Terror Squid


What wakes me. Not myself. Hardly myself. Of these limited poses, sleep is the most false undersea—and oh so luring. My omnidirectional yolkish eyes always open to everything around me; yet am I truly thinking, an observer may wonder before they swim too close. A fair question. Often I am merely a prefabricated construction of baseless fear, to be sure. Sometimes even a rushed cartoon. But the human imagination’s lethargic guesswork has little to illuminate us capable cephalopods. Lazy complicating bastards, would I shriek to the coastal cities and ten million double lattes warming up in their pointless morning. My beak, however, is not made for their barbaric yawps. It’s appropriate for squawking, muttering, shambling, and additional artifices. Don’t be fooled, I’ve no affinity for birds, either—I’d sooner eat one. They’re pedantic. Like everything else that jumps around with a semblance of purpose. No, it is far more agreeable to me to sleep and wait, sleep and wait, and then I strike when I’m not aware of what I am about to do. This is how a gigantic squid gets its jollies out of transgression. All comers welcome.


Case in point: these ill-shaven sailors. I’m dragging them to their watery graves right now. I was sleeping snug and comfortable in an arctic repose many fathoms deep and somehow their loud, drunken profanities and plain sexual innuendoes reached me while recovering from a foul mood. Before I knew it, I had wrapped my massive self around the hull of their rusty washtub, sent my numerous tentacles in through the windows, and started taking care of grim business. My favorite maneuver is getting a large suction cup square on their screaming faces—that shuts them up good. Still plenty of screaming left with the others, though. They put up a half-hearted fight, sometimes pummeling my tentacles their puny fists. Out comes the captain. A grenade. Please. Then down they go. The whole crew. Believe me, if this is the best they can do, they’re much better off for it.


Except I won’t be afterwards. I try returning to my comfortable spot. Can’t remember exactly where it was. Maybe here. Wait. Shit. Shit.


Can’t be helped. Nothing’s off-limits when I get started. Dinghies. Catamarans. Swan boats. Aqua bikes. Yachts in particular are big fun. They always think they can get away in those. There was one, too, with a helicopter getting ready to evacuate. I’m serious—a helicopter. Didn’t quite make it. The look in their eyes as I had them. A real treat.


Reputations are difficult to navigate around and out of as the years pass. Yes, even out in the high seas with my contemporaries. Sharks tend to avoid me. Also whales, if they could. Other squid, well, let’s say we have a mutual understanding, limited as it is. Such casual relations do require some tending to, which is why I never expel ink in self-defense. Better to save it for fun. See, watch this sucker coming along. I glide up behind him. Tap his mantle from behind. Hey you. What. Plbbbbbbbt. Hahaha. Off I slide away, his face full of lovely black sepia. For awhile, I’m amused. Then it fades. I need another unwitting victim. I start looking. Jellyfish don’t make the cut. They’re too sententious.


Someone keeps looking for trouble all the same, my ample warnings notwithstanding. The simple fishermen in trawlers with their sorry nets. Scientists and some contraption with extra special sonar. An errant submarine charged with blowing away all overgrown squids to assure the future safety of tourists (my thoughtful manifestoes are usually ignored by the generals for some reason). Everyone’s jockeying for the prize. Someone—or something—forever wants a piece of me. I am to be pierced, torn, quartered, flambéed. Made an example of. Yes, it’s true, I am indeed an example of some special quality that inflicts perfect gruesome death and every part of me must be distinct in that special respect. It’s a badge of honor that I wear on the inside, spit- polished. Not that I appreciate the steady intrusions, however. Farther and farther I drift, then, down down down to where a quantum of light fails to land, where I sleep and wait, sleep and wait, and with memories absent, dreams indefinite.


The joy of never knowing a sunrise.


Those scientists are goddamn tricky. I mean, they really piss me off. Here I am, nestled in the aquatic abundance with a restless nihilistic streak, and they come up with some new contraption that goes deeper than any other contraption before. With its predecessors I could wrap myself around it and crush it like a flotsam beer can and squirt ink into its single video camera. Now this one. Check it out. Titanium pressurized hull. Self-contained high-speed propulsion. High- intensity floodlights. Multiple video cameras at strategic angles. Satellite hook-up. And it wants to interview me with a grade school classroom on live feed. Sweet jesus.


It follows me around for an hour or two. Passes by another, lesser squid willing to talk. I hide in a massive kelp bed to no avail. My dactylus keeps sticking out.


Okay. Okay, you excrescent shallow vertebrates, let’s do this—come get your precious distance learning.


Teacher: Class, we finally have something very exciting for our lesson today that the submersible found for us—a monstrous squid. Say hello to Mr. Squid, class.

Class: Hello, Mr. Squid.

Squid: . . .

Teacher: This is quite exciting, isn’t it. Mr. Squid, I’m sure you don’t often get this opportunity to converse with eager young minds at the bottom of the ocean, do you.

Squid: . . .

Teacher: Well. Let’s start with the questions. Billy, you’re first.

Kid #1: Mr. Squid, why are you a squid.

