Vampire Squid Octomer
GN reader X M monster, 6,943 words
Happy Mermay everybody! In celebration of this wonderful time of year, here's a story about a human breaking out of containment with a octomer and some telepathic chicanery.
Your stomach rolled slowly, like a ship tossed in an ocean. The floor was, you were pretty sure, stable, but your head was spinning. As tentatively as you could, you planted your hands underneath you and sat up.
The room was pitch black. Closing and opening your eyes made no difference. You kept one of your hands on the wall as you clambered unsteadily to your feet. Keeping in contact with the wall, you paced around the perimeter of the room.
It was small, barely more than four by four feet. Even the ceiling was close to your head. You weren’t in danger of hitting your head on it, but you couldn’t extend your arms over your head either.
Where were you? You tried to go back through your memories, but they seemed distorted and uncertain. You had been… outside? Walking by the sea? And then… Nothing. You didn’t remember getting drugged or hit by something or blacking out. One minute you were walking on the beach, the next minute you were waking up in a pitch black, tiny room.
It felt like a cage more than a room. You did another pass around it, running your fingers along the walls. They were perfectly smooth, expect for a thin seam that outlined the shape of a door. It was too thin to get your fingers into, and you couldn’t feel any hinges or latches. There was no way to get out.
You were also wearing a skintight wetsuit, one that only really covered your torso. You hadn’t been wearing it before you blacked out. The idea of someone having to strip you down and shove your limp body into it was unsettling, to say the least.
The cage rattled. You stumbled and fell on your butt as the entire thing jerked, swaying back and forth. It swayed precariously, like it was dangling on a single tether. You could feel the cage lifting into the air.
“Hey!” Your voice came out oddly rusty. God, your mouth was dry. How long had you been out? “Hey! Let me out!”
Your voice didn’t carry and you didn’t have much hope that anyone was listening. If you were in this cage, it was probably because someone wanted you there. Still, you slammed your fists against the walls. They were unyielding. The cage swayed again, sending you sliding to the other side. It felt like it was suspended from a crane. Your mind pulled up images of crates being stacked on cargo ships. Were you being shipped?
The cage dropped. Your stomach leapt into your throat as it plunged. For a split second, your terrified mind wondered if you were on some horrifying version of the tower of terror. Then you hit the water.
It was water the cage landed in. You could hear the splash and felt the slight bob of the cage before it drifted downward far more slowly.
The box must have been sealed against water because you saw none of it leaking in through the seam. If it was watertight, it was likely airtight as well. You tried to slow your panicked breathing. You needed to conserve air and you needed to get out before you sank too deep to make it back to the surface.
You slammed one of your feet into the wall. Again and again, you struck, trying to focus on the little cracks of the doorway.
There was a faint noise, a sort of sucking pop, then thin jets of water spurted in through the crack. The seal was broken! You slammed your shoulder against the door, but it only made a metallic clang. Your shoulder throbbed. You threw your weight against it again, but the door was unyielding. Already, you were splashing about in the water of the floor. It made your feet skid. The water was brutally cold. Already, you were having trouble feeling your toes.
Growing more desperate, you slammed your shoulder against the door again and again. The seal budged more, sending more thin streams of water flowing into the box. Water sloshed around your calves. It was approaching your knees. Your teeth chattered. Still, the door refused to budge. If there was a piece of metal blocking the door, you were never going to get out. Regardless, you slammed your shoulder against the door again and again. You had to try.
Something slammed back.
You staggered, falling again. The cold water shocked you into stillness as something on the outside slammed again and again. The door shuddered. More spouts of water appeared on the seam. The water inside your cage rose faster. Already, it was at your waist.
Another slam. The door jerked and, with an almighty pop, the seal fractured. Water gushed in, pumping through the doorway. Stumbling to your feet, you slammed your body against the door once more.
There was a pop once more and the door shifted. A wave of water dumped over you. The shock made your muscles seize, but you ignored it. You needed to get out, you needed to get out!
