What You Don’t Remember Can Hurt You
When a shark attack triggers a Marine Biologist’s previous trauma with two men, she plots her own ambush against the predators, both fish and man.
Rian Field has it all. A thriving career as a marine biologist, a loving husband, and a loyal circle of friends. But after surviving a shark attack, she becomes strangely haunted by disturbing memories where two masked men held her hostage in her own home.
Before long, nightmares begin to plague her, her friends start acting suspiciously, and she’s convinced that there are fragments from the past that she can’t remember, important clues that could save her life.
Then someone breaks into her home. Again. Convinced that the shark attack is somehow connected to the masked men, she experiences a renewed sense of terror as the culprits appear to be among those she trusts. Because they are watching her every move. They aren’t finished with the past. They know about her fear of sharks. And they will use that fear against her until she’s dead.
Rian must overcome her fear of sharks and uncover the truth before the past buries her once and for all.
A psychological thriller that deals with the realities of trauma and PTSD.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
An actual experience/trauma and my love of Jaws
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The main character is based on myself. The other characters were inspired by God.
“When I lie down I say,
‘When shall I arise?’ But the night continues
And I am continually tossing until dawn” Job 7:4
She was in the ocean, but not on a boat. She was swimming this time, without a mask or swim gear of any kind. She had been holding her breath for several minutes, and the pressure in her ears had become unbearable. Blood poured into her skull as a blackness started to smear her vision, her head filling with physical agony.
A baby was tumbling near some coral reef, and blood was pouring out of the baby's heart. The pounding stopped inside her skull. A thin ribbon of blood trailed from her head and into the baby's heart.
A shark suddenly appeared, like the one Rian saw in real life. It closed in on them fast, coming right at them with a ferocious craving that had been waiting too long.
She woke up and stared at Jack who was asleep, his leg dangling off the side of the bed, his mouth slightly open, the way he had probably slept since he was a child. She loved this man so much and couldn't imagine life without him. She touched the side of his face.
"Hey," she gently whispered. "It's after noon."
He moaned and blinked several times, trying to wake up. He looked at her through those pearl green eyes, and her heart jumped even after all these years. "Let's go for a walk," she told him. "We've been working so hard. It's time for a break."
They decided on Balboa Island. They enjoyed strolling the island because it was sometimes pleasurable to get lost in the crowds. And it was pleasantly mind-numbing to take in all the places of business. Jane’s Corn Dogs, Azar’s Pizza, the Arcade, and the Market, among numerous other establishments.
For a nice, warm Saturday afternoon, not many people were strolling Balboa Island's walkway. For some reason, Rian felt safer, but she couldn't understand why. Normally, she enjoyed being in crowds. Separating them from the bay, where the Sundancer was normally docked, was the auto ferry fronted by ocean-front homes.
As they passed the section of water, she glanced behind her to that place of adversity. The shark was probably long gone. The ocean looked serene as miniature waves skipped over its glossy surface. Nevertheless, she shivered.
As she and Jack walked hand in hand, it occurred to her that she hadn't actually talked to him about the shark attack. The doctor and nurses held all the details and she assumed they discussed them with Jack, but she and Jack hadn't said much about any of it.
"Jack?" She stopped and turned to look at him. Rian wanted to tell him everything, just let the whole crazy story spill out until every last word and every fearful emotion expelled from inside her. Maybe then if she shared everything with Jack, she’d find relief from this disquieting feeling. "We haven't talked about what happened."
"What do you want to talk about?"
"Just the details of it. I've been feeling weird. I think that if I talk about it, like everything about it, with you, that maybe I'll be able to shake this. . .this uneasiness."
Jack pulled her toward a bench in front of Hal's storefront and waited for her to begin.
She started from the point where she was feeling so good about their lives here, how much they had accomplished already, and thinking how promising their futures would be. But then how quickly she began to feel entirely alone out there when something slammed with full force into the boat.
"It was like an earthquake tore into me. I thought I heard my skull crack as it hit the steering wheel. And without warning a roar came, a cry so loud and intent on getting to me." She stopped and once more her hands began to twitch as they had the other night. Jack grabbed them and held them closely to his chest.
"We can talk more later."
"No. I need to do this."
He nodded and waited for her to continue.
"Something warm was dripping down my face. It was my own blood. Before I could react, the monster smashed into the boat again and a rush of water poured onto the floor of the boat. I was thrown into the steering wheel a second time, and I swear I could feel a bruise forming. The shark was like an invisible force. I couldn't even see it the whole time. Not until the very end."
Jack held her for several minutes. He kissed her forehead, her lips. “We’ll get through this,” he told her.
They joined hands again and got up from the bench. Seagulls cried as they soared overhead. Waves whispered as they kicked up tiny grains of sand. But something plagued her.
Monster. Why had she called it a monster? Many people may have used the synonym for such a fish, so it wasn’t that eccentric of a word choice, but something about it took on a special hidden meaning that eluded her.
