Stories · writing

The Cephalolad

There once was a cuttlefish named Inky, who, waiting to hatch, was very excited to explore the ocean with his brothers and sisters. Inky waited patiently in the comforting grotto, squinting through the thin film of his tiny universe as each egg around him gave a little pop! and out came a new baby cuttlefish, no bigger than your thumb. (note for Juba: kids’ fingers, even thumbs, are very small. So Inky is a lot smaller than your thumb, but just the right size and source of wonder for anyone of a more compact stature.)

Inky counted on his tentacles to pass the time, one, two, three, four, five, six, until suddenly… pop! Inky was shooting away toward his siblings. When he reached them, he was a little tired, so Inky watched as his brothers and sisters darted around, changing color and figuring out how to blend in with the things around them, which is how the cuttlefish do. Inky drifted towards one of his sisters, who was trying to match the color of some deep green seaweed she had found.

“I wanna try that!” Inky said, drifting closer. He squinted at the seaweed and then closed his eyes, concentrating as hard as he could, and when he opened them…nothing. Inky was the same grey color as before! But how could this be? He looked at the cuttlefish around him, not one the same shade of blue, orange, green, or purple. It seemed so easy for them! “Maybe you weren’t trying hard enough”, his sister shrugged her tentacles, which were a lovely shade of green. Inky frowned, starting to get a little worried.

He moved over to to his big brother, who was in the middle of blending in with a purple sea anemone. Inky was determined to get it right this time. He closed his eyes and concentrated as hard as he could, picturing the sharp spines and dark hues in front of him. When he opened them again, his brother was laughing, “how many spines do you think an anemone has, squid-for-brains? That’s like, ten too many!” He said, sporting a very purple and very correctly-numbered-amount of spikes on his back.

Inky turned an immediate shade of pink and scooted away, doing his best to smooth the bristles.

After unsuccessfully blending in with a coral reef, (turning what appeared to be checkerboard, rather than orange), and after interrupting (quite by accident) the neighbor mantis shrimp, who he mistook to be a colorful brother, Inky floated sadly to where his parents were floating watchfully nearby. He stared after his older siblings, all flitting about and changing every color imaginable in the blink of an eye.

“What’s wrong Inky? Why aren’t you playing with your brothers and sisters?” His mom drifted down to him. Inky told his parents how he couldn’t seem to blend in with anything. His dad laughed, which Inky did not think was very nice of him. “I think I might have an idea of what’s going on,” His dad held up two tentacles, “how many are there, Inky?”

Inky squinted for a long time before answering, “there are…three? No, four! I think…” He replied, not quite sure.

Inky’s parents gave each other a knowing look, and disappeared briefly into the grotto behind them. When they returned, his mom was carrying a pair of glasses! Inky hesitated, “what if everyone else thinks they’re silly?” He wondered.

“I promise they won’t! And even if they do, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what you need in order to succeed!” Inky’s mom said, chuckling at her own little joke, and placed the glasses over Inky’s eyes.

It was like taking a deep breath after a particularly nice nap. Everything was so bright and clear! Inky immediately tried blending in with the sand below him, turning a delightful sandy-tan. “It works!” He laughed, swimming off to show his siblings.

As soon as Inky jetted into the group, three of his siblings rushed over to see what their brother had on his face. Inky excitedly showed them how easily he could change now. Orange, green, red, purple, blue, polka-dot; he was a kaleidoscope of colors! His siblings ooed and awed, asking Inky if he could show them how to change colors so fast. One of his brothers asked if he could have glasses, too!

And so with time, Inky became well-known across the surrounding reefs, with astounding colors brighter than anyone else on the seabed.