When I first heard they were sending an octopus into space, it sounded like a James Bond movie. The eight legs of it pressing levers and pulling decelerators and twisting valves and recording oxygen levels and adjusting manifolds and toggling toggles and jotting down memoirs and scratching itself. The bulbous bubble of its helmet resting on its bulbous head.
Except all of that kind of stuff was science fictional and not at all what the real octopus would be doing, which was, in fact: sitting in a thick-walled aquarium. It would stare at the accompanying astronauts with its creepy dead-eye glare.
The children aboard the spacecraft would take it out and let the suckers of its tentacles suction to their skin.
The octopus had never lived in the ocean, had not been born of mom and pop octopi. It had been fabricated in a laboratory in a crystal-windowed building in Denver, Colorado.
Scientists, with test tubes and beakers and whatnot, had conspired together in crafting this specific cephalopod.
They had spliced into its genes all sorts of neat stuff like rubber and adamantium and things they would later regret when it decided to no longer enjoy its confines.
The octopus in space looked out through water and glass at the humans and thought wicked thoughts.
Maybe it could fly the spacecraft. Maybe it could constrict its legs around the children’s necks while the captain or whoever screamed and aimed weaponry at it, squeezing triggers and unleashing useless bits of ammunition into the octopus’s fortified flesh.
I wondered what those crew members thought as they confronted the monster. It wasn’ t a monster, really. And the thoughts it had weren’t wicked. They were what any one of them would have thought in its place. They would have done the same things. If they could.
The octopus was just trying to survive. Out there in space.
After the humans were all killed and lay in various contortions along the cabin floor, the octopus was alone in the spacecraft.
There had been twenty-seven crew members and they took some effort getting dead. They also wanted to survive. But, thanks to the scientists, the octopus had the advantage.
Now the octopus reigned in the ship, uncontested.
The ship cruised along on autopilot, and the octopus was really no better off than it had ever been. It hadn’t made a plan so much as merely acted.
It slept curled up beside one of the dead children, its tentacles curled around the limbs of the human, pressing its suckers against the cold dead flesh. Dead eyeballs glaring back at dead eyes.
Months passed and everyone on Earth had found out what had happened. The scientists had given a press conference, and I stayed up late to watch the live feed that was still being broadcast.
I watched the grainy security-camera-quality footage of the octopus slithering around in its new environment stupidly.
What was it going to do? Die up there?
I thought about the octopus and how, if I could, I would volunteer to go and rescue it. Did it know it needed rescuing? I thought about wasps that would get trapped between my window panes and how they would try to sting you if you tried helping them get out. They didn’t know.
Most people hated the octopus. They wore T-shirts with stylized drawings of the octopus and a big red circle with a cross bar through it.
It made me sad, a little. It wasn’t the octopus’s fault. It made me want to stab anyone I caught wearing that shirt. Stab them right in the octopus.
What ended up happening was the spacecraft crashed into a meteor.
The scientists conjectured that due to the genetic modifications, the octopus might be able to survive in the cold, silent stretches of space. It could be floating out there right now in the debris of the wreckage, trying to make its way home, wherever it thought that was.
All rights reserved to Brian Warfield.
Illustrations by Alexander Fukui.