Negative Assets is a student-produced literary magazine based out of southern California.

"Big Red Roger," by Taylor Farner

"Big Red Roger," by Taylor Farner

Artwork by Christina Cavadias.  See more of her work at http://tamurakitty.deviantart.com/gallery/.

Sarah loved the night shift. After scrubbing the sides of the tank for a while, she looked down and saw Roger staring up at her. She instinctively put her hand on the emergency switch to close the metal grate, but it didn’t seem Roger was trying to escape. She looked out over the dark aquarium floor, and didn’t see anything unusual. She held still, trying to listen for the sound again, but didn’t hear anything. A shiver passed through her spine, but she went on with her job.

Roger was the world’s largest giant red octopus, and the only male. When the founder of the Ventura Aquarium first caught Roger, he weighed 125 pounds and stretched out to just over 7 feet. After three months of living in the aquarium, Roger had grown exponentially, possibly because of mating season or something, they were sure.

Just as Sarah started brushing again, a huge weight pushed her to the ground. She screamed and started flailing and managed to hit what had knocked her down.

“Nick! You fucking asshole!” she yelled.

“Jesus babe, you got me right in the nuts,” Nick said.

“Good, you scared the shit out of me.”

Nick pulled Sarah back to her feet. “Sorry babe. I wanted to surprise you,” Nick said, leaning in for a kiss. Sarah brushed him off.

Nick was the kind of guy who got a DUI crashing his dad’s BMW on prom night.  And Sarah loved him.

“I got you these,” Nick said, pulling a plastic wrapped bouquet of roses from his back—price tag still intact.

Sarah sighed. It was hard to stay mad at him sometimes. She pulled the flowers in and gave a whiff.

“Thanks babe. Why’d you sneak in? You know I’m off in like, 20 minutes,” Sarah asked.

“I wanted to surprise you. Tonight’s our 5 months,” Nick said.

Sarah’s face went flush, and she embraced Nick in a slobbery smooch. The brush fell down to the net beneath the metal bridge over Roger’s tank, they started necking pretty hard, and Nick began to undress.

Sarah followed suit, then Nick set her butt down on the cold railing.

“Hey, babe?” Nick said.

“What?” Sarah asked, blushing now that they were both naked, once again, at her work.

“Don’t freak out,” said Nick. And with that, he shoved her off the side. Sarah gave a brief scream before she was caught by the net beneath her.

“Ugh, you dick!” she yelled at Nick, who was jumping down to her side.

The tension on the net made a grinding sound as the two lovers swayed briefly, some ten feet over the water. Sarah looked down, and saw Roger drifting across the bottom of the tank.

Nick started kissing Sarah’s neck. She was mad, but still very excited. He was always a madman when it came to public indecency.

The two rolled around on the net more and more, making it shake and sway. Roger looked up and saw the dangling fruit, tantalizing him from above. He swam near the surface and reached one tentacle up briefly before returning to the cool waters, wading with anticipation.

The tank’s lights shone up through the waters below them. Sarah was hot and sweaty, and endured Nick’s repeated pummeling. Both were breathing heavily. Sarah turned her head and saw Roger below them, staring up. Suddenly everything was drowned in sensory overload. She heard the screeching of the swaying net, felt Nick’s hot breath on her neck as he thrust over and over again. The tension on the net rang louder and louder, like a collar being torn slowly with each movement.

“Nick,” she said. He didn’t seem to notice. He kept working away at her.

“Nick!” she said, firmly this time. She put her palm against his chest, but with each movement he pushed her hand farther away. “I think we should get out, I don’t like this—can we go…”

Nick looked down at her and saw the panic in Sarah’s face. Sarah sat up, and something snapped. She let out a short yelp. Her hand fell through a large hole in the net. She spun around, trying to gain leverage, but a larger hole ripped open, and she fell through, bottom first.

Nick made a grab for her wrist, but missed.

Looking down, Nick yelled after her as she descended into the cold blue water.  Sinking, Sarah looked around, trying to get an eye on Roger, but she couldn’t find him. She swam to the top as quickly as possible.

