Brandon found a squid. It was as big as his torso, but it was trapped between several large rocks anyway. It sat on a slab, thrashing and stretching to place its arms into the tide nearly a half of a meter below it, but the only crack available to the squid could fit only two of its arms at a time. Brandon watched it struggle as if he were watching a sick bird die in its nest; he could intervene, but observing the end of a life cycle was fascinating for a nine-year-old boy. The sun was rising, giving the rocks a purple tinge, and it would still be an hour or two before Brandon’s parents were awake to scold him for going to the beach alone at such an early hour. He had plenty of time to watch the squid die.
It thrashed. In flailing against the rocks, it eventually managed to turn itself over, putting one giant, surprised-looking eye facing Brandon directly. It noticed him. The thrashing abruptly stopped.
Brandon was entranced. Either the creature was so afraid of him that it stilled its limbs, or it implored him to act. He held its gaze for around a minute and then started to lower himself towards it, grabbing the edge of the walkway with his fingers while dropping his body down to the stones. As soon as his feet touched the seaweed strewn stones, he slipped. His fingers let go of the concrete platform as his body rushed down the side of a slab towards an assembly of sharp edged rocks. Brandon braced himself and managed to stop by placing his shoes against two different stone points. This is why Mom told me not to play on these rocks, he considered. His back ached, and his trousers were wet, but he managed to land right next to the squid.
It was heavy, but calm in his hands. Getting it over the lip of the stone it was wedged against was quite a challenge; eventually, however, Brandon managed to heave it over the edge into the endless ocean beyond. As soon as it hit the water, it was gone, swimming away at a blinding speed.
Later, burying the soggy trousers at the bottom of his dirty clothes pile, Brandon smiled at the good deed he had done. He never forgot the intense expression of the squid’s eye as he stared into it.
A week later, Brandon was checking the walkway for another squid or something else interesting when he saw an object flash and drop closer to where the walkway connected to land.
The rocks were safer to climb over away from the lighthouse. Brandon scampered across the sharp points quickly and recklessly.
At the water’s edge, he saw a collection of CDs tucked into a nook. Most were cracked. Most were advertisements for an online service that Brandon had never heard of. Another one popped over the edge and landed in the pile. Brandon couldn’t see where it came from even though he tried. It was a Yanni CD: “Live at the Acropolis.”
Remarkably, it worked when Brandon put it into his CD player later. He listened to it all night.
The next day, Brandon waited at the same spot. There, a pair of hiking shoes dropped over the edge. Then, a pair of sandals. Then, a very soggy pair of bunny slippers with seaweed tangled about their faces.
None of these were his size, but he took them anyway.
Gifts kept coming each day. Every now and then, Brandon could see just a flick of the tentacle that delivered them. He laughed and grinned when he found the nook to be full of rock lobsters--he had to get a bag to grab them and his mom was very happy with his haul.
Before long, summer was almost over, and Brandon had little time left to spend mornings watching gifts fall into the ocean pocket. To say goodbye, Brandon filled a plastic bag with cocktail shrimp he stole from a platter at a party.
Waiting at the walkway, Brandon watched as a huge clam was raised over the lip of the stone. It dropped over with a clatter. Brandon had never seen a clam that large before.
Before the squid could retreat, Brandon leaned over the rock and dropped the shrimp into the water. The water was calm except for the ripples caused by the shrimp. Then, the squid’s arms grabbed at the shrimp, vanishing immediately. It had grown in the three months since he rescued it; now its limbs were easily larger than his body.
Beneath the water, Brandon could see the eye staring back at him, contemplating. When he cracked the clam shell later revealing the biggest pearl he had ever seen, it seemed just like the squid’s eye.
The boy had little more time to visit the beach. The squid stayed and waited, every night.
It was easy for a boy raised by the ocean to grow up fascinated by the ocean. Brandon became a marine biologist working for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. He was insatiable in his love for the ocean, so it wasn’t long before he was assigned to ranger services for protected ocean life zones around New Zealand’s southern island.
One day, he received an alert that fish were dying in droves within ten kilometers of the coast and was dispatched to resolve the issue. It was extremely apparent what was causing the disturbance the moment Brandon’s boat entered those waters: bottom trawling. The ships left a murky stew of debris in their wake.
It was uncommon to see so many indistinct boats committing illegal fishing inside of the protected area. By the time Brandon closed the distance enough between his small survey boat and the five trawling boats for them to hear him over a megaphone, he had little time to negotiate with the poachers before he was held at gunpoint and taken aboard.
The fishermen barked at him in a language he could not understand. He pointed to his boat and made “telephone” gestures to try and suggest that he could get a translator, but they hit his face with the stock of a rifle and abandoned his boat, heading further out to sea.
Brandon knew he needed to act. He would likely be killed if the men got a chance. He would likely be killed if he gave them one. He wasn’t tied down, so he decided he would try to stand and jump off of the boat.
The moment he reached the railing, the stock of the gun hit the back of his head. He sank to the floor as blackness flooded his vision. Just before he lost consciousness, he heard a man on another boat scream frantically.
When Brandon opened his eyes, he was back on his own boat, lying down, soaking wet. Wood and twisted plastic drifted through his vision, floating on the water. He blinked, forcing himself to turn over even though the pain in his head made him retch.
He watched through hazy eyes as the last fisherman was dragged beneath the surface by the mace-like tentacles of a tremendous squid. The wreckage of the trawling fleet was scattered across the sea. Beneath the surface, Brandon could discern halves of boats sinking.
Beneath the surface, Brandon could discern hundreds of giant eyes looking back at him. “Thank you,” he mouthed, and they vanished.
The original squid could not have survived to see Brandon reach adulthood, he knew. At night, Brandon played his Yanni CD and remembered his first cephalopod friend.