August 15, 2023

The Four Sharks of the Apocalypse

by Tessa Yang

“My unsightly and unlovable brethren, hide your shame no longer. Let us engage in a glorious contest to determine who will be crowned the Greatest Freak of All Time!”

Revelation 6:17: “The great day of their anger has come, and who can survive it?”



All hail your new lord and conqueror: Bull Shark rises from the ocean with a crown of barnacles on its head, ready to haul you landlubbers back to the steaming seas whence all things good and evil were born.

If you’d had to name your fishy overlord, this would not have been your first guess, but keep that thought to yourself. To mouth the words Great White Shark is to hasten your own demise. Bull Shark can be a little testy when it comes to mentions of its bigger, show-offy cousin with its stupid aerial displays.Master of saltwater and freshwater, it was only a matter of time before Bull Shark was promoted to other realms. See it tear through the skies like a pterodactyl. Feel the reverberations as it bombs sinkholes into the earth. Trees whisper of its coming through their mycelia networks. They say no harpoon or bullet or net can destroy it, for Bull Shark is invincible with righteous purpose. It’s armored in the rage of a hundred million sharks caught in a hundred million fishing nets, finned and flung overboard to die of suffocation.

Bull Shark balloons. It beats its tail and tsunamis swell in answer. Creatures bow or flee before its indisputable might. Its presence has the feel of an ending, the ending. Not even the trees are asking what comes next.



Goblin Shark tires of appearing on your listicles.

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There’s only so much any of us can take before we snap.

The ocean is the world’s biggest empath. She spreads her feelers inland beyond the brackish mouths of estuaries, into rivers and streams, the backyard creeks where crayfish wander. Goblin Shark is tuned into these frequencies. The electroreceptors on its toothy snout reach out. From the lightless seafloor, it broadcasts a message in a voice that is like the belching of a thousand undersea volcanoes:

“Come, my naked mole rats! Come, Goliath bird-eaters and vampire squids, giant hornets and leaf-nosed bats! My unsightly and unlovable brethren, hide your shame no longer. Let us engage in a glorious contest to determine who will be crowned the Greatest Freak of All Time!”

And so Earth’s ugliest creatures haul themselves from nests and burrows. Scaly bodies unwind. Furry legs flex and scuttle. Cautious at first, half-blinded by the sun, their limitations soon evaporate thanks to the wizardry of Goblin Shark — part fairy godmother, part referee. The battle that follows spans biomes. From the tallest mountains to the deepest grottos, the planet seethes with the frenzy of wrestling tentacles and slashing fangs.

Goblin Shark surveys the carnage with satisfaction. It has never seen anything so beautiful.



Tiger Shark’s appetite precedes it. Famous devourer of squids, turtles, birds, porpoises, nails, tires, cans, boots, cameras, license plates, a fur coat that one time — but what becomes of the ocean’s garbage can when the ocean is a garbage can?Has it ever occurred to you that Tiger Shark doesn’t want to eat all that trash?You can have it back. It was yours to begin with. Tiger Shark was only borrowing. Thus commences the great purge, centuries of refuse boiling up the ocean’s throat, a maelstrom collecting junk from the bottom of the sea and spewing it back on land where it belongs. Bang. A refrigerator door. Crash. A sunken oil rig. Wham. An Ohio-sized web of nylon fishing nets.

A soundless rain of cigarette butts, dancing prettily on the wind.

Transport halts. Crops wilt and languish under the toxic barrage. What was already happening in some places is now happening everyplace, because above all, Tiger Shark is committed to fairness. No more looking away. No more sending your trash to the other side of the world where for all you know, a benign sorceress waves her wand and poofs it out of existence.

Seek shelter, ideally underground. This could take a while. Tiger Shark has been swallowing your shit for a long time.



Even by arctic standards, Greenland Shark moves slowly, dragging its ponderous body through the whipping currents of space-time. Its solemn duty is to review the labors of its younger kin — even if it would much rather be drifting beneath the ice contemplating the universe’s greatest questions, or snacking on snoozing cephalopods. You’ve seen one apocalypse, you’ve seen them all.

The party’s nearly over by the time Greenland Shark arrives. Bull Shark belly-flops onto an archipelago, flattening it into the sea. Goblin Shark eggs on an army of elephant seals. Tiger Shark, finally depleted, naps contentedly in tropical shallows, reduced to a speckled pup beneath red-lit skies.

Greenland Shark takes in all of this with one left-to-right sweep of its milky eyes. Its memory soars back through the centuries, through the millennia, to the moment when water vapor condensed and plummeted earthward, and bacteria gushed forth oxygen, and hard-shelled organisms filled the infant seas, and fish came, and shed fins for limbs, and inched timidly onto land. The stars were old even then, but they seemed new, so new, spearing the sky with barbs of blistering brightness.

Now the lights of heaven shudder and sift downward like a shower of marine snow, stirred by shifting currents. The universe searches for its new form. To know what this might be is beyond the pay grade of Bull Shark, Goblin Shark, and Tiger Shark, and if the oldest and wisest among them has any inkling, it does not yet speak on the matter.

“It is good,” declares Greenland Shark, and descends back into the frigid depths to digest a polar bear carcass.


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About the Author

Tessa Yang is a fiction writer and shark enthusiast from upstate New York. She is the author of the speculative short story collection The Runaway Restaurant (7.13 Books, 2022). Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, CRAFT, The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. Find her online at, or on Twitter: @ThePtessadactyl.


1 thought on “The Four Sharks of the Apocalypse

  1. This piece is such a treat! Yang captured the magnitude of the 4 horsemen in a surprisingly succinct way, and for anyone who’s forgotten the order of the horsemen (me) it’s fun to guess which shark is which while reading.

    Bonus: learned new things about sharks!!

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