**Content Warning: Rape, Murder, Torture, Suicide**
I woke, hours, maybe only minutes later, to the sound of screaming. “Cecelia!” I yelled, or tried to. My voice was hoarse, no louder than a whisper, and I tried to move. “What the…? Cecelia!” I called out again, realizing they’d bound me to a chair, naked and alone in a damp, dark room. My voice, while growing stronger, was only echoing back at me, and yet I could hear her screams.
“Valeria!” she called out as I struggled against my bonds. I looked around, trying to escape. Or at least, find a way to get to Cecelia. My best friend, my sister in all but name, could never stick up for herself. It was something I loved about her. She was a wereshark, a bonnethead, but unlike me, she hid her predator side when she was top-side. The demure air she had when we danced was how she behaved all the time. It was her nature. Cecelia was trusting and kind, and I loved her dearly. I had to fix this. I owed her too much.
A new sound caught my attention, a squelching sound, and Cecelia screamed out, “No! No! Please gods, no!” I knew what it was, and it sickened me.
I looked down at my hands, pulling and tearing at the bonds. It was a rope, tightly woven and rough. If only I had a blade with me, they would be simple enough to cut, but I just had my teeth. It had been a week since my last shift, and I could feel the serrations forming on my human teeth. I leaned as close as I could to my hand and began chewing. It took forever, and all the while, I was forced to listen to Cecelia’s rape in the other room. My face was wet with tears I had not shed in years, at the loss of someone else dear to me.
“What do you think you’re doing?!” a voice boomed from the doorway. My teeth slipped off the rope as I jumped and slid up my forearm, slicing from wrist to elbow. I screamed as blood poured. The man closed the distance and ripped me off the chair with a strength I had never known before. It was the thinner one from the club, the one who Cecelia had danced for. So then who was… The question died in my mind as he yanked me into the other room and threw me onto the bed beside Cecelia. She was curled up in a ball, shivering uncontrollably.
I crawled over and took her in my arms, uncaring of the blood flowing from my arm. “Shh, Ceci, I will get us out of here. I promise, he will not touch you again.”
“Shows what you know, shark.” I looked up at him, the shift coming on me fast. My eyes narrowed with hate, visceral loathing, and he laughed. “Once I’m done having my way with you two, as they have promised me, you’re both going to be sold off.” My eyes widened in fear this time, and he laughed. “Oh no, not for your body, although I am quite impressed with the shape your Thresher form has as a human.” He licked his lips, and I nearly threw up. “No-no…they will sell you off for food. Did you not know? Shark fin soup is a delicacy, and threshers are very popular for that dish.”
I retched, I could not help it, but I kept it away from Cecelia. “They can do what they want. I am no good anymore,” she muttered, curling into herself. I worried for her, but when I felt the man’s hands fist in my hair and force me down, I froze. Maybe she had too. For the first time since I lost my family, I was afraid, and I hated the feeling.
“No!” I screamed as he lined himself up. Something snapped, my fight-or-flight mode kicked in, and I fought back as much as I could. Thankfully, my teeth had not gone away yet. I pushed up on the bed, sliding through the slick of the rape and the puke to bite the man on the neck. Hard. He fell back screaming, and I grabbed Cecelia, pulling her off the bed. We ran wildly for the exit and burst into the sunrise. I realized that we were on a pier, far outside the city limits, where magic was less predictable. I felt the ground shift beneath me, which was odd on a pier, but when I looked down at my arm and saw the blood, I knew.
“Val!” Cecelia’s voice was the last thing I heard before I hit the water.
When I woke we were miles from shore, and the sun was high in the sky. Cecelia had pulled me onto the Spring Tide and had cleaned my wound. When I rolled over, she held me still with soft trembling hands. “Do not move, Pexie, please. You lost a lot of blood, shifted quickly when we hit the water, and then shifted back when we were off the stern. You have been out for two days.”
I looked up, staring into her dark brown eyes, and saw the tears. “Ceci, I am sorry. Did I, did I hurt you?” She shook her head and stared at me.
“You were so brave when you bit that guy. I could not…” She choked, and even though the world spun, I leaned up and embraced her.
“I swear to you. I will hunt them down and kill them.” My voice startled me. It was dark and gritty, more so than I had ever heard. And because of that, I missed the deadpan look in Cecelia’s eyes.
“I know…” Cecelia delayed her response, and I looked at her. She waved me off and got up. “Stay there. I will take us home.” Cecelia made her way up to steerage, and I felt my boat shift, changing tack. We were heading back into New Orleans. I curled into a ball, afraid to step foot there again. I dozed restlessly for a couple of hours until I felt the Spring Tide dock. I crawled out of bed, making my way to the deck. The sky was dark as we froze, staring at each other.