Blinded by the saltwater stinging your eyes, you kicked once more at the door. It jostled aside, leaving a hole just big enough for you to squeeze your way through. Just as your cage was fully submerged, you slipped out into the open water.
And then something grabbed you.
For a moment, you thought it was an octopus, or some other tentacled sea creature. Thick, muscular tentacles wrapped around your waist and legs, the suckers popping against your skin. Filaments brushed against your skin, tickling and making your flesh crawl. You thrust out your hands, fingers too stiff to even grip the tentacles, much less untangle them. The grip tightened. Already, your lungs were screaming for air, but the creature had you and it was going to drag you into the depths to drown you and pick your soft meat apart with its beak-
And then hands settled at your waist.
You started. Even if you couldn’t see them, you knew the feel of human hands and fingers. One hand shifted upward, taking a firm hold of your arm. The tentacles unwound from your leg, though you could still feel them brushing against your skin.
The hand on your arm squeezed tighter and then it was hauling you up at quite a quick pace. Or, was it hauling you up? You had no way to tell which direction it was pulling you in. Perhaps it was dragging you deeper, pulling you into the depths and drowning you.
Your lungs were screaming for air. It didn’t matter which direction you were going. If you didn’t get there soon, you were going to start compulsively gulping water into your lungs. Furiously, you started to kick, trying to swim in the direction you were being pulled in. You were just going to have to hope it was trying to save your life.
Your head broke the surface of the water. You had a split second of overwhelming, blissful relief, then the top of your head slammed into a hard metal wall.
Stunned, you dropped back into the water. Stars blinked behind your eyelids. You’d been moving at a fairly quick pace when you’d emerged from the water, so you’d slammed into the metal at speed. Dim, dazed thoughts drifted through your mind. What was happening? Where were you? Your lungs burned. You needed to breathe. You moved to inhale-
Your head broke the surface of the water. One hand was wrapped around your waist. The other was holding onto the back of your head, pulling your head back so you could breathe without bonking your head on the metal above you. You gasped and gulped air. You could still feel the tentacles brushing against your legs, but that was a secondary concern to just stopping the awful burning in your lungs.
As you were struggling to breathe, you felt something nuzzling at the back of your head, right where you’d smacked it. It felt like nuzzling, anyway, though you couldn’t see what was touching you. You could feel something snuffling at your hair, nosing at you. The tentacles in the water wrapped around your legs again, holding you still.
Now that you were breathing again, your concern shifted to the thing that was holding you. It had human hands, a human face, and tentacles like an octopus. Some sort of merperson? Octomer, were they called?
The creature released your head. You felt the tentacles on your leg release as well, drifting away from you. Slowly, you lowered your head, moving tentatively to avoid hitting it again. You tried to peer into the water, but there was no light in the tank. You couldn’t see anything.
Something splashed next to you. The water grew choppier, like something else had broken the surface. Before you could move to investigate, a pale blue light blossomed from next to you.
There was a person in the water next to you. They were terribly pale, almost ghostly, though that may have been a trick of the blue light that gleamed from patches on his skin. The glowing blue lights glowed under his eyes and across his forehead, following the bone structure of his face. Only his head showed above the water, his eyes glittering in the light that he gave off.
“Hello,” you said. Your voice was raspy and weak, and you sputtered as little waves of salty water flowed into your mouth. “Can- can you tell me where I am?”
The octomer stared at you. Something brushed against your leg and you went still. Did it speak English? Maybe not. Probably not. Why would an undersea creature speak English? It seemed to be more interested in looking at you than helping you do anything. Cautiously, you drifted back away from it. It followed you, though it kept a certain amount of distance between you.
You had only been floating back a few feet when your back struck a wall. You stopped, sputtering. The octomer drifted closer, blinking its large, inky-black eyes at you.
Arms stretched out, you drifted from side to side, trying to touch the walls. By your best estimate, the container was at least ten feet across, probably ten square feet, though it was far deeper. It was a cage. You had escaped from a cage into another cage.
