Mr. Thompson pushed his way through the crowd of people on the wharf to make way for the lady with the long brown hair trailing in his wake. She pulled her jacket closer to her chest to ward off the frigid winds that had come with the season’s first cold front. He led her to the edge of wharf where he had tethered his small motorboat. The one he used for “hopping around” as he said. Hey pushed off from Saint Mary’s bay and then turned in towards the mainland.
“It won’t be too long. I’m only a little ways.” He said.
She was a writer and she had just flown into Auckland to do a cover story on the foremost expert on colossal squid on the face of the planet. Very few individuals on earth had seen a Colossal squid and no one had ever successfully captured one, although many had tried. Their bodies had been washing ashore the many beaches that dotted the Pacific Ocean, averaging 280 bodies annually. A Japanese crew had successfully photographed the fabled beast that could change the color of its body at will. The Japanese crewmen had harpooned the beast in order to capture it, but it had sacrificed a few of its limbs in order to escape. Mr. Thompson had become infamous for his public protests against the fishing habits of Japanese and other Pacific fishermen in order to protect his beloved creatures. He had grown to such notoriety that the Japanese had made him an “outlaw” from Japanese waters, where a large percentage of Colossal squid bodies had washed up.
Mr. Thompson took nearly 40 minutes to reach Waipareira Bay. He tied up his boat next to The Odyssey. Mr. Thompson had purchased the small fishing boat from a local captain in 1994 at a bargain price and had been using the vessel to skim the top of the ocean in search for a live specimen. Mr. Thompson led the writer off the Warf and through the streets until they came to a decent sized white barn with a larger trailer parked out front.
“Welcome to my humble abode.” Thompson said proudly.
Mr. Thompson unlocked the service door and then held it open to let his guest into the mostly barren structure. Inside, Mr. Thompson turned on some dim lights and pulled the curtain around the giant cylindrical tank that had been built along the far wall. Inside the glowing blue seawater were 7 or so rather large, but not colossally large squid darting around inside. Their bodies shifted into a myriad of colors as they lazily drifted past one another.
“See I had a few mistakes through the years and I finally got the shape and the height of it right. The first tank I had was made of polyethylene and it’s toxic to them. They’d either hit the wall at 55 miles per hour or jump out of the top and commit suicide. This one’s made out of acrylic.” Thompson said with his hand on the outer surface of the tank. A specimen was lazily floating just a few inches from his palm.
He had broken the world record of individual’s who had successfully kept captive Jumbo squid alive. The current occupants of the tank in his barn had been alive for 142 days and were continuing to thrive.
“I’ve added special filters, a light that mimics the cycle of the sun over the ocean. They need a lot of love. Watch this.”
Thompson climbed the spiral staircase that wrapped itself around the tank until he reached a considerably smaller tank at the top edge. Inside of this tank were several fish the size of an average human foot. Thompson opened the side of the tank and the fish poured into the squid’s environment. The squid immediately changed their color, each unique to the squid as they recognized the intruders. Each squid made a rush toward a meal and within seconds each fish was entrapped in a tangle of tentacles. The blood from the prey was visible as it filled the bellies of the squid, their beaks cutting incessantly into their meal.
“They’ll grow to 8 meters miss Parks.” Thompson said with his eyes still on the tank. “Colossal will grow to 18 maybe.”
“You plan to keep it here?”
“No, I plan to raise it here.”
Mr. Thompson got his affairs into order and then brought Miss Parks aboard The Odyssey and they set sail on their expedition. The Odyssey would’ve not been considered large, but it had been used and worn down enough that it had earned the title that Thompson had given to the vessel. The cabin was small; the living quarters even smaller. Thompson had opted to share a bunk with Mr. Bennet, his only help aboard the old fishing boat, in order to afford Miss Parks her own space. They followed a chart that Mr. Thompson had been working on for months, which indicated where the young squid were most likely to be based on water currents, squid mating patterns, and the shift in seasons. All of the data that he had compiled indicated that the baby squid could be found in the south pacific several miles off of the New Zealand coastline, but after staring at the charts for a while Thomas announced that they’d be heading north.
While Thompson threaded the tops of coke bottle into the opening of a mesh net, Miss Parks asked him why.
“It’s a feeling.” He said. “I let them talk to me.”
Miss Parks left him to finish his trap for the baby squid. In the morning Thompson and Bennet threw the large fishing net over the side of the ship and they let the trap trail the vessel for an hour or two before they dumped the contents into a large tank on board the ship and checked the contents. They repeated this process day in and day out for a few days. Each morning their ship would drift further and further north through the Pacific. Two days north of Saipan while Thompson was meticulously sifting through a portion of the tank, he stopped.
“What?” asked Bennet.
“There’s a babe.”
Thompson shone his penlight on a corner of the tank. Beneath the light beam, jutting around under the silver glow was the body of a squid maybe 6 inches in length.
“Is that a…”
“Shhhh, Mr. Bennet. You’ll scare her.”
Mr. Thompson reverently dipped a small net into the take and swiftly captured the specimen. He placed it gently into a cylinder the size of a thermos and placed it on the table. After a few moments of examining the specimen under a microscope, Thompson sat back.
“I think we found her.” He said to Miss Parks. “I think this is my baby.”
There was a moment of peace in the cabin. No one spoke, they simply admired the mysterious creature that drifted lazily inside its container. It seemed at ease in its captive state, almost ignorant to the intentions of its captors.
Thompson’s smile was so wide that it threatened to break past his grin’s extension. He looked at Bennet and then Miss Parks with stars in his eyes.
“I found h…”
The rest of his sentiment was lost under the howl of some sort of explosive racking the bow of the ship. Then Ocean water began gushing into the laboratory.