Josie Malinowska


A South Korean woman was ‘impregnated’ with squid sperm after eating a raw squid, according to scientists. The Journal of Parasitology reports that immediately after biting into a partially cooked dish of Torarodes pacificus, Pacific flying squid, the 63-year-old experiencing prickling pains in her mouth, and spat the squid out straight away. It is reported that she described the pain as a “foreign-body sensation”. Witnesses report seeing the woman fleeing the restaurant, clawing at her mouth, and repeatedly spitting into the road, crying out in pain. Doctors later removed from her oral cavity twelve spermatophores, or pods of squid sperm, but say that more may have originally been in there that she managed to gouge out herself and spit out.

The squid is intended to be consumed whole, including some of its internal organs. The practice of eating whole cephalopods, including sometimes whilst the animal is still alive, is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world. Sannakji, the name given to the Korean dish of raw octopus tentacles, is a known choking hazard, due to the still-active suction cups on the tentacles sometimes becoming stuck to the throat. It is debated as to whether or not the still-moving tentacles of the octopus indicate that they are alive; since each tentacle of an octopus contains its own ‘brain’, it could be said that each tentacle is itself individually ‘alive’, and so the movement of the severed tentacle is not the left-over nerve activity but the movements of a living organism. Some report the tentacles latching onto chopsticks, fingers, and the roof of the mouth. One report even states that the tentacles act in a “pissed off manner” when spicy sauce is tipped on them.

I rip the story out of the paper, fold it and put it in my bag, and then toss the rest into the trash, pulling my thin jacket tighter around me. I wasn’t expecting San Francisco to be so chilly. We drove almost nonstop to get here, and arrived thirty minutes ago. Jerry has gone to find us a dingy-looking hotel so we can feel at home. The squid story has left me feeling nauseous, so I decide against breakfast and instead take to pounding the streets with my feet. We don’t really know why we’re here, but Jo was adamant that this was where we needed to be, even if she wasn’t sure of why herself. Mann’s diary showed that he spent many months here too, and, aside from all that instinctively we were both drawn to the place. I called in my outstanding payments, Jerry peddled most of his stuff, and we got a little tin piece of shit and drove as fast as it would go, while Jo headed back to London, saying she had research to do. I swig some rum from my flask and stride around the streets, no direction in mind, no plan, no aim, just trying to get warm and forget the squid.

The grilles in the gutter, leading down to the sewers, always on the corner of each crossing street, are curious. On the curb by each gutter grille there’s a sign, “NO DUMPING”, with a picture of a crab by it, and a number to call to report pollution. I can’t tell if that means no dumping crabs in the sewer or no dumping crap because the crabs live down there. Maybe the crab is just the town symbol. Or maybe it’s something else altogether.

Sometime at what feels like mid-morning, I get tired from all my sidewalk-pounding and decide it’s time for a coffee. Across the street there’s a place, “Bob’s”. As I walk in, a balding man with bags under his eyes watches my entrance and asks me what he can get me, looking really pissed that I’ve interrupted his reverie. Black coffee. While he’s fixing it I look around. I’m the only patron this morning. Sunlight streams in through the windows onto cheap plastic chairs, and no music, just the sound of the coffee machine screaming. It hits right into my tired brain, hammering at it like opera, piercing.

He gives me the cup and I give him some money. When I get my change he lingers a moment, looking intently into my eyes. I think I see a shadow pass over his eyes, and he mutters, looking down, something I can’t quite make out: “…world ends…bang…ticulous…octopuses”.

“Hey, what?” I ask, taking his wrist. He looks directly into my eyes again and repeats, clearly and with fear punctuating each word, fear piercing his eyes:

“This is how the world ends: not with a bang, but with a meticulously-scheduled series of events designed by revenge-minded octopuses”.

I laugh nervously. “What?”

“Saw it in a dream last night. Meticulous. Terrifying.” He shudders.

