Victor rolled down the street casually, he was conserving his energy, a road was coming up and then he’d really need to put a spurt on. He’d begun to perspire. The water surrounding him was not as clear as when he’d started out. He couldn’t wait to get home so that it could be changed. Though he did not begrudge having to trek about, as he did not always have the luxury to roam around as he pleased. Unlike wild squid Victor never tasted the salt of the great blue ocean.
He used to live alone in a glass tank. The ground was covered with sand, in the middle had a singular rock which had a piece of seaweed growing out of it for decoration. There had once been a tinny weenie sea-snail that had got in called Ralf.
‘What a beautiful day it is!’ Ralf had announced one morning.
‘It’s not’ Victor had replied, annoyed that the statement had been made.
‘Well I think it is, and I’m sure I can persuade you that it’s beautiful too!’ Ralf had beamed back, sticking his head out of his little curly shell.
This unprecedented optimism Victor found almost unbearable. They were both in the same small, murky, half-lit tank. It was ugly as any other day, if Victor had nothing to be happy about then neither should Ralf. Added to this Victor really did suffer from boredom snacking. And with there being absolutely nothing to do, he had been very bored. And I’m sad to say that that gloomy day had been the end of Ralf.
Victor was now back to whiling away his time, alone, crouched behind the rock in his tank. From it he could see some surrounding enclosures, two rainbow coloured kissing fish with tiny lips, a group of Parana were too his left, he could also see some Sea-horses. He noticed that their tank was at least four times the size of his, he hoped one day a Parana would jump over into it.
He tried his best to modify his camouflage reflex so that the huge, pinkey, legged creatures on the other side of the glass wouldn’t see him. If ever they did, they’d point and linger. They just ambled in and out going wherever they pleased on their huge stiff legs. They must have something hard inside them to keep them up like that, Victor thought.
Other than the ones that worked at Surrey Sea life Aquarium, he never saw the same one twice. He used to imagine the sort of things they’d get up to when they left. He would listen to snippets of their conversations as they walked past; They talked of jobs, parties, dates though really he had no idea what they were.
‘Should we go to the cinema after? This is totally wank.’ a long haired, one said in a particularly high pitch.
Cinema? Whatever that was sounded awfully exciting. Victor sighed.
They came in groups, always chatting and laughing but then went away, to do something else. There was nothing else for Victor to do, so he just watched them as they watched him. He resented that they got far much more enjoyment from the exchange.
‘If I were bigger… I’d… get one of my tentacles raise it out of the water and crush one, or even two with it!!!’
‘That’s not very nice!’ came a reply in a loud whimper.
Victor had been so consumed in his own bad mood he’d not noticed there was a little boy staring straight at him. Victor’s camouflage reflex fluctuated, he turned a rather bright shade of petulant pink.
‘You shouldn’t be here! Scram! Aquarium’s closing!’ Victor spat the words out.
‘Why do you want to crush me!!!’ undeterred the boy continued. ‘What have I ever done to you!’ He looked at Victor with tears in his eyes.
Victor puffed himself to his full size, ‘I’ll wrap one of my tentacles around your waste and lift you into the air! I’d only crush you if you were lucky! I’d probably eat you alive!!!’
Victor, who had been draped in a melancholy puddle, sprang to the side of the tank and suctioned on. His tentacles outspread, revealing a round circle of pointy teeth beneath! He chomped them viciously against the glass while flailing his tentacles murderously.
‘That’s so cool! Do you do any other tricks?
‘Tricks! Tricks!’ The squid was changing colours rapidly, from neon pink to florescent red to zigzagging purple.
The tears in the boy’s eyes had dried; he now wore a huge silly smile. The squid was livid. Victor’s head pulsated, swelling to twice its size then deflating.
The boy jumped up and down, ‘You’re so much cooler than the seahorses! I thought they’d race or something, but they just clung to bits of seaweed.’
The squid had stopped listening; he’d curled himself back into a squidgy ball and crept behind the rock.
‘Wait! Come back!’
‘Leave me alone!’
‘Mr Squid, why are you so grumpy?
The Squid had planned on just ignoring the boy, but this was too much, ‘My name’s Victor! Just because I’m a squid, does not mean I’m called ‘Mr Squid’. Imbecile! You’d be grumpy if you were stuck here!… Mr… Land Creature!!!’
‘Why don’t you just get out?’
