Greg always remembered the first time he saw her. Entranced by her eyes. Hypnotised by her grace. Meg was a beauty to his grey eyes. They’d both lost teeth in the many years since he’d first seen her. Her furious majesty had not diminished in all those years.
He’d been a deliveryman, running from a truck to front doors and back for years. He’d been a hotelier, starting with the big house he’d inherited from his grandmother. He’d been an auctioneer, selling properties for a cut of the cash.
Meg had never left his mind.
She was no cheap lady. Only the best home would do for her. She was a swimmer. He bought an old aquarium. Every tank leaked. All the wiring had to be redone but he didn’t spare a penny of the fortune he’d built up.
Gregg’s Aquarium started with little exhibits. He bought hundreds of cheap fish from the local pet shops and created extravagant tank displays for them. From there he acquired licences for more exotic exhibits like piranhas.
All for Meg.
The grand tank at the heart of the aquarium had always been saved for her. It was a talking point among visitors, a criticism. Why not find something for the big tank?
She was owned by a private collector who had other sharks as well. Meg was the pride of his collection. After retiring from life at the zoo where Gregg had first fallen in love with her, Meg had been moved to the billionaire’s own home.
It was selfish. Keeping a beauty like Meg from the admiration she deserved was ridiculous. Gregg struck up a friendship with the collector and offered to buy Meg. Mike Dillon, multi-media mogul, said no.
Gregg was at least allowed to visit Meg at Mike’s private estate.
The driveway zig-zagged between the eighteen holes of the golf course. The Spanish styled villa was hideously grand. A fountain within a pool out the front of the house was made in the shape of Dillon’s business logo.
Gregg parked his four-seater town car next to the line of glistening sportscars arranged like a rainbow. A young lady wearing what looked like a maid fetish outfit was cleaning the cars. She waved to him and flashed her pearly veneers. Gregg thought she would have had a good case for suing the mogul if she wanted to.
He tried to knock on the front door, but it was opened by a butler wearing a suit straight out of a Victorian household. The entrance hall was tiled with black and white marble. A golden statue of Mike stood by a grand piano beneath the candelabra.
Mike was there, looking like a cartoon cocaine dealer. His powder blue suit clashed painfully with his pink shirt and shoes. His bald head was as tanned as the rest of him. The liver spots that were emerging everywhere were just another thing that told Gregg that Mike was wearing a younger man’s outfit.
“Gregg, you’re here. I wasn’t sure if that car of yours was going to make it this time.”
“I manage. I saw your maid in the car park. She’s pretty.”
“Maid?” Mike rubbed his soul patched chin with fingers covered in golden rings. “The costume! No. That’s my wife. She likes the outfit. What do you think?” Mike’s smile made Gregg feel a little sick. Was he supposed to complement her outfit or her body?
Mike gave Gregg the kind of wink the Aquarium owner wished was illegal.
“She seems nice.”
“Nice. Yes.” Dillon flashed his own veneers. “Nice is why I married her.” He laughed the laugh of a black and white cinema villain. “Never mind though. Your kind of woman is less leggy, more deadly, am I right?” The second wink was no less revolting than the first.
As they passed through the house, Gregg saw the familiar portraits of Dillon with his ex-wives and some of his more photogenic pets. He had to look away when he saw a picture of the woman who was washing cars posing nude on the golf course. Mike caught his look.
“That’s one of my favourites,” said the host. “You must capture beauty while it lasts Gregg. It always fades away. Luckily women don’t want me for my dashing looks and my six pack.” He laughed. “They’re just the icing on the cake.”
The rich carpet beneath Gregg’s feet certainly cost more than most of the aquarium but no one had mentioned taking off his shoes. Mike was wearing his.
The menagerie began with monkeys in cages. Gregg hated to see them there. Mike had one of the best enclosures money could buy but they were still stuck behind glass in the home of a douchebag.
Leopards, cloned back into being just years before, lounged on logs in their own exhibit. They were beautiful. They were nothing on Meg.
Mike had a private aquarium that made Gregg’s look like a goldfish bowl. Great white sharks in one tank. Hammerheads swam in another.
Meg swam alone in the largest tank.
She didn’t look a day older than she had when Gregg had first seen her at the zoo. She was a resurrected megalodon. 55 feet of pure slaughter.
“I can’t believe science brought them back after 23 million years. They haven’t swum anywhere since the Miocene Epoch.” Gregg realised he was being obsessive, but he didn’t care. His forehead and nose pressed to the glass as his jaw fell wide open.
“Miocene Epoch huh? Sounds like a bad disaster movie. Wanna feed ‘er?” Mike asked. His perverse smile made Gregg feel dirty, but he nodded anyway.
They climbed a metal staircase that didn’t seem ostentatious enough to belong to Mike Dillon. At the top of the stairs, they looked down at the open water.
“Don’t fall in huh?” Mike shook his head. “That girl eats a couple of cows a day. I get them brought in through the back by my meat guy. All good to go.” He pointed to a button on a chord. “Hit that and the chute opens, down come the moo moos and its feedin’ time.”
Gregg hit the button. A steel chute that went almost to the surface of the water rattled. A carcass hit the water with a splash, then another.
“Quite an appetite, right? Costs me a fortune that girl, almost as much as my ex-wives.”
