On The Back Of An Octopus
Fiction by Ben Fitts
There is a city called Octopolis on the back of an octopus. You might think that it is a very small city, but you would be wrong.
It is just a very big octopus.
The back of the octopus is paved with roads and the tallest buildings of Octopolis stretch hundreds of feet into the ocean. The buildings are insulated so tightly that they keep even the finest drop of saltwater from leaking in, and are filled with ordinary bustling humans just like me and most likely like you too. The citizens of Octopolis stay nice and dry inside their buildings and squeeze into wetsuits and slip on scuba masks when they go outside onto the octopus’s paved back.
They don’t have to worry about falling off the back of the octopus, because the octopus is large that it has its own gravitational pull and people can only swim so far off its back before being yanked back down. However the octopus’ gravitational pull was significantly less than that of an actual planet, and the inhabitants of Octopolis could swim a good twenty-five feet away from the octopus in any direction before having to return back to its paved surface like a yo-yo.
As the very large octopus swims across its even larger ocean, it brings the city of Octopolis with it wherever it goes. The people of Octopolis are aware that they on top of a very large octopus, but it seldom affects their day to day activities and they tend not to dwell too much on the fact.
This all changed one day when the inhabitants of Octopolis saw something approaching them in the vast ocean that covered their entire planet’s surface.
From a distance the object looked like a dark, blurry lump in the water, but it grew bigger and nearer every hour. The people grew worried, because the sort of thing had never happened in living memory and no one knew what it might mean.
Several of Octopolis’ top scientists and politicians gathered in a room with a glass ceiling. The room was on the top floor of the tallest tower in the entire city, located on the very top of the octopus’ scalp. In the room was a high-powered telescope that had not been used in centuries, but was a major fixture of Octopolis’ local lore. Very few had ever actually seen the telescope in person.
The scientists and politicians all took turns looking through the telescope, scratching their heads at what they saw and double-checking that everyone else had seen the same thing. They all had.
What they all saw was an enormous shark.
The shark was easily the size of the octopus, perhaps even bigger. Another animal as large as the octopus was unheard of in its own right, but that was not even the strangest thing about what they were seeing. There was an entire thriving metropolis on the back of the shark.
Through the lens of the telescope, they could see tall buildings and aquatic vehicles and bustling pedestrians littering the back of the shark.
The scientist and politicians all took turns gaping in dumb awe at what they were seeing. A city on the back of a giant octopus was a normal, understandable thing, but a city on the back of a giant shark was just ridiculous.
Where would those people have gotten the materials to build their buildings on the back of a shark? And how would air-breathing mammals have gotten on top of the shark in the first place? These questions baffled the scientists and politicians, but both groups had more immediate problems to worry about.
The shark appeared to be on a collision course with the octopus, and it was growing closer every minute.
The scientists and the politicians argued fiercely over to explain their findings to the populace. The politicians worried that telling the citizens of Octopolis about the shark would incite a mass panic, but the scientists insisted that people had a right to know. They spent hours debating the topic in the room with a glass ceiling on the top floor of the tallest tower on the octopus’s scalp.
They argued until the point became moot anyway, because now the shark was near enough that what it was clearly visible to anyone looking out into the water, even without a telescope. The shark flapped its pectoral fins vigorously, its beady black eyes locked on the octopus.
The shark opened its vicious jaws as it neared Octopolis, revealing an intricate network of subterranean tunnels and sewers, and its intention became horribly apparent to all onlookers.
Still in the glass room, one of the politicians declared that there must be a way to communicate with the leaders of the city on the back of the shark and try and convince them to alter the shark’s course. One of the scientists reminded the politician the residents of Octopolis had no control what so ever over the octopus they lived upon, so it stood to reason those who lived on the back of shark would be no different.
The politicians insisted that now was not the time for pessimism, and the scientists clucked knowingly. They all argued some more as the shark grew nearer still. They argued until the topic of their discussion again became a moot point.
The shark had reached the octopus.
The tips of the tallest buildings poking out of the shark fenced with the tips of the tallest buildings poking out of the octopus, fighting a duel that both sides would lose as the buildings on top of both animals shattered. The shark kept swimming towards the octopus, oblivious of the destruction it was creating.
The shark sunk its rows of jagged teeth into the octopus’ side. The teeth descended into the streets of Octopolis, destroying buildings and slicing through paved roads and basements and people. The shark’s bite broke through the layer of civilization that was Octopolis and penetrated the squishy flesh below.
The octopus began to leak blue blood out of the spots where its flesh was punctured. The blood swelled out of its wounds and around the shark teeth that remained fastened to its side. Some of the blood dissolved into the water around it, but globs of it trickled down the octopus’ side and through what remained of the streets of Octopolis like blueberry molasses, causing even more damage to the city and smothering many an unlucky citizen.
The people of Octopolis thought that their world was ending. To many, it already had. However some others found themselves regaining hope as the octopus began to fight back.
The octopus wrapped several of its suction-cup-covered orange tentacles around the shark’s trunk, hopelessly crushing the buildings and people in its wake. The octopus began to squeeze.
The shark released its clenched jaw as the octopus began to wring the life out of it. The teeth no longer there the stifle the travel of fluids, more blood poured out of the octopus’ bite wounds and into Octopolis.
The octopus continued to squeeze and, slowly, the shark began to die. The shark’s eyes started to glaze over and it struggled less and less to break free of the octopus’ grasp. The people of Octopolis began to rejoice. Those nearest to the encroaching city on the shark’s back broadcasted jeers through the city’s underwater loudspeaker system and flashed them middle fingers from behind windows and beneath gloved hands.
In the brief time that the creatures their respective cities were built upon fought, the residents of the city on the back of shark had all become vicious villains to the citizens of Octopolis. It was hard to shake the idea that this was somehow all their fault. As Octopolis was even further damaged and even more Octopolians lost their lives, at least the citizens were united by this feeling.
With a final burst of vitality, the shark lunged forward and sank its teeth into the octopus’ face. Even though the shark was still tangled and dying in the octopus’ tentacles, its bite managed to annihilate the capital building perched on the octopus’ brow, pierce both the octopus’ eyeballs and its skull, and dig into the soft tissue of its brain.
The octopus’ tentacles remained wrapped around the shark’s body. The shark’s jaw remained locked into the octopus’ face.
Their wounded bodies were intertwined together. The two humongous sea creatures spasmed and died together. Their corpses drifted through the even larger sea together.
The citizens of Octopolis eyed the inhabitants of the now connected city on the back of the now dead shark. The inhabitants of the city on the back of the now dead shark eyed them back.
The citizens of Octopolis wondered whether their city could continue to sustain itself on the back of a dead creature, and what would happen to their city as it began to decay and rot away. The inhabitants of the city on the back of the now dead shark wondered the same thing.
The citizens of Octopolis wondered whether they would be able to co-exist with those who had lived on the back of the terrible shark that had taken so much away from them. The inhabitants of the city on the back of the now dead shark wondered the same thing about the citizens of Octopolis.
The citizens of Octopolis figured that they might just have to try anyway. The inhabitants of the city on the back of the now dead shark figured the same thing.
The surviving inhabitants of both damaged cities nervously donned their wetsuits and left their apartments. They traversed the paved tentacles of the octopus and the paved snout of the shark, meeting in the middle.
It did not go well.