I first considered an octopus as a pet about a year ago and began my meticulous research. I set up the 200 gallon tank about six months ahead of time to make sure the environment was perfect for my new friend. I built a cave with volcanic rock and with the levels of ammonia and nitrate at zero, phosphate levels below 0.1,KH around 12 and salinity at 1.025, I set out to do some shopping.
I settled on a common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) that was for sale in a small, independent saltwater fish shop in the valley for 60 bucks. I rushed him home, got him acclimated to his new environment and decided to name him Gary, after my egghead cousin who has an expansive forehead and coke bottle lens glasses - the girls in school used to call him 'the octopus', he had trouble keeping his hands to himself.
I watched the fascinating creature slowly sink to the bottom of the tank and slink into his cave, exploring cautiously.
Famished, I headed into the kitchen to fix myself a sandwich. When I returned, Gary was nowhere to be found. I peered into his cave in the corner of the tank and could see no sign of him but caught a glimpse of a dark figure gliding across the floor, around the corner and down the hallway.
I chased after him and cornered him at the end of the hall.
I gathered him up in my arms and hurried back to the tank and plopped him in just as he released a cloud of black ink. I cursed myself as I began stacking books on the lid of the tank to weigh it down, I hadn't even had Gary for a half an hour and I'd already stressed him out.
I sat there and finished my sandwich, staring at the big tank filled with black water. Around sunset, it started to clear up. There was Gary, sitting in his cave, staring at me with his little black eyes, opening and closing his beak as if he were breathless with anger. I felt horrible.
I remembered the bucket of feeder goldfish I had in the garage and went out to retrieve a snack for Gary.
I dropped one of the goldfish in the tank and Gary snapped it right up and returned to his cave.
I opened a bottle of root beer and sat down to admire my exotic new pet.
Goldfish are very fattening.
The voice came from inside my head
I prefer crawfish, or mollusks.
I dropped my root beer and the thick foam splattered over the carpet.
I was frozen in disbelief, my eyes locked on the stoic creature in the tank.
"Gary?" I asked.
"Can you hear me?"
I can hear you.
The words bounced around inside my brain, echoing slightly.
My name's not Gary, it's Maximilian.
But you can call me Max.
I must have been in shock because I sat there in silence until well after dark.
So do you have any mollusks?
I had almost convinced myself that my imagination had run away with me.
"Uh, no," I said.
I felt like a bad host.
Mollusks are my favorite.
"I'm sorry," I said.
An uncomfortable silence ensued.
Do you know where to get some mollusks?
"I'm sorry, no."
I was beginning to feel a bit uneasy.
"To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what a mollusk is."
Don't feel bad, a nice tasty crawfish will do nicely.
"Um, well," I stammered.
"I'll do some shopping," I promised.
I looked at my watch, it was 11 PM.
"I'm afraid it'll have to be tomorrow though."
"The stores are closed," I explained.
"I'll go first thing in the morning," I said.
I'd appreciate that.
Do you have any documentaries on the sea?
"I don't think so."
I enjoy documentaries about the sea, and things having to do with the sea.
"Maybe we can find something online," I suggested.
There's an excellent one on the mating habits of the octopus, I highly recommend it. Try to find that one.
"Okay," I said.
I fired up my laptop.
Gary, or Max rather, left his cave and moved closer to the glass to get a look at what I was doing.
My cursor hovered over a National Geographic video entitled "Shark vs Octopus".
Ooh, that's a good one!
He was tapping the tip of one of his tentacles against the glass.
The video was compelling, an octopus snatched a shark as he swam by, wrestled with him briefly, then ate him up.
Max had his dominant eye pressed up against the glass of the aquarium, watching intently.
I played the video again and this time, Max made boxing motions with his two front tentacles. He seemed very excited as he watched the octopus gobble up the shark, as if he were watching a live prize fight.
I sighed, "How about if we find a nice, long documentary?"
Max sank into his cave.
You're the boss.
I found a movie called "The Seas of the World" and put it on.
I slouched in my chair, exhausted.
I was beginning to come to terms with the fact that an octopus was communicating with me telepathically.
I wondered if I was dreaming.
You're not dreaming.
"Excuse me for a moment," I said.
I went to the bathroom and splashed some water on my face.
I checked my eyes, not exactly sure what I was looking for.
I looked pale.
I returned to the living room in a daze, sat in the recliner and turned my attention to the documentary. It was quite soothing, there was breathtaking underwater scenery and it was narrated by a british woman with a very mellow voice. My eyelids were getting heavy, I nodded off for a second but caught myself just before sinking into a deep sleep.