The Squid


The Englishman surprised his co-workers and the BOE by requesting a second year. Most of them had judged him a “One-r” (as they called those who couldn’t bear to be away from their homeland for more than a twelvemonth), with his illiteracy, frequent bouts of culture shock and general lack of guile. But he asked for, and was granted, a year’s extension on his contract. And when the time to renew a second time came around, they thought for sure they would be shot of him but once more he defied expectations and requested to remain.

Rumours began. Surely this rolly-polly Englishman was up to something? This prissy, fussy, bumbling foreigner couldn’t actually be enjoying himself. If he were really invested, he would make some effort to learn the language, or at least eat some Japanese food rather than order Cadbury confections online at great expense.

They wondered what it was: there were suggestions he had taken a local lover, but these were countered by pointing out his slovenly appearance and lack of appeal.

Some considered that maybe he had taken a second job that he was reluctant to give up– in flagrant breach of his contract. However, they remembered how lazy he was and how hard it was to convince him to show up for the job he already did have, and this theory was quickly quashed.

Finally, it was decided that he must have committed some terrible crime in his home country and was now unable to return; his colleagues became convinced that this must be the truth and, indeed, it even explained why he had wanted to travel abroad in the first place, given his obvious aversion to trying new things and engaging with new people.

Unbeknownst to him, this story actually gained the English some new credit among his colleagues, although as he made it a rule not to interact with them except for strictly on work business, this didn’t impact the rest of his short life in any way.

And besides, they were wrong. The Englishman wasn’t a murderer; the truth was so much worse…


His first few months in the new country, the Englishman had been miserable. He yawned at the shrines, rolled his eyes at the customs and felt his stomach quiver whenever he saw raw fish. The heat scratched at his skin all day and at night, insects besieged his tiny room. He hated that he was expected to change his shoes five times a day, and wait at red lights and not use his phone on the train. He was unhappy with his new home and he let it show.

Early on, some of the other English speakers took him to make a knife at a master swordsmith’s forge, and told the Englishman he could have whatever he wished carved onto the blade. He chose “I hate this country”; the others declined to translate this for the swordsmith.

They would offer to take him around temples or invite him to explore new cities with them and he would always decline, choosing instead to sit in his room, read Buzzfeed, and imagine himself back home.

One day, around three months in, he was walking home past the fish market; the day was hot and the walk was long and so, against the protestations of his nose and stomach, he decided to cut through the market.

As he passed the various stalls of sashimi, the tables laden with everything from anchovies to zander and one tank that seemed to contain a great white shark, a hand reached out from the shadows and slipped something into his bag without him noticing.

When he got home, he put his bag down on the counter and went to fix himself a drink. But, as he was mixing, he heard a strange mewling sound. Glass in hand, he opened up his bag and found that someone had placed in there a tiny, purple squid. It was still alive and even then, its tentacles were snaking curiously about, getting a feel for the fabric of the bag, the tiles of the kitchen counter, even the skin of the Englishman’s arm.

He briefly considered walking back to the fish market but it was thirty-two degrees outside and besides, he’d just seen a new quiz online and he needed to know which member of the Rugrats he was. He didn’t eat seafood as a rule, so he ran a cold bath, dropped the squid in there (he had to pry off the suction cups with a spatula) and went to browse the internet.

The squid sat happily in there for several months (the Englishman took showers), snacking on the various spiders and cockroaches that seemed to appear out of nowhere every time the Englishman opened the door. It would strategically position its ten tentacles so they looked like stylish drapings from the shower bar, and then when the insects came to inspect the bathroom for foodlets, it would drag them into its tepid depths.

Time wore on, and the Englishman still resented his position in life though he found his new flatmate made things better. He declined to tell his landlord about the squid, as he couldn’t shake the feeling it was somehow odd.

When winter came, he found he actually had to provide for the creature, as the insects were all dead, and so he’d feed it the rice crackers people kept on leaving on his desk at work.

And suddenly his BOE were asking him if he wanted to reappoint and he realised that, if he left, the squid would surely die and, to his surprise, he felt concerned. So he signed for another year, reasoning that the squid would probably die in that time. He could have googled their average lifespan, but he didn’t like to use the internet for factual purposes.

As one year turned to two, the squid grew and showed no sign of ailing. In fact, its dexterity, agility, intelligence, appetite and size were all on the increase. When the Englishman went to work in the morning, it would only dedicate two tentacles to catching food– the others were put to work on the plan. Soon, the Englishman found himself signing for a third year, against his wishes (he wanted to get back to mashed potatoes, dammit).

The squid now took up the entire bathroom, and the Englishman was forced to wash in the kitchen sink like a baby. Whenever he tried to get his toothbrush or even an earbud, it was just tentacles, tentacles, tentacles.

As with most things in life, it was a Buzzfeed article that finally broke the camel’s back. A new anime convention had started in London, and he couldn’t experience all that wonderful cosplay because he was stuck in Japan because of his stupid squid. This was the last straw.

It was time to reclaim his bathroom.

He searched through his cupboard until he found the knife he’d made, the one imbued with the strength of his hate, and he tied it to the handle of the broom he’d never used for anything else.

And then he went in.


In the following weeks, when the Englishman didn’t turn up to work, his colleagues assumed he’d shorted his contract and secretly, they were relieved. He was a standoffish murderer, after all.

When his landlord went to rent out his flat to someone new, they found a hole in the bathroom floor– someone had, over the course of several years, clearly been expanding the drain hole and, through use of some incredibly strong but unbelievably flexible tool (like a roided-up pipe cleaner) had redirected the pipe so it no longer led into the sewers.

It led to the sea.


Rory Kelly



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