The little fish clung to the underside of the jetsam, shivering with fear. After everything that had happened this somehow seemed the most scary moment of all. It was nearly silent; only the occasional bubble and splash on the surface punctuated the oppressive terror. There was nothing around.
Which direction should he go? Would he ever see anyone again?
Some shadow shifted in the distance. The fish held his breath. A trick of the fading light? No. The shadow became a shape and headed directly at him. Friend, or foe? Or… could it be? It was!
“Dad! You came for me!”
“Pierre! It is you! I knew it! Pierre, I’d swim every ocean for you. I’d go to war for you. I’d enter a squid’s suicide volcano for you. I’m just happy you’re safe.”
“I was so scared, dad. But I met some new friends who helped me and then I got lost and, and, and I just knew you’d never give up.”
“And I never will, believe that. Even when the shark gang had me encircled and even when the Eleanor the clumsy, giant squid inadvertently took me to the edge of her suicide volcano I knew I’d find a way out and find my way to you.”
“I love you so much dad!”
“And I love you too, little Pierre!”
“I’m quite fond of the pair of you!”
“Who’s that dad!?”
“This is Petunia and she’ll be your new mum.”
“This couldn’t have worked out any better dad. And look! A sparkle in the sky above! Even the oversea is happy! Everything’s just perfect!”
* * *
Olivia flexed her tentacles, squeezed them together, and soared upwards.
“Whee!” screamed her babies as one even as they clung ever tighter to their mum’s arms.
Olivia slowed and came to a halt, floating and bobbing gently with the warm current that came out of the west at this time of the year. She grinned and turned smoothly making sure that they were all alone in the deep, vibrant blue of the twilight-lit ocean.
“Okay, now you,” said the octopus looking at the tentacles she had stretched out in front of her. On them, wrapped around tightly, were Leo, Lisa, Jenny, and Jack. “Let’s show your father how well you can swim when he gets back from the office.” Nobody moved.
“You go first,” said Lisa nervously, looking towards her twin Leo.
“No way,” said her brother, and he twisted his arms into a knot around his mother’s.
“Jenny? Jack?” asked Olivia, amused. Darting eyes and nervous shakes of the heads were the only answer. They were the youngest two and normally followed the twins’ lead. “Oh well,” said Olivia sadly, “I thought I had the bravest little octopuses in the water but I suppose it’s okay to be second best to Patrick and Patricia.” Patrick and Patricia were Abi’s children, and her own children’s cousins.
“Mum, really!” said Lisa, tutting, and crossing her arms indignantly. “We’re not going to fall for that.” Jenny and Jack giggled and clasped their tentacles to their beaks.
Olivia looked at her children and slowly twisted in the ocean. For a brief moment she considered flicking her tentacles; Leo was still wrapped close to her but the other three would certainly fly off now that they’d relaxed. It was cruel but she remembered her own mother doing the same thing to her for her first solo swim. Tempting, tempting…
“Mum, what’s that?” Leo was looking straight up. Olivia and the other children all followed Leo’s gaze. The ripples of light that could always be seen on the distant surface of the sea even at this time of the evening were not the brightest things around. A golden, twinkling streak seemed to move slowly above, growing gradually.
Olivia frowned. She didn’t know.
* * *
“Steady… Steady… Keep them closed!… A little bit more…”
Craig kept his eyes firmly closed but carried on walking slowly sideways to the right.
“Can I open my eyes now?” Craig snapped his claws together impatiently. His legs flexed.
Claire remained silent for a couple of seconds but she was just as excited as her other half. “Okay!” she exclaimed. “Open your eyes!”
Craig flicked his eyelids open and stretched his eyestalks to their highest height. “Oh! Oh!” It was all he could say.
“Do you like it?” asked Claire, unable to stop herself from dancing left and right, her legs clicking on the seabed.
“Oh! No, no, no,” said Craig. And then, with a huge grin he shouted: “I love it!”
“Our new home!” said Claire, bumping up against her man. “I thought we could call it Castle Crustacea!”
Craig laughed. “It’s a great name,” he said, cuddling his wife. “You’ve done a wonderful job. Show me everything.”
Pincer-in-pincer the two crabs edged around the mound of shells. “Living room… bedroom… kitchen…” came the descriptions of each of the rooms. Craig and Claire passed through an area of coral and waving seaweed. “The garden needs some work still,” admitted Claire.
Craig stopped her. “There’s time for that later,” he said. “And we should think about a nursery too.”
“Yes!” hissed Claire and she hugged her husband. The two stood there for a moment, eyes closed, savouring the warmth and the darkness. “Let’s go inside,” she said.
They stepped together towards the entrance but both halted as one. The shadows around their new home looked wrong. They were the wrong colour. They were moving. Craig and Claire looked up through the gloom to where it seemed a sun was rising unexpectedly in the oversea.
* * *
One second Pierre, his dad, and Petunia were there and the next they were gone, swallowed up in an explosion of light and sound.
Olivia gasped as the ocean above her seemed to shatter and boil. A bright flash that darkened quickly appeared directly overhead and a wall of water seemed to thunder down towards the octopus and her children. Olivia had just enough time to regret not flicking her babies away when she had the chance and to feel their tiny grips harden like rocks.
Claire pulled Craig towards their home but he pulled the other way. They looked at one another, then straight up. Whatever it was that had come from the oversea was almost on top of them, its fiery appearance cooled by the ocean into a tumbling, growing, black mass. Pincer-in-pincer they clasped their hard bodies together and squeezed their eyes shut.
Scientists reported today that after entering the atmosphere late last evening the one tonne Russian satellite came to Earth without incident, crashing harmlessly into the ocean.