I frown at him, unsure of whether he’s mad or not, and if so, whether madness is perhaps what I seek. I decide to show him the article I ripped out from the paper. He snatches the article out of my hand and drinks it with his eyes, shrewd and fearful. As he starts reading, though, I see his expression slump, as if relieved.

“This is in Korea. Anyway,” he continues, like it’s just occurred to him, as if he just came to his senses, “what does any of this matter? It was a dream.”

“Dreams are made of stuff,” I protest.

“It was a dream,” he repeats. “I don’t know why I said that, what I said earlier. It was just a dream, and that’s the end of it. I must have been asleep when you walked in. I don’t sleep well and sometimes nod off first thing when I’m sitting here waiting for customers.”

“You don’t sleep well? Why not?”

“Hell, how should I know?”

I pocket my change and turn to go. “Dream well tonight.”

When I reach the hotel, I find Jerry talking animatedly on the phone to someone at the reception.

“Calm down, Jo,” he’s saying. “We’re alright.”

I can hear a very muffled and anguished response: “Don’t talk to me like that! I was worried off my tits!”

“Alright, alright.” He spies me coming through the entrance. “Listen. Your cousin’s here. Talk to her, alright? Alright?”

“You put her on now, Jerry! Put Eris on now!”

Rolling my eyes, I take the receiver. Jerry, looking relieved, ducks out. “What’s up, Jo?”

“Don’t you what’s up Jo me! Haven’t you read the papers yet? Haven’t you seen?”

I wrinkle my brow, wondering how on earth she’s already read the obscure piece of Korean news I picked out of The New York Times. And, for that matter, why she’s so worked up over it.

“Yes,” I say cautiously. “So what?”

“So what? So what? Is that all you have to say about a 40 foot squid washing up right on your doorstep? The day you arrive?!”

I look at Jerry and raise an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”

She sighs in frustration. “Read the fucking papers, Eris!”

“I have read the paper today. The New York Times. Nothing about no 40 foot squid there, cuz.”

“Not The New York Times, the fucking Los Angeles Times. Are you in California or not?”

At this point, Jerry has reappeared from somewhere and, from the corner of my eye, I can see he is frantically waving at me.

“Just arrived,” I say, and then to Jerry: “What is it?”

He’s procured a newspaper and shows me the front page. Immediately I see what Joanna’s talking about: there’s a picture of an enormous, in-tact but clearly deceased, giant squid, beached on a shore in Santa Cruz – just down the road from where we are. Jerry starts reading it aloud.

“’The body of the largest giant squid ever to wash up on a shoreline has been discovered today by residents of Santa Cruz. Measuring 40 ft from tentacle tip to head, the creature landed on the beach, aptly located right in front of Santa Cruz’s Museum of Natural History, sometime during the night. Early-morning dog-walker Heather Brightspear was the first to spot the creature: “At first I thought it just was a big pile of goo! Benjy ran right up to it and started sniffing away – but he didn’t need to get that close – it stank!’”

We exchange looks and he carries on.

“’Giant squid, genus Archi- Architec – no, Architet- Archi- well, whatever – has held mythical status from ancient times to the present day, with sightings rare and often uncorroborated, put down to over-active imaginations of bored sailors and fisherman. But in the last few decades bodies of the creatures have been washing up occasionally on shores around the world; this finding is the first for the United States. Scientists from the Museum of Natural History are calling it the greatest accident in the history of zoology. Currently, the remains of the creature are carefully removed from the site to enable marine biologists at the University of California to study it. Residents are asked not to visit the area.’”

I look doubtfully at Jerry. “One of your friends?” I ask, thinking it may be a hoax.

He shakes his head quickly. “I don’t know anyone here! Besides – on the front page?”

On the other end of the phone, I hear Jo screaming, “What does it mean, Eris?”

I can’t help but recall the words of the man in the coffee shop. This is how the world ends: not with a bang, but with a meticulously-scheduled series of events designed by revenge-minded octopuses.

