I gently lowered the small octopus into a glass tank that I had prepared earlier. As the small sea creature came in contact with the cool water, its long limbs spread out and it glided to the center of the tank. It hovered for a short while, as it surveyed its new surroundings. It caught sight of a collection of rocks in one of the enclosures corners and elegantly swam down to them before hiding itself away in some cover that the rocks provided.
I bent down slightly and looked over to the small rocky cave I had made for it. I could just make out a shy eye staring back at me. I moved my focus to a tank that lay next to it, that contained another one of these amazing creatures. It too was hiding away, taking refuge in shadow. It was now time to begin my experiment.
I had always been obsessed with the sea and all of the creatures within it. It was as if another world lay under those deep blue waves. I didn’t dismiss the idea of alien life coming down one day from outer space, but I always told my friends and family that aliens are going to come from the oceans, a time before they descend from the stars.
I dedicated my life from a young age to understanding these life forms that most people seemed to dismiss. ‘They’re only dumb fish’ People would say to me. Perhaps they are, certainly some of them are, or maybe they seem that way to us purely because we aren’t paying enough attention? Well my experiment was hopefully going to bring light to that fact, one way or another.
It’s no mystery that one of the smartest creatures of the deep is the octopus and I was interested in finding out whether or not this intellect of theirs extended beyond camouflage and trickery. I wanted to see if they possessed a deeper level of thought.
I had created a special box in order to test this. A box that had three openings, a lid that had to be unscrewed, a lid that simply flipped open and finally a lid that was fastened down with a pin, a crab was placed inside as an incentive. The octopus in the left tank before me, knew how to open the box, after being left with it for some time. This octopus I called the Trainee. The octopus in the tank on the right, is fresh out of the ocean and had never seen the box before, this octopus I named Davey. What I wanted to know was, whether Davey could watch the Trainee open the box and remember how it was done in order to do it for himself later.
So I placed a small crab in the three lidded box and lowered it down into the Trainee’s tank. Immediately the trainee sprang from its own hiding place and raced towards the box. Davey also sprang forward and pressed his body up against the glass wall of his own tank and eagerly watched the Trainee.
It wasn’t long before the Trainee had opened the box and consumed the tiny crab within it. He then sank back away to his shelter. Davey did the same once the event was over. I then took a large piece of black card and put it between the two tanks, before preparing another box with another crab.
I took another look at Davey; again I could only just make out a small eye watching me. What are you thinking little guy I thought to myself Not much probably. Then I picked up the box and placed it in his tank. Before I had even got my hand out of the tank Davey had darted at the box and enveloped it with his eight tentacles. In no time at all, he had opened the box the exact same way that the trainee had done so previously and eaten up the small crab within. He then found cover once more within the pile of rocks.
Amazing. I thought to myself. Learning from association. Clearly an octopus’s cognitive capability is greater than we first anticipated. I was suddenly taken out of the awe of the moment when my mobile began to ring in my pocket.
The sudden noise and vibration shocked me slightly as a snapped back into the real world. I held the phone in my hand and looked at the caller I.D. Ashley Smith. He was an old friend of mine, we both found friendship over our mutual love of fishing. There wasn’t much else to do in the small boring town where we grew up both of us made careers out of the mutual hobby, Ash continued to catch bigger and bigger fish and now has his own boat and crew, and earns a decent living by doing so. Whereas I preferred to study them, hoping to unlock the potential secrets that the creatures of the deep may hold.
“Hello mate. Yeah I’m still at my lab why? Yeah I’m still researching octopuses. What? Right now? Why can’t you send a picture? Fine. I’ll head out in a moment.” Ash had told me that one of his men had just caught something peculiar. A type of octopus that they hadn’t seen before and apparently this creature was using its camouflage to avoid having its picture taken clearly. “Well Davey” I said as I put on a coat and checked my pockets for the laboratory keys. “There’s an octopus out there that apparently knows what a camera phone is! That’d make him smarter than you! But don’t get upset buddy, I’ll give you some Sudoku or something, you’ll be even smarter than me in no time!” I thought to myself Now that would be scary. I then promptly left the building.
I took my own personal boat out onto the waters. The weather was fair, the sea was calm and a sharp tang of salt lingered on the fresh morning air. It wasn’t long before I reached Ash’s fishing boat, Falcor. I always thought it was a strange name. It was meant to be a joke, something to do with the idea that his love of fishing is a never ending story? I couldn’t quite remember.
