Squid Tank

Bernardien pushed the vacuum down the dimly-lit corridor. Only a few more rooms to go, but he hated these last ones, which was why he left them till last. They had all those icky creepy-crawlies.

He approached the final door, and fumbled with his keys. In his nervousness, he dropped them and had to fumble around on the floor to find them. His hands were shaking even more as he selected the right key and, after a few tries, unlocked the door.

The door swung open, revealing the pitch-black room beyond. He could hear water swishing and grumbling in the tanks he knew were beyond, and he tried to blot from his mind the images of the obscene creatures within. But he knew they would be there, just like they had been every night before.

He flipped on the light switch before he lost his nerve completely. And there they were, swimming around in their tanks. Many of them clustered against the glass, in response to the lights. There were a couple of sickly yellow squids, many fish of horrific shapes, with horns or tentacles or huge gaping mouths, and other creatures he couldn't identify, and didn't want too. They all seemed to be staring at him as he dragged the vacuum into the room. He knew from experience that if he closed his eyes the images would only get worse, so he concentrated on the vacuum and didn't look at the cages.

He plugged the vacuum in and turned it on. Its noise started the creatures in the cages into even more frenzied action. He heard of a couple of thuds of large creatures hitting the glass--the squids, most likely. They always did. He was always half-afraid that they'd break the glass and it would all come spilling out onto the floor in front of him, the obscene, disgusting, slimy, writhing creatures. He shuddered uncontrollably at the thought.

So he applied himself to vacuuming, looking at the floor, not at the tanks. He sucked up small pieces of paper, broken pencil leads, bits of rubber, some bits of glass--not from the cages, Bernardien hoped with a shudder--and the usual debris of scientists and lab techs. There were a few pieces of unidentified organic matter that he sucked up almost spasmodically, to get them out of his sight.

Then he saw the puddle.

At the base of one of the tanks, there was a small puddle forming. Like water leaking from one of the tanks. It was the squids. Of course, it would be the squids. He was almost finished, and he forced himself to go on, but he was always looking back at the puddle. It was getting bigger. Not very fast, but it was, nonetheless. He'd have to go past it to get back out, since the squid tank was near the door.

Finally he finished, and started to push the vacuum back towards the door. Then he saw that the trickle of water into the puddle was increasing. He looked frantically at the tank, but the source of the trickle wasn't apparent. No cracks, or holes, or anything. But the water was coming. And didn't the level of water in the tank seem to be lower than it had been? It was always right near the ceiling, but it was lower than that now. Lower than the adjacent cages.

Then he heard the unmistakable sound of glass creaking. He bit his lower lip to keep from crying out. He opened the door frantically and pulled the vacuum out into the hall, where he stood, gasping, as the door swung closed. Then he pushed the vacuum down the corridor to the next room as quickly as he could.

Dr. Falstein observed the tape of Bernardien's activities with interest. He froze the tape on an image of Bernardien's face as he was opening the door to leave. "Hmmm. Almost into a mode of complete panic. Interesting." He noted down, "Simulated proximity of accident and contact with live sea creatures induces classic panic reaction. Tomorrow: put full dead creature in lab, and observe reaction."

Based on the words: Diamond Squid Horn Vacuum

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com