Below is potentially the stupidest thing I’ve ever committed to paper… digital paper, but I hope you read it, enjoy it, and send me lots of money, or at the very least some food.
The Man Who Believed Himself To Be An Octopus.
The first thing you ought to know about me, is that I am an octopus. To your untrained, human eye, you may think I am one of you, but you would be wrong. I first realised I was an octopus at the age of eight, an oddly convenient year to come to that astonishing realisation I know, but that is when it happened. Octopus are you? You might be asking – where are your eight legs? The answer to that would be, octopusses (most would say octopi, but it is a contentious issue, octopi has no entomological basis) do not have 8 legs. What they do have, are six arms, and two tentacles that are utilsed as legs. See, that is proof that I am in fact an octopus, as who else would have such knowledge?
As I was saying, when I was eight, I started to realise that my arms were covered in these little rings… suckers if you will. I remember running to my mother and asking in my childish, high pitched whine – what are these mummy? Coaxing her out of her Valium induced trance. She looked at me, bleary eyed as though I were a stranger, her greasy, unwashed mouse coloured hair falling across her slanted face.
Those – she said – are tiny portraits of Burt Reynolds. You’re absolutely covered in them baby.
I had no idea who Burt Reynolds was, but I was young, the age when adults – particularly parents, knew all, so I did not question.
I went to school, my coked up mother driving erratically and swearing at the other drivers on the road and almost killing the lollipop lady. In class the teacher, Mrs. Borridge, who I would later learn earned money on the side as a PVC clad dominatrix, glanced at the many portraits of an aged actor, who at the time meant nothing to me.
What unusual markings – she said. You must remember this was a different time. Teachers often pointed out flaws and insecurities and made spectacles of them. I remember Jonathan McLaren had a problem with his arm. It was much smaller and bent at a funny shape, his hand was deformed and only had three stubby little fingers. When he first joined the class, upon answering his name when the register was taken, Mrs. Borridge look up and fixed him a cold little stare.
What is wrong with your arm? – she asked.
I don’t know miss I were born this way – he replied.
So you’re a freak then are you? – she snapped back – a disgusting little freak! Look at the freak children, look at his disgusting little nub of an arm. It’s enough to make you sick. People like that ought to be drowned at birth. It’s the kindest thing to do, for us that is. Save us looking at such monstrosity.
I heard Jonathan McLaren got the last laugh, bullied and alienated as he was. Ten years later at the the age of eighteen he stumbled upon a website, Mrs. Dolores’ school for naughty boys who needed strict punishment. This aged, saggy skinned woman, spread in to a PVC corset like cream cheese on a poor quality bagel stared back at him. He’d recognise those judgmental eyes anywhere. He phoned the number, booked her services, and killed her with a hammer.
They’re tiny portraits of Burt Reynold’s miss – I responded to her question. Her sharp little eyes, almost black in hue, narrowed. She pinched and prodded at my skin.
They most certainly are not – she said – they are suckers my boy.
Now, there is one type of person who is more likely to speak right than your parents when you are eight years old, we all know these people to be teachers.
Suckers? – I asked dumbly.
Yes! Now shut up and continue with your maths, and don’t forget to throw disgusted looks in Jonathan’s direction!
I made sure to scowl at the boy with the mangled arm, feeling a pang of guilt as I did. Other than the arm, which I’m sure was not a boon in his life, he was a nice boy, still is – prostitute murdering aside.
I told my mother what MRs. Borridge said that night, just as she was readying her heroine. She released the belt she had clenched in her teeth, leaving little pockmarks on the leather. She studied me very closely as she laid down her needle. – like an octopus? She asked.
HAving had very little interest in my sea dwelling brethren at that point I didn’t really know how to respond to this. I suppose yes, it was very likely to be like an octopus, but it was only over the following weeks that I began to notice other similarities: My big, swollen bulbous head and large eyes, my multiple limbs and a natural inclination to eat small crustaceans.