Despair rose in you in a terrible tidal wave. Your limbs felt too heavy to keep yourself up anymore. This cage was much bigger, much stronger, and full of water. Already, you could feel your limbs going numb and heavy with cold. You couldn’t escape and you couldn’t keep swimming forever. Eventually, you would drown.
Sobs burst out of your chest. It was stupid to cry, it used up energy and air you didn’t have, but you couldn’t stop yourself. The octomer drifted away from you, eyes wide. You kicked your legs furiously, but you could already feel yourself starting to drift underwater. Your chest burned, but your legs hurt from trying to keep yourself above the water.
The light dimmed. The octomer had darted under the water. Had it lost interest? Or was it just waiting for you to drown so it could easily pick apart your corpse?
Hands touched your waist. They were firm, strong, and they hoisted you effortlessly out of the water. The octomer’s head appeared in the water next to you, dark eyes blinking up at you. Its filament hair drifted against your skin, tickling faintly.
You sagged in relief. The octomer’s hands kept your head above the water, even when you stopped kicking. Your entire body felt heavy. Where you weren’t numb, you were in pain. Muscle cramps seized through your legs, and the tingling pain of cold was burning at your fingers and toes. It hurt, it hurt, it hurt, but you were still alive and you were breathing.
The octomer abruptly leaned forward and nuzzled its face against your stomach. You froze. The way it was holding you meant that its head was roughly level with your torso, and it was simply nuzzling and sniffing the area that was easiest for it to reach. The touch was… curious? It didn’t seem to be trying to do anything to you. It was just nuzzling.
You shivered. The creature pulled its head back, eyes wide as it stared up at you. The lights along its body pulsed, dimming and brightening in a rhythmic pattern. It seemed to be assessing you. Perhaps it was trying to figure out if you were going to attack it. You shivered again. It was so cold. Even if you were no longer in danger of drowning, you were in desperate danger of getting hypothermia.
When it realized that you weren’t going to attack it, the creature leaned back in to nuzzle you again. The tentacles wrapped around your legs again, suckers popping against you skin. The long filaments of its hair wreathed outward, touching every bit of exposed skin they could find. You held as still as possible. The creature didn’t seem to want to hurt you. Maybe it was better to just let it explore.
The filaments touched their way across your face. You closed your eyes as they twitched around your eyelids. Gradually, the filaments settled, though they were still resting on you. There was a faint buzzing sensation, like they were mildly electrified. The hair on the back of your neck stood up.
There was a sudden, unpleasant feeling in the back of your mind. Something was rifling through your memories like it was going through a filing cabinet. You could feel it, rustling around in the back of your head.
Just as you noticed this, the rifling thing turned its attention to you. A wave of calm flowed from the presence, giving you the impression of someone walking toward you with their hands up. The octomer’s hands shifted against your head as it nuzzled you again.
“It’s you, isn’t it?” Your voice echoed a little in the confines of the container. “You’re doing this?”
You had no idea if the octomer could understand you, but the nuzzling at your stomach stopped. The presence in your mind kept sending out waves of peace toward you, but you could feel an underlying sense of curiosity. Tentatively, you closed your eyes and focused on the presence.
There was one curious moment where your mind approached the other one, then, like two drops sliding together, you merged.
Everything was confusing for a long moment. A blur of colors and sounds rushed through your mind, flickering too fast for you to latch onto. Flashes of feelings and fragmented ideas tore at your mind. Swimming through blue water, tangling in a great web, being hauled up and dragged into a cage, prodded and poked, and the hunger. A great, yawning hunger that grew and grew and was unsatisfied by any of the fish or feed the captors shoved into the cage.
A heavy sensation formed in the pit of your stomach. A few other memories surfaced from the other mind related to the hunger- great fangs, red blood gushing out in the water, slurping and drinking and… Cold terror shocked through you. A man in a white coat bleeding into the water and drinking and drinking deeply of the rich red liquid until it filled the great maw inside.
Blood. This creature drank blood. And you were trapped with it.
