The only thing to fear is... (B2)

No one believes her. But the evidence is there... the blood in the pool, the horrible injuries to her right leg. How on earth could something like that have happened?


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No one believed me, of course. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t have believed it if any of them had said it either. Not even if it was Paula who’d never lie to the teacher, let alone make up a whole story about the pool and tell the police and the doctors and everyone. Not even if she really, really, really wanted to get out of swimming. Maybe I’d pretend to believe it if Raul told the story – but only because I want him to like me, or even just to know I exist.

I suppose everyone knows I exist now ... It’s all over school, judging by the chats I saw before they took my phone away. Jackie and Anya are saying I had my period, but you’d have to be really stupid to think there’d have been that much blood for that. Obviously – well, it’s obvious if you kind of suspend belief in the laws of physics and space and time and all that stuff we know about reality – obviously, the only way there was that much of my blood in the water was that there was a shark in there with me.

And, anyway, how could I have made this semicircle of jagged tears on my right leg by myself? With all these dark purple bruises around the teeth marks? I don’t think so! Like I said, I don’t blame them for not believing me, but I’m not going in a pool ever again.

I never go in the sea anyway so that’s not a new decision just because of what happened yesterday. That’s just sensible. I heard Mum and Dad telling the doctors they feel responsible because they let me watch all those old ‘Jaws’ films. They didn’t know until they made me show them my YouTube history that I’ve watched those ‘Deep Sea Monster’ documentaries so often. But I’m glad they let me watch and learn, because think what would’ve happened if I’d made that shark appear in the ocean – away from the shore. No one would’ve noticed me thrashing about and screaming. Other sharks would have smelled the blood and come to share dinner. I wouldn’t be lying here now. And Raul would for a hundred per cent sure never know I existed.

I’ve imagined it a million times – being attacked by a shark. What it would feel like, what the shark’s eyes would look like close up. I’m actually a bit proud of myself for not just dying of fright on the spot. I wasn’t prepared, though, for how hard the impact is even though I’ve seen great whites attack seals on YouTube. It was like being slammed against a wall. I was floating on my back when it brushed against my side, and when I put my head up it was swimming in a dead straight line right towards me, superfast but also as if in slow motion. So I think if I was going to have a heart attack it would’ve been that moment. Its eyes were just like everyone says – dead, dead, dead inside. And the teeth weren’t like razors, they were like great big kitchen knives.

When the doctors asked me if I’d ever had nightmares about sharks, I told them. Since I started watching those films, I said, even the old ones before they had proper special effects in Hollywood and the shark is made out of cardboard. My bedroom floor turns into water and my bed’s sinking and the shark is there, circling and circling with its fin motionless and its tail making little waves in the carpet.

They were impressed by all my knowledge about sharks. They didn’t even know the most common depth for swimmers to get attacked by sharks is waist deep on an adult. To be fair, most people don’t know that and just because they’re doctors doesn’t mean they can be experts at everything. They seemed to think it was pretty significant that I was attacked in about that depth of water because they wrote that down in their notes. I don’t think that’s a critical detail, though, because the pool wasn’t big or deep like the ocean. Obviously once the shark was in there, it was going to have to attack in shallow water. Anyway, they were also really into the pictures I have on my phone of shark attack injuries. It’s a pretty big collection, so I’m not surprised they wanted to borrow my phone to have more time to look.

I liked showing off how much I know, but the whole conversation was kind of annoying because the entire point everyone is missing is how did the shark end up in the pool? They didn’t ask me that. It’s a pity, because I could have explained that, contrary to popular belief, sharks don’t only swim in seawater, and that some of them, like the bull shark, can swim upriver into fresh water. They asked me about school instead and if I was having any problems. I mean, I am now, I said. Or at least, I definitely will be when I go back to school and everyone’s still talking about me.

You’d think they’d want to know how I made that shark appear out of nowhere. How did I open up the doorway in the ocean where the shark was swimming so it could swim right into the pool where I was and find lunch? It’s the fear that did it, I’m sure, because my teacher says the only thing to fear is fear itself. I always thought that meant ‘Don’t be afraid, because bad things are never as bad as you expect.’ But now I know the truth. ‘Fear makes bad things happen.’

Nicola Prentis


What do you think really happened in the swimming pool?

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