It was a tough time, coming to terms with my true identity. I felt like an outcast at school. I found myself picking on Jonathan a lot more – looking back I can only assume it was to take the attention off myself. When my mother was forced into rehab by a judge, I stayed with my uncle Vladimir down at the coast. I spent a long time shuffling along the coarse sand staring at the sea. Iron grey waves, crested with bubbling foam hissed onto the shore. I hated it. It was calling to me and I hated it.
I shouldn’t be an octopus. I thought. I am a human. My mother is a human, my uncle Vlad is a human, presumably my absentee father should be a human too. I suppose my father could have been an octopus, using his third arm (the hectocotylus) to inseminate my mother by releasing spermatophores into her. It’s possible, but unlikely I think. Therefore, I shouldn’t be an octopus.
I stayed with Vlad, who earned his money by playing the accordion in the street, for five weeks. I avoided the sea mostly. Until the third week. Every night I would toss and turn, unable to sleep. I could hear the waves. The rush of the sea. I could taste the salt. I… I could feel its wetness. Sweating, in a rush of anxiety I left the house. I meandered down the poorly lit streets of the quaint little seaside town. My hearts, all three of them, were beating like mad. My arms were flailing madly as I broke into the run. I could resist it no longer. The shame of it. What kind of a human was I? I reached the sand. I could see the lights of boats dotting the horizon, a drunk man was lying face down on the beach, mumbling a non-existent tune to himself.
I splashed into the water, up to my ankles – no not my ankles, I don’t have any ankles.
I stood there for some time, feeling the cool water swirl around me. I was scared – I felt guilty – but above all… I felt – I felt free.
I carried on going, deeper and deeper. Eventually, my head was covered. I kept going, water rushing all around me. I could breathe under water, it didn’t matter, I was an octopus. I let water rush into my nose and mouth and filled up my lungs with my true home.
I passed out. It must have been too emotionally overwhelming.
I woke up to a blinding light and the sound of agitated voices.
Can you hear me? – a voice said – if you can hear my blink.
I complied. I tried to sit up but was pressed down again.
Please, stay still – the voice urged me.
The voice, it turned out, belonged to Doctor Saxon, a slightly tubby man with a large mole on his chin and tired looking eyes. For some time I was left alone, Doctor Saxon would wander in occasionally and ask me some simple questions. Apparently testing for some sort of brain damage.
Do you know who you are? Was one such question. A seemingly innocuous question. Do you know who you are? Do you? I’m not sure I do. I could have told Saxon that I knew my name, I knew where I was raised, that I currently lived with my uncle whilst my mother was in rehab. I could have said all of this, but did that answer the question? That was more a response to – What is your history? Who am I? Do I know?
I’m not sure I understand the question – I responded after a time. I was sitting up now, I felt tired and strangely empty. Saxon raised his eyebrows. His gray, world weary eyes took on a momentary sympathetic sort of glean.
Do you know why you are here? – He asked.
I passed out – I replied.
Do you remember what caused you to do this? – he was looking seriously now. I focused on his mole, the harmless proliferation of skin cells, a very human trait. I don’t have any moles as far as I’m aware, though I’ve never seen my back. I can stare in a mirror and spin round really quickly, but my reflection is too swift.
I remember – I began – I remember I was going home.
You washed up on the shore, you almost drowned. – Saxon’s voice had taken on a stern edge – Had you gone for a spot of night swimming?
I was going home.
I’m referring you to a friend of mine – Said Saxon – Doctor O’Shea, she is a psychiatrist, she will just ask you a few questions. In the mean time get some rest.
As it turned out, Saxon had thought I was trying to take my own life. An act I guess doctors of all people would have very little time for. They devote the majority of their adult lives trying to prolong the existence of others, trying to cure, trying to heal. I doubt they have any respect for someone who chooses to end it prematurely.
Do you know who you are?
Odd how little questions like that can leave you reeling.