Your first instinct was to try to fight off the creature. But the fact that it was holding you made you pause and take stock of the situation again. It hadn’t tried to eat you yet, even though you could feel the burn of hunger in the back of its mind. It was still supporting you above the water. And the tone of its thoughts seemed far more curious than aggressive. Tentatively, you reached out with your own mind.
Your attempts to do so were fumbling. Clearly this creature was far more adept with telepathy than you were. But as you struggled to reach out, you felt a returning rush of delight. The creature’s mind surged around yours, interested and eager about your attempts to reach back.
The telepathic communication was both rudimentary and somehow far more complex than using words. It took you a few tries, but you managed to communicate how you’d ended up trapped in a cage. The creature’s mind hummed with sympathy, showing you its similar story. It also communicated, however vaguely, that you were safe from it. Images of the scientists were always tinged with red anger, but as it showed you an image of yourself, the tone shifted to curiosity and interest. It was even tinged with affection, the sort of way you would think about something cute.
Water sputtered into your mouth. You coughed frantically, kicking your legs. They were so heavy, so tired. Everything below your knees was numb. A flutter of concern pressed against your mind. The creature shifted, lifting you further out of the water. Apparently, holding you up was starting to tire it out too.
Despite your relief that the creature with you was on your side and not going to eat you, it didn’t change the situation you were in. Even with help, you couldn’t stay above the water forever, and it was cold enough that you were going to get hypothermia and die anyway. How long could the pair of you hold on?
The creature rested its head against you again, making soft, mewling noises. A flicker of protectiveness moved through its mind, along with anger. It took a moment for you to follow the direction of its thoughts. The creature was angry that the scientists were trying to sacrifice you to it, angry that they thought it would be so cruel.
You reached out carefully with your mind again. This time, you focused heavily on only one thought: escape. How do we get out?
A flurry of uncertain thoughts came back along the connection to you. Sometimes the scientists came into the tank or opened it up to run tests, but there were always too many of them to try and escape through.
You pressed for more information. The scientists. Where did they come from?
Up. Above. You extended your numb fingers to brush them along the wall a couple of inches from your face. The ceiling was removeable. That made sense. It was likely locked, though, or at least too heavy to move on your own.
You considered your options for a moment. All right. You couldn’t open the cage on your own. But you did have one advantage: the scientists threw you in the cage as food. Which meant they were expecting you to be dead. There had to be a way to use that to your advantage.
You asked the creature when the scientists were coming back. Soon, apparently. The creature sent back images of it eating, then the scientists coming back not too long after.
“Then we need to be ready,” you said out loud. Slowly, carefully, you outlined your plan to the creature. It was difficult to do so while also keeping your jangling nerves from startling it Luckily, the creature was accepting and quick-witted enough to understand and accept your plan.
You floated at the top of the tank. It was less convincing because you had to float face-up instead of face-down, but you had to hope that the scientists wouldn’t be suspicious. And you only needed them to be fooled from a distance.
The creature bumped at you from under the water. You could feel his (it felt weird to keep referring to him as it, and his mind had indicated male) worry bubbling at the back of your mind, making a pit of anxiety twist in your own stomach. He kept nudging worriedly at you, hovering only inches away. Eventually, you had to tell him to swim away, lest he look suspicious when the tank got opened. You could feel him pouting in the back of your mind as he obliged.
It took all your willpower not to open your eyes when you heard the scrape and groan of metal being shifted. You made yourself go as limp as possible. You just needed to look dead. Hopefully the hypothermia you were experiencing would assist in that.
Light shone against your closed eyelids. Water lapped at your ears, but beyond that, you could hear the murmuring of voices.
“Didn’t eat the solids, I guess,” a rough, masculine voice said from somewhere above you. “Hal, you owe me twenty bucks.”
“Fish out the body, first. Maybe he took a few nibbles.” There was a splashing noise and something metal poked your side. Worry fluttered in the back of your mind, almost frantic. The creature swam toward you. You warned him off, but he was only barely held at bay by your warning.
