Spacious Skies

by Emily Livingstone

The first giant squid to rise out of the water came out of the Atlantic, just off the coast of Maine. It propelled itself into the air, dripping warm saltwater on all below it, and it continued to swim, moving as easily through the sky as it had the water.

People marveled, staring upward, holding their smartphones up to document its trespass. News quickly spread, and as it did, more squid rose from the depths into the sky, basking in the sun, careening through clouds, looking down on the land dwellers with their alien fish eyes. Jellyfish soon followed, some smaller than teacups, some bigger than houses.

The sky was full of cephalopods, and inevitably, they had to eat. In Gloucester, Massachusetts, a giant squid reached a tentacle down and snatched up a woman walking right down Main Street. People screamed as the tentacles pulled her quickly to that hard beak. Then, most of them looked away.

The creatures could be killed, but not easily. Many were huge, and if they died over a populated area, they could crush hundreds of people. Some people shot at them anyway, unable to do nothing.

People tried to stay in their houses. When they went out, they sprinted to their cars. They watched the skies for shadows that were not clouds.

Storms were a wonder. The squid, especially, dove and played and spun their tentacles with obvious joy in the mixture of their old environment and their new one.

Scientists wondered how they managed it, these creatures who should be living at the bottom of the sea, in the cold and the dark. The prevailing theory was that the they’d adapted to warmer and warmer water, until the cold, and even the water itself, were no longer necessary. They were some of the sea’s oldest inhabitants with a long time to change. Other sea life was nearly gone. Fish were found only in tanks. So these behemoths had surfaced to find other prey.

It was a nightmare. When the jellyfish ate people, the red flesh of their bodies showed up in the transparent stomachs, hovering like bad weather over their loved ones down below.

People didn’t think it could get much worse. But then, the waters started rising rapidly. It was growing warmer and wetter. It rained without cease. The cephalopods swam in and out of the water as houses sank below the rising blue-gray tide. The government tried to build boats, to evacuate people to the mountains. All of it was too slow. The rich got out fast and left the poor behind. Those with boats struggled to add spikes to them to ward off seeking tentacles. It was a flood with no rainbow, filled with monsters.

People cowered, seasick, in the holds of ships. The beasts came and went in the sky and water. There was hardly any land anymore, and what there was, wasn’t safe. Air travel was impossible. People were cut off from those they’d known. It was said that the waters hadn’t reached everywhere, that the skies were clear over some places, and they went there on their pin-cushion boats, fleeing south, west, east, to places too hot for some of the creatures, where, by some miracle, they were not preying on the humans.

In some places, these travelers were welcomed. Their boats were given moorings. They were brought ashore and fed, cleaned, housed, comforted.

In some places, they took only the children, and left the adults marooned in the water, in a terrible limbo, waiting for unlikely salvation.

In some places, they promised mercy while delivering worse pain. They kept refugees in cells. People were sick, starving, and abused. They did not speak the language. They did not see the sky. They did not know if the cephalopods had come or gone. They wished for freedom. They wished for their families. They wished for safety. They wished for death. Sometimes, one of these wishes came true. Sometimes, a few.

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