“It’s octopocalypse,” I say, feeling mad, grinning wildly. “It’s octopocalypse, Jo!”

Assuring Jo that we were on the case, we convinced her to focus her mind on her task – perfecting her meditation technique, and trying to glean meaning from the hieroglyphics she’d been hallucinating – and I took Jerry with me to the streets. We knew we wouldn’t be able to get within a mile of the giant squid, but being tourists to the beached squid seemed a million times less important than getting back to the coffee man, at that moment.

As we march through the streets, passing the flask of rum back and forth between us for some kind of grounding in this reality, the reality that we so wanted to escape from yet were scared to lose, I point out the grilles to Jerry.

“Marked,” he says simply.

“Marked for what? By who? Why?”

He shrugs. “Notice the other markings too? Like on that pot?”

I look around. A tree is growing in a large pale grey pot. On the pot is a hand-print; but it is multi-coloured: all the colours of the markings on the grilles we’ve been passing.

“What the hell is that?”

And then he points out another: one on a lamp-post; one on a tree; one on a mail box; a pair on the pavement. All hands, all multi-coloured. We stare at each other. I can tell from the fire in his eyes that his cock is hard, as is my clit.

As we continue along the sidewalk, we begin feverishly to notice things along our way that look remarkably like different kinds of cephalopods: the many-rooted trunk of a tree; a white face mask with yellow strings; some strewn orange headphones; a patch of spilt red paint; an oversized, tentacly bush; a semi-deflated green balloon with string.

“We’re imagining it, are we?” he says uncertainly in a low voice, tenting his trousers.

I shake my head; I just don’t know.

Eventually we find Bob’s and walk in. The guy behind the counter is slumped, head in arms, fast asleep.

“Hey,” I say loudly into his ear. “Hey, mister.”

He doesn’t stir. Irritated, I look over my shoulder to ask Jerry if I should prod the guy or something. But before I can open my mouth I notice how rigid he’s gone – his eyes are wide, his skin pale and – is that sweat on his brow? He is staring in horror at something over the coffee guy’s head; something hanging from the ceiling.

“Were they there before?” he says, swallowing his disgust. “Did you see them before?”

I follow his gaze to the things hanging from the ceiling. Even before I’ve registered what they are, my stomach gives a sickened lurch. “Fuck. No.”

Four translucent-white creatures are hanging by wire from the ceiling, bright light-bulbs buried into the centre of their clear flesh. One is an octopus, one a squid, one a cuttlefish, and one a jellyfish.

“They must have been the rarest of the rare,” Jerry says, sounding as sick as I feel.

“Revenge-minded octopuses,” I say darkly. I explain to Jerry what the man had said to me. “No wonder they want revenge: this, the squid. It’s happening again, isn’t it? They’re being targeted again. Denigrated. Hunted. Used. Killed. But why?”

“Why does do groups ever get targeted like that?”

“Because they’re dangerous.”

We exchange understanding looks. Suddenly, I remember the coffee man. We both look over to him, suddenly very aware that he hasn’t stirred yet.

“We should leave,” I say quickly.

“But what if he…?”

“That’s why we should leave. Now.”

“But what about the…?” he says, pointing at the ‘lights’.

“It’s too late. It’s the hats, Jerry, isn’t it? Isn’t it, Jerry? The fucking hats!”

He nods. “The fucking hats.”

“Let’s go.”

We head quickly back to the hotel Jerry booked us into and sprint the piss-scented stairs up to our room. Along the way we pick up some simple food, and some more rum.

“I need you to fuck me now, Jerry,” I say.

“Yes, ma’am,” Jerry says, unbuttoning his fly. He pushes me onto the creaky bed and we fuck short, sharp, and furious. Aggressive, like we are angry with each other, like we’re arguing. Violent, even; I slap his face hard when he pushes me down and fucks me; he puts his hands around my throat and calls me names, thrusting into me; I spit in his face; we cum together, angrily throwing down our orgasms at each other, like war.