The hook caught around your waist. You remained as still and limp as possible as you were hauled up on some kind of observation platform.
“Hey, hold on,” a third voice said. “I think this one’s still breathing-”
Okay, time to go. You launched yourself up, seizing the man around his neck with your elbow. You weren’t much of a fighter, admittedly, but you had the advantage of surprise and a slippery working platform. You managed to knock him off balance and dunk him into the water.
He sputtered, scrambling frantically. Blue lights illuminated the water around him as the creature surged upward. The other two scientists scrambled, trying to get a hold of you. Luckily, one of them was clearly off-balance and you managed to dodge him. The other one seized your arm, twisting it around. There was a pressure on your shoulder as he jerked it, threatening to pop it out.
Furiously, you twisted at him. You couldn’t remember any of the fighting and self-defense techniques that you had seen on the internet, but you didn’t care. You just lunged at him, clawing and snapping your teeth and just trying to hurt in any way you could. The man yanked your arm more severely and something tore. Screaming pain lanced across your shoulder, up your neck, and down your chest.
The other scientist screamed. The one holding you twisted to look and his grip loosened in shock.
The creatures had managed to clamber out of the tank while the scientists were distracted. It was bigger than you’d realized. Even its human part seemed unusually large, but the surging tentacles that made up its lower half took up a great deal of the platform. One of them slammed into the scientist not holding you, pressing him into a wall. The creature barely paid him any mind. Instead, the creature’s attention was fixed on the scientist holding you.
Out of the water, clearly visible, the creature’s sharp, bony features were thrown into a strange relief. His upper body was skinny, though his tentacles looked powerful and muscular. The long filaments that covered his head like hair shifted and twitched, raising like a halo. Dark eyes glittered in his face, reflecting his bioluminescence. And his teeth… they were all sharp, like a slightly narrower version of a shark’s tooth.
The scientist dropped you. Trying not to land on your injured arm made for an awkward fall, where you smacked your chin on the ground instead. The metallic taste of blood filled your mouth.
A tentacle reached over your head and, with a violent motion, sent the scientist who had been holding you tumbling into the water. The creature bent over you, making soft, trilling vocalizations. His filaments tickled over your skin, worry bubbling up from his mind.
“I’m fine,” you said. “Oh, oww…” The worry pressed against your mind with more intensity. The creature took a gentle hold of your arm, probing lightly at it. His mind reflected your pain, adding sorrow and concern to the mixture. “It doesn’t feel good,” you reassured him, “but I can manage it. Ugh.”
The creature kept making soft, worried noises as it helped you to your feet. “We need to find a way out,” you said, trying to focus your mind around the pain.
The little sounds of concern became more intense. The creature butted his head against your good shoulder, nuzzling you furiously. You absently patted his head as you looked around the room. None of the scientists had managed to raise the alarms. Everything was still and silent. Ahead of you, there was a heavy metal door. Slowly, you approached it.
The creature followed you as you stopped in front of the door. Taking a deep breath, you put your good shoulder to the door, turned the doorknob, and shoved.
The door slid open more easily than you were expecting. The hall beyond smelled faintly moldy. Puddles of damp covered the floor. You lifted your hand to your nose. “Ew.”
It seemed like you were in some kind of cave. Everything was uneven stone. There were only a few lights scattered throughout the hallway, so you relied mostly on the glimmering light of the creature crawling along next to you.
An unsettled feeling was starting in your stomach. This wasn’t some kind of military-grade lab. It was made to sort of look like it, but the cracks were there. It was made by someone with money, but not enough money to make it all official.
Poachers or smugglers. Some group selling endangered creatures for money. Which meant the creature beside you was either rare, endangered, or both. And you were technically robbing people who would probably be able to make your life a living hell.
You were so lost in that thought, you didn’t notice when the creature stopped dead, back going stiff. You paused and took a few steps backward. “What’s wrong?”