As I arrived he called out happily “Josh man! Over here!” I docked my own boat next to his and an outstretched arm greeted me. With a quick tug, Ash pulled me on board. The stench of dead fish engulfed me and the soles of my boots softly stuck to a thin film of red slime that stretched across the deck. There was a young man who stood across from me, cutting and gutting the freshly caught fish with a large blade and filling up two buckets. One with good fillets, which would later be sold to the fish monger and another that contained fish heads and entails.
“How have you been!?” Ash cried out loudly.
“I’ve been good man, yourself?” I replied calmly.
“Oh yeah same old same old. The sea is rich with life and it’s that life that’s making me rich!”
I grinned tremendously and shook my head at his poor sense of humor. “Come on, I want to see this ‘amazing octopus’ that you claimed to of caught.” I said to him, with a smile still adorned on my face.
Ash stuck out a finger towards me, and raised his eyebrows in a dramatic fashion. “Oh yeah! Course! It’s at the end of the deck by the dredge net, See? In that see through tank there. It’s a strange looking creature, I’ve seen octopus before, but none like that thing.”
I walked over the back end of the ship with Ash. The dredge net was resting out of the water, now that the rest of the crew was occupied with sorting out the mornings catch. I could see a black lump in the small clear plastic container resting on the floor.
“Here he is.” Ash said to me calmly. “Took a hella lot of effort to get him in there. The bugger put up a right fight.”
I knelt down to peer into the tank, and saw a large blob shrunken away in a corner. I could see one sunken sullen grey eye staring at me; the rest of its purple-black body pulsated only very slightly. Apart from that, the creature was still.
“Moody bastard isn’t he.” Ash joked.
“I can’t tell what type of octopus this is… and I won’t be able to tell until it extends its body out a bit. What exactly happened, you say he put up a fight?” I asked Ash, ignoring his previous comment. “I’ve never heard of an octopus putting up any considerable offence. Well not to a human at least.”
“Hang on; I’ll get Adam and Chris to explain it to ya.” Ash shouted out across the boat “Oi Adam, Chris. Come here.”
The young man I saw as I got on board put down his machete and began to walk over the red sticky decking, another boy followed shortly after. “This here is Joshua, he’s a good mate of mine and I want you guys to explain to him how you came about this octopus and everything there on after.”
I observed the two boys, both were young, I estimated between the ages of 16 to 18, although I couldn’t quite tell.
“Well, we were pulling up the dredge net, cause we had just finished this morning’s trawl and we saw it there in amongst the rest of the fish.” Adam told me, he pulled off his gloves before scuffling his bleach blonde hair. “It was squirming uncontrollably, so I lent in there to try and get rid of it. That’s when it attacked me.”
I spoke up instantly “It attacked you?!”
“Yeah…, it wrapped one of its tentacles round my arm and started thrashing about. I called for help, and Ash told Chris here to go get a container and the shock stick.”
Ash butted in quickly “I knew that you would want to see this creature because of your research, hence why I asked for the container.”
Adam turned his head and stared at Ash with an eyebrow raised whilst waiting for him to finish. He cleared his throat and continued. “We then struggled with the octopus for a bit, before Chris managed to stun it with the shock stick. That’s when we got it in the tank.”
I rubbed my stubble chin and stared at the shrunken creature. “This fella’s had quite the morning then.”
Suddenly a voice called out in alarm. “Help! Help!”
I span round to find out where the cry had come from, Ash had already sprinted to the side of the boat. “Chris! Adam! Get down that ladder now and help them!”
The two boys rushed to the side railings of the boat also and one by one they swung themselves over the side and grabbed onto a ladder that descended down into the ocean below. I ran over myself and stood next to Ash, two divers were in the water beneath us. From what I could tell one of them had seemingly passed out.
“Who are they?” I asked.
“Two more of me crew! Quick get them outta there!”
I turned my head back out towards the scene.
Both Chris and Adam kept the unconscious woman afloat, whilst the other diver made his way frantically back up the ladder onto the deck. Ash turned to meet him.
“What the hell has happened Jerry?! Are you alright!?”