Meanwhile, I’m dying to fuck you

Harper scowled to themself, hunched over, dusty, tired, irritable, and miserable, walking down Purley Way. It had been a shit day. Another shit day. Cleaning other people’s houses barely paid the rent and was degrading at the best of times. Today was the worst of times. Another dead horder. Harper’d been hired by some relative to sort the house out before he sold it on for what could only be assumed to be an enormous sum. So Harper cleaned and cleaned, the fumes and stench from the decades of fester offending their nose incessantly, the smell seeping bit by bit into their clothes and hair, the chemicals pouring into their nostrils, mouth, pores. A really shit day.

But then, they thought, there was that box. They’d been up in the attic – a horder’s attic was one of Harper’s own personal circles of hell – clearing out every mouldy newspaper and magazine the dead fucker had ever bought, when they found the box. A large ornate box made of a thick carved wood, reddish-brown in colour, about as big as their torso, or a little bigger. They’d shoved it into their backpack when they found it, and made off with it at the end of the shift. They didn’t feel guilty about this; their instructions were to throw everything away – the relative couldn’t be arsed to sift through the horder’s possessions whatsoever, assuming that it was all junk – so Harper saw it as almost a duty to take a keepsake in such situations. Especially one as enthralling as this box.

Starving hungry, Harper decided to pop into a supermarket on their way home. This particular supermarket had their favourite vegetables, so it was worth putting up with the live animals on display to get them. They walked in and began to browse the grocery section, trying to ignore the butchery going on in the “fresh seafood” area of the store, where eels and fish wriggled about in tank and tubs full of various writing sea animals slinked over one another relentlessly. The smell was that of the sea, but not the real sea: the fetid sea, the rotten sea, the sea-far-from-sea.

A very large, muscular, bald man with a comically tiny hat stood behind the counter holding a glinting knife. They wondered how he kept his hat on his bald head like that. But as he grabbed something alive and slippery from inside the glass counter and plonked it on top, ready for slicing, Harper turned their back to him, nosed wrinkled in disapproval. They didn’t want to see sea creature murder. They picked up some cabbage and were inspecting its leaves when they heard the swing, the slice of the knife, and a thump. Trying to ignore their disgust, Harper put the cabbage down and picked up a couple of gourds, weighing them up in their hands, deciding which one was best. They put the one in their left hand back, and stuck the good gourd in their basket.

That was when they heard the scream.

It was that kind of blood-curling scream that you only see in the cinema, or from a child being threatened with something slimey by an older sibling: pure, unadulterated horror. Harper dropped their basket in shock and spun around. The screaming woman was still screaming, and Harper followed her pointed finger to see what all the horror was about, while the man she was with ran away and began throwing up loudly into a tub of okra. The point led their gaze to the counter, where the sea creature had been being held down a moment ago by the big bald man with the absurdly small hat, ready to be chopped into something to eat. In that same spot now stood that same bald man’s head – severed from its body – in a pool of its own blood. The hat was still on top, fixed there. Again, Harper wondered how it stayed on.

The screaming woman turned and fled, dragging her vomiting companion, ashen and clammy and shaking from head to toe, with her. Others in the shop had either seen the spectacle themselves, or were following her lead, rats following rats as they fled. All but Harper. They felt a peculiar calmness wash over them, and they walked slowly towards the counter. Curiosity rather than horror or fear rose up in them. They stared at the lifeless head and the large bloody knife abandoned next to it. They leant over the counter, peering behind it to the large body slumped on the floor, a huge puddle of blood having seeped out from the neck.

“Well ain’t that a thing?” said Harper.

They heard a tinkle behind them as the front door opened and shut. Turning around, Harper found themself faced with a frantic-looking woman, young, perhaps twenty-three, her eyes full of something – was it fear, panic – or was it excitement? – her jeans unzipped, her shirt buttoned up wrong, and her trainers unlaced.