Squid: Oh I see. Attempting to trip me up on the opener with an existential trap meant to indirectly debase myself along with my species in favor of your grossly overestimated hegemony. Nice try, Kid #1. I’ll say this, though: being a squid is far more preferable than being some stunted subspecies mammal fooled into learning how multiplication tables and democracy will redeem your abbreviated lifespan until it dawns on you that there’s no afterlife. Next.

Kid #2: Mr. Squid, is it very cold where you live.

Squid: No, it’s a positively balmy zero degrees centigrade most of the time, which is warmer than the calcified heart of your teacher while conferencing your divorced parents who couldn’t care less about your evident lack of intelligence and future prospects for happiness. Next.

Kid #3: Mr. Squid, are there other Mr. Squids down there, or are you lonely all the time. Squid: Next.

Kid #4: Mr. Squid, do you find that your outward struggle against oppositional forces is, in fact, an inward need for validation and, quite possibly, a self-gratification that you also conspicuously choose to deny others of.

Squid: You’re a smart one, Kid #4. What’s your name. Kid #4: Betsy.

Squid: Well, Betsy, there are those who believe that squids are only simplified spongy conduits of electrical impulses with febrile tendencies to move and react to the right stimuli or tasty morsel but never feeling anything in particular, never capable of sentient thought, never showing sympathy, empathy, or the slightest modicum of what you shallow vertebrates would refer to as emotion. The sailors I’ve killed over the decades would probably agree with that. But none of these charges address what I believe to be the unknowability, as I call it, inherent to all forms of sentient life, that which is independent of logic and reason, philosophy, scientific discovery, and the occasional well-written poem. That my becoming interacts so poorly with others, as you see it, is not a denial per se of anything in particular, but that the Other drives me to affirm this aforementioned unknowability in greater and greater gestures which will ultimately transcend the difference between Terror and Horror into a third virgin realm where there is no escape from the soul-crushing vicissitudes of the cosmos and its tormenting indifference towards precocious little children. Have I completely ruined your nascent and infantile perception of this world-as-is, Betsy.

Kid #4: Yes, you have.

Squid: Good. Next.

Kid #5: Mr. Squid, why don’t you wear any clothes.

Squid: I refuse to, as it interferes with my resplendent nakedness in its lithesome gelatinous hypersensitivity. Note how this involuntary penile writhing—

Teacher: For love of god cut the feed.


Off putters the tech-laden educational vessel to port. And to think there’s much hand-wringing these days about the current state of the modern educational system. Validation, meet gigantic squid. With sudden benevolence I almost consider suspending my rampant killing spree for awhile, until I get hungry for a snack. A few giant sea snails, perhaps. Since they’re mollusks, they probably don’t feel anything.


I travel for a few days along the edge of an abyssal I find, hoping to throw off any other contraptions looking for my majestic tail, all the while congratulating myself for withstanding those kids as long as I did. It’s true my skills of perseverance are legendary, and are not spoken of by many. Being a gigantic squid also gives me opportunity to view the latest wreckage from some disaster which I’m sometimes unjustly blamed for (I can’t be everywhere at once, much to my chagrin), but I soon reach pure, clear waters. Every lantern fish and transparent crustacean clear out for my oppressive arrival. I let them be for the moment. A gaggle of blind white salamanders scuttles below on the floor—a family, unaware. I do nothing untoward but find a welcoming rocky crevice to push my ample body-shape into and await the first sailor to come along and annoy me. The odds are generally in my favor. Here, no human has passed through, no speck of wasteful residue from above drifted down, no cautious thought has resided. I’d call this home if I could remember these things later. One place looks like another at this depth. The new wreckage consistently replaces the old.


I have noticed a few lesser squids enjoy doing a propeller turn with their arms and tentacles when ensnaring their prey or such. But I’m not that fancy. In theory, some of us deserve to be calamari. What did I deserve to become this immense.


Should I challenge myself, see how deep this abyssal goes. Big drop near as I can tell. Often it’s impossible for me to measure distance, even at a relative estimation from previous position. I can feel how colder or warmer it is, or the growing pressure. It’s only when I see a creature I’ve never witnessed that I know I’ve gone deeper than I ever have before. And the growing familiarity of those I have seen before makes me aware that I am too close to the surface of things, to my angry boredom lashing out at deserving targets. So I am limited, even in immensity and unknowability. There’s so much of my own body I’ve not seen for myself, unlike the shallow vertibrates I’ve dragged to their watery deaths who have seen too much of me.


Not surprisingly, I have no working detailed knowledge of procreation. I’m supposed to do it—that much I’m aware of. Plus it’s supposed to happen independent of any desire or other sexy intent. Maybe it has already happened. While I was asleep or feigning sleep. Maybe my progeny is swimming out there, full grown adults, and that I’ve already squirted ink in their faces and laughed at its misfortune. Or eaten a few. Other than my immensity I have no conception of my identifying physical features distinct from other squids. We may look the same. All squids may be my children. They will be my children. No, that’s not true. No fun in that prospect: would be fewer sailors to kill. A gigantic squid should be an eternal bachelor. There’s so much havoc to undertake, and I don’t like sharing my sweetest candy.


