“Shark Bait” by Georgina Li from Like They Always Been Free (Queer Young Cowboys, 2014).
I’m going to call this next piece a novella, although at 60 pages it’s a little short for that.
Conner is a surfer dude with a secret: he’s also a shark. I’d never considered the idea of were-sharks before, and if anyone had proposed the idea I probably would have thought it too weird, but it totally works. It’s an interesting and different concept that’s also sexy as hell, at least as rendered by this author.
By night, under the full moon’s pull, Conner shifts into his other form and hunts. He hunts by day as well, only in a decidedly more human fashion. At the start of the story he’s just caught the scent of new prey in the person of Rafael.
Rafael isn’t some timid mouse-like man. They circle one another, and seem well-matched. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Rafael to be on to Conner’s secret, or have one of his own, but that never materialized. There was a lot made of a local shark tournament, and what a threat it posed to Conner. Perhaps more could be have been made of it. But don’t get me wrong. While I’d love to see this expanded into a novel with some greater conflict, I really enjoyed it as is. I especially liked the great job the author did of making it clear at every turn that Conner is not fully human. His shark was always just below the surface, infusing the story with tension. I also liked that he wasn’t at odds with it, ala Louis and vampirism. And, of course, I liked the interplay between Conner and Rafael, which never felt redundant or gratuitous. (FYI, this story is not safe for work, inasmuch as you will be loath to put it down again when your break is up.)