‘Why don’t I just leave!!!’ the audacity of this child was too much for Victor, ‘Out of the water I turn into an almost motionless blob of jelly! That’s why! Now get-lost, you bony freak!’ Victor was actually quite happy he had managed to think of that, he smiled to himself.
The boy hadn’t listened to the second half of what the squid had said. If he had, he probably would have burst into tears anew. But he was pondering a way to help this poor squishy creature, which for reasons unknown, he’d taken a shining to.
‘I’ve got an idea!’ said the boy.
‘Simon! There you are! The rest of the class are lined up outside, waiting for you!’ said a woman with a sternness that seemed to slice right through the air and even into the water.
The little boy ran off, leaving Victor, once more, alone.
‘Pesky little brat! No respect for mollusc-kind!’
The sun set on the aquarium, not that it made any difference to Victor as there were no windows to his tank, however at night most of the lights went off. As he closed his large circular eyes he thought about the little boy, and how much he had immensely disliked him. Some fish would swim to the tops of their tanks at night so that they could talk to who was in the tanks next to them. Victor stayed at the bottom of his.
The lights turned back on. It was 10am, opening time for Sea-life Aquarium. Victor opened his eyes to what he was sure would be another dull, drab and disappointing day. It was. He adjusted his camouflage reflex to look as alike as the sand beneath him as he could. People walked up to his tank, presumed it was empty. Hopefully they then would walk away from his tank. A few took out great big, black, extra pairs of eyes. A second after putting them up to their faces they might emit a horrifyingly bright light. Victor hated that, he could never tell which ones would do it and which ones wouldn’t.
The end of the day was drawing close again. Victor began to relax, soon all the people would be gone.
All of a sudden he saw a pink shape squashed up on the glass to his tank. It was the most horrifying thing Victor had ever seen!
It was making a funny noise with a pink squashy tentacle protruding from a dark hole. Little bits of spit flew out and splattered against the tank.
Victor screamed, no sound, but a few bubbles made their way to the surface.
The thing moved back, taking itself away from the glass. Now Victor could see that it was a face that had been pressed up against his tank.
Victor gaped for breathe, his tentacles knotting and unknotting.
The face was laughing. ‘I was trying to look like you!’
Victor then recognised it! It was the boy from the previous day. As if Victor’s existence could get any more forlorn! He’d come back. The boy had come back for the specific intention to make fun of him!
‘Oh hardy ha ha! Mock me! Go on! Might as well! There’s nothing I can do!’ The Squid was almost wailing.
The little boy grinned mischievously. He had on a yellow rucksack; he took it off, unzipped it and started to take something out.
Vincent didn’t notice, ‘Oh look at me,’ he jibed, ‘Standing outside the squid tank, “I’m soo funny,”’ he made quotation marks with his front four legs, ‘well have I got news for…’
‘Look at this!’ exclaimed the boy.
Within his hands he held a large, green, spherical hamster ball. Where there would have been air holes, but they had been sealed up with duct tape.
‘A ball!’ said the squid disdainfully. With as much contempt as he could manage he continued, ‘A Ball! Oh yes, that’s a very nice ball, why don’t you just go and play with your stupid, cheap, sello-taped-up ball somewhere else!’
The boy took no notice of the squid. He swivelled off its top, which was a little circle. He then clutched the rest of it between his hands and reached up as far as he could, which was just enough to dip it into the top of the tank. The ball filled with water as the boy held it.
‘Quick!!’ the boy said, shooting nervous glances behind him.
‘You’re Polluting my water!!! What in sea do you think you’re doing?’
‘Jump in!’ whispered the boy.
It took a few moments for Victor to understand what he was doing. The boy actually wanted him to get into the ball! Imagine that? What a ridiculous idea! Then what? He didn’t even know what was outside the tank! He’d be stuck in an even smaller container and belong to that dreadful creature!
The boy’s smile lessened, he started to remove the ball from the water.
Victor had never had a chance to get out before, and doubted he would again. He’d often dreamt of getting away, but now he found he was filled with fear. He definitely didn’t like it there in the tank though, so what had he to lose?
The ball was just about to the exit the water when in a flash of purple ink, he propelled himself away from the rock to the top of the tank. Hurriedly he felt around the ball with his tentacles. One dipped in, he’d found the opening. He plunged headfirst into it, tentacles flailing in afterwards.
In one fluid motion the boy took the ball out, hardly spilling a drop.