“Did I miss it?” she asked anxiously, standing in the door. “Did I miss it?” Her eyes darted to the severed head on the counter. “Oh, fuck! I missed it! Did you see it? What happened?”

Harper opened their mouth, and then closed it again, not quite sure what to say.

“Well, I know what happened, don’t I, why am I asking you? He was trying to cut it up and it cut him up instead. Oh!” she exclaimed suddenly, clapping her hands together like a child. “Isn’t it brilliant?” She skipped over to the counter and looked the severed head right in the eyes. “You see what you get?” she said coldly. Turning to Harper, she continued: “Did you see where it went?”

Harper tilted their head. “What went?”

“The octopus. The one that chopped his head off. Where did it go?”

They shook their head. “I don’t know. What do you mean, octopus?”

“Look”, the young woman said, point to an empty dish inside the glass counter. It was labelled ‘Giant Arboreal Octopus’. “It escaped. Killed him and then made off. But that’s all I know. That’s all I saw. I can’t believe I missed it. I need to know where it went. Did you see?”

Harper shook their head again.

“How come you’re still here? Everyone else has clearly run off. Why did you stay?”

They shrugged. “I was curious, I suppose.”

“Curious! Ha! That’s a way to describe it! Well, I’ve got to see if I can go and find it. You want to come?”

Harper thought about the sleepless night they were likely to have that night, and the day of cleaning they were definitely going to have tomorrow. “Yeah, all right.”

If Harper had expected that it wouldn’t be hard to track down a rogue Giant Arboreal octopus wondering the streets of South London, they were soon to discover how wrong they were. No-one they spoke to had seen anything. There were no congregations of scared passers-by. No sirens in the distance. All the witnesses from the shop had long since dispersed, perhaps at home comforting themselves that they were probably just mad. They drove around and around, stopping every now and then to ask someone, and keeping their eyes peered for anyone who looked scared or spooked, or gatherings of people the like of which only appear when something odd has happened, but they couldn’t find anything.

After a couple of hours of searching, the initial frenzied excitement had simmered down into a calm, almost blissful eagerness. Harper remembered their hunger. They told the strange woman driving the car searching for the octopus that they were hungry, and they decided to stop for a bite to eat. They found a nice little café with laminate table cloths and strong filmy tea, and each polished off a stack of toast with jam. An old fashioned TV was playing the BBC News channel without the sound in the corner. The moving pictures occasionally caught Harper’s eye. After the third piece of toast, something really caught their eye.

“Look”, they breathed, touching the woman’s arm gently. On the TV, the caption read ‘Live from Wandsworth – Disappearing dogs’. “Hey!” they shouted to café owner. “Can you put the sound up?”

Obliging, the owner unmuted the TV, and everyone in the café watched as the suited man on the TV was clutching his ear, saying:

“I’m getting another report now as we speak – yes another dog has been snatched from under the owner’s nose, that makes four in the last two hours already, and police are baffled. They’re advising residents in Wandsworth to take care, especially around Smuggler’s Way, and especially if they have a dog or small children. In the last few hours, three – now four – separate police reports have been filed by dog owners claiming that their dogs have disappeared without a trace whilst crossing the bridge, or nearby by the river. We’re not sure yet whether the dogs in question have been specifically targeted, or whether the snatching is random. All residents are advised to avoid the area while police investigate. We’ve got with us Margaret from Croydon, who was just out taking her Jack Russel for a walk…”

Harper and the woman exchanged looks. Neither of them needed to say anything; they both knew they had to check it out. Harper’s heart was racing. They felt so alive, so full of curiosity and wonder. 20 minutes later Harper and the woman arrived near the area. Despite the urgency with which the reporter had relayed the dog-snatching story, the police didn’t appear to be taking it all that seriously; the bridge was cordoned off with police tape, but there were no police anywhere to be seen, and the TV crew were packing up and on their way to another story. The strange woman with the unzipped jeans parked the car, and they both got out. They ducked under the cordon and walked slowly across the bridge, looking around to make sure the police weren’t watching from somewhere hidden, nor anyone – or anything – else.

