If he opened the drawer the assault would be instantaneous. At least, he though it would. His office was quiet. The door was locked. He had the lights dimmed nearly to nothing. Most of his décor was black or dark green, so the drawer with the blue label stood out against everything else. He was seated behind his desk, hands nervously at his side. It was his only chance to gain some understanding. Without the totem around his neck, he had none to grasp at anymore.
The man behind the desk was just as clean and properly arranged as everything else in the room: close-cropped hair, tweezed eyebrows, a cap positioned at an officially sanctioned angle, and a pressed uniform. He was junior strategist Cole Ritten and he had earned that office in the war with the Celphs. The war was over now, mostly over, and he didn’t know what to do with himself. It was chaos outside. Any hour their military structure might collapse and be swarmed by their own furious, lost, mournful kind.
It was all because of what he had in that desk drawer: a Celph. A living one. They looked almost exactly like octopus, they were very closely related, but you could tell them apart by the bubbled eyes and the more technical patterns created by their chromatophores. Humanity had never known they’d evolved alongside the apes and grown a rival intelligence. The Celphs kept their numbers small and they kept quiet. Even over ages of being incidentally eaten alongside squid and octopus, they said nothing.
Until they struck that is. The Celphs had an incredible natural psychic capacity. Their language was entirely nonverbal and they could paralyze rodents with their brain waves from more than twenty feet away, even past the water/air barrier. Humans had their psychic weapons as well, like junior strategist Cole Ritten. His powers came from artificial injections, but they could rival an individual Celph.
Their first strike had not been an individual action. They all, still hidden from mankind, had probed man’s mental weaknesses with psychic tentacles. They looked for a solution to the violence of man that devastated their oceans and the rest of the planet as well. Each drop of plastic and poison added to the sea had also added to their determination.
Their strike had taken the form of a psychic gutting. All their tentacles had wrapped around a nugget of man’s mind that he held very dear: the spirit. They ripped it out without warning and shredded it. The world nearly collapsed that day. People fell to their knees in the streets, tears streaming down their faces. Vehicles crashed. Passions vanished. Infants were unaffected, but most of the rest felt numb and like there was a hole in their chest that never stopped dripping thick blood.
They couldn’t worhsip anymore; it didn’t matter which god or creed. The hope they could draw from it was gone. The Celphs made the mistake of telling the humans what they’d done. They thought they could convince them that their false hope was the source of their greed and anger toward one another. The Celphs offered their own philosophy, but human minds rejected its cold fluidity.
They instead filled the void with a war. The ocean paid a hundred times over. The choking plastic seemed like a paradise of artificial reefs in comparison. There were no fish that could be eaten anymore. No whales. All sacrificed in the name of mankind’s ability to sacrifice. The Celphs had suffered and died, save for a few to be experimented upon, in the new false hope that they could reverse engineer a cure.
Cole had one in his desk right now. Due to a clerical error, or perhaps a sneaky psychic suggestion by the creature itself, it had not been taken from his office to the labs. He could speak with it. He could ask it why it shredded his religion, why it had to make the totem he used to wear nothing but a wooden bauble.
They were extremely crafty, but Cole had given himself a double dose of their greatest mental enhancer. It wouldn’t catch his mind off guard. There was a loaded pistol in the drawer above the Celph as well, in case things got too hairy. Without thinking, for dwelling on it would convince him not to do it, he yanked the drawer open and popped the top off the water-filled plastic container. There needed to be nothing between them if they were to speak.
The Celph gripped the sides with six of its tentacles, holding two out in front like a cross between fiddle heads and mantis arms. It flashed soothing colors and raised its head out of the water. It waited for him to make the first statement.
“Why?” he asked silently, all his thoughts pressed into his frontal lobe like rotten ale sloshing in a cask.
“If you do not understand the benefit, you cannot understand the reason,” it answered. Its voice in his head was like soggy cobwebs that he couldn’t bat away.
“I needed that. I have nothing left without it.”
“No you did not. You still have your mind.”
“You won’t have yours. You could be the last one, you know that right? I could kill you right now.”
“With the loaded pistol, directly above me, with only three bullets?” the Celph asked. Cole swallowed. He hadn’t intended for it to have that information. It was fine. He had the key to the drawer in his pocket. The Celph unfurled one of its front most tentacles, but rather than reach out it reached up. It squished the tip into the lock of the drawer and started turning. Cole panicked. It couldn’t do that could it? Conform the end of a limb into the perfect shape of the lock? Why not. They could squeeze their entire bodies into mustard jars if they wanted.
He lunged for the drawer just as it popped open. The Celph leapt out of the water completely, a swarm of tentacles reaching into the drawer, flashing with burnt red spots. They both grabbed the gun. Its suction cups popped against the grip and against Cole’s skin. The barrel wiggled back and forth. He had it trained on the creature’s squishy mind for a moment, but a tentacle inserted under the trigger prevented it from going off.
The Celph reversed the weapon. Cole stared in horror, mouth agape. There was nobody to pray to. He saw that he was paying a price, taking his punishment for helping to shoplift the entire planet.
“We should’ve killed you,” it said. The Celph rectified its mistake.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by Ssokrates during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop bytwitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!