Cecelia looked at me, and what I saw in her eyes scared me almost as much as those men had. “Ceci?” I stumbled forward and looked at her carefully. She was sitting on the edge of the boat, her feet tied together, and bound them to cement blocks. “Ceci!”
My best friend took one look at me, tears streaming down her face. She kissed my forehead. “Avenge me, my Pexie, avenge me.” With those last words, she pushed the blocks off to the side and fell backward. I watched as she hit the water in what seemed slow motion. The brackish lake would be caustic to her if she tried breathing in it.
“CECELIA!” I scrambled to the edge and watched her sink, shifting into her bonnethead form. Cecelia’s tail was wider than her feet, and the bindings dug into her even more. I watched her gills rip backward against the flow of the surge, and eventually she stopped moving. I dove off the edge, knowing I was already too late. Unable to shift and the water stinging my wound sharply, I swam down to her. She was not moving. I could feel my tears mixing with the water as I tried reviving her. I pulled on her bonds, tried hitting her, everything I could think of, but nothing worked. My best friend in the world, the one person who had been with me after I lost my family, was dead. I screamed into the water, the fish scattering from the bottom of the marina. I swam back to the surface for air and a knife, then dove back down as her body changed back into that of a human woman. I cut the bonds, cursing myself for not thinking of a knife earlier, and brought Cecelia back up to the surface. I could not stop crying and just clung to her all night.
When dawn broke, I gave her a proper burial out in the middle of the Gulf.
A week later, I still had the taste of that man in my mouth and thus in my nose. I could track him anywhere. When my feet hit the jetty, I went to work. I used my skills, born from years of the hunt, to tune out the distractions, and honed in on his scent.
When I caught the scent, my nostrils flared, and my eyes shot open. “I have you, you son of a bitch, and there will be no escape.” I licked my lips, tasting his blood on them even though it had faded days ago. I stalked through the city. I did not stop for food or drink or sleep. I could not, I had a vow to live up to, and I would avenge her. It took me two days to find him in the basement of a seedy brothel, a screaming girl tied beneath him. I yanked him off, surprise and fear radiating across his face.
“Do you remember me, scum?” I screamed at him. I pulled my fishing dagger from its sheath and looked at him. “You are going to pay for what you have done.” He crouched in a fighting stance, and I matched him. I was not the best fighter, but I would win this one. I had no choice. I calmed myself and felt his attack. I slashed outward, feeling the blade meet skin. I looked at him, his eyes wild with anger, and tried to keep cool. “Who sent you to find us?”
“Estran,” he grated out, his voice gurgling with blood. I looked at the gash in his abdomen and felt pride.
“And why us?” I asked, stalking forward.
“I told you.” He stumbled backward and fell against the wall. I stood above him, smiling darkly. “I can help you find them.” And now he was pleading.
“Oh, no.” I grinned, teeth flashing sharply. It had been another long time between my shifts because of the 6-inch laceration on my left arm. The dark purple web-lines fracturing from the main gash marred my skin, and I snarled, thrusting it in his face. “This is the only physical scar of what you and your partner did to us. Cecelia,” I choked, sobbing and continued, “she will never see the sunrise again. And neither will you.” I knelt down and grabbed his still erect penis, watching the color flush into his face and down towards my hand.
“Oh no, this will not be pleasant.” I moved quickly, biting off that weapon of destruction. My sharp serrated teeth ripped his flesh apart, and I held his gaze as I turned my head and spat it out. This would be a cruel way for him to die, massive blood loss from between his legs, but he needed to suffer. He needed to pay. The screams that filled the room brought me joy, cold and powerful, but it was joyful anyway.
I stood up slowly, turned my back on the screaming man, and made my way to the girl. Her screams had me shaking with rage, and I quickly cut through the ropes holding her to the bed. “Go, get out of here, get some help.” She bolted from the room, and I turned back to the bleeding man on the floor. “I am going to leave you here. Maybe people will hear your screams and come down to help, but they will be too late.”
I trailed the blade along his cheek, relishing in the shiver it brought him in the last few moments of his life. I watched as he drew his last breath and smiled again. “I will see you again, in the deepest circles of hell.”
I sauntered out of the basement, a little swagger in my step, and made my way back to the Spring Tide before leaving the city forever.
I gasped, waking from the dream, and looked around. Cecelia’s ghost stood nearby, and I wanted to run to her. “You avenged me, and yet, you have not.”
“I know, New Orleans has been calling me back. My brother, you, I need to find out why. I promise you, Cecelia, I will find out who did this to you, to us. Estran. I will find him and show him exactly why dealing with sharks is dangerous, especially when one has multiple weapons at her disposal.”
Cecelia’s ghost smiled, and she faded, leaving me alone with my anger and regret.