“It makes sense that it would be here,” the woman said, peering gingerly over the bridge at the river below. “There’s seawater here as well as fresh. I suppose it must be eating the dogs. It must have been ravenous. Or maybe just angry.”

“Why not humans?”

The woman looked at them curiously, smiling. “Yes – why not? Good question! Maybe that would draw too much attention? “Or maybe we just don’t taste that great.” She thought for a moment.

“No danger to us, then?”

“Oh, there was never any doubt in that,” she said.

Now it was Harper’s turn to look curious. “Who are you, exactly?”

The woman smiled widely. “Forgot to introduce myself in the excitement, didn’t I? I’m Joanna. Or Jo, if you like. I know this octopus. He’s my…my friend, I suppose. Who are you?”

“I’m called Harper. I don’t know any octopuses, but I like them and I’m glad he didn’t get killed. Is he your pet?”

Joanne laughed. “No. I haven’t actually met him yet. I mean, other than on a cerebral level.” Harper didn’t reply to that, so Jo continued. “I can see him in my thoughts sometimes, if I’m really focused. I’ve never managed to focus as well as I did today, though. That’s why I was able to see exactly where he was. Or maybe it was just because he was in pure peril. I’m not sure. I’ve been tracking him down, bit by bit. I don’t know how he came to be about to be served on a plate, but I’d narrowed it down to this part of London by yesterday morning. I booked into the Hilton last night.

“But I only see him in the present – it’s telepathy, see, not precognition – so I could see where he was and that he was about to be murdered, but I didn’t see it before it happened. So I was too late in getting there. But it didn’t matter did it? Because he got himself out of it, didn’t he?” Her eyes shone bright, a look of unmistakable pride bursting through her face. “You saw it, didn’t you? Saw what happened?”

Harper nodded. They recounted their experience in the supermarket, from the cabbage-inspection to the moment Joanna had showed up.

“Wow. OK. So everyone ran out but you. Why? Why didn’t you run out?”

Harper shrugged. “Like I said, I was-“

“Curious, I know. And don’t get me wrong, I agree. It is curious. It’s curious as fuck. But, Harper, why you? Why were you the only one there who thought it was curious, and not terrifying?”

“I couldn’t rightly say.”

Joanna grinned. “Yes. And who could? Who rightly could?” She lay an arm on Harper’s shoulder. Electricity passed between their bodies. “I’m glad you’re here. We need to mobilise. I’m the only one here, at the moment. The others are in the states. I should be rallying here. The more who find it curious the better off we’ll be, I don’t doubt.”

Harper sat down on the pavement, their back to the railings of the bridge. “Mobilise for what?”

Jo sat next to them. “Whatever’s coming. Something’s happening all around us, and some of us are being drawn to it in ways we don’t understand and can’t really control. But it’s big, and it’s happening, and we’re part of it. Me, my cousin Eris, her lover Jerry, and now – you. There are others, like Mann and his son, but we don’t know where they are.”

Harper shifted their position to make their backside more comfortable. They nodded slowly. “It’s exciting. And arousing. Do you feel aroused?”

Jo turned red. “Yes. All the time. Like – no, I mean all the time.”

“Me too. And it’s weird because I haven’t, not for ages. Ages and ages. It’s like having the sun on my skin again for the first time after a long cold winter.”

Jo nodded eagerly. “Yes. Good. Exactly that. Excellent. Good.” She turned to stare through the railings into the water below. “We can fuck. If you like,” she said quickly, not daring to look at Harper, her neck a strained colour of scarlet.

Harper stared into the water as well. “OK. When?”