‘Knew you’d want to come!’ the boy was beaming again. There was something about him that reminded Victor of Ralf. He felt a small tinge of guilt, and then he felt hungry.
A woman entered the room wearing a navy blue top, reading ‘Sea life Aquarium’ in embroidered letters, underneath was a tiny picture of a shark.
She surveyed the area from left to right, then did it again, her eyes stopping on the boy. He smiled. Despite his best attempts he was pulling the face of a guilty school boy. She fixed her gaze on him and started to walk over briskly. The boy quickly screwed the top on to the ball as quick as his fingers would allow and stuffed it in his bag.
‘What are you up too?’
‘Nothing!’ replied the boy.
She looked down at his hands.
‘Why are they wet,’ she gestured with a finger.
The boy stared emptily at her.
‘I.. I just went to the loo, forgot to dry them.’
‘Hummm,’ she eyed him suspiciously. ‘Where are your parents?’
He took a breath.
‘They’re waiting for me in the Shark room. I just stopped to look at the squi… eeaa horses,’ he pointed fast to a tank further along from the squid’s. She looked towards them.
‘And what did you just put in your bag?’
His stomach wobbled, ‘My jumper! I was too warm, so I stuffed it in my bag.’
She contemplated this for a moment. She was going to ask him to open his bag, then remembered a new procedure that stated you needed a person’s permission to search their belongings, unless a member of security was present. She wondered if this applied to children. She realized that she didn’t care, she was ten minutes from finishing her shift. She did not want to find have to find a security guard. Then she’d have to fill in a form about it.
‘Go straight back to your parents. Children are not allowed to go around unsupervised!’
The boy ran out of the ‘Reef Room’ where the squid had been, into the ‘Shark Room’ pausing slightly to take a glance at a white-tipped shark, before passing through the gift shop. By now he was running, he ran straight out the glass automatic doors. He took a glance over his shoulder, he wasn’t been followed. Just to make sure, he kept running.
He’d already planned an escape route; Down a little alley by the butchers, he could jump on one of the bins and scale the wooden fence behind them. If they were still been followed he there was a shed that he could get onto, from there he could climb a drainpipe to some terrace roofs. If he went across six of them he’d be right opposite his house. He lived very near the aquarium. It was half-way between his home and his school. The day before had been a school trip at the aquarium, they took year six there each year.
He had decided on his way back from school, he’d sneak back in. The Sea life Aquarium Staff hadn’t been very vigilant; they’d presumed he’d been with one of the families in line so he’d just managed to walk straight through. Once in he had known exactly where to go. He had even written out a little map of the aquarium the previous day just in case he got lost, which he didn’t.
Allot of his planning had gone to waste, there hadn’t been a chaise at all. Once the boy was sure that they were in the clear he unzipped his rucksack and took out the ball.
‘What is the meaning of this!!! I’m all shaken….’
It dawned on Victor that they were no longer in the aquarium. He looked round. The road in-front of him had large metal contraptions zooming along down it. On the other side of the road were large brick houses, between them more streets. He turned his head. Coming out of the pavement were, what seemed to him to be giant brown and green topped land coral. He looked up, everything was lit by one huge tremendous bulb which was surrounded by blue.
‘Wooooow!’ with the sarcasm and spite drained from it, his voice took on a whole new tombre.
The little boy crouched and put Victor’s ball on the ground.
For a few seconds the squid moved back and forth thrashing his tentacles aimlessly. The ball rocked side to side and back to front. After a while Victor discovered that he could transfer his weight to certain bits, in doing that he could actually roll in whatever direction he pleased.
He chose to go down the pavement, away from the boy.
Victor stopped. Begrudgingly he turned his body around within the ball. He’d spent far too much time cooped up, and now he really just wanted to explore.
‘Thank-you for getting me out of the tank, now I’ll be on my way.’ he replied then turned back round.
‘What are you going to do now? Are you going to roll back to the ocean?’
Victor hadn’t thought past getting out the tank, which he’d only discovered he was doing minutes ago. He mused.
‘Hummmmmm. A few fish from the aquarium came from there. They spoke fondly of it. But it’s a nice day. There seems to be allot to see, for now I’m content rolling around here.’
This seemed to the boy, like a sensible plan.
‘What are you going to see first?’
Victor started rolling again ‘I believe I will go to the cinema.’
The boy nodded, ‘to see what?’