In front of them, a small number of people came in and out of the many establishments that ornamented the walkway. Hal's Sweets stood out to her more than the others. The bright pink lettering over the doorframe blinked the store's name in glittering lights. Her heart warmed at the sight, and she forgot for the moment about the incident.
Hal winked at them as they walked through the door. A couple were trying to determine whether or not to get chocolate covered strawberries or chocolate covered cherries while their toddler girls grabbed peppermint sticks from the candy jar.
Rian glanced down at her hands. They were shaking more visibly now. But why?
"Hey, kids!" Hal winked at them as they came up to the counter. He was always calling them kids, his term of endearment for them.
He and Shirley had been unable to have children. So while there was playfulness in his greeting, his affectionate pet name for them was more of a need than a game of fun. Hal and Shirley experienced an amazing love that most people never did or took the chance to, a kind of love that endured regardless of any situation, a love strong enough to endure the pain of seven miscarriages.
Rian stepped behind the counter to kiss Hal's cheek. He grabbed her and Jack and pulled them into a bear hug before letting them go. "Where's Champ?"
"He's catching up on the latest soaps," Jack said.
"Tell him he'd better come see me soon or I'm going to set him up on another date with that dreadful poodle." They all laughed. "So, what will it be today? Dark or milk?"
"My heart's a bit down. I think some dark will do it good," Rian told him. She pinned a smile to her lips, but both men knew her too well. Jack squeezed her hand and Hal's eyes teared up. A moment later he came out with a silver tray of dark chocolate covered strawberries.
"Any news?" Hal asked. They both shook their heads no.
"What is it?" Jack looked at her. He hadn't been fooled. Something more was going on here, and he knew it.
Rian bit into a strawberry, relishing the sweet taste before she began. "I don't know how to explain it. When I'm around people I sense that something's wrong. Or that someone is nearby."
Her hands started shaking again and she tried hiding them under the tray but that only created an obvious tinny sound. “I hate this. Just like what I went through before. . .I can’t go through that again.”
“Sweetheart, we’re going to see you through this. We’ll help figure out what’s bothering you. That’s a promise better than the taste of my chocolates.” Hal winked.
“Thank you, Hal.”
"Rian." Jack set the tray on the counter and took her hands in his. "You said it felt like someone was nearby. What did you mean by 'someone'?"
"I feel like I'm in danger."
"When did you feel this?"
"Just now on the pier."
Hal nodded. "That makes sense. This is right where the shark attack happened."
"But I'm not thinking of that. It's something else. Someone." She groaned and rubbed away the tears that were spilling steadily down her cheeks now. Jack caressed her face. He took a strawberry off the plate and fed it to her while Hal filled two glasses with iced water.
Being in such close proximity to that terrible night was bound to evoke such feelings of distress. Revisiting places of great trauma often sparked the stress associated with them. But she remembered the restaurant and the same feeling of dread, of something terribly wrong enveloping her even there.
"No!" They both looked up. "It wasn't just now. It happened at the restaurant too. Remember when Sean gave us the news about the shark attack? I started feeling it then that something wasn't right. I don't know what it was, just that I was certain about it. Just like. . ." she glanced out the front window and into the lapping waves. "Just like I did out there."
They both remained quiet, neither one knowing what to say. Her mind was on the nightmare. The bloody baby and the shark coming after them so fast. What did it mean? She wanted to tell them, but she had to make sense of it first or it would just come out sounding like a baffling mess.
Sometimes Rian missed living more isolated. They spent the first seven years of their marriage in a quaint cottage home in a rural neighborhood.
She knew it made sense to move here considering her career track, but her heart continued to ache for that sense of remote living. Now they lived in a place that was close enough to Hollywood to be inspired by the pipe dream of fame but just far enough away to remain untainted by its false promise of true happiness.
The three of them stepped outside, spending the next hour with simple talk. Dark, cumulus-shaped clouds drifted slowly by. The sun had set in the western horizon, leaving behind a faint orange trail. Quickly, the clouds passed over the sun's footprints, soaping themselves in its oily color.
Lightning flickered, illuminating the dark blue heavens. An instant later, thunder crackled. Car alarms went off and people shouted in excitement as they scattered in various directions, seeking refuge from the coming downpour.
Rian stood on the pier as a laundry of noises fell on all sides of her. The thought in her mind was a dangerous one. Dangerous because she didn't fully understand it totally just yet, and dangerous because, and she didn't quite know where this thought was coming from nor why she was so certain of it, she was in danger.
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Krista Wagner has been creating stories since she was seven and is best known for her mystery and suspense novels. Back in the 90's, she was on her high school literary magazine staff, and she also co-authored a zine, a montage devoted to the creativity of multiple teenagers. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in several literary publications. She wrote her first novel at the age of 14, but it wasn't until her thirties that she published her first book. Krista reaches into those chasms of darkness, dealing with themes of betrayal and deception and hope, with intriguing characters and intense story lines. All her books are for young adult and up.
"Dealing with danger and handing out hope"
Krista Wagner, author of mysteries, thrills, and all that is real