.
Underneath the sand shark, it stood with the hard fins that it used to
dig through sand. Brianna slowly got up pressing back against Gideon.
The sand shark moved awkwardly into the cave. Its gills were closed,
and its middle expanded and contracted as it breathed air. Gideon and
Brianna moved slowly away until they hit the back of the cave. The sand
shark came over to the pool and then lay on top of it while eyeballing
“This is not good,” said Brianna.
“We’re not dead yet,” said Gideon. He pointed to the left where
light showed through a hole in the ceiling of the cave. “Up for some
Brianna went first on the logic that Gideon might be able to jump
around the creature if it attacked. Also, he was being a dumb, macho,
protective male and had insisted that she go first. Brianna shook her
head and started to climb up towards the hole. Gideon followed and they
barely squeezed through the small space. Outside they hugged each other
in terror past.
“I didn’t think we were going to make it out of there,” breathed
“It was a close one,” said Gideon as he kissed the top of her head.
Brianna stopped and looked back towards the beach. “Do you hear
“My heart?” smiled Gideon.
“No,” said Brianna as she playfully smacked his chest. “Over
Brianna broke their embrace and headed across the top of the caves.
“Oh no!” said Brianna pointing toward the people on the grass. She
turned to Gideon. “Can you get me there quick?”
Gideon picked her up and lowered their gravity. He sprang off in
great leaping bounds.
“There!” said Brianna pointing to the ground and he stopped where
she had indicated.
This set them right before the mob of angry citizens and worried
soldiers. The little boy’s mother was out in front screaming for blood,
and Captain Doyle of the Royal army was right behind. He and his squad
were carrying spears.
“There she is!” said the little boy’s mother. “She was the one who
ordered us off the beach.”
“Give me a moment,” said Captain Doyle to the woman, and he walked
over to Brianna and Gideon. “You kids alright?”
“We’re fine,” assured Brianna and Doyle relaxed at that. He liked
“This is a right mess,” said Captain Doyle in a low voice.
“Everyone’s scared out of their wits.”
“As well they should be,” said Brianna. “That sand shark will eat
anyone who comes near its cave.”
Doyle sighed. “I guess I have no choice.”
“You’re going to go in and kill it?” asked Brianna.
“Is there another option?” asked Doyle hopefully. “I don’t want to
risk my people fighting that thing...”
Doyle’s eyes drifted unconsciously towards his beautiful lieutenant
“Actually,” said Brianna. “I think there might be a different way.
We saw something in the cave.”
“You went in there?” asked Doyle sharply, and then he stopped
himself with a smile. “What am I saying, of course you did. Now I'm
really glad you're alright.”
“Can you get me a bucket of water?” asked Brianna.
A child’s play bucket was brought to the front of the crowd.
“What are we waiting for?” cried the little boy’s mother. “Go in
there and kill it.”
“Please everyone,” said Brianna. “A moment of your time. I know
something about sand sharks, which is what you have.” And she looked
directly at the boy’s mother. “They do seem like frightening creatures,
especially when they come after our young. But that’s the heart of the
issue. Ma’am, you love your children correct?”
“Of course,” sniffed the little boy’s mother.
“And you would do anything to protect him?” asked Brianna.
“Yes,” said the little boy’s mother.
“Sand sharks tend to shy away from people, except under one
circumstance,” said Brianna. Gideon held up the bucket next to her. “Me
and Gideon went in the sand shark’s cave, and this is what we saw.”
Brianna touched the water. The watermage’s hand glowed blue so that
the bones stood out. She began to reform the water into the shape of
the cave. In the tableau, the figure of Gideon was standing over
Brianna who was squatting over a pool of little swimming sand sharks.
“Are those…?” asked Doyle.
The scene changed to show when the sand shark came in the cave and
sat over to the babies to protect them.
“It’s just a mother protecting its young,” said Brianna. “And as
such, we should give it its space.”
“But our beach?” whined someone in the crowd.
“As I recall,” said Brianna. “The babies grow quick. I’ll check on
the caves every day, but I’m hoping we’ll have our beaches back within
“But what if it comes back?” asked the little boy’s mother.
“That’s a good question,” said Brianna. “One we’re going to have to
Brianna changed the scene to just show a larger representation of
the baby sand sharks chasing each other through the water.
Something huge thudded at the edge of the grass. Everyone turned to
look at Pavataro. The dragon grinned as he stood over the huge
eight-foot fighting tuna he had caught.
“This one picked a fight with the wrong dragon,” purred Pavataro.
“How ‘bout we grill’em up?”
And it was the thought of grilled fighting tuna that broke the spine
of the mob. Pavataro was kind enough to share his meal with everyone,
as long as he got the biggest share. Gideon and Pavataro set up a
roaring bonfire on the edge of the sand. People went back into town and
brought back more food making it a nice party. Captain Doyle and his
squad had to stay and stand guard, and enjoy some grilled tuna as a
Later, Gideon walked over to the edge of the sand where Brianna
stood. He wrapped his arms around her.
“You okay,” asked Gideon.
“Yea,” she replied as she leaned back into him. “Definitely an
interesting day at the beach.”
© 2017 Walter G. Esselman
Bio: Mr. Walter G. Esselman is a favorite author of Aphelion.
Aphelion has published “Night of the Bright Blue BEMs” (May 2017), “In
Hot Water” (March 2017), “Fur Flying” (November 2016), “Fire! Fire!”
(May 2016), “Dancing Stones” (November 2015), “Overcooked” in September
2015 and “Sacred Logs and Crocodiles” (April 2011). Bards and Sages
published “Booga Booga” in January 2017. Dark Dossier has published
“Burning Sands” (TBA), “Strange Doors” (March 2017), “The Caliper
House” (January 2017), “The Thing in the Spikes” (August 2016), “The
Grinners” (March 2016), “Goodrum” (March 2016), “Smoke’em If You
Got’em” (December 2015) and “Red Rain” (September 2015). Schlock
published “Fire Breathing Make The Best Space Heaters” (TBA) and
“Wizard Con” (August 2015). Previously, Residential Aliens published:
“Sharp Stick” (March, 2010), “Fur Flying” (August, 2010), “In Hot
Water” (October, 2010), and "The Mystery of the Black Nail” (February
2011). Conceit Magazine has also published “Shooting Star” in their
September 2010 issue of the Ultimate Writer and the website Static
Movement published "Sand Sharks" in January 2010.
E-mail: Walter G. Esselman
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