‘I don’t know,’ he retorted snappily, ‘any suggestions?’
‘‘The Beast’ is on. It’s about a marine biologist that goes out into the ocean. They want to see if there’s such thing as a giant Squid. But the squid is evil and tries to find them too! It tries to kill them by sinking their ship.’
‘That sounds Excellent!’
Victor had never much liked marine biologists. Occasionally they’d come around to the aquarium. They’d take him out his tank and prod him all over. Very unpleasant, it was about time they had their comeuppance.
Victor went a few more rotations, there was a spring in his roll.
‘Can I come?’ asked the boy ‘I did save you.’ He added when he noticed the squid pick up pace.
Victor did not stop rolling, ‘Yes, lowly land-creature, you may accompany me.’
The boy took a few paces to catch up to Victor, then moved to his left where there was the most space on the pavement. Victor continued to roll along while the boy walked beside him.
Victor enjoyed parts of the film, there was much human killing, sometimes in mass. However he thought that the ending really spoilt it. A few biologists managed to escape, and after thinking that squid had been killed, it came back to life! Which Victor had thought a most excellent twist, but then they killed it again. Victor had got a little bit teary at this, fortunately no-one could tell as he was in water
He had bonded slightly over the film with the boy (who was called Simon though Victor never called him that). Victor believed that Simon too had been upset at the squid’s death, though he was actually crying because his favourite human protagonist had died too.
After the film Simon invited Victor to his house, and Victor having no other plans agreed. It seemed to be going well. Victor enjoyed having Simon do things for him, and Simon was fascinated by the squid. But there was tension between Victor and the boy’s hamster, Cindy. Cindy had been Simon’s beloved pet, whom he’d previously taken out every day, but now Victor was spending allot of time with the new eight-legged blobby thing.
Added to this, whenever Simon went upsairs she could have sworn it looked at her hungrily from the ball, which was hers! Cindy had not been allowed out of her cage for days because that monstrosity was using it. Whatever it was, it was immensely displeasing!
Cindy was an early riser. One morning, just before everyone got up she decided she was going to put this business to a stop! She pushed her whole weight against the snappy metal door to her cage. It shot open. She had always known how to this, but up till then, the boy had taken such good care of her, she’d never wanted to escape.
She crept out and made her way down the leg of the table using her teeth and claws. Then she scampered over to Victor. He was in the corner of the room, asleep in the ball. She was going to chew through the duct tape. It would make the water leak out, and she was sure that that would mean he’d dry out.
She detoured to pick up a door stop, it was sometimes used to prop open the door leading to the kitchen. It was just triangular piece of wood, she would put it under Victor’s ball, so he couldn’t roll off.
But squids happen to have an extremely acute sensory system. Every inch of their body is as sensitive as a fingertip. As soon as Cindy touched Victor’s ball with the door wedge he woke. His eyes opened, each around the size of Cindy she took a small step back.
‘What can he do? He’s stuck in a ball,’ so undeterred continued.
She’d underestimated Victor. With a bit of rocking he managed to manoeuvre the lid of the ball so that it was at the top. He then managed to use two of his tentacles to remove it from the inside. Squids are incredibly dextrous.
Cindy hadn’t noticed. She just managed to get a tooth under the tape, and was about to start chewing. With two extendable tentacles, Victor reached out and down grabbed the Cindy around her chubby, fury, little waist. In a flash he had whisked her up and into the water-filled ball. Very fortunately for Cindy, came into the room at this precise moment.
Simon was just getting up for school that morning. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, sauntered downstairs and into the kitchen for breakfast. Realizing he was running late he grabbed himself three snack-bars. He opened the door into the living and was about to dash right across it to pick up his yellow rucksack and leave, when he saw that Victor’s lid was off. He also noticed that Cindy’s cage door was open. That Simon was an obvert boy was very fortunate for Cindy. Upon closer inspection Simon saw his cherished hamster was wrapped within one of Victor’s tentacles and traveling briskly towards his gnashing toothed mouth.
He was immediately distraught, for he was a sensitive boy. He dropped to his knees so that his face was level with the squid and began pleading passionately with Victor to let Cindy go.
Victor reluctantly agreed, but only after been promised a whole tin of tuner. Lifting up the tentacle that encircled Cindy, he surfaced it from the water and dropped her onto the carpet.
She landed on her side, and she was still. Simon’s eyes began to get wet
‘Not this again!’ thought Victor to himself, he’d never understood sentimentality.
