Read the following passage and answer questions 1 through 4
One problem that has plagued humanity for decades is the group of predatory fish known as sharks. Sharks are characterized by a cartilaginous skeleton, five to seven gill slits, pectoral fins not fused to the head, infinitely replenishing rows of teeth, and a side to side swimming motion that reminds many young ballerinas of the day their instructor arrived to the dance studio drunk. Sharks are among the top five fears of adult men and women, alongside death, public speaking, hang gliding accidents, and slime. There are no known survivors of shark attacks, and most horror movie monsters draw inspiration from varying species of shark.
Scientists have long speculated about ways to eradicate shark species, or at least reduce their deadly interactions with people. While draining the ocean was strongly considered, it was eventually determined that the ocean sustained many desirable species apart from sharks that would be adversely affected by this action. Likewise, a gigantic cage built to lure and trap all sharks was once proposed as a solution, but it wasn’t possible to determine a bait that would tempt sharks and only sharks into confinement—crushed lightbulbs drew rays and eels, blood-dipped coins beckoned pods of dolphins, sock puppets brought whales careening against the sides of the cage, breaking the bars. Meanwhile, the government established the Shark Advisory Commission, which has one standing rule: Do Not Go In The Water.
Another difficulty in stopping the scourge of sharks is the matter of their origin. No shark has ever been witnessed giving birth, and due to the number of shark attacks that occur on land—in subway stations, in cornfields, even in people’s own bedrooms!—some researchers theorize that sharks are actually cancerous growths stemming from human ears. Many shark attack victims complain of earaches moments before they’re last seen. This would explain the cartilaginous skeletons of sharks, as well as their supersonic hearing. How then to stop something that comes from our very being? How do we save ourselves from ourselves?
Certain fringe organizations believe sharks are to be celebrated, perhaps worshipped. Some even cut off their own ears in a kind of ceremony, hoping to see the ear writhe and come to life, its lobe arrowing into a dorsal fin, teeth spiraling around the canal. These cultists believe the teeth, and the bloodlust, are born from the cruel and hurtful words a person hears throughout their life, which fester like a cyst behind the anvil of the ear before bursting into shark. For this reason, they spend an hour each night whispering only kind things into their children’s ears. At least, that’s what their doctrines dictate, but we all know the frequency with which people do not practice what they preach.
Sharks, to their credit, don’t pretend to be anything but the beasts they are.
Sam Martone (he / him) lives and writes in New York City.