O’Shea was a skinny woman of middling years. Her black hair was streaked with gray and tied in a little bun on the very top of her head. It made it look as though she had another little head on top her of her main one. Perhaps she did, perhaps the top head had full control.
For all the television shows depicting a consultation with a psychiatrist, they bear very little similarities with reality. There’s no lounging chair, no questions of your childhood, very little delving. It’s all rather clinical. How do you feel? Why did you do what you did? Stress levels? Over worked? History of mental illness in the family.
I’m an octopus – I told her flatly. She looked at me silently for some time, then scribbled on a piece of paper and handed it too me.
Please – she said – take these for two weeks and come back and see me.
Upon return to my uncle’s house he greeted me with a smile.
Where have you been? – he asked jovially.
I went into the sea and then spent a few nights in hospital? – I replied.
Ah, to be young. – he said.
My mother left rehab having acquired an intense love of Yoga. She was always doing Yoga, even when driving. In some ways I think this was just another addiction, that and her constant urge for sex. Men were zipping in and out of the house, always leaving rather flustered and red in the face. Humans and dolphins are amongst the few creatures on the planet that have sex for fun. I think Dolphins are obnoxious. It would be much easier if humans mated like us octopuses, just stabbing an arm into the woman or something. Or maybe they should mate like the Salmon, traveling up stream for weeks on end, risking a bear related death, reaching the top and finally releasing the eggs and sperm an then dying of exhaustion anyway. It would certainly keep the population in check.
I covered up my arms as often as possible, keeping the suckery things out of view. Out of sight out of mind they say. I tried to get a paper route, but soon gave that up after reading the headline in a copy of the Daily Mail one day.
Foreign Octopuses Invade British Waters To Take Advantage of Benefits System.
I couldn’t seem to escape it. Everywhere I looked there were things reminding me of what I really was. Documentaries on Ocean life, fancy restaurants serving Octopus, and recently, a large billboard had been erected in the center of town with the ominous warning.
HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’RE NOT AN OCTOPUS? GET A FREE CHECK NOW.
As time went on I did my best to get on and live a normal life. As I aged I got a job and rented a small flat. I was Ten by this point. With the emergence of online gambling my mother had taken to it like a duck to processed bread. She won big and immediately moved to Hollywood to become a movie producer. She became famous, but ultimately fell back into old habits and was said to have died after drinking a cocaine/heroine/lard and carrot smoothie. She was found bent in the most complex of Yoga positions. She casket – I remember – was unusually shaped.
By the age of eleven I had a steady job in the financial department of a big automobile company. I chose the job because the address of the building was as follows:
22 – Nowhere Near the Sea
Somewhere In England
Wherenoonementions the Coast and sea creatures.
It was perfect. For a while I lived a simple life, until at the age of twelve – once I had risen through the ranks Gary Hodgekins, my boss came to me one lunch time.
He was dressed in a fine pressed black suit. His dark brown skin glistened with sweat as it was a hot day, his jutting chin almost poked me in the eye.
I’m going to need you to go to our coastal division to sort out the financial shit they’ve managed to fuck up!- he said to me.
Coastal Division? – I asked worried – Where’s that.
Somewhere along the coast – he replied curtly.
I can’t do that! – I exclaimed.
Listen here, your the best guy we’ve got on this team. All the other bastards in finance are a bunch of useless fuck-ups who’d end up fucking up an unfuckupable job. – he declared, his eyes narrowed. – Get this done, and you’ll get a bonus so huge, I’d make a giant octopus look small.
I was stunned by his sudden mention of such an obscure creature, considering there were creatures much bigger than said giant octopus, though I did fancy having lots of money.
I’m not sure – I said.
Put it this way – said Gary, putting a hand on my shoulder and squeezing firmly – if you don’t go, I’ll murder everyone you hold dear, before murdering you.
Say what you like about the man, Gary had a certain way with words that was very convincing.
