The Redemption of Master Shark
by Antigone

In a cave in the depths of the sea lived a shark. Not a neat, cool cave, but a slimy, smelly cave filled with the ends of worms. No one who came to this place left unharmed by its oppressive aura.

Shark himself had once known what it was like to live in the light, to swim and frolic among the playful creatures of the sea. But Shark, a disciple of the True Animist Warrior God (tawg), grew haughty and proud of his status as a leader among fish and demanded that the other fish pay homage to him and acknowledge him as the Great Priest of tawg, His sharp teeth struck many a smaller creature, sending it swimming far away in search of fresh waters and open minds.

The other fish grew angry, but feared Shark's teeth and would not challenge him. They avoided him and he grew cross and sanctimonious and hid himself away in his cave. His only link to the outside ocean was his faithful spy, Eel, who helped Shark entice smaller fish to his pond and punish those who broke Shark's laws.

Across the sea and into the cave swam Eel.

"My lord," gasped the spy, "I have slimed and squirmed my way through the sea, seeking those who do not abide by your rules. In a small corner of the sea, I have found a group of females who disobey your obscenity law. They tell tales of pilots frolicking with nubile young women and of pilots frolicking with nubile young pilots. They profane the name that you have fought so hard to uplift-- they blaspheme tawg!"

Shark lashed his tail and gnashed his razor sharp teeth. "Females? Hah! They are but guppies compared to me! You, Eel," he swung around and Eel cowered before his master, "tell all my subjects that they must have no contact with these wicked females! Tell them that their homes must not contain one mention of these errant flounders!"

And Eel swam away to do Shark's bidding.

Shark sulked in his cave, then called upon some of his servants to tell him of the little fishes' sacrilege. To his shock and disgust, Shark learned that several girlie-fish had given themselves over to sin, but none were more corrupt than those who called themselves 'WAAS.'

Now WAAS was a meeting place for many fish, happy, emotinally healthy females who worshipped tawg and celebrated His majesty as they saw fit. They recognized that everyone had their own unique talents and strove to create a place where small fish could gather and praise tawg in their own particular idiom.

Shark did not like this-- tawg belongs to me! he thought, flipping his tail angrily back and forth-- and all praise must be cleared through me. This unauthorized adulation must stop!

Shark had his servants bring him a list of WAAS praise and his beady eyes widened in shock and disgust. He quickly ran down their list of stories-- NC-17, NC-17, NC-17, R... all pornography! and all of it about tawg and His apostles.

Shark recognized a name and shook with anger. That little Dianafish has been a shell in my scales for far too long, thought he, and now I will crush her and those who stand with her.

Then, just as he was about to throw the tales away, Shark felt the terrible pull of curiosity... and he looked at one of the stories.

Just a glance, really.

And it was terrible.

So he read another, and another, and his tail trembled and his scales beaded with sweat and he couldn't look away.

This is disgusting, Shark thought. This is lewd! This is wonderful!

"Master Shark, what are you doing?" Shark jumped and glared at Eel, who had swam up and surprised him.

"I... I am studying the sins of those small fish, so that I may better devise a punishment for them."

Eel bowed and backed away. "Forgive me, Master. I did not mean to question you."

"Have you done my bidding?"

"Yes, Master. The sea has been purged of this nuisance."

"Ex-cellent." Shark pressed his fins together and smiled toothily.

But Shark could not sleep that night.

He tossed and turned in his bed of kelp, his mind filled with forbidden images-- tawg in a loincloth, tawg surrounded by females who did not cover their shame, tawg and his apostle, Janson, sharing the love-that-dared-not-speak-its-name. And Shark lay in misery, at last taking matters into his own fins.

Morning dawned bright and beautiful, but no sunlight pierced the gloom around Shark's cave. The toothsome creature swam sullenly around his home, casting guilty glances toward the pile of stories until at last he could stand it no more.

Shark grabbed up the stories and flipped frantically through them, searching for something he had not yet read. His fins grew sweaty as he thought of what new delights the WAASfish might have written of.

"Master Shark! Master Shark!" Shark growled as Eel came wriggling into the cave.

"What is it now?" he asked.

"Those women, those WAASfish, they have defied you, Master! They laugh and wiggle their tails at you!"

Shark's soulless eyes bore into Eel, and the spy quickly told what he knew. "They have all run to the Palace of WAAS, and from behind the gates they chortle and poke fun at you! They have strung up a banner that says..."

Eel swallowed hard and screwed up his courage, for he knew that Shark would be mightily angry.

