Earl woke up one morning to find that he had become a squid. It was an unfortunate discovery.
Even so, it wasn’t nearly as unfortunate as the discovery he made shortly thereafter when writhing over to his bathroom mirror on his eight tentacles.
Not only was he a squid—his once well toned and carefully maintained body had regressed into something slimy and cyan colored—but he was a man-sized squid with seven anuses, each more puckered than the one before. Not wanting to guess at the evolutionary processes that had led to such a trait, Earl slithered over to his phone, trying his best to get the hang of his new tentacles.
He was surprised that he was able to breathe on dry land. He wondered if all creatures with gills actually were able to breath on land, but were too stupid to realize this and let themselves suffocate when out of the water. Perhaps they knew no existence other than a submerged one, so when taken from the water they simply gave up, assuming death was on the horizon.
He lifted the phone off his nightstand and with great difficulty managed to punch his passcode and scroll through his contacts until he found the number for his office.
“Hello and thank you for calling Don’t Be Bitter About Your Critter Pet Exchange Services. This is Jan speaking, how may I help you?”
“Hey Jan, it’s Earl. I’m calling sick today, I still have a few sick days left this quarter.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Earl. Feel better soon.”
“Is it alright if I ask what you’re sick with? There’s been a little cold going around the office.”
“Oh, it’s nothing like that. I’ve turned into a man-sized squid with seven anuses, each more puckered than the one before.”
“Hmm, sounds rough. I don’t think that’s covered by our health insurance, so I’d talk to a doctor if I were you to make sure it doesn’t get any worse.”
“Yeah that’s good advice, thanks. Hopefully I’ll be back in tomorrow. Bye,” he said and ended the call. Then he dialed his doctor.
“Hi, Dr. Grossman. It’s Earl White,” his doctor said after usual surly receptionist had redirected him to her office.
“Hi, Earl. How are you?” asked Dr. Grossman on the other end.
“Not great, doc. I’ve turned into a man-sized squid with seven anuses, each more puckered than the one before.”
“Oh, well that’s strange. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.” There was a pause while Dr. Grossman seemed to consider her recommendation. Eventually she asked, “Have you tried Ritalin?”
“Well I’d give it a shot, but figuring out how you contracted this condition will probably help me give you a more accurate diagnosis. You work with all sorts of animals for your job; did you possibly encounter a man-sized squid with seven anuses, each more puckered than the one before, recently?”
Now that he thought about it, Early realized that there was a man-sized squid with seven anuses at work yesterday. The creature had given him an odd, searching stare from inside its tank that Earl had not cared for at all.
Earl ended the call without another word, dropped his phone onto the bed and hurried out the door, moving as fast as he could on his tentacles. He got some strange looks from the other passengers on the bus, but he didn’t mind. He highly doubted that any of them has seen a man-sized squid with seven anuses before, so he let it go.
Earl got out at 26th Street, took the elevator up to the office and approached the reception desk.
“Hi Jan, it’s Earl. I told you it was bad.”
Jan examined him.
“Nice try. Learning how to talk was a clever touch, I’ve never seen a squid go that far before, but you’re not Earl White.”
“Yes I am! I called in sick this morning. I told you that I had transformed into a man-sized squid with seven anuses, each more puckered than the one before, remember?”
“Yes, I do and you almost fooled me too, but if you’ll look over there, you’ll see that Mr. White happily swimming around naked in that tank for abnormally large squids. You know identity theft is a serious crime, right?”
Earl’s gaze followed the painted tip of Jan’s pointed finger and yes, there he was. Earl’s old body, marked by a series of regrettable tattoos that documented a series of regrettable nights when he was younger, swam around in the tank naked as the day he was born.
“Well that’s odd,” said Earl, scratching the back of his head with a turquoise tentacle.
“Hey, Jeff? We’ve got another loose animal,” said Jan behind him, squeezing the talk button on a walkie-talkie. “This is one is a man-sized squid with seven anuses, each more puckered than the one before. And it can talk.”
Jeff, the on-staff animal wrangler of Don’t Be Bitter About Your Critter Pet Exchange Services, appeared beside Earl, carrying a very large butterfly net.
“Come on buddy, into the tank with you. I don’t care if you can talk, you’re going to wait in that tank patiently until someone comes in to trade an unloved puppy that isn’t cute anymore.”
The net was upon Earl. He was lifted up into the air, caught in its web and carried off towards the tank.
“I need you to climb out of that tank, Earl,” said Jeff. “I’ve gotta put this man-sized squid with seven anuses in there. And put some clothes on.”
Earl’s old body climbed out of the tank, and Earl was dunked in.
Earl’s naked and wet old body approached the glass. It grinned at him smugly with a smile that, in Earl’s opinion, was positively squidlike.
Ben Fitts is a musician, writer and zinester from New York. He is the author of over a dozen published short stories and the creator of the zines The Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine, A Beginner’s Guide To Bizarro Fiction and the upcoming zine Choose Your Own Death. His story “Master Of Meats” was featured on SMM after being named one of the runner-ups in their esoteric sausage flash fiction writing contest this past May.