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Today's Story by Jamie Lackey

The eel slithered past her cave, toward her retreating babies.


The octopus strung her pearly white eggs on the cave roof one by one.  They gleamed in the water-thinned light.  Each one was precious.  Her eggs.  Her babies.  Her future.

She stayed with them in the cave.  She pushed water through her mantle to make sure each egg had enough to breathe.  She checked them, one by one, over and over.

An eel slipped in through the narrow cave entrance, poked its long face into her nursery.  She drove it off with ink and suckers and poison.  But she knew it would come back.

She grew hungry, but she couldn’t leave her eggs.  She consumed one of her own tentacles, and felt stronger.

The eel lurked in the sheltered water outside of her cave.  Driving it off again cost her another tentacle.

She kept the water moving, and she watched.  The opaque shells grew transparent, and she could see her children inside.  They wriggled, longed for freedom.

They were perfect.

One by one, they hatched.  She watched them swimming away, out into darkness, into danger.  Not one of them stayed, or looked back, or even hesitated.

The eel slithered past her cave, toward her retreating babies.  She was too weak to drive it away again, but she couldn’t let it hurt her children.  She latched onto it with her remaining tentacles.  Its teeth raked at her, tore through her.  Blood and ink darkened the water.  She bit it again, and again.  Its struggles weakened as hers did.

She sank to the cave floor with the empty eggshells, simply another spent casing.

Her babies rose toward the sun.


Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cat.  Her fiction has been accepted by dozens of venues, including The Living Dead 2,Daily Science Fiction, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She reads slush for Clarkesworld Magazine and is an assistant editor at Electric Velocipede.  Find her online at www.jamielackey.com.


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