Paxton Perlman floated belly down on his surfboard waiting for a wave. The sky was gray, the water was gray, and his mood was gray, but that didn’t stop him from going out on the water. In fact, they were all reasons why he went out. Surfing wasn’t just a hobby for Paxton; it was his form of meditation and doing it daily kept him centered and happy. Today, Paxton woke up in a bad mood for no reason and it seemed like the ocean felt the same way. Even though there wasn’t much water moving, Paxton still put on his wetsuit and paddled out, hoping that maybe things would change and at the very least he’d be able to catch a couple of waves.
He’d been bobbing on the water, being slowly pushed toward shore by insignificant ripples that didn’t qualify to be called waves even in a sarcastic tone for over an hour. In that time, he attempted to find his center, but instead, just watched his mood sour even more, the salty smell of the sea taunting him.
Pushing himself up to straddle his board, his legs dangling in the water, Paxton gave a passing thought to paddling in for the day. On one hand, he felt like he was wasting time sitting out in the ocean waiting for a wave that might never come. On the other hand, Paxton didn’t like the idea of giving up on surfing, even for just a day. The wave he was looking for might be on its way and he’d never forgive himself for missing it.
Movement under the water caught Paxton’s eye. It wasn’t an uncommon thing to see fish come nosing around when he’d been out on the board waiting for a long time. But this didn’t look like the usual curious fish come to visit. The shadow under the water was too big for that.
Must be a whole school passing by, Paxton thought. And then something brushed his foot.
He jerked his legs out of the water so fast he nearly knocked himself backwards off of his surfboard. It surprised him more than scared him. The fish didn’t usually come THAT close.
The shadow passed under his surfboard again, this time moving from his left to his right, and Paxton realized that what he had beneath him wasn’t a school of fish. It was a shark.
“You have got to be kidding me,” he said, looking around. The water and beach in front of his weathered gray beach house were devoid of people. Help was now a phone call away and Paxton didn’t take his cell phone surfing. Experience taught him that salt water and technology didn’t get along.
Keeping his eyes on the water underneath his board, Paxton crossed his legs and rolled to his hands and knees. He paused for a minute, looking for the shark shadow, thinking he could slip his arms into the water and start paddling towards shore. If he kept the movement smooth, the shark might not bother him.
But that was apparently not what the shark had in mind.
The shadow reappeared, rose to the surface of the water, and nudged the surfboard with its gray nose, a white film covering its exposed black eye as it rolled and sank underneath the surfboard. Paxton cursed and fought to stay upright on the board as it bounced with the sudden upset. His muscles tightened and he gritted his teeth, which were trying to elongate. He felt the tickle of hair under his skin. Taking a deep breath in through his nose as he closed his eyes and blowing it out through his mouth, Paxton willed himself not to change.
The moon was only two days from being completely full. This meant that Paxton, as a werewolf, was having less and less control over changing and being a cloudy afternoon didn’t make a bit of difference. It was the animal instinct that ran in his blood causing him to react. He was being threatened. Instinct told him to attack.
But a werewolf on a surfboard wasn’t much better than a human on a surfboard (Paxton knew that from experience, too, having attempted to surf while fully changed; it ended badly) and that wasn’t a nurse shark cruising around and nudging his board. It was a great white, famed in song and story. These sharks liked to test their food before they ate it. Unfortunately, their test bites were usually someone’s entire torso. From what Paxton had seen of this one’s head, it was a young one, maybe only eight feet long or so. The adults could be double that.
Adult or juvenile, neither option was a good one, really.
The shark circled back and nudged the other side of Paxton’s board, making him growl. He could smell it when it nosed out of the water, fishy and curious and threatening. If Paxton’s hackles were out, they’d be raised, but right now he was fighting that. The smell of the shark mingled with the smell of the ocean as he took his deep breaths that were supposed to be calming him, but instead riled him because he could smell. That. Damn. Shark.
Paxton needed to get to shore and fast. He wasn’t sure how long he could hold off transforming, particularly since visions of him ripping into that shark’s head the next time he nosed the board were dancing behind his eyelids.
Forcing his eyes open, Paxton looked at the shore in the distance and then looked behind him. The ocean wasn’t offering up any waves, so surfing in wasn’t going to be an option. The shore looking even further away now, Paxton realized he could either float in or paddle in. Those were his only options.
The shark nudged the board harder and nearly dumped Paxton into the water. He held on, righting the board and keeping it steady as he bounced in the shark’s wake. Paxton felt the muscles in his arms and legs bulge, begging to change.
Floating in wasn’t an option. That left only one choice.
He needed to get rid of this shark. The human part of him didn’t want to kill it (the werewolf part wanted to tear it to shreds) because even though it was dangerous, Paxton was invading its territory. Paxton not wanting to be taste-tested wasn’t the shark’s fault. But still, he didn’t want to be lunch so he’d have to do something to persuade the shark to go look for its meal elsewhere.
Sharks were nothing new to surfers. Stories that made Jaws look like a nibble circulated all the time. Paxton had seen his fair share, but never this close. He knew all of the possible ways to get rid of them, too. A well placed punch on the curious nose might be enough to dissuade this shark from trying to make a meal of him. Sharks typically didn’t care for their food fighting back.
Paxton decided to make his protest a little more persuasive.
Focusing his mind on his right arm, Paxton allowed a ripple of the change to pass through his flesh. The muscles contracted and bulged, growing larger. His nails grew into claws and hair sprouted on the back of his hand. He could feel hair growing and mashing under the straining fabric of his wetsuit. Paxton clinched his teeth, holding himself there in that one-arm suspended state.
Even on his best controlled days, this was difficult to do. Growing out his teeth, bulging his muscles, sharpening his claws, that stuff was simple when he was in full control. But partially changing one body part like he was doing now was risky. Doing it two days out from a full moon was asking for trouble. If the shark bumped him again, there was no guarantee that the threat wouldn’t override Paxton’s control and he’d complete the change whether he wanted to or not.
And he didn’t want to.
But he didn’t want to keep messing with this shark either.
The shadow slid under his board again and Paxton raised his pumped up fist, ready to strike. The shadow kept sliding, not bothering to bump the board or come to the surface. Paxton growled in frustration and lowered his fist, watching the shadow fade away.
Paxton could feel his control slipping. A headache was starting at the base of his skull like it did every time he overexerted himself trying to control a change. He wasn’t going to be able to hold it for much longer. If that shark didn’t come back, Paxton wouldn’t have any choice but to float in. He wouldn’t have the energy to paddle.
A tense minute or two passed.
The shadow reappeared.
Paxton raised his fist again.
The shark’s nose broke the surface right next to the board and Paxton brought his pumped up fist down on it. The shark thrashed and Paxton felt himself teeter on the edge of fully changing before falling back to the human side of the fence just in time to be flipped off the board by the fleeing shark’s tail.
Paxton hit the water and surfaced a second later, quickly pulling himself back onto his board. Flat on his stomach, he paddled hell bent for the shore, hoping the shark wouldn’t change his mind and decide that, punch or no, Paxton might just be worth a bite.
He didn’t stop paddling until his fingers struck the sandy bottom and even then he gave it a few more strokes before dismounting from his board and wading to the beach. Paxton tossed his board down and collapsed on the wet sand next to it, the water brushing his feet as it lazily pushed in and pulled out.
Paxton stared at the gray sky.
At least his mood was better.
Surfing had that effect on him.