Jo smiled widely. “I always used to be so careful about sex, you know? It’s so strange. Before all this, sex was something I planned out, ahead of time. You know, you arrange a night in, or you go on a night out, or something, and you wax your legs beforehand, and you put on nice knickers, and you dab a bit of perfume because you know you’re going to get sweaty, you carry mints in your handbag. Later, you drink wine, to make sure you can get in the mood. And then you do it. The sex. Scheduled sex. Is that completely fucking bonkers, or what?”

“I don’t wax my legs.”

“No. No. Why would you? Madness.”

“So…does that mean now?”

“Now? Yes, why not now? Maybe it’ll help.” She stood awkwardly, nearly falling over as she rose; grabbed Harper’s hands, and yanked them to their feet, laughing, pulling their jacket off and throwing it into the water. Harper, laughing back and looking scandalised, retaliated by running into Jo head first into her belly, and they both went flying onto the concrete bank. They kissed madly, like they were thirteen years old, like they were trying to merge into one single being, as if however close they got, it wasn’t close enough. Jo jumped up and pulled her skirt off, and threw it into the water; then her shoes. From their vantage point on the ground, Harper’s eyes were drawn to movement back up by the road above them; a curious passer-by had stopped in his tracks to observe the ritual. The gaze of this voyeur fired their lust and they pounced anew on Jo, looking at the voyeuristic man as they gorged on Jo’s flesh. They stood up, threw the remainder of theirs and Jo’s clothes and bags into the river, and then fell into Jo again.

“Disgusting beauty, terrible love,” Harper muttered, their loins bursting with stars. They fell into the water, thus entwined. If the water was freezing it didn’t penetrate their flesh.

The box Harper had lifted from the dead horder’s house had come loose from her bag in the river, and was floating alongside the pair of them. They watched it bob along the water next to them. And then they saw it; an outstretched tentacle came creeping into view, huge, purple-red, covered in suckers, it unfurled and reached out to the box, encircling it till it was in a strong tentacular grip. The rest of the creature emerged from the depths of the river, a majestic rise, an imperial expression in its human-like eyes, its beak, all over its face, or what would be a face. Another tentacle joined the first, and with a deft flicking movement, the box was open. Harper and Jo held hands, floating naked in the water, observing, their hair fronding up in the water like they had been electrocuted, their stares not much different. A tentacle reached into the open box. Further and further in it went, as if there were no bottom to it, until the whole length of the tentacle was in the box. A second tentacle followed, and then a third. Harper and Jo exchanged confused looks as a fourth tentacle found its way into the box. Eventually, all eight legs had slowly entered the box, and the head was not far behind. Utterly bewildered, they watched wide-eyed, hand-in-hand, as the rest of Jo’s friend the Giant Arboreal Octopus disappeared completely into the box. Once it’d gone, the end of one tentacle re-emerged, grasped the top of the box, pulled it towards the bottom, and the box was shut.

Harper let go of Jo’s hand and swam the short distance to grab the box with both hands. They held it fast and swam with their feet to the bank of the river. They plonked themself on the river bank, with Jo close at their tail. Dripping wet they both sat, breath hitched with unbearable excitement, as they looked agog at the box.

“He went in,” Jo breathed. She picked up the box and started rubbing it against her cunt. “I’m sorry,” she said, not bothering to go red. “I just can’t help it. I’m so turned on I could die. Literally die.” She quickly brought herself to orgasm, groaning hard. Harper used their own hand to do the same, watching Jo.

“Is it – sorry, he – still in there, do you think?” Harper asked.

“I don’t think so. He couldn’t possibly fit in there, could he? I think it must be – I don’t know, a portal, maybe? Let’s find out.” She opened the lid and peered in. “See! Empty. Holy fuck, Harper. Holy fuck. Where the fuck did you get this from?”

“I liberated it from a house I was cleaning.”

“We have to go there. Can you get in still?”

“Yes, I’m cleaning it all this week. I have keys. It’s complete mess, though. It’s some dead horder’s.”

“Let’s go tonight. When it’s dark. We can go back to mine in the meanwhile. I’m dying to fuck you.”