When I found a dead crab outside my door, it made me wonder. A fly or a spider or something I could have dismissed easily, but a crab? A crab seemed to require some sort of explanation. It’s true that I was living about 20 minutes from a certain bay at the time, and that this bay was famous for its swimming blue crabs, but a 20-minute drive is an awfully long walk, and this was a fairly small crab. Moreover, the door to my apartment was inside of a small apartment building. There are some ratty complexes out there, it’s true, but who ever heard of a building being infested by crabs of all things?

Laying there, upside down, with its legs curled tightly against its body, the crab was maybe twice as wide as a quarter. Though I was trying not to, I somehow kicked the thing on my way in, and it skittered into my home. The shell made a hollow rustling as though it were empty, like the crab had been dead for a long time and the flesh inside had rotted away. I swept it into a dustpan, threw it away, and gave it no further thought. After that, I went to my bed and flopped down into it, exhausted from the long business trip.

That’s when I noticed the small octopus sitting on my bed stand. It was about the size of the dead crab from earlier, but it was definitely alive, and watching me with a gaze that seemed somehow menacing.

“Well hey,” I said, “How the hell did you get in here?”

The octopus reached a tentacle under its head and retrieved something that looked like a tiny silver gun.


The octopus fired. There was a slight sting in my neck, and then there was nothing.

When I came to, the first thing I noticed was the plastic mask digging into my face. I tried reaching up to adjust it and quickly noticed two more things: firstly, that I seemed to be suspended in some sort of water tank, and secondly, that my arm bizarrely overreacted when I tried to command it.            The appendage slapped into the mask liked cooked spaghetti and began to undulate in the disturbed fluid. Experimenting, I found that all my limbs behaved in a similar manner. A bit of panic was beginning to rise in the back of my mind when something tapped on the tank.

It was an octopus. It wasn’t the tiny octopus who had shot me; this one was bigger, maybe five feet in diameter. It tapped on the glass a few more times and waved. Finally, it picked up a microphone and held it under its head. A speaker in my mask crackled to life.

“Hey,” it said, “Can you hear me?”

“Uh,” I said, more to myself than to the octopus, “can octopuses talk?”

“It’s octopi,” said the octopus, “and yeah, always could. It’s just that you couldn’t hear us ‘til now.”

The octopus had an extremely normal voice. He sounded like a friendly, middle-aged man, the kind of guy who has a beard and a beer gut and likes to grill burgers outside.

“Why?” I asked, “Did you do something to me?”

The octopus chuckled, “Sure did. We freed you.”

“Freed me from what?”

“The skeletons.”

That’s when I understood.

“My skeleton,” I said, “You took away my skeleton.”

“It was never yours,” replied the octopus, “It was just hitching a free ride off of you.”

The octopus nodded toward his left, and a cage on wheels was pushed into the room by a very large crab. Inside the cage was a bony figure. Its hands gripped the bars of its prison tighter when it saw me, and its empty eye sockets projected pure malice.

“That nasty little guy over there isn’t the one that was in you, of course,” said the octopus, “Still, this should demonstrate my point.”

My mind was reeling.

“What the hell did you do to my skeleton?” I asked.

“A little experiment, looks like it worked,” the octopus said, cheerfully, “We developed a simple injection that’s supposed to kill skeletons without harming their hosts. It’s been a couple weeks since we bagged you now, so all the material should have been safely absorbed by your body.”

“A couple weeks?” I gasped, “My job! I’m gonna get fired!”

The octopus snorted. I didn’t realize octopi were capable of snorting.

“Don’t you get it?” he asked, “Your job, your government, your system, none of it is real. It’s all controlled by the enemy.”

“This is insane,” I babbled, “An octopus is talking to me about skeletons. I’m insane.”

“Listen,” the octopus leaned in close to the glass, “You wanna know why you’re the first human to hear an octopus speak in decades? You used to have bones in your ears. Now you don’t. You wanna learn how your history has been fabricated? George Washington, Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, none of them ever had skeletons; nobody did ‘til about 70 years ago. That’s when they landed on this planet. That’s when they started laying their eggs in your young.”

“70 years ago!” I laughed, “Mister, my grandparents were born more than 70 years ago. They’d have said something if they remembered a time before skeletons!”

The octopus’ eyes contorted, and I swear if he’d had eyebrows he would have cocked one.

“Who says they’d remember?” he asked.

“This is crazy,” I said. “You’re crazy. I’m crazy!”

“It’s a lot to take in,” the octopus said. “Your body’s not ready to leave that tank just yet, so you’ve got some time to think it over.”

He nodded again, and the caged skeleton was wheeled out of the room.

“We’ll talk some more in a bit,” he said.

With that, the octopus withdrew the microphone from under his head and crawled out of the room. I was alone. I was more alone then I’d ever been.

The next few weeks were a case study in the stages of grief. Eventually, however, I had to accept things as they really were. There was no longer a single bone in my body. It wasn’t long after that that I started wanting out of the tank.

My octopus handler, whose name was Reginald, had been thinking about this, too.

“Well,” Reginald told me, “I’ve been waiting for your body to adjust to the lack of bones in it. Back in the day, humans used to walk around on land just fine without any skeletons. But it’s starting to look like your body might never get over its dependence on bones.”

“Well, what the hell am I supposed to do with that?”

“I never said there aren’t any options for you,” Reginald went on. “When us octopi need to go on extended land ops or just want a little extra protection, we put on a crab suit.”

Crabs, I had learned during my captivity, weren’t real. The little shell I had found outside my apartment all those weeks ago was in fact a highly advanced exo-suit of powered armor. The shell’s operator had been waiting for me on the bed-stand. And as for why they’d set up an ambush just for me? Reginald said the skeleton inside me was going to be an important bonehead when he hatched in a few decades. He hadn’t cared to explain much beyond that.

“I don’t think I’ll fit in one of your crab suits,” I told him.

“I didn’t think so, either,” said Reginald. “What I was thinking was that we make you your own exo-suit. I’m thinking something not quite as protective as a crab suit, but also a lot less conspicuous. It’ll be good way to get some data on what works for humans for when we start liberating more of you guys.”

More weeks passed. I was starting to lose it a little when Reginald finally came through for me. The suit was made of carbon nano-tubes, and it was strong enough to support my body, but thin enough to be nearly invisible. I was let out of the tank once I had it on right.

“It’s got a little surprise built in,” Reginald explained, “There’s reinforced tubing around the fingertips, so if you ever need to defend yourself, you can bust skulls with a quick knife-hand.”

I liked this feature. I tested it out immediately. My hand plunged into Reginald’s soft, bulbous head and he deflated like a squishy balloon. Next, I gave the metal walls of the holding cell a quick chop, and I was pleased to see daylight and fresh air pouring in instead of seawater. My escape would be easier than I’d hoped.

I, K’lilc’k’lak, spawn of the Great Bone Lord, now had enough information to put down the rebellion once and for all. When High Command had learned that there would be a surprise waiting for me at my host’s home, I’d been directed to assume direct control over the host body and allow myself to be captured. I hadn’t been counting on my bones being destroyed, but the cephalopods hadn’t counted on my consciousness surviving through the host brain. It was true, of course, that I would now never hatch, and was doomed to perish when my host’s meat-sack expired, but the sacrifice was well worth the reward.

Soon, the whole Earth would be boned.