The man was a little way out to sea, fishing with a net when the weight of it suddenly threatened to drag the man in and tip the boat. He wasn’t hungry, he didn’t need any food, but still he was fishing. He pulled at the net, and pulled and pulled until the veins in his arms threatened to burst and sweat misted from his tanned neck and shoulders.

The net slid into the boat, a tangle of seaweed masking the mass of limbs. He tore away the seaweed and found ten octopi, all black as night with eyes gleaming wetly. The man became excited as black octopus was a local specialty and he could sell these for quite a price. He grabbed a mallet and smacked one, two, three, four in the temple and they sagged against the smooth sun-bleached wood of the boat. He was about to smack five, six, seven, when he noticed that the octopi all had wings. Beautiful, feathery wings, clearly made for flight. The man dropped the mallet then, afraid of what he had done, or might be done to him if it was discovered.

So you’ve noticed the wings then? one octopus said. It might have said this. The man certainly heard a voice, but he hadn’t seen a mouth move.

How did you come by those wings? What use are they in the ocean? the man asked.

But the octopus responded by laughing a terrible laugh. We ate birds. We ate all the birds.

The man looked to the sky and didn’t see any birds. Perhaps what the octopus said was true. While he looked away, the octopi tried to slide back into the water, but he caught one, the one that had spoken he thought, by the tentacle and bit off its head. He ate its tentacles. He ate its wings. It tasted of ink, and night, and wind, and the cold, cold bottom of the sea, and the cold, cold pinnacle of the sky.

While the man waited to change, he wondered if he would dive down or fly up, and what creature would be coming to consume him in his new form that was sure to develop. He wondered what net he might find himself trapped in. He wondered at the hunger already developing in his gut. And the shore seemed very far away.

 

***

 

Evan James Sheldon’s work has appeared most recently in Barren, Cease,Cows, Foliate Oak, and Typehouse. He is an Assistant Editor for F(r)iction and the Editorial Coordinator for Brink Literacy Project. You can find him online at evanjamessheldon.com.

 

 

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