I lay still. My heart beat loudly in the darkness, and the others’ as well. Most of them like my own, and one louder and slower, all around. I felt movement. Something brushed my side and I flinched away, but it was just one of my younger brothers.
I was growing stronger. My brothers and sisters were too, I could feel it as they moved past me. There was less space now; they constantly wriggled over me, and I couldn’t move without pushing past them. It was warm and dark, but I was growing hungry, and not all of my siblings were younger than me.
The smell of blood spread gradually until it was everywhere. A strange sharp smell. A hungry smell. I was hungry, but someone was hungrier. I moved towards the spot from which the smell emanated, and touched a body that did not move away from me. The blood scent oozed more thickly. I felt along my brother’s dead form and touched a gash in his flesh. I pulled away, and swam as far as I could.
There were fewer heartbeats now. I was very hungry. At last, I opened my mouth. A smaller sister brushed past me. I struck.
My teeth gouged in her side, and blood filled my mouth. It was good, but I was hungry. I caught a little brother’s tail. His struggles helped me to tear off a chunk, and his blood flooded my nostrils and mouth. He wriggled away, bleeding, as for the first time I filled my belly with flesh.
The dead lay all around, the smaller siblings. I ate my fill, and swam in a savoury soup of blood and flesh. I heard heartbeats still. There was movement close beside me, not quite touching. Grown strong on meat, I struck hard. My jaws met my brother’s belly and I pulled away with a bloody chunk. He whipped around, bulling into me. He was larger than me, and stronger.
I twisted away, and felt fire sear my back as his teeth scored deep scratches. Now we lunged at the same moment and jaw met jaw. I pulled away, thrashing, and so did he. He returned, but I slipped under his head and drew blood again. He writhed in pain as my teeth ripped his throat, rolling over. His dorsal fin brushed my jaws and I bit him again.
His body convulsed. I was bathed in his blood, and something soft fell onto my nose. I snapped at it and bit off a mouthful. My brother’s guts were spilling from one of the wounds I had inflicted. He thrashed again, trying to bring his jaws within range of me. He was moving slowly now. I swallowed another mouthful of viscera.
Only one other heartbeat remained, other than the all-pervading thump of our mother’s. My sister. The largest of us all. We swam together in the mire of our smaller siblings’ remains. Food lay all around us, but living meat drew us from such easy pickings. We hunted each other up and down, at the same time attacking and fleeing.
Her head slammed bluntly into my belly. She was strong. She bowled me over, and pain sunk into my fin. I arched my back, to pull away, but the pain only grew, spreading and tearing. I tasted my own blood, spilling from the ragged stump of my fin. My sister moved towards me again and I turned towards her, to kill her, but I was too slow now, crippled. She bulled into me again and forced me to the floor.
I was pinned down and held by daggers in my side. I twisted but my sister’s jaws held me, cutting. I fought to eat her; I fought to free myself. She rolled over, still gripping, ripping my flesh away. My flank and belly blazed. My struggles drew her back to strike again, dropping the strip of meat. I felt her nose push inside the gash she had made.
Her little brother’s guts filled her mouth. She whipped her head from one side to the other, tearing away mouthfuls. With each bite his body spasmed in agony and she would drop the flesh she had seized, goaded on to attack.
The fight ebbed out of him, the last of the brood, and she was alone. She feasted.
Her siblings had nourished her and she was strong. She had eaten every scrap of flesh, and she hungered again. Her mother’s sides contracted, pushing. Cold water hit her for the first time in her life, and the young sand tiger swam free.
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