Animal Dilemmas – Polar Bear Octopus
The water in the tank was the perfect temperature. The Octopus’ favorite corrals and seaweeds grew from the floor. A dark, domed cavity was at the center where it could rest from the day’s chores. The coral cover cliff above the cave was always swarming with fish the never seem to leave so food was plentiful. This paradise was limited in space but provided everything the Octopus ever wanted: seclusion, security, shelter, food and peace. The Octopus surveyed its confinement many times, inspecting every corner for lurking urchins or eels. It was happy to conclude that it was on the top of the food chain in the this wonderful prison.
The good life was here. The Octopus concluded that this was where all deserving beasts went if they led a diligent life and proved to the universe they can endure. The timing was perfect. The giant skull that it wore as an armor was growing heavy and uncomfortable. Now it decorated the entrance of its niche under the corals. The only short coming of this wonderful resting place were the strange shadows in multiple colors wearing large blurry eyes that appeared on the wall of its aquarium. At first the octopus was startled but soon realized the shadows were harmless and concluded they were a figment of its imagination. Sometimes noises accompanied them but that was the ocean, it thought the Octopus, reminding it that it was getting old.
The nights were perfectly tranquil. The lights were always on but it was beautifully dark inside its niche under the corals. At times it even grew a little boring. There was no danger of any kind and new schools of fish appeared weekly. But Octopus liked boring, it realized that at its age being bored and content is a luxury. Its old friends in the vast ocean were still fighting the currents, fishing nets and often starved. They have grown slow and were victims to barracudas and baby sharks. The Octopus found great pleasure in resting still and observing the colorful fish foraging nervously around the coral reef.
Retirement was beautiful until one night the lights went out. It was the first time any change of routine has occurred in the aquarium and the Octopus was nervous. It was pitch dark and the water stood still. The little bubbles that came up through the floor rocks and oxygenated the tank had vanished. The water grew cool. For a few hours nothing happened and breathing became difficult. The tiny fish were at surface of the water gasping for air.
Noises came from outside and the lid of tank was lifted. The Octopus hid in its niche. A net came after it, carried it out and dropped it into a bucket. The giants carried it along with other beasts into the room with temporary tank where there was light. They set the bucket on the floor and prepped the tanks. Lost in his step on of the giants tripped on the the bucket and the octopus spilled on the floor. It scrambled to hide and it slid down the large drain in the middle of the room.
The giants leaped after it but couldn’t retreats it from the darkness of the drain. The Octopus slid down and until it reached the bottom where the drain branched in two directions. It was impossible to see so the Octopus felt its way around. It followed the left branch and crawled ahead. The giants checked all possible outlets where the drains spilled out and left them open I hope the Octopus will crawl out and come to safety. But guided by darkness and its tentacles the beast kept steady ahead making choices at each cross road that led it directly to Polar Bear’s enclosure.
The Bear was brought into the zoo as a little cub after its parents had been killed by hunters. It didn’t know how to survive in the wild but knew the zoo rules and lived a life of boredom. The Octopus had taken the last turn in the labyrinth of pipes that led into the vast bear compound. The grill that protected the drain was wide enough for it to squeeze through and the Octopus saw dim light. It climbed out and felt the chill coming from the bear pond.
It crawled across the cool rocks and dove into the water. The pond was cold and crystal clear. There were no fish, corals or seaweeds, just flat rocks and cold blue water. The Octopus was confused and felt its energy leaving it. These were no conditions for it survive even a day. It scrambled to the surface thinking to make it back to the drain and take a different turn. It reached the rocks climbed on. On its way back it stumbled on a puddle of warm water that has formed in a low cavity on the shore. It entered and exhausted fell asleep.
Night changed to day and the Polar Bear woke. It shook the ground as it walked and dipped into the water. Waves came over the rocks and some cool water filled the puddle where the Octopus was resting. The Bear made a few circles of the pond and climbed the rocks. It shook of the water and sat waiting for its breakfast. It sniffed the air and it noticed something different. As if breakfast was already there but it knew that delivery was never early or late. How interesting, thought the Bear and stood up to follow its nose.
It searched the rocks until it found the puddle with the terrified Octopus rolled in a ball wishing it had its skull with it and never seen a beast like the Bear. The Bear sniffed at the puddle and poked the Octopus. The Octopus rolled in a right ball. What an exciting new menu, thought the Bear and buried its nails in the soft ball. It took a bite and conscious life left the Octopus. It went twitching and twisting its tentacles even after they were in the Bear’s stanch, which gave the later an ache for the remaining of the day.
Electricity was restarted to the zoo after a night long outage cased by a penguin that bit on a light bulb.
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photograph by Jacqueline Godany