The Fear

An excerpt from the forthcoming short story collection, Shy Ghosts Dancing: Dark Tales from Southeast Alaska by Mark Zeiger

All content ©2010 Mark A. Zeiger. All rights reserved.


I wasn’t even thinking about them when I felt that first tugging bump against my ankle. For once, in this situation, they were the furthest things from my mind. Instead I thought about how good the water felt as I swam, the warmth of the Texas sun, and the attractive young woman who had spread her blanket close to mine on the beach. My mind was blissfully preoccupied when I got hit—not hard, just enough to jerk me downward slightly, making me gulp a mouthful of seawater.

I was confused. I had ventured too far out to hit bottom. No other explanation came to me, until I looked at my foot. I found a raw patch on the outside of my ankle, on the bony knob, a ruddy scrape like a rug burn.

As I stared at the abrasion, I saw movement beneath me. Realization dawned. The water, refreshingly cool before, suddenly seemed icy. I began to shake, my teeth rattling against each other as if about to fall out.

In that instant I felt The Fear.

The Fear developed in me as a child. I think it resulted from a dream I had in which my older brother and I swam off a low ledge. I sat dangling my feet in the clear water. My brother finished swimming and began to get out. As he boosted himself onto the ledge, I saw two yellow lights deep in the water below. They came toward us so fast they reached the surface just as my brother pulled himself from the water. It was a small shark, about three feet long. Its eyes glowed like light bulbs. It leaped into the air and bit my brother in the back, hitting him with the sound of a baseball bat whacking an inflated inner tube.

I woke up sick and horrified. The images of that dream have never left me. Neither has The Fear.




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Thank you for reading this excerpt! To read the rest of this story, and others like it by Mark A. Zeiger, order Shy Ghosts Dancing: Dark Tales from Southeast Alaska.

Read more excerpts on the Shy Ghosts Dancing page at