Madison was an active activist, a prominent presence at the forefront of every one of her passions which included, but were not limited to: social justice, feminism, helping the homeless, animal rights… The last mentioned had for her been a lifelong endeavor, an example could be pulled from each of her years where she dropped everything to help a creature in need. Familiar with the pattern, her family and friends were more surprised than worried when she disappeared; the brief note explaining her intention to aid in the effort to save the Seychelles Coral Reefs was passed around the Thanksgiving table with unease.
Long before then she’d brought them to an understanding of the cause’s importance; through countless hours and articles from which no one, not even the children were spared, Madison’s family had been forced into familiarity with the incredible array of life supported by the ecosystem, as well as the degradation easily traced back to human activities. Climate change was not something she felt she could conquer but over fishing and water pollution were battlegrounds, the opportunities for immediate impact suited her soldierly instincts. The group she’d volunteered to alternated between night watches for poachers and day shifts transplanting nursery coral to dying reefs off the island of Curieuse.
Madison unknowingly radiated an aura of pride and satisfaction everywhere she went, even when struggling to stay awake through the long offshore nights she remained a beacon of the light that she stood for; that is not to say, however, that the nocturnal crews operated in anything but a dozed state. Not a single one of them expected to catch a professional sneak in the act, so they never really tried.
She remained special during the day, seemed to attract other life like a Disney princess. On break at the water-cooler it was people, in the water it was tortoises, turtles, and one time even a dugong. She considered her sighting the curvaceous gray beast the crown jewel in the tiara of reasons that explained her continued presence; Madison proudly informed the people back home that some lived full lives in the area without ever seeing one. She received messages of jealousy and encouragement in return, and though she by no means needed the support she was happy to have it.
So happy, in fact, that she began to go out of her way to spread her good feelings around. She’d spend her off days walking the beaches of Curieuse, shoes off, in search of gulls to shoo away from overturned crabs and baby turtles to help reach the sea. On one such day she was closer to the forest line than usual and came across a type of coconut that she had, up to that point, only heard rumors of. The coco de mer, people had said, looked exactly like a woman’s ass and as Madison ran her fingers over the lumped shape and looked over her shoulder, she snickered that they’d been so right.
Excited to share the hilariously large discovery with her colleagues at the conservation center, and obviously her people at home, she rushed back to her quarters and into a photo shoot. The room with the best lighting also happened to be where people ate, she was four flashes in when a group of workers that’d fancied themselves fishermen burst through the doors in the midst of a heated debate on the best way to cook the octopus they’d just caught.
Before they noticed Madison’s presence she turned her camera and captured the moment of their crime; they would, she informed them as those that didn’t carry the cooler containing the catch rubbed unexpected brightness from their eyes, be forever remembered as traitors if they chose to continue with their plan. She promised to personally oversee the destruction of each individual’s social and professional reputation, and that her anger was nothing compared to that of the masses she was seconds away from calling down on them. The group had decided beforehand, if caught, to abandon their plan but had the presence of mind to let her finish before surrendering the container and going on with their lives.
Satisfied and victorious Madison tucked her coconut under one arm, captive under the other, and went to the beach to release the octopus into the ocean. She opened the top of the cooler and lowered it into the water; the octopus slithered out but stuck around in the shallows to stare at her with side set blue eyes. She interpreted the hesitation as another sign of validation, dropped the coconut and brought out her phone’s camera to commemorate the occasion with a picture.
‘That was very bright.’ A voice that was not her thoughts said in her mind.
“What?” She asked out loud.
‘Down here.’ Madison felt an urge to look at the water and after doing so saw the octopus wiggling its tentacles in a clear attempt to grab her attention. Her heart dropped, she was in a foreign country, had just gone crazy – ‘You are not insane.’ The voice interrupted her thoughts, ‘You are right to think this most uncommon; if others knew I’d be bled for every drop of ink I have. I’ll have to make it quick, I need you to pay attention.
You’re capable. I know that because you saved my life, and I’m appreciative of it. But as for the reason your kind is here-’
‘I know.’ Madison thought back, ‘I think every human should live with as little an imprint as possible and we should all be vegetarians-’
‘It is not because your people are predators. My kind are too, you know; it is the natural way. What I refer to is the constant interference in our coral-’
Madison shook her head and the Octopus’ words came to a stop. ‘We’re helping. We attach coral using a non-toxic resin, and its all raised and molded in nurseries to fit perfectly, and on top of that we’ve bred coral resistant to bleaching. Without us who knows how long this ecosystem would have left.’
‘Without all of you? As long as it needed to.’ The Octopus swished around in the water to see if other marine life had paused to watch their interaction, ‘I have to go, please listen; there is no reason to fix the natural way of things. The world is not broken. There is no problem if your kind does not make one.
If an environment degrades its inhabitants move survive and thrive somewhere else; if not they die. You operate under the guise of preservation but we do not need saved. Rather, we wouldn’t if it wasn’t for your kind’s initial interference. We animals do not lie to ourselves. We are unashamed. We have no need for manufactured conflict, we don’t do religion because we don’t pretend to be God. We are okay with this being our world for however long that may be; we do not wish to make a mockery out of the short lives we were given. The only way for humanity to help is by leaving everything else alone.’
The Octopus disappeared into the reefs, never to be seen again.