The Night Watchman - Brandi M
The night watchman picked up his flashlight and took off on his rounds. He had taken a job at the aquarium to pay off his student loans.
As soon as he had been left alone at the aquarium, he lit one up. This was the greatest job ever. Sleep all day, get high, watch fish. He should have dropped out of college years ago.
Night time at the aquarium is always the most interesting. It’s a shame the public doesn’t get to see it. When the overhead lightening is dimmed and the tank lights are off the animals get adventurous. Crabs and fish come out from behind their rocks and explore their tank looking for love. Looking for a late night snack.
The watchman’s favorite was always the octopus, but he wasn’t alone. The aquarium hosted the only successful breeding program for the Giant Pacific Octopus and supplied aquariums across the United States.
As night came on they would begin to slowly extend their many arms from the corner or rock they had been hiding in. Unfurling like a flag flapping in a slow motion breeze, they would stretch across the glass of the tank. The mantle would follow and eventually the large beak would be exposed. Clear, steely eyes watched him. It gave him the shivers, those arms, that beak, the brilliant mind watching his every move. He had chuckled to others he wouldn’t want to meet these guys in a dark alley.
His rounds took him to the “hospital”. A catwalk stretched across the room looking down into six or seven, several thousand gallon tanks. Some were used for breeding. Others, nurseries and a couple served as quarantine tanks for new arrivals or death beds for the dying mothers. Their bodies limp from weeks of starvation and the constant maintenance of their thankless brood.
He sat on the catwalk, took off his heavy boots and dangling his legs over the side. It was clear of hand rails. The aquarists needed free range of movement to attend to the tanks. He pointed his flashlight into the water. The tanks were dark save for the beam from his MagLite piercing the water like a saber. He liked to swirl it around a nursery tank and watch the juveniles dash out of the way. Momentarily blinded by the beam they would bump into one another and the walls. He could sit there all night playing tag with them in this manner, but rounds had to be completed.
Tonight he felt adventurous. He lit up another joint. He laid back on the catwalk and watched the reflections off the tanks ripple across the ceiling.
He checked his watch and discovered it was much later than he thought. He had lain there for an hour. He stumbled up. Probably too quickly.
He found himself underwater with a gauging pain in his right calf. He reached down to swat it away and he felt another on his arm. And then, his neck. He flailed his arms up his legs, across his body around his head, but it was no use, the juveniles were coming too quickly.
He kicked once desparately, but the coral at the bottom of the tank was sharp and sliced his bare foot and he hadn’t the momentum to reach the surface.
He opened his mouth to scream, but only bubbles came out and cold water rushed in. Freezing and painful, his lungs ached as they filled with water. His skin was being ripped from his body. It was excruciating. Until, it wasn’t. The tank started clouding with blood.
In the morning, his chewed and bloated body would be found floating on the surface of the tank.