"It says, 'Too sexy for Master Shark!'"

Shark howled and thrashed about, breaking the windows and crashing the furniture in his rage. Eel ducked behind the bed, watching Sharks's destructive tantrum. Shark spun around, looking for something to throw, and seized hold of Eel's tail. He whipped Eel over his head, swinging him 'round and 'round until Eel's black skin turned green, then flung him into a corner.

"I will go to them," Shark said, "and force them to pay homage to me. I will show them that they cannot defy me!"

So Shark swam away to the Palace of WAAS, where the bright banner flapped high on the turrets. He could see happy, colorful fish swimming beyond the gates-- angelfish and goldfish gamboling on the seaweed lawn, lounging in seashells, tending the bright anemone that grew along the seabed, grooming the seahorses that raced around the Palace.

Shark was jealous, and ashamed of his plain grey color, and angry that the WAASfish would laugh and play and ignore him. At last, Shark swung his strong tail against the golden gates and made them RRRIIIINNNGGG!!! The WAASfish quit frolicking and looked up. "Come play with us!" they cried, waving to Shark.

Shark bared his teeth and growled. "Stop at once!" he shouted. "I am here to speak with your queen!"

The fish looked at one another. "We don't have a queen."

"You don't have a queen? Who lives in the castle?"

"We all do," answered a glittery fish.

Shark frowned. A little yellow fish spoke up.

"We're an anarcho-artistic commune."

Shark sighed. " I see."

"We take it in turns to act as Supreme Executive Officer for one week--"

"Thank you, I understand."

"--but all decisions of that officer have to be--"

"Be quiet!"

"--ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting in the case of--"

"Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!"

"Order, eh?" sneefed a WAASfish with a Kiwi accent. "Who does he think he is?"

"I am Shark, Great Priest of tawg," said Shark.

The Kiwifish frowned. "Pull the other one."

"I am, and I demand that you take down that banner! It is disrespectful to me and to the work that I have done. Moreover, you have offended tawg!"

The WAASfish looked at Shark, who folded his fins and glared back. Then the little fish laughed and kicked up their tails and went back to their games.

"Stop! Or I will break down your gates and eat you all up!"

The two nearest fish raised their eyebrows and giggled together, then suggested something that made Shark very angry indeed.

Shark waved his mighty tail and sent waves rippling over the anemone gardens. The bright plants were quickly swept away, leaving a ragged bed of sand and shoal in their place.

The WAASfish shrieked and swam away, huddling behind the gatehouse. Shark waved his tail again, slapping it down onto the seabed until the ground shook and the Palace of WAAS began to crumble. The little fish cried and swam to catch stones of the Palace as it fell, trying in vain to piece it back together.

At last the gates fell, and Shark swam in, admiring his handiwork. He floated toward the knot of fish, a nefarious smile on his sharky face as he tried to choose which to eat first. As he approached, the group moved as one, converging upon Shark, beating him about the head with their little tails, slapping him with their fins as he snapped at them, striving to capture one of them in his jaws.

Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around them, and the little WAASfish fell back, and Shark fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Shark, Shark, why are you persecuting my fish?"

And Shark said, "Who are you, Light?"

And the light answered, "I am tawg, whom you adore, and these are my fish whom I love."

And from the light stepped a man so beautiful and noble that Shark could not bear to look upon him, and he cast himself onto the sandy seafloor and covered his face in shame.

And the WAASfish bowed to tawg, who gently cradled a weeping fish in his arms and turned to the ruins of the once great Palace. With a wave of his hand, the stones re-formed, the gates stood in their rightful spot, and the banner floated to its place on the turret.

Shark felt a hand on his head and looked up at tawg, who gazed sadly at Shark.

"Why have you done this to my fish?" asked tawg.

"Forgive me, tawg," begged Shark, "they took your name in vain, and I sought to punish them."

"My name is only taken in vain when it is used to hurt," tawg said gently. "These little fish use their talents to praise me; they have caused no harm."

Shark looked down again and shook with fear. "What shall my punishment be, oh tawg?" he asked.

Tawg was silent for a long moment. "You will serve these fish as they praise me," he said, then sat the sad fish down and smiled benevolently at her. "Shark will be your servant now, but you must treat him well," he said, and they all nodded.

The WAASfish floated next to Shark and watched as tawg disappeared in a flash of light. Antifish turned to Shark and beckoned to him.

"Come, Shark," she said. "We have a banquet tonight, and you shall be our tea-boy."

And there was much rejoicing.


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