The Octopus

Competition Three Highly Commended: The octopus, the leopard, and the lyre by

We ate pancakes for breakfast, cracked shell in the mix. Crunchy shards, grit between our teeth. We laughed about it. Not loud, but enough to start the day without thunder. I’d walked home the night before, spotted a vinyl in a charity shop window. Presented you with it over syrup-streaked plates, just because. You left with a kiss and a promise of dancing.


A promise unkept.


By the time the sun set I knew you weren’t coming back, and eight arms reached up through the plughole.


I tried to push the thing down, left every tap running, willed the water to flush it away. I couldn’t guess how long it lived in the pipe. Writhing. Waiting.


You were always the one who dealt with spiders.


I dealt with bees.


Who exactly was meant to deal with this?


I dismantled the sink, let the beast slither up. Don’t remember using tools. Its skin flashed through the rainbow, as it moved through the house. Became the carpet, the curtains, the photos on the walls. A Mimic.


It taught me how to look bigger than I felt, stronger than I was. To become entirely other if I needed.


I found the leopard kneading its claws into our brushed cotton bedspread. The master of hiding in plain sight, I wondered how many nights I’d slept with it draped over my legs. It showed me how to choose the right coat, to move through a room unnoticed.


The lyrebird roosted in your sock drawer. Preened satin feathers as it trained me how to make sounds I didn’t know possible, but that others expected to hear.


‘I’m fine,’ practised until it no longer sliced my throat.


Each night the four of us danced to the music you never got to hear.






Martha Lane is a writer by the sea. Her work has appeared in Perhappened Mag, Northern Gravy, Free Flash Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, and Reflex Press among others. Balancing too many projects is her natural state. 




Photo by Jakob Rosen on Unsplash





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