I took a train down to The Coast and found our Coastal Office sat on the beach rising high into the air over looking the sea. I gulped, my throat dry and my trio of hearts beating like mad as I plodded along the sandy beach. Children were making sand castles. Men and women were lying pointlessly in the sun trying desperately to make their skin a little darker, but the sea… the sea was what captivated my attention. It was as if my very soul was hurting with longing. The waves hissed onto the shore, the sunlight glistened on top of the water like slowly disolving diamonds. The air was deliciously salty and filled with the irritating din of seagulls.
My office window looked out at the watery expanse. It seemed to go on forever, or at the very least, until it hit France. I drummed nervously on my desk as my assistant put the finances on my desk. It was a great wobbly cube, looking extremely fragile and incredibly fucked up. Finances weren’t supposed to be cubes, as every good finance guy knows, they should be round.
I felt horribly dry, always aware of the great wetness that lurked just behind me. My assistant placed a latte on my desk. It cost £3 and was my third of the day, and paid for out of the petty cash. That was the first thing that had to go, coffee was expensive and largely unnecessary.
I had to call everyone in to a board meeting, to discuss the precarious state of our finances, they were leaning on the edge of the shelf and could fall at any minute. There were lots of people there, all of different shapes and sizes. A wilting pot plant sat next to the water cooler, that every so often would belch with a great bubble.
Everyone had a coffee, some people had three.
Thanks for coming everyone – I said nervously. All eyes were on me. – as you know, our finances are in disarray, and drastic things need to be done.
There were serious, almost mournful nods of agreement.
Starting with the fact that I will have to fire ninety percent of you, you cost too much and don’t really do anything. – Again there were nods of agreement.
Those… those of you that stay on… will- I paused and licked my lips. The water cooler belched, causing me to flinch – will have a greatly reduced salary. In fact, in many ways you will become slaves.
They were nodding, their heads like those of nodding dogs but thrice as fake looking.
The health plans will be cut, and your houses will become our property and we plan on selling them rendering you homeless – nodding, nodding all nodding.
The water cooler bubbled, I could hear the waves sloshing on the sand behind me. I could taste the salt on my tongue. I could feel my tentacles flexing eagerly.
And of course – I started, I took a deep breath – You’ll no longer be permitted to buy coffees with company money.
Pandemonium broke loose. Outrage, outrage all around me. Men and women alike were red in the face with indignant rage.
How do you expect us to live?- they cried.
This goes against our employees rights! We have contracts – they lamented.
I know this will be a difficult transition –
Difficult, I’d rather die! –
But I’m sure, together we can… we can… Octopus – I felt wobbly, distant almost. I looked at the bemused faces all around me.
Do you know who you are?
Their eyes looked a mix of barely restrained anger, confusion and horror. After a lengthy pause, one bald man mustered the courage to say – What did you just say.
Octopus – I replied feeling defeated, there was a slump in my chest, it had beaten me.
I don’t quite understand? – said a woman.
OCTOPUS! – I roared at the top of my voice, startling them all. – I AM AN OCTOPUS! – I leapt upon the desk and charged for the door, a man was walking by carrying a steaming bowl of soup, fresh from the microwave. I knocked him down, scalding soup splashing over his face. I ignored the screams as I pounded towards the lift, ripping my clothes off as I went. It was rather anti-climactic standing in the little metal box which seemed to stop at every floor. People got in and eyed my naked, octopussy form warily. Eventually, we hit the ground floor, and I shoved past people screaming.
OUT OF MY WAY! I’M AN OCTOPUS GET OUT OF MY WAY! – I ran out of the building, across the sand, not caring for the hundreds of sand castles I was destroying. I dove head first into the shallows, rolling around with glee, laughing and revelling as the cool water slapped against my naked form, lapping it up with my tongue, tentacles flailing.
Do you know who you are?
No… I don’t think anyone does.
Do you know what you are? That’s easier to answer.
I am an octopus.