Greenland Shark Project

Welcome to the Greenland Shark Audio Book Project. A collaboration between writer/performer, John-Paul Hussey, and sound designer/composer, Dan Witton, and director/ audiobook voice artist, Rachael Tidd.

What is published here, is only a 7 min audio sample created by an initial collaboration between, John-Paul Hussey and Dan Witton in 2021.

The text, below, is the whole work and will be aprox. 30 minutes in duration and will be directed by Rachael Tidd in January, 2022.

(The text is written by John-Paul Hussey, and is the prologue of an unpublished novel entitled, I Want to Taste Your Face)

THE GREENLAND SHARK

At 0.78 kilometres per hour, there’s a good reason why the Greenland Shark moves at such a modest pace. Never seems pushed to arrive at any given point within the vast realms of the North Atlantic. It has Time on its side. Buckets of it! Because other than an immortal jelly fish and fairly forgettable clam, this species of shark happens to be one of the longest living creatures on this planet.

Its average lifespan is so long, in fact, it even takes a whopping one hundred and fifty years just to reach breeding maturity. And if luck holds out, which it will, it can often survive for much, much longer. Five hundred years, give or take. That’s six or seven human lifetimes, with or without the health supplements and a good night’s rest.

It’s big too, approximately the size of the average courier van with double sliding doors. But not as zippy. It is only wide and languorous arcs for this enormous creature – they can often appear to be travelling in perfectly straight lines. Not that the idea of a straight line would ever enter this shark’s big head, since its only real purpose is to move forever forward like a blind shuttle passing through space.

Its dining habits are not aggressive either. More passive-casual; they don’t actively set out to find their prey. They more bump into it; usually because it’s pretty dark down there in those icy depths, and lunch is often dead or fast asleep. Often, some emaciated mammal, struggling to survive the long winter, which has accidentally slipped off the ice and met its fate.

Once the shark has acknowledged the presence of an oncoming meal, hovering in the dark, only then will it make any real effort. Slowly opening its huge jaws to allow the water to rush in, creating a gentle inflow of attrition removing any need to tear or bite. This shark is not like any other, it doesn’t savagely attend to any of its meals. There are no violent dramas to be videotaped and posted on the Internet. Because this shark is so relaxed, you would be mistaken in thinking it yawns while it eats.

But for this particular story, the shark we’re interested in, the one moving in its own merry time, is now very close to being given a gold watch and asked to retire. What it is not aware of, right now, other than its final closure, its natural death, is a submersible drone whirring right behind. It’s been swimming with her for quite some time, like a sheep dog gently nipping at her tail, coaxing her in a direction its master desires. 

Its master, a creature not from this planet, controlling this drone, is quite a distance away. He has been monitoring her progress from several hundred feet above on the ice pack and can see this shark is getting pretty close. For him, it’s a shame this final rendezvous wasn’t a few hours before when the sky was clear and still. There’s a strong wind picking up, and it’s important this extraction is precise.

The art will be maintaining a good balance on this challenging terrain; the long pipe he has inserted into the ice will only take so much flack. The reason why he needs to get this job right, compared to all the others, is because he needs this shark for her years, her age. It’s also mid-winter on planet Earth; she’s been feasting for weeks and will be full of juice. And if this alien’s calculations are correct, this will be the last and only opportunity this five-hundred-year-old creature will offer up what he and his employers so desperately want.

Right now, while this alien waits patiently on this icepack, it is 2020, in Earth years. But five centuries ago, to hurl ourselves right back to 1520 when she, the shark, was first born to this world, it was a very different place. The icepacks the human inhabitants walked on then, would have been a great deal thicker and far more solid. Why it was called Greenland by the Vikings, who first discovered it five hundred years before that, may have been due to some misguided optimism. Or maybe even a lie? “Listen to me, you should come, it’s so green over there! Leave Denmark, Jutland is so flat and boring, bring your goats and start a new life!”

Greenland was never really that green. It was mostly white. Cold white ice where only a few fishermen and farmers could eke out a living, and it was the polar bears who really ran the show.

But in 1520, a land, further to the West, was very green indeed, and still largely untouched by outside influences. That was about to rapidly change. By the sixteenth century, Europe, exhausted by endless religious conflict and plague, was badly in need of another focus. This new discovery, the Americas, would become their fresh start. Not for the local population though, they would be destroyed. Nearly. By two viruses this time, the European visitors and a deadly pathogen they brought with them in their clothes.

Yet for the five centuries that followed, while men engaged in their usual cut and thrust, this same shark simply carried on. Oblivious to all these human activities, year after year, century after century: 1620, 1720, 1820, 1920, always swimming at the same leisurely pace; yawning in her breakfast, lunch and dinner.

She was oblivious because she was lucky. Lucky because she was not sought after; she had no predators, despite her slow pace and lack of aggression. Not one creature within the food chain was keen to have a poke: her flesh was so toxic they dared not take a single bite. 

Even the humans kept their distance. Ask any Eskimo, and they’ll tell you: don’t even feed that damn shark to your dogs! It makes them drunk and stupid; they slip on the ice and are useless for the hunt.  The Vikings and their descendants eventually discovered a way of consuming their meat, of course, that’s humans for you, though and only when they were desperate, as well as very patient. It was a very tawdry process of curing and hanging that would take months and months. 

So, was she free then, to do what she liked? Well, she did have one predator, if you can call it that. A curator of sorts: this alien from another planet with his sucking pipe and drone. But he wasn’t interested in her meat. Neither was the commercial outfit who had sent him across solar systems to intercept her final movements. What they wanted, so very badly, was something buried deep inside. Centuries of fermentation; of countless meals, crushed and turned, all contained in a single chamber, her gut.