The creature’s mind touched yours again. You got a vague sense of salt and ocean air, the rush of waves. “The ocean is nearby?” The creature made a soft, trilling noise. He scanned the wall for a moment, then pointed up toward the ceiling. There was a small opening in the wall, faint beams of white light streaming through.
Images of swimming, sliding free through the water hit your mind with such force it almost bowled you over. The creature reached out with his tentacles and started to heave his body up toward the opening.
There was no way you were going to be able to climb up and follow him. When he realized you weren’t following him, he turned to look back at you. Concern fluttered against your mind.
“I can’t climb like you can,” you said. “Especially not with my arm. I can keep going. There must be some other way out.”
The creature tilted his head at you, still partially hanging off the wall. Two of his tentacles detached from the wall and slithered around your waist. You could feel the muscular strength rippling through him, but the grip on you was gentle. The creature’s mind pressed against yours soothingly as he pulled you in close to his body. Swiftly, he turned and pulled himself through the hole, taking you with him.
The hole was barely big enough for the two of you to fit through together. Stone scraped against your arm, one particularly sharp one cutting a thin slice through your skin. Your physical proximity to him seemed to be enhancing whatever connection had been established between you. You could feel faint prickles of discomfort against your skin where he was scraping against the stone. There were even odd phantom pains whenever stone pressed against his tentacles.
After a few moments of careful wriggling, the creature heaved himself out of the tunnel and onto an outcropping of rock.
You looked around. The location was unrecognizable to you. Sea spray filled the air along with the crash of the waves. You were seated on top of some kind of rock formation at the edge of a beach. The open ocean stretched out in front of you.
“Hurry,” you said, nudging him toward the water. “You need to go. Get away!”
The creature made an anxious mewling noise and twisted back toward you. He butted his head against your chin like an affectionate cat. Worry fluttered against your mind once more.
“I’ll be okay. I’ll be fine! I can get down to the beach and-” You stopped. What were you going to do? Where were you? How far away was civilization? Your shoulder throbbed again, reminding you of your injured state. The people who had captured the octomer were going to be looking for you. How long did you have until they found you?
The creature mewled once more. His tentacles twisted around you, coiling around your waist and your legs. The worry pressed against your mind again, this time far stronger. “You can’t take me with you,” you said. “I can’t breathe under water, I’m hurt, I-”
The tone of his mind against yours shifted. You trailed off. His eyes had shifted from your face down to your stinging arm. Blood welled up from the shallow cut and slid in warm dribbles down your forearm. And as he watched it, the thoughts against yours took on a tone of hunger. That great, gnawing emptiness inside him was rising.
Fear jolted through you and through your connection. The creature blinked once, twice, then the hunger was fiercely restrained. You could feel him fighting against it through the bond. He dropped low to the rock, making soft, soothing noises.
“You need to go,” you said. “Hurry.” You pushed against his mind again. He pushed back. His thoughts whirled against yours, trying to sort out some kind of a solution. You had a hard time sorting out any specific thoughts, since his mind was moving so fast, but you noticed when he settled on a path. With a new determination, he leaned toward you, one arm extended. His mind projected soothing, gentle thoughts into your own. Trust me. Listen to me. I will help you. Just go with what I am asking for.
You had only just allowed your feeling of acceptance to come forward when he took hold of your arm. His fingers were tight on your wrist, though not uncomfortably so. The soothing feeling pressed against your mind as he lowered his head to your arm. He sniffed at the rivulets of blood that were seeping from your skin. Then his mouth opened and a long, slithering tongue emerged.
The tongue slipped down and lapped at your arm a few times. It was slightly rough, not barbed, like a cat’s tongue, but distinctly textured. There was almost no pain, just a faintly uncomfortable prickling. As his tongue ran over your arm, the blood stopped weeping. By the third lick, the cut was nothing more than a faintly pink slice in your arm.
You pressed at it as he leaned back, tongue slithering back into his mouth. There was no more pain. The wound was gone, as if it had never been there. “Ooh,” you muttered. “I can see why they tried to poach you. That’s a handy skill.”
