The Octopus Knows, Part 14

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This post is something different.

In early April, the very creative Laird Sapir suggested a collaborative fiction writing project. The only rule: each participating writer must continue the story at the point the last writer left off, beginning his or her chapter with a link to the previous entry and ending with a link to the next writer on the list.

The complete list of participants with links to each installment is available at The Octopus Knows on Laird’s blog. So go there to read the story from the start. It’s inventive, funny, and unpredictable!

***

Where the story last ended: Ninja, the octopus, an object of experimentation in Mr. Jones’ laboratory, has joined forces with Simon and Marguerite. The world’s destruction is inevitable if they cannot close the portal to an alternate universe of antimatter. They attach their wands to a strange device as Ninja plugs in his tentacles, then all three concentrate their powerful minds on closing the portal.

Richard Munro wrote part 13 on his blog. Here’s what happened last:

The earth began to buck and dance under their feet. It was almost impossible to continue standing. Only their implacable grip on the wands kept them on their feet. An intense roaring battered their ears. Blood began to seep from damaged ears. Their fear continued to build, and the pain they were experiencing was only hinted at by screams pouring out of bodies going beyond limits of human endurance. Ninja’s shrill keening began to pierce the air.

Then it happened…

***

Part 14 of The Octopus Knows

Silence. Beautiful, blissful, blessed silence.

Simon collapsed onto the floor, gasping for breath — I have got to start working out — every muscle in his body grateful for its release from excruciating tension.

Next to him, Marguerite and Ninja were similarly limp noodles. But what was that on Ninja’s face – who knew an octopus could smile?

“We did it,” Ninja said. “We did it. Our world is seamless once again.”

“Until the next time,” Marguerite said glumly. “Jones and his crazy experiments.” She stood, unbuckled her trench coat and dropped it to the floor. A silky shift clung to her body like green on grass. “I’m too young for hot flashes. Is it just me, or are we cooking in here?”

“I need water, stat.” Ninja coughed, a raspy alarming sound.

It was hot, and getting hotter. Acrid smoke filled Simon’s nostrils and he sneezed. He ran his hands over his wand. Sparky felt lifeless, unresponsive. “Is this thing on?” he asked, shaking it. Sparky whirred, glowed feebly and died.

“Mine’s out of juice too,” Marguerite said. She pulled at her neckline to fan herself. “What hell is this? Ninja, you brought us here. Now get us out before you turn into calamari.”

Simon stood, dizzy for an instant. Ninja wrapped his tentacles around Simon’s legs, body, arms and pulled himself onto Simon’s upper back. Simon could feel the octopus’s rough tongue scraping against his head and neck, taking every drop of moisture.

“We must hurry,” said Ninja. “According to the perceived rate of temperature rise, I calculate we have two minutes until the environment is inhospitable to earthly life.”

“In other words,” Simon said, “book it, baby. Where to?”

Ninja pointed a feeble tentacle towards a dark corner.

Simon stumbled towards the corner, unsure. Was Ninja delirious? Were they going to die? He could hear Marguerite whimpering. He tripped over an object, nearly fell. The Gunbrella.

Ninja croaked, “Marguerite, wrap your arms around Simon and hold on tight. Simon, aim the Gunbrella upward and flick the golden switch.”

“It’s too bloody hot for hugs,” she said, but did it anyway. Breathing in her strawberry scent, confused by the pressure of her soft body against his, Simon braced his legs to carry their weight. He flicked the golden switch and the Gunbrella opened into a gigantic parasol. A gusting breeze began to lift it, tugging them toward a faint light high above.

“Hold on tight,” Ninja cried.

Easy for you to say, you eight-legged freak. Simon quickly wrapped Marguerite’s scarf around his arm, tying it securely to the Gunbrella’s handle-ring. He slipped his other arm around Marguerite’s slender waist. Her face nestled against his neck, her frothy hair tickled his nose. As a trembling Ninja clung to his head, the trio floated slowly aloft, occasionally bumping against a wall of craggy sandstone. Simon was surprised to feel something good, something peaceful – was this happiness? Friendship? Not since the accident had Marguerite trusted him. It was a nice feeling. But was it mutual? The girl had been too free with her stun gun, and he didn’t think she’d changed that much.

The Gunbrella blocked their view though they seemed to be approaching daylight. Finally, after many long minutes, they bumped against a barrier. By that time Simon’s arm was nearly twisted out of his socket so when he spied a sizeable ledge carved into the side of the rocky wall, he swung himself to it and unloaded his passengers. He pushed the golden switch and the Gunbrella collapsed into neat folds.

Above them, the walls of the cave narrowed to a small grate made of a heavy metal mesh. Simon pushed on it as hard as he could, but it didn’t budge.

“Give me back my scarf,” Marguerite said. “Ugh, you got it sweaty.”

“As in, ‘thank you, Simon, for saving my life,’” Simon said. “Oops, forgot that part.”

Ninja extended a dessicated tentacle and patted Simon’s cheek. “Now what?” the octopus asked.

***

And now what? Jodi Lee Stewart is in charge of that. Take it away, Jodi!

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