The smell of fresh rain was in the air. I walked barefoot on wet grass in a field that extended as far as I could see. It was cool, probably forty-five degrees. As I walked, the grass grew higher and higher around me. It went past my ankles, then, up to my knees. I began to sink. I couldn’t take another step. I was held in the grip of something like quicksand. It sucked my down and down, until my chin was level with the grass. And then, I was gone.
I felt like I was suffocating. The sweet taste of grass gave way to the gritty sensation of tiny bits of gravel in my mouth and between my jaws. I began to swallow it. It made my cough. I thought I would turn inside out. I could feel my lungs filling up with liquid. I wanted to stop breathing. It hurt so bad. Everything went black.
It was very quiet for about half an hour, I suppose. Cold as a tomb.
I woke up in a very strange place. It was inky dark. I could see, maybe, twenty feet in front of me. A shadow passed over me. I looked up. At first, all I could see was a pillow-like shape, a rolling, amorphous sort of flabby matter that settled down in front of me. It was huge. It had tentacles. It had one two giant eyes in its forehead and its head was like a jelly fish, all sort of gooey-looking. It was mottled, like a great, waterlogged morel mushroom. It had eight waving legs, each one at least twenty feet long. The head, that seemed to be all the body this thing had, was somewhere between three feet tall and six feet tall. It was hard to say, because it kept changing shape, deflating, inflating, and stretching from side-to-side.
A second monster, just like it, sank down beside it. The second one was larger than the first. I was in some sort of liquid. It felt oily and cold.
The first monster sent its thoughts into my brain.
“How are you, my son?” it asked.
“How are you, my son?” it asked, again.
“You are confused, Georgie. You are always so confused,” it thought.
“Get him out of my sight,” thought the second one.
I wanted to run. I wanted to escape. I looked down at myself and realized I was an octopus, too. We were all octopuses. I looked down at my tentacles, and they were grayish-green on the outside. I flopped one upside-down to have a look at it. The bottom of my arm was white, like long-dead flesh, and it was covered with bright pink suction cups. I looked around at my surroundings. I was sitting on a pile of rocks. I pushed myself off with four of my arms and I felt light as air. All of a sudden, things didn’t seem so dank. I slid my big, rubbery head backwards and looked up towards the light. A few bubbles escaped from my beak and rose towards the surface, some fifty yards above me. I can deal with this, I thought.
“Of course you can,” thought my cephalopod mother.
“Let’s go,” said my cephalopod mother.
With flashing, jumping motions of their several arms, they raced away from me. Mud rose up all around me and I was blinded. I was alone on the bottom of the ocean. Mother? I thought. Father? I thought.
What will I do? I thought.
My hundred-or-so brothers and sisters waved their arms around in confusion and panic.
Well, at least I’m not alone, I thought.
We’re hungry, we all thought as one.
Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, half of them were gone. A shark swam by and inhaled most of my siblings.
This is one cruel world, those of us who remained concluded.
We all scrambled, to the best of our infant-abilities to wiggle and squirm to safety. The crud floating in the water, stirred up by our now-absent parents and by the swimming death, contained lots of food for us, some remains of our now-deceased kin, and lots and lots of dirt. It wasn’t the sort of environment I could appreciate. I pushed myself out of the muck with my tiny little tentacles. I pushed and pushed until I was out of sight of all living things.
Soon, I was shivering beneath a cairn of rocks I had stacked up on the ocean floor, hoping against hope that the shark wouldn’t find me. I didn’t have a thought for the other octopuses. I shivered and pulled my tentacles up around me. I noticed, with a happy upturn of my beak, that my color had turned a sandy brown, the same as the rocks protecting me.
Bits of debris, grains of sand, plankton, and chunks of baby octopus floated by me. It all looked good to eat, but I was still so frightened I couldn’t think of eating. My tentacles were all atwitter. I covered my eyes with them and hoped my mother would return.
She never did. Instead, a dark shadow covered my nest. The shark cruised over me. Its flat, white belly scraped against my hiding place. One of the stones drifted off, exposing me. I shrank inside myself. The monster moved on past and all was silent and cold.
I abandoned my temporary shelter and headed for shallower water. I swiveled my head and looked behind me. There was no sign of life. I began to climb up, up and out.