“I’m okay! However Jewels got hit pretty hard by a large shark, It’s damaged some of her gear.”
Just as the Jerry had finished his sentence, Adam slung the second diver overboard who slid slightly across the floor of fish blood.
In an instant Ash had left my side and started to begin a rigorous treatment of CPR. He pumped her chest frantically. I was surprised that he didn’t end up killing her himself, due to the sheer force that he exerting down onto her rib cage.
The unconscious diver suddenly threw up an unhealthy amount of sea water, and began to cough harshly as she gasped for fresh air. With that, Ash sank down onto the decking and let out a sigh of relief before panting quietly. “Jesus Jewels. I thought you was a gonna.”
Jerry helped her up onto her feet and slung her arm over his shoulder. The two of them left the scene, presumable to get Jewels some much needed medical aid.
“Never a dull moment on Flacor.”
My comment was met with an uneasy silence.
“Is she going to be okay?” I asked, once I realised that I wasn’t going to be a reply to my previous comment.
“Of course she will. Jerry is a qualified first aider like myself; he’ll sort her out before we head back home to get her some proper medical treatment.” Ash replied in a gruff tone. “We can drop you off at your lab on the way; your boat can be towed.”
I nodded in agreement and threw a glance over towards the container and I noticed that the Octopus inside had moved from its previous spot, and was now at the tank edge closest to us. Strange… I thought to myself. It’s almost like its watching us.
I walked over to the container, and Ash naturally followed.
“Any wiser on what type it is yet mate?” Ash asked.
I crouched down as to get a better look at the evasive creature. I brought my hand up to the side of the glass tank, and moved from one edge to the tank to other and I watched the creature’s reaction in meticulous detail. It would have seemed as if the octopus was following my movements, keeping an ever watchful eye upon me. Upon all of us in fact.
“Haven’t a clue Ash. Like I said I need to see its full body, before I can even have a wild guess at what species this could be. You don’t have any live crabs on board to do? Perhaps we could coax it out more if there was live food for it to eat.”
“Chris, go and get a live crab from the stocks and bring it back here.” Within moments the young man had returned holding a large crab by the back of its shell. Its legs scuttled vigorously and more frantically as Chris approached the clear container. He hovered over it for a moment whilst he fumbled clumsily with the lid. Then it slid off.
I jumped back in horror as the octopus leaped straight out of the tank and wrapped itself round Chris’s face. The crab dropped from his hand, he then starting to claw at the monstrosity that tightly bind his head.
Every person on the deck was frozen in complete shock and all I could do was watch with wide eyes as the massive octopus ramped one of its eight rubbery tentacles down the boys throat.
Chris slowly choked to death.
My heart pounded heavily in my chest, and despite the cold ocean breeze, thick beads of sweat grew on my brow.
Two more of its tentacles wormed their way down Chris’s lifeless body and wrapped round both of his legs, it continued and repeated the same action with both limp arms. Once the creature had finished ensnaring the body, the sight that stood before us was an image ripped straight out of a twisted nightmare.
The boy’s now lifeless body was crudely being manipulated by this terror from the deep. One of its slimy limbs still settled within Chris’s throat, four more constricted each limb, and a 6th tentacle had bound itself to the steel work of the dredge net, keeping the corpse upright. I had never seen such a horrific sight in all of my days.
Ash, Adam and I were standing still, each one of us fixated on the beast that lumbered in front of us.
Slowly the octopus pulled its huge sagging mantle up to the shoulder of the corpse; those same sullen grey eyes peered out at us once again. Seemingly watching for every small detail, nervous twitch or darting glance.
I noticed that the grey eyes had their attention drawn onto something behind us. Ash did too, for he lunged for at the contorted human carcass.
In that brief second we all made our moves as did the slimy sea beast. Who had flung itself directly towards me. As a result Ash’s dart forward to the creature resulted in him colliding his head with the octopus’s previous storage tank as he fell downwards.
I managed to avoid the ghastly mutilation as it jolted forward, although one of the flailing limbs narrowly avoided hitting my face. The octopus’s sheer force ensured the body it had enveloped made its way from the dredge net over to the opposite side of the deck. It began trying to clumsily manipulated Chris’s dead legs, in order to mimic a human walk, albeit an unsettling one. As it reached the other side of the deck it started to lose its balance, and sprawled its two arms out in front of itself and it came crashing down onto a stack of rectangular plastic containers.