Cindy spluttered a-little and ran to Simon, who picked her up in his hands and held her to his chest.
‘Sure, play the victim,’ Victor had thought.
After that point Victor had felt very unwelcome. He thought this unfair, as it had been Cindy who had tried to kill him first! Somehow a small fury rodent gets all the sympathy when baited against a large leggy mollusc. Highly unfair, infact completely speciesist.
The day after ‘the incident’ he took four tin cans of tuna from the cupboard and left. Cindy had tried to insist that he gave the ball back before leaving, but though Simon was still upset about ‘the incident’ he was not a cruel boy, and aloud Victor to keep it. So Victor, who was now very apt in his ball, rolled off alone into Surry.
He preferred his own company to that of anyone else’s anyway, though he didn’t really like his own company either. On his lonesome he decided to go on a few adventures. He visited London first, as he was quite close, where he had a go on ‘The Eye.’ He didn’t like how unsteady the carriages where; they caused his ball to roll back and forwards and with the glass it was really quite terrifying! Next he travelled to Edinburgh, he didn’t like that it was all on a hill, but found he was quite partial to haggis. He also went to Cardiff, which he had found disappointing.
Finally Victor the squid had wanted to check-out the ocean. He had very much appreciated his time on land, however he felt it wasn’t quite his element; though the ball was a very effective way of getting around, it did often get stuck on curbs. Also if the ground wasn’t completely flat it led to complications; he’d discovered this on a woodland walk where he got stuck in-between some trees roots. Added to that going uphill was incredibly hard, he had to do it in one, if he stopped he’d roll down the other way.
He’d got very fit, all of his tentacles were quite muscular now. He didn’t look as if he worked out, they were toned in a way that way can only be achieved from having a healthy life-style.
One day Victor was rolling down a stony beach in Cornwall. He was approaching the sea, slowly because of the rocks. He wondered why it wasn’t sandy like he had seen in the pictures, though if it had been sandy he’d have found that disagreeable too. At the seam, where the land meets the shore, he turned round in the ball. He took a good last look at the beach, it lead upwards into a little forest, where he could just see some colourful little cobbled houses through the tree-tops. He thought to himself of all the time he’d spent on land and all the places he’d seen. He had but one regret.
‘Wish I’d stopped for an ice-cream, bet you can’t get them underwater.’
The beach sloped downhill to the sea, and he really couldn’t be bothered going back to the town to get one.
‘I also wish I’d managed to eat Cindy, I bet you don’t get hamsters underwater either.’ He added wholesomely.
Correction, he had two regrets. The sun was now setting on the beach causing a beautiful orange glow to emanate along it. Victor didn’t notice. With two of his right legs, for like most squid he was right-suckered, he swivelled off his lid and tossed it away into the sea. It skimmed twice. He thrust himself against the ball lightly; it rolled a tad forward which spilt the water out the top in a tiny wave that he rode out.
‘Ahhhhhh’ he sighed. He’d been bursting for a wee for ages, he hadn’t wanted to contaminate the water in his ball.
He stretched out all of his legs and propelled himself forwards. He went so far. He’d never been able to do that in the aquarium, he’d go around a foot then bang into glass.
‘Weeeeeeeeeee!!!’ he felt light and free, like a cloud in the blue ocean he floated.
He darted this way and that, and soon he found himself on a reef, teaming with life. He saw all of the fish he’d seen in the aquarium and more! They were simply mulling this way and that however they pleased.
He soon found that though he had never seen another squid before, there were many in the ocean! He wondered why he hadn’t bumped into any on land. Whole groups of them travelled together in hundreds here!
‘Oh great!’ he murmured, sarcastically. He had thought that maybe the ocean would be mostly empty.
All the other squid were flabby and floppy, as unless you make a real effort under-water to work-out, you just float around. Victor, after all his rolling was in top shape. He was by far the trimmest squid in the ocean. Lady-squid waved at him whenever he jet-propelled by. Despite having eight legs Victor didn’t wave back.
Despite not being the most upbeat squid, Victor found that his literal ‘Street’ cred made him real cool down-under. He was the only squid who had even seen a street, let alone rolled down one! They begged him to tell him stories of ‘The Above’ or ‘The Dry Place’ as they referred to it. Normally Victor refused.
I would like to tell you that Victor was happy. But that would not be true, as it was not in his nature to be.