I have never told anyone what really happened that night. The Assura Bay Aquarium director came up with a reasonable explanation for everything, and Sachie has been extra careful not to get caught out of her tank again. But truth has a way of glowing in the dark, just like the surges on the mottled skin of an electric eel so many months ago, and trying to keep it hidden is working against nature itself. Truth demands to be heard, so I’m telling you this story exactly how it happened. I’m not too worried about the repercussions of this decision; after all, who is going to believe a word I say?
It was a normal night in September. All guests had long since left the aquarium, and the space was bathed in the flickering purple-blue lights of the habitats. It was still, the silence broken only by the occasional splash of a stingray’s wing or rumble of thunder outside. Not many people know this, but Giant Pacific Octopuses can squeeze themselves through the smallest of spaces. The top of Sachie’s tank had an oxygen hole no larger than a cookie, but every night she would gather up her eight tentacles and melt through the opening like liquid. She loved adventure and used the midnight hours to explore the aquarium. She always returned before the security guard checked our corner every night at 2 o’clock precisely.
That night, Sachie had a wonderful time browsing through the shark exhibit, where beady-eyed Sand Tiger Sharks circled ominously around their Lost City of Atlantis decor and an annoyed Garibaldi fish puffed up his neon orange gills at the intruder. Sachie was so caught up in her imaginings that she lost track of the time. When she looked at the clock, it read 1:58!
Sachie rushed back to her tank, her tentacles making soft squishing noises against the smooth floor and seeming to move with a mind of their own. She finally slithered around the seahorse’s stand in the middle of the coral reef exhibit and shot another glance at the clock. Sachie had always been good at math (having eight arms to count on helped), so she instantly knew that she only had 45 seconds left before the guard appeared around the bend! His footsteps were already growing louder, and an impatient clap of thunder urged her on. The lights from the fish tanks surged. As Sachie moved to make the final stretch between the seahorses and home, lights began to blink mysteriously from the electric eel tank. Aki was right next to the octopus display, and usually spent her days shyly camouflaging in the bushy undergrowth of her habitat. Now though, the bright flashes lit up the room, getting closer and closer together in an almost frantic way. What could be wrong with Aki? Sachie crawled over in front of the eel tank just as a beam of light exploded from behind the glass. She closed her eyes against the brightness, then felt something strange begin to happen.
It was as if a gate had opened inside her and a burning liquid was racing through her body. Sachie felt her three hearts begin to pound as her tentacles tingled with energy. Her eyes snapped open just as the security guard rounded the corner.
“Hey, what are you…” he began but was suddenly flung backward onto his large behind as Sachie reactively raised her right tentacle. She stared at her outstretched arm. The energy had flowed right out of it and pushed the guard over! With a thrill of excitement, Sachie realized what she was capable of. She concentrated her mind on the flashlight lopped in his belt and jerked her left tentacle. The flashlight gave a twitch, then suddenly flew into the air. The guard’s mouth dropped into a perfect O as Sachie, who was amazed at her new abilities, raised all her other tentacles. Keys, boots, ID card, hat, pen, and radio joined the flashlight suspended high above the ground. With all eight tentacles swinging madly around her, the octopus gave a shove, and the items went flying away toward the touch tank. As the terrified security guard ran after his belongings, Sachie wanted to laugh out loud but settled for changing her skin into several happy colors instead.
Are you all right? She asked Aki, who stuck her head out of the weeds and nodded. The eel jabbed her tail toward a filter chord, which had fallen out of its clip and was now touching the water. Sachie knew she meant to explain that the power surge had entered the water and combined with Aki’s skin electricity to cause the light flashes. And maybe that invisible energy had traveled even further, all the way to the Giant Pacific Octopus crouched close by on the floor. Sachie made the megalodon jaw on the wall open and close, and Aki smiled. Who knew what else the lightning had done?
Sachie returned to her tank that night and never showed anyone else what she could do. The security guard was given an explanation (something to do with lightning making the projector go wonky), and the fallen power cord was discovered and fixed the next morning. None of the staff tossing clams in the water or children pressing their faces to the glass ever imagined that the octopus sitting lazily under a rock had incredible powers. Reader, I sincerely hope that this account has made you, if not more informed of the dangers of playing with electricity, at least aware that this world is full of unexplainable magic. Something doesn’t have to be reasonable to be real because imagination and the wonderful exist. This is why we love stories so much and seek adventure in our own lives every day. It is also the reason an eel learned how to write.
P.S. Thank you David Otter for helping me acquire pens and paper.
Story written by Amelia Grant
Illustration by David, Amelia’s brother (age 10)