The creature slithered closer to you and bumped his head against your shoulder. The hunger in the back of his mind had faded, if only slightly. “You still need to go,” you told him. “Hurry. You healed me. I’ll be fine.”
The creature sent back an image of your shoulder. You sucked in a breath. You hadn’t been looking at it, but apparently it was starting to swell and turn a nasty purply shade. “Don’t suppose you can do anything about that?” The creature sent you a complicated series of images and emotions that boiled down to the idea that he couldn’t do anything if it wasn’t an open wound. “Rats.” You glanced back toward shore. “Well, it won’t stop me from running. I’ll just have to move fast, try to get to the nearest town. Hopefully I’ll be safe there.”
Worry pressed against your mind with more force. The creature made a high keening noise, nuzzling close to you. You absently stroked his head. The filaments that made up his hair wrapped around your fingers. “It’ll be all right. They’ll probably want to go after you first. Which is why you need to go!” You gave him a shove with your good arm. He slid back a little way on the rock before pulling himself closer to you.
The creature considered you for a moment longer, then he reached for you. His hands came down on either side of your face. His thoughts sent soothing messages to you before he leaned in and pressed his lips to yours.
His filament hair twined forward, wrapping around your head. You were barely paying attention to that, though. His mouth was working against yours, his tongue tracing against your lips. The more he touched you, the more his thoughts slipped into your mind. Feelings of pleasure and concern and comfort mixed together until you couldn’t remember exactly where he ended and you started. Your thoughts just merged. There was no thinking about running or safety. There was just the Experience, the Moment where you were together and kissing.
The creature pulled back. You blinked. There was a moment of raw, cold emptiness in your mind, a hole where his presence had been seconds earlier. Your own mind adjusted after a moment, filling the gaps, but there was still an odd sense of loneliness. For a just a moment, you had been… understood. Known. And cared for. Losing that was disorienting.
Chirping quietly, the creature nuzzled his face into the crook of your shoulder. The touch made you jump. His mind reappeared in yours, pressing gently against yours for a moment, like a goodbye, then he twisted away from you. There was a splash and a spray of seawater as he slipped beneath the waves. For a moment, you saw brightly-colored tentacles flash by just under the surface of the water. Then he was gone.
You waited for a few moments longer, staring out into the ocean. Nerves jangled wildly in your mind, but there was an odd, alien sense of peace as well. Of course. He was safe. You would Know if he wasn’t.
It was a weird sense of certainty, but its weirdness didn’t diminish the feeling that you would know if he was hurt. The confidence buoyed your spirits. You turned and picked your way carefully across the rocks until you made it to shore.
As it turned out, you were quite a ways from civilization. The sun was setting when you came across a tiny, rustic-looking town. Fortunately, someone stumbling into town absolutely soaked and rumpled-looking in a wetsuit garnered enough concern from the locals to get you a bed for the night.
Apparently, if you lived in a tiny town on a relatively rural stretch of coastline, a shivering person with no provisions but a wetsuit wasn’t entirely weird. You managed to spin some story about walking along a cliff and accidentally falling into the ocean, losing your bag of possessions in the process. No one seemed to question it. The next morning, you were provided with clothes and a ticket home on the closest train.
The next few days were a rush of both trying to get all your lost objects back, mostly your phone and your wallet, and being overly suspicious of every person you didn’t recognize. You weren’t sure how much effort was going to go into finding you, or if they even cared. You considered going to the police, but you weren’t even sure what you would say. That you’d been kidnapped and almost fed to a merman? You didn’t have any identifying details. In the end, you decided to just keep your head down.
It worked, or at least, it seemed to. After a week, you were no longer jumping at shadows, and you had gotten a handle on all your important documents enough for that stress to be diminished.
Of course, that was when something else started happening.
Your emotions were going absolutely haywire. Initially, you thought it might be something to do with the stress of being kidnapped, but it didn’t feel like a stress response. Instead, you would get strange bursts of happiness out of nowhere, or odd surges of melancholy. The emotions were never congruent with the situation, and had no discernable triggers. They just simply appeared in your mind, as overwhelming as if they were in response to something.