All the alien’s drone needed to do now was give her another nudge and she would be in the exact position for the task. For its master to flick a switch and suck up her five-hundred-year-old gassy mix.

She was now fully visible on his scanner, only a few metres below his feet. There, right there, be patient, he thought, don’t screw this one up, as he gripped harder onto the pipe with the snowstorm bearing down. “C’mon you can do it, he muttered to her, just give it to me. Give it to me!”

And in a matter of seconds, she did, with a rolling heave and distended squeeze; followed by the distinctive thrumming sound of a billowing pillowcase full of gassy brown bubbles, floating up towards the ice and spreading out flat, like an omelette.

 Instantly he turned his device on, sucking it right up and sending it straight to the storage compartment at the back of his ship. “At last!” he cried, pulling in the pipe. “Now I can get out of this dreadful wind and off this damn planet!”

His only task now was to clear the ship’s underbelly of ice, quickly snap himself in, punch in the relative co-ordinates and get back home. This was the big bonus job, fully extracted and contained! What a relief to finally get off this wretched ice pack, after weeks of endless trawling.  He wouldn’t have to worry about working for a very long while after this.  What was contained in his storage unit was the very precious 20s vintage: a year that paid extremely well. 

The ship lifted up and hurtled forward and low across the ice pack through the snowstorm, then dipped down towards the open ocean. He needed to pick up his drone, which was swimming after its master, at the same terrific speed, under the ice.  Then the alien noticed something: high above in the stratosphere, a flashing light. Visibility was poor so he ignored it: he needed to focus on his drone, now speeding underneath him across the water’s surface, ready to be hooked back into the ship.  As soon as he heard the familiar thud of the drone safely back on board, there was another flash. A much bigger one, this time spreading out into a wide lattice of sharp bright tendrils.

That seems odd, he thought, that can’t be. The Harvest Field? This was his first guess. Poachers always think the worst, particularly when escaping the scene with their catch. The Harvest Field was an invisible and ancient device connected right across the globe, positioned between the Earth’s upper atmosphere and cold back space. But it can’t be. Everyone knows it hasn’t been in operation for decades. Surely the Consortium hasn’t turned it back on?

Looking at his scanner again, he zoomed in to have a closer look. These bright tendrils he was seeing seemed different. It can’t be the Northern Lights, it’s the wrong time of the day. No, this is none of my business, he thought, switching back to flight mode. Let’s just get out of here, your job is done, and quickly before it’s too late.

Yet something was telling him as his ship climbed upwards, this would be the last time he would have the chance to hunt on this planet. For years the stocks had been dwindling, and coming here was becoming too much of a commercial risk. He’d been lucky enough locating this shark at such a late stage of its life cycle as there weren’t too many left.

Maybe they had switched it back on? The Harvest Field. He looked for further clues in the outer arcs of the atmosphere. He, like most who visited this planet, wasn’t too sure why it had been switched it off in the first place, or why the Consortium had abandoned Earth and its inhabitants for so long.

He personally couldn’t care less; he had never used any of the Consortium’s pleasure services anyway. With the Field being dormant for so long it had been ideal for poachers like him. They could all now get through the security gates without being stopped.

Yet something had definitely gone wrong here. He knew that. As did all the other poachers. The ocean was far too filthy, considering the planet’s age. This kind of degradation was only typical of an ecosystem much later down the track. Maybe it was the humans’ energy source? Either they hadn’t upgraded to a cleaner version or they had had an accident. And why did the Consortium let the humans get to such a dangerous stage? That’s just bad for business. Either or, it’s still none of my business, he thought as he brought his ship above the nasty weather into a clear blue sky.

By now the flashing lights were all around; with micro sparks colliding and skidding across the surface of his ship.  He quickly moved above the fray and paused to have another look.  The green and white tendrils were spreading right across the globe now. “Well, this is all very beautiful,” he grumbled, “either someone has started a massive party down there or a giant shit storm has happened and it’s clearly out of control.”

Whatever it is, it didn’t bode well for the likes of him. Time to leave, before his luck changed. Yet after staring at this light show an unusual sense of excitement came over him. He caught a glimpse of himself in the shiny interior of his ship. Someone is looking fabulously real right now, he thought, passing his fingers through his bright yellow hair, which is not how anyone looks or feels after having spent weeks in sub zero temperatures. 

Perhaps this sudden rush of optimism was because of the ingredient he had out the back. And so precious! Look at me, how fancy, he grinned, as he accelerated into space. It always did seem funny to him, that here he was again carrying a product he had found, but personally couldn’t afford. Not even a sip; his employers would never allow it.

This was a product with an effect he only knew of by reputation. He had overheard its wild praises from those rich types who always insist on ordering the most expensive and pretentious item on the menu. Yet the effect of this golden gassy substance, this magical supplement, although horrendously pricey, was not pretentious in the least. It was, in fact, quite simple.

What it gave the buyer was the chance to embrace something that is usually very fleeting, the Present. Just a single drop would let anyone embrace the Present so absolutely you would resent nothing. Not a thing! This gave the customer an ease of passage through life. So utterly free of inertia, every thought they uttered made them stand so much higher above the rest.

Well, it never ceased to amaze this alien, about to switch to hyperdrive and head back home, anything could have such an incredible effect. To possess the present? Surely not!  But it did; and it was all due to a lazy five-hundred-year-old shark all the way from planet Earth.

And she was still there. Just right where he had left her, in the same position hovering underneath the ice. She knew that act had been her final gesture; there was no longer any need to move forward; to bump into yet another meal. It was done, finished. Above was above, and below was an abyss. A thought became a yes, and a yes becomes a tick, asking her ancient brain to turn her fins up one last time, and to sink down deep.