Stories

The Troubles Caused by a Cephalopod

by Ella G., Age 15 , Grade 10, Amery High School, Amery, WI USA
Teacher: Mrs.Ruehlow

Frank found himself at the entrance of Oregon's newest attraction, The Seaside Aquarium. He had never been to the town of Seaside before, but news spread that an innovative and awe-inspiring aquarium was being constructed right on the ocean shore. He had seen advertisements on television claiming that on the aquarium's bottom floor, the only thing separating visitors and the ocean floor was an entire wall of five-foot-thick glass spanning upward almost thirty feet. Frank had been fired from his last job, so he was ecstatic when he saw that the aquarium was looking for maintenance employees that could cover the night shift. Frank decided to seize the opportunity and apply, and luckily for him, he was hired.

Frank's last job experience didn't go as planned. He had worked as a security guard at a maritime museum in Portland for a total of one day before an unexpected visitor broke in and made a mess of the place. By the end of his seven-hour shift, priceless objects from sunken ships were misplaced and damaged beyond repair, animal control was contacted, and the culprit, a runaway toucan from the neighboring zoo, was returned to its former location. Gerald the toucan, a now-infamous burglar, had escaped from the Portland Zoo after a new employee accidentally left its cage open. Gerald then broke through the windows of the museum and decided to fly around and make a mess of things. Naturally, Frank couldn't figure out for the life of him what was happening. He assumed that someone had broken in and was attempting to steal things. Gerald continues to live at the Portland Zoo and has managed to acquire quite the following. Needless to say, Frank was fired.

Frank opened the doors and was greeted by his new boss, Walter Swanson.

"Hello Frank, I'm here to show you around and go over the basics.”

“Happy to be here!” said Frank, genuinely happy to be there.

“This," Walter gestured to the desk in front of them, "is the main desk. During your shift, this desk is at your convenience. The monitor screen displays a live feed of every room in the building."

He pointed to two buttons on the keyboard.

"These buttons are used to rewind and pause,” he pressed the pause button to demonstrate, “the system can become pretty glitchy if you mess with it too much, so only rewind if you need to."

They then walked into the next room. Glass tanks were laid before them. In them, fish of all colors, shapes, and sizes, were swimming around displaying their unique idiosyncrasies.

"Day maintenance takes care of everything with the fish. Your only job is to spend the seven hours cleaning and preparing the place for tomorrow's visitors. When you're done with that, just walk through the rooms every hour or so to make sure everything is running smoothly."

Walter looked at his watch.

"Wow, it's already ten. If you feel the need for me to escort you through the rest of the aquarium, I will, but otherwise, I would like to head home. Everything else you need to know is pretty self-explanatory. Downstairs has the large glass window looking into the ocean, as I'm sure you are aware. There aren't any tanks with any sea life down there, the exhibit is the ocean itself. There are, however, a decent number of expensive artifacts and displays, such as the great white shark that is hanging from the ceiling. It's probably worth more than your life. Anything you break, you pay for, so just keep that in mind and you should be fine. You ready for me to leave?"

After Walter left, Frank decided he wanted to go see the famous bottom floor for himself. He went down a big flight of stairs and entered a gigantic room illuminated by projectors emitting blue ocean-like light everywhere, giving off the illusion that you were underwater. Every step Frank took on the cement floor echoed through the high ceilings. In the center of the room, a scale model of a great white shark dangled from the ceiling. Schools of fish were painted on the walls, which were all lined with plastic seaweed that stretched upward what must have been at least ten feet. The showstopper of the room, however, was the gigantic glass wall revealing the ocean floor. Through the glass, you could see an entire ecosystem. It was the definition of marvelous. Schools of fish were swimming everywhere, but what Frank thought was most interesting was a large colorful octopus gliding through the water. He watched as it got closer and closer to the surface, and eventually out of his line of sight.

Frank was on his way to the front office when he noticed the floor was damp. He looked at his feet and noticed there was a thin trail of water lining the hallway.

He sighed, “kids gotta learn how to wipe their feet when they enter a building.”

He found a mop and swept the floor, following the trial from room to room. Frank was in the submarine room when the trail led to a wall and suddenly stopped. There were labeled shelves on the walls.

“It says here that there’s supposed to be a compass and some old scuba gear.”

Frank looked around the room. The shelves were obviously missing some artifacts because there were rings of dust where the objects had been. Frank became somewhat nervous, remembering what happened at his old job, but he decided it was unwarranted. He finished cleaning and made his way to the front desk.

It was 12:30 and Frank was starting to become tired. He set down the mop and looked at the monitors. The security footage was still up, and a set of yellow numbers lined the bottom left corner.

2010/04/03      21:00

“Huh, looks like Walter never resumed the security footage. The timestamp says 9:00.”

He clicked through room to room until he found the submarine room. If the security footage was correct, at 9:00, all the artifacts Frank found missing were still in their places. A compass was there, along with the scuba gear. Frank fast-forwarded the tape. Five minutes had gone by, and then ten. Suddenly, Frank saw a flash move on the screen. He couldn’t believe his eyes!

“Is that… an octopus?”

The cephalopod, which Frank best described as an eight-legged blob, crept its way through the door, up the wall, and onto the shelf. It spent some time grabbing and holding things as if it was inspecting them. The octopus then suddenly slunk back down the wall and into the submarine. Frank was confused until he noticed another movement. The door to the room started to open, and in walked Frank, mopping the floor. He paused the recording and sighed. What was he supposed to do now?

He spent the next half-hour thinking. His first thought was to call his boss. Then he remembered that it was past midnight, and a tired boss is a crabby boss. Frank had no intention of getting fired that night. His second thought was to catch the octopus, though he had no experience doing so. He pondered and pondered until he concluded that the only way to settle this was to find that octopus, but he had to be prepared first. He located the octopus in the security footage. It was currently on the bottom floor, crawling around looking for more ways to inconvenience Frank.

“Perfect.”

Frank closed the door to the downstairs so the octopus couldn’t escape, hoping that the octopus had no other escape routes available to him. He then stormed to the janitorial office and found a big plastic tank. It was light and durable. He searched around some more and found a tall ladder, an old rope, and some shiny silverware. He had a plan, and now all he had to do was execute it.

Quietly, Frank crept down the stairs, closing the door behind him. He set up his ladder and tied a rope around the great white shark, leaving one end dangling far below it, which he tied to the old tank. He took the old silverware and dumped it in a pile below the tank that was suspended in the air, and then crawled back up the ladder. Frank had created a pulley system, and now all he had to do was wait.

It felt like hours had gone by. In the big, empty room, the octopus was nowhere to be found. Frank had almost started to fall asleep when he heard metal rustling. He jolted awake and consequently let go of the rope.
            SLAM!

The tank fell to the ground. Frank rushed down the ladder and let out a sigh of relief. The octopus was in the tank, unharmed.

“Thank goodness…”

The remainder of Frank’s night was spent researching, transporting, and picking up. Frank took a look around and realized there was no octopus exhibit in the aquarium, and that the octopus must have crawled in from the ocean somehow. He returned everything to its original location, including his new friend, who was now happily swimming in the ocean. By the time he finished doing that, his shift was over, and Frank went home. He didn’t know what tomorrow would bring at the Seaside Aquarium, but he could only hope that the eight-legged cephalopod had been content with its visit and had moved on to a new adventure.

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