Yet the constant mistress of pride does demand attacking a helpless pleasure cruise, especially with the added challenge of a military escort in close pursuit in a vain attempt to subdue me. Worth the risk. No way I’ll let these tourists spawn more dull-witted children who will interview me later against my will with the latest submersible technology. I’ll absorb all the harpoons and bullets and machetes that I have to in order to prevent such a dim scenario. Ravenous, insatiable belly that I am, I’ll spit out the bones if only to leave reminders for the fools who give chase.


Please wait—why should you stop me from procreating with my husband, this one very nice lady asks my beak while on deck during the hullabaloo; how about you let me home-school our potential child away from video conferencing and instill it with a paralyzing fear of the water because of you—would that be agreeable. Hm. A tempting proposition. She’s polite. Good teeth. Sparkle in the eyes. Healthy postponement of recognizing the inevitability of death. I bet her hypothetical kids would turn out super. Alas, it’s far too late to be discriminating in my abhorrent tastes. Down my beak with her to get it over quickly. I do have rare charitable flashes, I try explaining to the shocked onlookers by the jacuzzi. They all have shuffleboard cues aimed at me in last defense.


My parents. Did I have any. I must have come from somewhere. Maybe I had only one parent, a squid even more vast than myself, if that’s possible. Considering this makes me both proud and humbled. I should’ve asked that tech-laden educational vessel if it had seen any such squid. Damn. I mean, not that I crave a reunion or passing company. No. Just curious is all. Also, would like to find out whether my kill rates are acceptable to monster squid standards or not. There’s that reputation thing again.


Or perhaps I have this backwards. When I find a baby squid in the open sea, orphaned by some cruel twist of fate, should I take it under my proverbial wring, raise it as my own, watch it slowly grow into an indestructible killing machine. On the other hand, never too early to get rid of the competition. This is when I know for certain I am my own parent.


If there’s a downside to the unabated wholesale killing of sailors, fishermen and tourists, it’s that explanations for my behavior will never be entirely satisfactory at any level—and for reasons I had mentioned to Betsy back there. I feel like Betsy was a kindred sort despite her being a non- squid. Sure, she’s likely still upset right now, but she’ll start thinking about it more and more when that delayed adult growth cycle kicks in. She’ll realize I got tired of everything happening on the surface. Didn’t want any of that coming in my direction down here. Won’t be some laboratory curiosity suspended in eternity in formaldehyde with a dumb look plastered on me. Teacher, mind you: Besty’s going to figure this out someday. For all of you civilized land-sacks.


Meanwhile, I’m served a subpoena by a sweaty middle-aged lawyer in a suit on a jet ski. My wanton killing of (some) innocent people and sinking of (mostly expensive) vessels has become a nasty predisposition entangled with the usual political fallout, he says. New administration. Certain government agencies have taken notice. Powerful non-elected officials. It would be best, he continues, if I cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation and submit myself to grand jury testimony to ascertain which adversarial nation has been helping me and whether I have information to contribute. Deals could be reached in the interim. Favorable terms. I look over the document. Everything seems in order; then I point out to him that my immensity is far too much for a standard federal courtroom and it won’t be completely underwater unless we hold proceedings in the abandoned tanks at Sea World. He considers this parry carefully as he wipes his brow. Why yes, perhaps a video deposition could be done with a high-tech submersible, he pleads as I drag him under for the customary exit interview.


In between taking down an oil tanker and a navy destroyer, I consider further the uncertain state of my already tenuous privacy. Nature often gets the best of me, and refuses to leave me alone for it. It’s almost as if my killing people is that clichéd cry for help, a distress call to join the world-as-is, which never relents in being clichéd. Then the very act itself thwarts that impulse for self-preservation. Distressing, to say the least. I don’t seek to destroy this world: it’s already been destroyed, of course—not my fault. Only those who don’t mind their own business get the shaft. After squirting some ink in the faces of a few gullible sting rays, the futility of my juvenile posturing slowly dawns on me while I decamp at a scenic coral reef that’s kind of suffering a bit. I’m surrounded by all these odd little organisms I could easily consume, but my immense beak is far too imprecise to accomplish this task. I should be aware of something. This moment. Yes. I am aware. Then I go looking for another sting ray.


I should have more tools at my disposal than my beak, tentacles and ink sac. I really should. This does get tedious, despite the occasional awesome fireball explosion I create. They’re throwing just about everything at me in desperation, apparently unaware of my regenerative properties. Molotov cocktails, made with booze from the hibachi bar—that’s different. Some try flare guns, but those shots bounce right off me. If only they tried aiming at my beak while it’s open, exposing my—well, forget it, I’ve said too much as it is.


These bodies of well-dressed, well-mannered, well-meaning tourists in the water. They only wanted to enjoy themselves. They couldn’t refrain from enjoying themselves. They took a pleasure cruise. Now they, too, are immense in ways they hadn’t thought possible.


The sea below all of this is so dark, so very dark, and will eventually be more free of myself, I sense I dreamt once. And the sea farther below that, I begin telling these bodies surrounding me, will always have enough room for any of us when it happens.  

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