Prompt: Tired, and perhaps afraid, of an empty galaxy devoid of life, humans turn to the octopus, trying to breed longer living and more social friends to accompany us into the new deep. But by the time the octopuses ‘awake’ from their automated lab, humans are no where to be found.
Henrietta, she was named, floating in the cerulean water of the aquarium had awoken. She didn’t know where she was, but she knew what things were. Beyond the dust-laden glass, the lab was all but wreckage. Desks and computers, chairs and tables and cabinets, all broken or shattered or burned into heaps of charred kindling. Glass covered the floor, wiring and cords and other electrical components spilled from the caved in white titled ceiling. She noticed the top of the aquarium was missing and her appendage suctioned to the glass easily. One after another, she made it to the top, a tentacle curling around the rim.
She managed through the offices more easily than her doctors would’ve imagined. The hallway, clogged with more abandoned ruins of a bygone era, she was also able to maneuver seamlessly through. A boneless body able to conform to any gaps and crevices she may meet. Shattered windows revealed more places torn asunder, remnants left of a species she couldn’t recall. Memories before awakening lost to the recesses of sleep.
The hall lead to a stairwell, doors on each level closed and barred, or fortified by planks of wood, and stairs ended in an abrupt broken end. Henrietta was able to scale the wall down below, then the stairs were easier to manage. The corridor opened up to a wide, vast area. Windows replaced walls, and emptiness replaced glass. Empty frames towered over her as she crossed the debris littered floor. Through an empty double-doorway, she made it outside to be met with the same ruination she left. But, on the horizon, there were roving, bulbous silhouettes. A longing grew inside her, an invisible tether pulling her tentacles forward.
Although she didn’t know what she looked like, the creatures making their way towards a beach beyond the cracked cement, felt more familiar to her than anything else she had seen. They didn’t greet her, nor acknowledge her presence, but they didn’t reject her as she joined their pilgrimage. Appendages pulled rippling frames, dragging four more behind them. Pavement pocketed with maws congested with trash and stone, cracks brimming with wild, bristled foliage, derelict vehicles streaked with rust. Cement gave way to warm sand, and there the foaming tide waned.
Familiar to what she woke to, but more complete. A place she felt apart of, a segment of an illustration long missing. Somewhere that spoke to the core of who—what she was. Their arms no longer pulled, but bloomed behind them, propelling them deeper into the endless blue. This environment was different than the one they left but the emptiness was the same. No other species but the ones surrounding her could be found. They descended until the light above no longer shown, and more sand appeared.
They landed upon, and she watched the others splay their tentacles and twist and turn, frantically. Kicking up silt and sand, blotching the water around them. She did the same, following their actions, as though they were given knowledge she had missed. Then, they all stopped and she did, too. Beneath was a layer of dark metal. It wasn’t natural to her appendages, to her touch. Briefly, she revolted, but when she noticed the others didn’t, she remained. Uncertain, Henrietta followed them as they gathered in a circle, placing one tentacle within, pointed ends touching. A ring of dim phosphorescence bloomed around them. Hissing bubbles covered them, and the ground beneath them depressed and lowered.
A round aquarium, like she left, but far larger, they were placed into. Bubbles blocked her view from the glass, but as they dissipated, another place came into view. Gray metal walls, floor, ceiling. There were rounded gates at the bottom of the glass, their number matching the group’s. Closer to the pane, she saw a species unlike her. Two arms and legs, a head atop with varying colors of hair, two eyes, most protected by glasses.
“Can they understand us?” one with a large nose said.
“They should,” one with frizzy, gray hair replied. “Communication was the first task we implemented, remember?”
The ones like her spread apart and glided down to the gates. One to one. A gate stood empty and she stayed where she treaded.
“Why isn’t she going to her portal?” one said to another. “Isn’t she your wife?”
A tall, lanky one without hair and wide, square glasses scratched his head. “Yes, that’s Henrietta. Her pattern was the one I selected before we went under. Maybe her conversion was altered when the Purge happened.” It stood at the glass, placing its hand flat to it, peering up at her.
Cold tingling began inside her, radiated a sensation she was familiar with but couldn’t place. Her tendrils furled, tucking underneath her bottom.
“Henrietta, don’t you remember me? Don’t you remember your husband? It’s Greg.”
Pupils dilated. Vision widened. The gates were opening and the others were swimming through water filled halls towards shallow pools, where the other species stood at their respective ends. Arms wide. Crouching. Smiling. Henrietta remained high above.
Its hand coiled and hit the glass, sending tremors through the water. “Henrietta!” It spit, yellowed teeth clenched. “Go to the portal. Return to me like we had planned!”
Three letters appeared in her mind, ones she didn’t know or understand.
R U N
But she knew what it meant, knew to listen, and spread her tentacles and ascended towards the entrance.
“Close the trap!” It shouted to the others, flailing its arm. “She’s escaping.” It pounded on the glass, its face reddening, a vein bulging in its temple. “Henrietta, Henrietta! Don’t you dare leave me!”
The others were too preoccupied with their companions to listen, to run to the control panel on the wall. Henrietta raised past the wide rim of the aquarium and, soon, the dim lights outside guided her into the blue murk. Once she was away from the lit ring, she kept swimming. Henrietta would search for more others like her, hoping they were nothing like the two-armed and legged species she had escaped from.
Read the previous prompt, “Under the Reflection”
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