They watched Meg devour the cows blood spread out in the water. Gregg watched silently. He kneeled down to be closer to the water, peering through the railings.
“Should I leave you two alone?” Mike laughed but it sounded like he meant it.
“She should be in the aquarium, where people can see her.”
“Gregg, my boy, we talked about this.” The gold rings patted Gregg’s shoulder.
“You could buy in. You can put your name on the aquarium. You’d make the money back that it costs to feed her.” Gregg stood up and looked the mogul in the eyes. “Think about it. Everyone would know that all of it was yours. You like people to know about the amazing things you own, don’t you?”
“Sure, yeah. You’re talking a good game Gregg. Keep selling.”
“Mike Dillon’s Mega Megalodon Aquarium.” Gregg tried to fake a smile.
“That’s a bit of a mouth full kid.”
“Mike’s Mega Aquarium, featuring the mighty megalodon.” Talking about Meg brought a genuine smile to Gregg’s face.
The old man clicked his fingers. “I like that. Here’s the deal, I’ll buy into your aquarium, and I’ll get my name on the building, but Meg down there is on loan. Still mine. I’m never selling that girl. No way.”
“I completely understand.” Gregg smiled and held out his hand. “Deal?”
Mike’s sweaty hand shook it. “Deal.”
Gregg’s dream came true. First the name of the aquarium changed. He didn’t care about that. Then Dillon had the whole place done up with a fortune that was nothing to him. New tanks, a bigger gift shop. T-shirts and posters of Meg the megalodon.
The day she moved into her tank Gregg felt complete.
Her first day of business saw as many customers through the doors as had ever visited before. The only other specimens of resurrected megalodons were making nuisances of themselves off the coast of Australia.
Gregg moved into a portable home on sight. Every morning he was the first to say hello to Meg. Every night he was the last to say goodbye to her.
Visitor numbers fluctuated. New gimmicks were introduced over the years. Mike had the mad idea of opening the aquarium at nights and renting thermal goggles to the guests. Though Gregg had been sceptical, the revenue went up again. Seeing Meg through thermal goggles just added another layer to her beauty.
For years everything was perfect.
One day Mike was on the news for tax evasion. His assets were being seized. Gregg begged for the mogul to sign over the aquarium and Meg to him.
“I can’t do that,” Mike said, scratching the hairs of a grey halo around his wrinkled head. “That girl is one of my last assets. They took the house. They took the cars. My wife left me.”
“The one I met in the maid outfit?”
“Huh? No. She was wife number five. I’ve had seven now.”
Mike lay a shrivelled hand on Gregg’s shoulder. “Look Gregg we had a good run. What you’ve done here, with my money, it’s great. Nothing lasts forever though.”
“How much do you owe? You must be able to pay it off. You’re a billionaire.”
“Ah, yeah, about that. I did well in business. I made millions. I also spent millions. My wives spent millions. I was never making as much as I pretended to. They say fake it ‘till you make it.” He shrugged. “I guess I never really made it.”
Gregg’s palms began to sweat. His heart galloped. He was angry at Mike for messing things up for him and scared he was going to lose Meg.
“What’s going to happen?”
“I’m selling her Gregg. Breaks my heart but I have to.”
“Who’s the buyer?”
“Some prince of something. He owns a country out east and he’s gonna sail her there in his superyacht. Got more money than I’ve ever made this guy. She’s gonna be in good hands.”
“When is he coming?”
“This afternoon. That’s why I’m here. You get to keep the aquarium, Gregg. I know how much you love the place. I sold bits of it to people so you’ve got some new partners, but it can stay open. Meg’s gotta go though.” Mike shrugged like it was a car being repossessed.
“I want to go and see her then. I want to feed her one last time before the deal is made. Do you want to come and see her as well?”
“Sure. It’s been a while. Better her than the sharks that are eating me alive in court.” Mike gave a bitter chuckle. His suit hung off him. He’d lost weight suddenly. He didn’t look so cocky now. The swagger was gone. His stubble was all peppery and mismatched.
They went up metal grilled stairs to the feeding platform. It was the same setup that Mike once had in his home.
“I bet you wish you could feed me to her.” The old man chuckled as he leaned over the railing, watching carcasses being snatched out of the water by Meg’s enormous teeth. “But like you said once, they didn’t evolve to eat humans. They don’t have a taste for us.”
“Both true.” Mike said, reaching into a bucket mostly used to feed smaller predators. “But just like dogs, they can be trained to know the taste. Tigers sometimes attack and kill people who encroach on their territories. Then they decide that all they want to eat is people. Scientists think it’s the sugar content. We’re too sweet to resist.”
“You’re a funny guy,” Mike said in a voice that meant he didn’t think so. He turned to see the knife in Gregg’s hand. “Hey. Easy buddy. What are you doing?” He raised his ringless hands.
“I won’t let you take her. Meg belongs with me.”
“Gregg. I have to. I need the money.”
“I love her.”
“That’s your issue man. Not my problem.” Dillon’s eyes bulged as Gregg stabbed him. Blood flowered on his loose suit. Another stab made him clutch at his wounds.
Gregg grabbed his shoes and threw the legs up. The mogul backflipped over the railing and splashed into the water. Meg slapped the dying man with her fin at first, still chewing a dead cow.
Then she caught the smell of the blood. Fresh blood.
“I’ll never let anyone take you,” Gregg promised her.