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ZOMBIE SHARK HIGHWAY
Happy Friday! Chapter Eleven of ZSH is here, with twelve coming up close behind it.
As always, if you’re new to ZSH you can start at Chapter 1 here or find any of the previous chapters under the ZSH section of Authorstrator!
Or! Download the full ebook by becoming a paid subscriber.
Justin held tight to the door, wanting to slam it in the face of the man holding his picture. But he didn't. "What do you know about our shark problem?"
The man, Melvin Bruce he called himself, tucked his phone back into his pocket. "More than just about anyone you're gonna find, I can promise you that."
That wasn't an answer. He looked back to Maddie who was hugging herself, wary eyes darting between Justin and the stranger -- this outsider, standing on the porch. An outsider who claimed to know something about sharks. Justin frowned. "Who are you, though?"
"Melvin Bruce." He glanced past Justin at Maddie who slunk back a bit, and Justin closed the door enough to block the man's view.
Thunder ripped through the sky, the crash so loud Justin felt it through the floor.
"It's comin' down pretty hard out here," said Melvin. "Can I come in?"
Could he? Justin wasn't sure. He looked to Maddie who seemed just as doubtful. She stepped in beside Justin. "You said you know about sharks?"
"Yeah, yeah. And I've come a long way, so a bit of hospitality would be nice."
Justin watched Maddie's forehead crinkle, but she nodded at him, and reluctantly, Justin stepped aside for the man to enter his home.
And enter he did.
With a grumbled thank you, Melvin Bruce stomped his way passed Justin and Maddie, leaving a trail of rain-drenched footprints on his way to the kitchen where he threw open the fridge door.
"Uh...what are you doing?" said Justin, as Melvin cracked open the plastic container of last night's chicken.
"I missed lunch." The stranger took a bite out of the leg, then pulled a beer out of the fridge and bit the cap off the top.
Justin's neck felt hot with anger. His dad would notice he was short a beer. And Justin would get blamed. Who was this guy? Did he just let some homeless-drifter-crazy-man walk into his house and eat his food? Did this guy really even know anything about sharks? "Okay, you're Melvin Bruce. But what does that mean? Who. Are. You?"
After a lengthy swig, he plunked his bottle on the table, grabbed a chair and took a seat. "Who am I? That get's a bit complicated. Better to tell you who I was."
"Who were you then," said Justin, impatiently.
"I was a biologist, specialising in the behaviours of tiger sharks. Go on and google me, I'll wait."
Justin raised an eyebrow at Maddie who was already checking her phone. She held the screen up to Justin -- a newspaper article about shark conservation in the Bahamas. A picture sat beneath the headline -- a man sitting inside the unmistakable skeletal jaws of a shark -- the same man sitting in Justin's kitchen.
"Two thousand and one," said Maddie. "You say you did specialise in the behaviours of sharks?"
"Tiger sharks," he corrected.
"But not now?"
"No, not now," he said, taking another swig. "Now I specialize in a different kind."
"Kind?" asked Justin.
"Of shark." He tipped the bottle towards Justin. "Your kind."
Justin felt another rumble of thunder in his feet. The storm was getting worse.
Maddie pulled out a chair, taking a seat beside this Melvin Bruce. She was interested. "W-What kind of shark do you think we have here?"
Melvin leaned back, feet on the table. "I want you to tell me."
Justin thought of them then, the whites of their eyes, long powerful bodies moving free of the water. Their jaws, snapping in the rearview mirror.
Justin lunged for the fridge, flinging it open and grabbed a beer for himself. Us tell him? He thought. What the hell can we tell him? He took a massive gulp of beer -- one missing beer was the same as two as far as his dad was concerned.
Maddie held up a hand, "Me too, please."
He grabbed another bottle and slid it across the table to her. Three was no worse either.
Melvin frowned with disapproval, but didn't say anything. This wasn't his house, after all.
"Why aren't you talking to the police?" Justin said. "Why come here? Why talk to us?"
Melvin sighed. "Welp, if the situation is what I think it is, we don't have time for all the red tape and bureaucracy the cops are gonna bring into this thing. And in my experience, they aren't all that interested in what I have to say anyway."
"What experience is that?" asked Maddie. "What do you think the situation is in Point Chester?"
Melvin leaned forward, eyes shifting between Justin and Maddie. "Your dead sharks -- they didn't stay dead, did they?"
Maddie's eyes snapped to Justin and he felt his own heart thump with surprise.
Melvin didn't miss the exchange. "Disappeared?" he pressed.
Disappeared. Yes. They disappeared. But they didn't just. His breath felt short, strangled as their eyes, their teeth, flashed across his memory. They disappeared. And they didn't stay that way. They came back.
"First time I saw them," said Melvin, "saw this sort of thing, was in the Gulf of Mexico, 2002. Four sharks, washed up on the beach. Deader than mud. So we thought." He shook his head. "Two of my buddies -- well. I lost 'em. And I been following these cases ever since. All over the globe."
Maddie watched him, her own chest rising and falling, her eyes asking the same question that was circling Justin's mind. This has happened before?
Melvin's eyes drifted back from his memory, and lingered on Justin's frightened face. He sat up, suddenly. "You've seen them, haven't you? You've seen them again since you took this photo?"
Melvin's chair flew back with a screech as he stood up from the table. "What did you see?"
"They -- They came up out of the water," Maddie answered. "The sharks. They took our friends."
"What?" said Justin.
"Where did you see the sharks again?"
"Highway 3," said Maddie.
Melvin Bruce marched over to the sink where he placed his empty beer bottle, then tucked in his chair and headed over to the door. He pulled it open, the roar of the heavy rain daring them to step outside. "Take me there."
Thanks so much for reading. Chapter 12 coming up soon!