I think this is our third story about “sea-creatures,” which I suppose is more of an obvious choice than “eggs.” @benton_dan’s piece starts off slow and then things start to get weird. They were given a very short prompt, but really got stuck into it.
STORY NUMBER: 49
PROMPT PROVIDER: @Kendersrule
A container ship ran aground at Cape Cod last night. The strangest thing. Flooded, all through the hold, no survivors. Alison told me this morning – she was called in overnight to sort through the critters that had gotten scooped up by holes in the hull. Some fish, she said, but mostly octopuses, squid and assorted seafood. Some they threw straight back, others were from deeper waters. Must’ve come a long way, by the sounds of it. Almost all of them dead, and a lot. A lot, she said, close to tears. Some of the corpses went to a research lab near D.C., others into trucks for who knows where – Alison some were local caterers. The living ones came to the Marine Centre for storage, until somebody could figure out whose problem they were.
I went down first thing, even though I wasn’t on shift. Don’t know much about cephalopods, but the deep-water tanks were empty so long I figured they’d need some attention. God knows, the Centre’s pretty empty too now. Tim said we’ve a few months left, at best.
He was there by the cylinder tanks, sure enough, with the biggest octopus you ever saw in real life. Tall as I am, and then some. Smaller ones all down the row, and giant squid too, clamped on the sides or slopped on the floor, gently flailing. In buckets everywhere, clams.
“Take a look while you can,” he said. “We’ve lost two already.”
“No, ran away. Yeah, dead.”
“All right. I just didn’t expect – how?”
“Stress, probably.” He looked doubtful. “These guys aren’t local. They’re not… Look at this guy.”
We walked over. A giant squid had wedged tight to the top of the tank, half his tentacles hanging limp like jungle creepers, swaying a little with the water, others curled around him, against the lid.
“Brain function ceased about an hour ago. But every so often…” Two tanks down, another one drifted away from the glass and upwards, clawing at the sides, then going limp as it came to rest on the top. The one in front of us gave a start, its tentacles shot up and to the sides, making a hard wet sound where they met the glass. There was an echo all the way down the row.
“It’s like a rolling wake. When one goes, the others say Bye. Even the dead ones. And the dead ones don’t sink.”
Took four hours for them all to die. Seemed like the largest one went last, but he might’ve just taken longer to assume the position, what with there being more of him. Tim checked the time, sighed and went out to his car. I can see why he wouldn’t want me to hear the call where he tells the boss everything’s dead again.
When the tanks cooled down, I eased off the tops with a hook. Took some doing – they still had a few hundred pounds of corpse fixed to them. The suction pads came away pretty easy, but by the time I got one set off, another had floated up and reattached itself. Tim was taking his sweet time, but recently he’s stopped waiting to get home before taking a drink.
I stepped back to take stock. 20 minutes’ work had gotten me about half a squid closer to done, and I was sweating, on my day off. Fuck it. I set the tanks to drain, and went out for a smoke. Tim wasn’t in the parking lot. Thanks, buddy.
When I came back, the tanks were half done draining; squid were hanging down like flesh tire-swings over a puddle. I went to the nearest and poked at his suckers. The left side came away easily, the body swung back against glass, shaking the tank and sticking there, vibrating a little. Then, bang, the other squid fell too. The tanks all shook this time, knocking against one another, echoing.
The largest octopus tank start to fall, in my peripheral vision. The thing had forced itself against the top of the cylinder, snaked its tentacles through the opening and grabbed hold of the tanks on either side. Before I could move, all three were falling together. They didn’t crack, but they rolled, flooding the floor with water that smelled rancid, though I knew it was fresh.
The octopus sprawled out full length and rolled over in the water, thrashing until his tentacles settled on the squid. Then he picked them up, snapped them out like wet towels and dropped them down by his sides. The squid made a soft hiss as they touched the water, then went limp, floating. Other tanks were rattling around me. I couldn’t look away.
The two squid stirred and disappeared under the water with a splash. An instant later they were rising again, twining their tentacles around into mottled stalks, lifting the octopus above them like a homecoming king.
Another couple slipped past me and started to climb up the stalks. The whole mess was hissing pretty bad now, and the water was turning black. I must have screamed, because it turned and lurched at me, reaching with something like an arm, made of dozens of tentacles, squeaking as they moved. They’d gotten the octopus into the centre of what looked like a starfish, hooked in with their beaks. Its eyes were clouds of grey on black slicks. The squid with free limbs were busy scooping up clams and sticking them on the exposed suckers. I ducked aside, ran for my car and GTFO.
The radio news is saying something about missing submarines and the White House. I guess that’s why nobody’s answering when I call 9-1-1. I guess I’ll wait it out and try again later. They’ll want to know about this.
PROMPT: Cephalopod apocalypse