Ash managed to grab hold of the stun stick and turned to see Chris’s lifeless body down lay face down. The octopus, which had firmly mounted itself on Chris’s back, was openly exposed. Ash took the opportunity and scrambled towards the creature as fast as he could, thrusting the stun stick towards its exposed mantle.
The creature had other ideas, and managed to maneuver the arms of the body in such a way as to physically throw one of the seal plastic containers at him. The box split open on impact and waste cuts of fish splattered across the already oozy red deck. I felt some of the red mush splash against my face, before a wave of putrid stench flooded my nostrils. I don’t know if it was my mind playing tricks on me, but a foul taste tanged at the back of tongue. I started to gag profusely whistled I clambered onto my hands and knees. Fleshy goo oozed between my fingers, which only caused my already churning stomach to spasm more violently.
I noticed a small wave of red flush towards me, and I turned my head to see that the Octopus had now abandoned its lifeless puppet. Its eight large limbs spread out across the deck and as it made its way forward to Ash who lay sprawled out on the floor.
I looked around frantically for the stun stick that had just been in Ash’s hand and I had noticed to my dismay that it had found its way to the far port side of the boat.
I watched hopelessly as the eight tentacles raced across Ash’s body and the octopus hauled itself onto his chest. Its body was flashing bright vibrant red and jet black in continually moving striped pattern. That’s when Jerry suddenly came back into the scene still fully clad in his diving gear. “I heard a noise is everyone-” He stopped mid-sentence as he caught sight of the beast, instantly Jerry noticed the stun stick down on the deck by him and jumped for it himself.
“NO!” I cried. However, it was too late, the octopus effortlessly shot across the deck before Jerry’s hand managed to grab the stun stick. Its many sporadic limbs wrapped around the diver’s body.
The smell, the heat of the moment left my head spinning. Disoriented I tried to stagger back onto both of my feet again. In my hazy vision I managed to see Jerry trying to fight off the beast. Wrestling with the many suckers that covered slimey tentacles. I then saw that the creature had stretched one of its limbs outwards towards the side of the boat.
“Your mask! Your mask!” I yelled hoarsely!
Jerry wrestled hard with the creature, parrying off every blow that the octopus flung at him, prizing off sucker after sucker from his wetsuit. He managed to give himself a brief moment, in which he quickly pulled his diving mask over his face. Just as he did, the octopus pulled hard on the side of the boat and both itself and Jerry fell into the dark ocean water.
I stumbled across to where the Jerry fell; I felt the world swaying violently, due to the blood curdling fumes that dulled my senses. When I had reached the port side I firmly rested both hands on the railing and peered over to stare into the unforgiving seas, hoping to see where it was that the diver and octopus had gone to. Only to see a diving mask, floating upon the gentle waves, staring back at me. Jerry was never found.
It’s been a few weeks since the incident. I’m once again alone in my lab. Ash had been in hospital for a few days with concussion, Jewels went in with him, in relations to the injuries of her diving accident. I don’t know what happened to Adam, although I have a strong feeling that he’s looking for a new job.
Now I’m back, I find myself rather unsettled whenever I find Davey looking at me from the shelter of his small rocky cave. Every time I see those eyes of his the attack on the boat plays through my mind, like an endless video and each time I try and analyze every frame.
The way is studied the scene. The way it lashed out. The way it seemingly planned it’s every action. I know that octopuses are renowned for their intelligence, but I never dreamed that they’d… think anything like us.
There is no doubt that the octopus that I encountered was intelligent, fiercely intelligent. The two people that are now dead are a reminder of that fact. Not only that, but I’ve been hearing that reports have been coming in from other fishermen, claiming that octopuses are suddenly lashing out and becoming more violent.
Little Davey across from me has shown that the species can learn by association. What if the one I encountered took it a step further and is actually teaching, passing on the knowledge that it knows?
It’s made me realise that we humans take so much pride in our intelligence and our self-appointed superiority that it leaves us ignorant. For if animal had an intellect that was anything like ours, our own selfish egos would be damaged. Ignorance is a veil that blinds us.
As I look back at Davey now, who is still staring at me from his retreat, I find I’m asking myself What are you thinking little guy?
What are you thinking….?