Before bed was the worst. Every time you drifted off to sleep, your mind was full of the sound of crashing waves, the feeling of drifting through the waves, and the strange surges of emotions that were definitely not your own.
As the emotions grew stronger, so did a sense of calling in your mind. It tugged your feet when you weren’t paying attention to where you were walking. You woke every morning with a sense of longing at your heart. Come. Come! Find me. I miss you. The thoughts echoed in your mind louder and louder until they drowned out your own thoughts.
Driven by the calling in your mind, you headed down to the shore. Nerves pricked along your back as you walked along the beach. This was where you’d been kidnapped last time. But the feeling of safety surged through your mind, so you headed down toward the edge of the beach regardless.
By the time your feet touched the water, you had entirely stopped trying to keep yourself above the waves of emotion that lapped against your mind. Your body was pulled into the waves, automatically following the pull.
You had always been a reasonably strong swimmer. Within a few minutes, you were out in water high enough to cover your whole body. The calling took on an excited tone, like an eager puppy. Come! I am here! Come!
Something slammed into you from underneath the water. Strong arms wrapped around you first, followed by a tangle of sucking tentacles. A head pressed into the crook of your neck.
The joy that flooded through your mind was almost the emotional equivalent of a bomb going off. It was stunning, rendering you insensate to anything else. If the creature hadn’t been holding you up at the surface, you probably would have forgotten to breathe.
“It’s you!” you yelped, startled. The creature nuzzled at you, making excited chirping noises. “You’re… you’re here! Why?”
Ideas and images flooded your mind, overwhelming until the creature calmed his mind enough to give you a coherent story. Missed you. Worried. The creature showed you an image of his body and your body. There was a bright line connecting them.
Comprehension flooded you. “When we kissed. That we you connecting our minds?”
Needed to make sure you were safe. The creature butted his head against you again. Safe! Safe. Both safe.
You ran your hand over his head. His filament-hair twisted and tangled around your fingers. “You haven’t seen the people who trapped you again?”
He gave a rapid shake of his head. The filament-hair swirled around him in a long mane. “That’s good.” You looked out into the sea, at the endless blue waves that faded into the horizon. “Are you… do you have somewhere to go? Family or friends?”
The answer popped into your mind within seconds. No. You got vague images of family, but he had separated from them before he had been captured. There was a pause, vague concepts tickling at your mind. The creature seemed to be trying to communicate something complex. You took a deep breath, relaxed, and opened your mind.
The images that came to you were complicated, overlapping, and not in any precise order. You had to take a minute to sort it out in your mind. There were images of creatures like him tangling their tentacles together, swirling in odd dances. The same shining connection he had showed you between you and him gleamed between the two bodies.
There were more images of the creatures swirling together, then some images that definitely made you blush. The creature showed them to you perfectly matter-of-fact, perfectly nonchalant, though you felt its curiosity at your embarrassment. The connection was still there between the two creatures in every image he showed to you. The connection was important. It was something he was trying to convey to you. His tentacles wrapped around your legs, clinging tightly.
“Oh!” Something clicked in your head. The connection. The way he was rubbing against you. The images he was showing you. “This is… that’s… you do that for your mates?”
You felt his joy at your conclusion. Yes! Yes. Mine. Under his affection, you sensed a slight streak of possessiveness. He nuzzled against you, lips tugging delicately at your skin.
Perhaps you should have been surprised or reluctant. But you weren’t. You could feel his affection surrounding your mind like a hug. Your minds touched, mingled. Already, you knew him better than you knew anyone else. Almost better than you knew yourself. And he knew you in the same way. And he loved everything he knew, a deep, abiding caring that filled your entire body from your head to your toes. You wrapped yourself around him as he supported your head above the water.
His tentacles wrapped around you, tugging your body against his. The connection between your minds, already fuzzy, blurred into nonexistence. There were two bodies working against each other, but only one mind, humming with heat and love and joy.
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