I first met Vic on the day we went swimming with the sharks.
He was right next to me in the changing shed as we stripped off and put on our bathers.
“First time?” he asked.
I nodded. “Seen it heaps on TV but I’ve never been game to try it myself until today. What about you?”
“Yep, also a first timer. Name’s Vic.”
I introduced myself as well. “Nice to meet you, Vic,” I said
As we left the shed, my eyes were blinded by the glare of the sunlight. Slowly, the scene resolved itself in front of my eyes. A scene I had witnessed so many times before on television, but even with that familiarity, it was far more then I could have possibly imagined.
I was standing on the edge of a low cliff which swept around to my left and then back again in a roughly semi-circular arc. Not far below, the water of the bay shimmered like a brilliant azure mirror, the sunlight dancing over its rippling surface. On the top of the cliffs to the left, a crowd was gathered. They waited, expectant and impatient, some individuals occasionally yelling out for something to happen. And all about me stood the other competitors, stretching and pacing and staring nervously into the clear water.
Suddenly the tension was broken by a loud splash. The crowd immediately roared and the other competitors looked up, as if they had all been instantaneously awoken by a gunshot. The serenity of the water was broken by a frenzy of swinging arms and kicking legs as the swimmer who had just dived in made for the cliffs on the other side of the bay.
The reason for his frantic movements very quickly became obvious. Five large shadows appeared from out of the depths of the water. Long and cylindrical, but as they approached the surface, the telltale fins became all too apparent.
The man was now over halfway across. The distance towards the far cliff was getting rapidly smaller. But this was nothing compared to the speed of the fearsome shadows as they raced towards him.
I nudged Vic gently in the side. “He’s not going to make it.”
“Sure he is,” Vic replied.
The man was now a good twenty metres away from the cliff but the sharks were closing fast. Forty metres. Thirty metres. Ten metres. Now they were circling feverishly. The howling of the crowd rose to a crescendo as they rushed in, ready for the kill.
Just in time, the swimmer reached the low ladder that hung from the far cliff and hauled himself out, kicking at the nose of one of the sharks as it lunged out of the water towards him. The baying of the crowd was immediately replaced by a massive shout of approval. In response, the victorious swimmer leapt up and down, punching the air in triumph.
Vic nudged me gently in the side. “Told you he’d make it.”
“He’s a hero,” I said.
The crowd had calmed down and returned to their impatient muttering. But for now, nobody else was prepared to enter the water. So Vic and I sat by the edge of the cliff and after a while we got to chatting. Turned out, Vic was a writer.
“So what did you write?” I wanted to know.
“You know,” he said, “I think it’s less about what you actually wrote and more about what you were going to write.”
“Go on. So what were you going to write?”
“The ultimate book,” he said.
Just then, our conversation was broken by another splash and another great bellow from the crowd. At last, the next swimmer had taken the plunge.
We both looked over the bay as she boldly made her way across, surging forward with powerful, determined strokes. But once again, the alarming shadows glided up from the deep in remorseless pursuit.
I nudged Vic. “She’s not going to make it.”
“Sure she is.”
She had just about reached the ladder on the far cliff, but they were already on to her, striking mercilessly at her flailing body.
But just as all seemed lost, two figures balancing on the ladder managed to reach in and drag her out of the crimson-tainted water. The damage done was clear to see; one leg taken off from just below the knee. In a flash, she was carried onto a stretcher and hustled away for suitable medical attention. But even then, she managed to raise her fist and wave it in a weak gesture of victory, driving the crowd into ecstasies of appreciation.
Vic nudged me. “Told you she’d make it.”
“She’s a hero,” I said.
It took a bit longer for the crowd