Animal Dilemmas – Octopus Anaconda

anaconda short story

Serial Fiction

Skins of anacondas of all sizes decorated the roofs of the giant’s huts. The giants were a superstitious lot and believed the remains of these elusive beasts that had been known to swallow whole children, dogs and lifestock, that this will protect them from the wrath of the gods. Gods were another frivolous need that the giants had. Unlike any other inhabitant of the jungle that only concerned themselves with survival and reproduction, the giants needed an explanation for every phenomenon that they observed. Anything from bird to rain, wind, full moon, stars, death, sunrises and sunset had to be explained. And if they could’ve explain it they attributed it the gods.

Their shaman spoke to the gods and that was his they knew that the gods respected huts with anaconda skin wrapped around them. That was the reason giants risked their lives and many died trying to kill a great snake. That was also the reason anacondas being sensible enough had withdrawn from giant settlements and their hunting grounds.

But a new sort of threat came to the jungle. A new type of giants had arrived and hired the locals to catch them an anaconda. They brought new types of foods to trade in for the expertise of the jungle giants. An anaconda in good health of any size was needed alive, to be caged and transported out of the jungle into a giant city and put on a display for the leisurely view by the city dwellers.

The jungle giants were thrilled and scared at the prospect of enrichment. For they were not sure if this intrusion was enriching or poisonous. After long consideration they decided to organize the hunt. They organize three small hunting parties with three locals each and one foreigner with a rifle. The parties went out in different directions and searched. They would camp in the jungle for days on end until one day one of them returned with large anaconda carried on the shoulders of the four hunters. A cage was built and the snake was enclosed in it before it awoke. Regular injections of sedative were instituted during transportation. Until finally the beast arrived at its new home.

The zoo was a vast place but it was some time before the anaconda was installed in its new enclosure. At first it was transferred to a solid glass aquarium and fed with dead rats at regular intervals. The snake was restless but soon realized that it was a waste of energy to bang its head and tail against the glass. Instead it looked around and waited. There were other cages in this lobby where the new arrivals were stored. The closest to the Anaconda was an aquarium fully lidded like its own but full with water. Inside it was giant’s skull with eight legs protruding from below. The Anaconda has seen skulls before but never one so full of life.

The Octopus had also been brought from a far away land of endless seas. Its armor of choice did it no good against the giant divers, in fact it slowed it down and arose their curiosity.

There had been a tribal war not far from the coast long before the Octopus was born. The sea floor was littered with bones and skulls and the currents scattered them at their leisure. The Octopus had long used coconut shells to roll down ocean slopes to avoid bruising or death from the sharp rocks. But shells were not reliable, they cracked and the Octopus had to find a new one. That was why when it found the skull it crawled inside. It was a perfect fit it had observation capabilities and the Octopus could hunt without leaving it. It was a portable fortress that made any larger predator think twice before it attacked.

The only predator it didn’t scare off was a giant diver who was collecting animals for the zoo. That was how the Octopus reached the lobby full of cages and aquariums.

The Octopus had tested its confinement and had settled to wait and see what was next. It observed the hopeless struggle of the Anaconda without moving. It had seen snakes before but nothing even close to the size of its neighbor.

When the Anaconda noticed the Octopus, it prepared to attack. The calmness of the skull and the big eyes spying from its sockets made the snake furious. It rolled on its tail to gather momentum and launched at the Octopus. The aquarium’s thick glass was unforgiving. After several attacks the blood trickled down from the snake’s head. Its confinement shook and alerted the another beasts in the lobby. Soon a concerned giant came around. He took a death rat and stuffed a few pills in it, inserted it in the snake’s prison and waited. The Anaconda ate and fell asleep. The Octopus observed and learned.

When it woke the Anaconda was calm. The drugs and the effort had made it tired. The Octopus was doing its routine swim about to invigorate its mind and body. The skull floated in the aquarium like a forest ghost. The Anaconda felt threatened and mounted another attack, exacting a fresh round of damage to its head and mind. The giant fed it pills and the cycle repeated.

After several days of repeated struggle the Anaconda and the Octopus were moved to their permanent new homes. The snake was numb and tired, its head hurt and its mind was empty. It rolled in a corner and did not move or feed for days. Its giant keepers thought it would not acclimate to its confined conditions. In fact the snake was has just lost will power after banging its head so many times on the invisible wall between it and the Octopus. The Octopus was relaxed and balanced. The first thing it did was to explore its new spacious aquarium built specially for its comfort. It new it was not as boundless and free as the ocean but it also knew it was safe and food would be provided. For a first time in a while the Octopus exited the skull and swam around with pleasure. There was no one to scare off here and no harsh currents that would knock it about. The Octopus was free at last.

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photograph by Scott Webb

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