Sachie opened her eyes one morning, stretching her tentacles out from the night’s sleep. She could feel an electrical buzz pulsing through her body, and for a second, she forgot why it was there. Then suddenly, she remembered the night before.
The previous night, Sachie had been on her usual nightly crawl around the aquarium. She enjoyed getting to see everything when all the visitors were gone, and things were calm. Her crawls were always short because she couldn’t be outside water too long, but she still found them fun.
She had been outside the small fish tank, which reminded her of her home, the Pacific Ocean. She had lived there her entire life until she was taken to the Assura Bay Aquarium. Gazing into the tank’s murky waters, she was reminded of the Pacific’s beauty. The warm waters, the coral, the fish, and that beam of sunlight. She missed it all so much.
Suddenly, Sachie had seen a light flashing in a neighboring tank. Curious, she had crawled towards the source of light. It turned out to be Aki the eel’s tank. Leaning forward, she was instantly hit by a bolt of light. She closed her eyes as it struck her like lightning, its electricity making her body buzz. She felt disoriented but remembering her time limit, started crawling back to her tank. The last thought she had before slipping back into the tank was how weird she felt.
Sachie was brought back to the present as an aquarist approached the tank. The aquarist was a nice young woman who always worked on Sundays. Not being able to understand the humans, Sachie didn’t know her name, so she had named her Mara in her head. As Mara got closer, Sachie spied a bucket of crabs in her hands and hoped that the food would make her feel better.
Mara pushed open the tank’s lid and poured the food in. Sachie used her beak to bite down on a crab, munching excitedly.
This is good, she thought.
Sachie felt eyes on her. Looking around, she realized that Mara was staring at her.
What’s her problem? Sachie wondered, watching as Mara’s mouth dropped open in horror. “What did you say?” Mara said, still in shock.
Who is she talking to?
“I’m talking to you, Sachie! How… are you able to talk?”
Me? I’m not talking! Sachie thought.
“No, you’re definitely speaking. I can hear you loud and clear unless there’s someone else here who’s talking.” Mara scanned the empty aquarium. “I don’t see anyone else.”
Thinking, Mara muttered “Maybe I’m just going crazy. Probably should’ve slept more last night.”
Sachie chuckled at this, then realized something. She could understand what Mara was saying. Usually, she could hear the sounds the humans made, but she couldn’t understand their meaning, since she didn’t speak human. But now, it seemed that she could get what they were saying. Even more, it looked like humans could understand her, too, as her thoughts seemed to translate into speech.
“Did you just laugh?” Mara looked like she was about to pass out, her face as white as a ghost.
Sachie thought quickly. Uh yes, I guess I did. Um… it’s nice to meet you. My name’s Sachie, though you probably know that. Sachie cringed. It seems that you can understand me and I can understand you. I was hit by an electric eel ray yesterday, so I think that’s why I can… Sachie trailed off as Mara suddenly hit the floor.
Ten minutes later, Mara, who was now propped up against the wall, was watching Sachie with a frown.
“Maybe I should tell someone about this? I’m sure people would want to know about a speaking octopus,” Mara said.
“No!” Sachie thought. She had heard stories about the humans and what they did to those like her. I know what your kind does to us animals. Imagine what they’ll do to me! They’ll probably experiment on me until I die!”
“True,” Mara sighed. “Anyways, I’m curious about you. I mean, I’ve never talked to an octopus before…” she trailed off. “Can you… tell me about yourself?”
Sachie thought for a second. I was born in the Pacific Ocean two years ago. I really loved it there. The water, my cave, everything was just… peaceful. Then, I was captured by some researchers and brought here. I like everyone here too but sometimes…
“… you miss your home?” Mara finished. “I get it. I moved to the U.S. from Mexico last year and sometimes, I wish I could go back, too.”
The two sat in silence until they suddenly heard a voice down the hall.
“Oh, shoot!” Mara clumsily stood up. “The aquarium’s opening soon! I gotta go!”
As Mara turned away, Sachie thought, Wait!
Mara turned back around.
Can you help me?
“Help you do what?”
Can you take me back home? Sachie looked at her pleadingly. “I’m… not sure how I’d do that,” Mara said sadly.
Please? Just after your shift, come get me out of the tank and take me to the ocean. I won’t be long. I’ll be in and out before you know it. Just… please, I need to go home. Please bring me home.
Mara stared at her for a long time, eventually nodding her head, turning back around, and walking away.
Later that evening, Sachie climbed out of a bucket that had been placed on the sand and crawled toward the dark, vast ocean. The sun was setting, casting a pink glow in the air. Eventually, she got to the shore, and a wave crashed over her, dragging her into the water. She felt the water’s coolness wash over her, pulling her farther into the ocean’s depths. She felt herself sinking deeper and deeper, watching as fish swam around her. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Of course, she knew she would have to go back to the aquarium, but she was overtaken by the water, she reminded herself that nothing, nothing, could ever compare to this.
Written by Elizabeth from Washington, D.C.