Sarah swam furiously to the edge of the tank.

“Grab it!” Nick yelled, extending the end of the pole towards Sarah.

Sarah looked up and saw the pole. Nick surveyed the rest of the waters. No sign  of Roger. His heart began to calm as Sarah neared the  pole.

I’ve waited long enough. If I’m going to strike, let it be now.  The girl isn’t expecting it. She is in a frenzy, flailing about. Real quick. One solid motion, and I’ll drag her down the depths of the tank.

Sarah grabbed the pole. Nick struggled to pull her up one-handed while still keeping hold of the net. He managed to get her high enough out of the waters to grab the net. Her skin was shivering and white with fear. Then she felt stuck. She didn’t feel pain at first, but after a moment her dulled nerves screamed as what felt like a whip stung her calf. She was yanked back into the water before she could look down.

“Sarah!” Nick yelled. He looked down, not seeing anything right away except the sloshing water and the black and white contrast of dark hair and pale flesh. Then all he saw was red. Big Red Roger.

Nick froze. He needed to act fast. Instinct told him not to jump in, but if he didn’t, there’d be no chance of saving Sarah. With the pole in hand, he jumped in.

Once beneath the surface, he saw Roger had swum a good twenty or so feet away and was diving farther down. Nick pursued him, his vision blurred by the salty water. He detached the brush from the pole, revealing a semi-sharp attachment.

Roger had set to work on Sarah, engulfing her. She could barely see around one of his giant red tentacles. She flailed hard, but Roger’s tentacles held all but her left leg. All she could see was the darkening insides of the monster, as she felt its strong, warm grasp engulfing  her. The pain felt like her flesh was being fed through a wood chipper.

Nick was close. The monster’s back was to him as Nick thrust the end of his makeshift spear into the monster. The octopus spun around. Looking into its eyes, Nick was certain he saw the eyes of death. Its mad gaze shook him to the bone. With real terror.

Roger extended an arm and grabbed  the pole, ripped it from Nick, and cast it aside. With another arm, Roger reached out and grabbed a hold of Nick’s torso, holding his arm tight to his side.

The pain was tremendous. Nick smashed his fist down over and over again, trying to loosen Roger’s grip. He failed. Nick made a break for the spear again, reaching outwards, kicking his way closer. He peered back down, and saw Roger had focused again on eating his catch--although it didn’t look like he was eating her anymore.

Nick grabbed the end of the spear. When it was lined up with the back of the creature’s head, Nick drove it home. This time the contact was much more solid. It broke through the creature’s flesh, dipping into the back of its head.

Once Nick was certain the spear was well-lodged in the back of Roger’s head, he set to trying to peel off the suckers from his other arm and ribcage. It was a slow process, and incredibly painful. If he drowned, there was no way he’d be able to save Sarah.

Nick began to cough as Roger’s blood bloomed into his face. He managed to peel off the suckers, and started kicking for the top, dragging Roger and Sarah with him. He’d made it. With all his strength, he attempted to push the hulking, slimy, bloody mass of Roger and Sarah up and out of the water.

Turning, Nick started to climb the net with his feet and one hand, the other holding onto Sarah’s leg. He struggled to climb the net, but used Roger’s weight to peel the suckers off Sarah.

It was working. Sarah’s head was revealed. It was relatively unharmed, but was smeared with Roger’s blood. The creature’s inner beak clung onto Sarah’s midsection, just below her abdomen.

The farther out of water Nick pulled, the weaker Roger’s grip on Sarah became. The creature eventually fell back into the water, floating near the top in a bloody cesspool. Nick prayed against all hope that the net held this time. Only a couple more feet, and he’d be able to resuscitate Sarah.

At the top, he swung Sarah over the edge, onto her back. He climbed over the edge himself, and over her pale body. Her midsection was completely ravaged.

He started blowing air into her mouth and pumping her chest. Everything was moving at top speed—he didn’t know what to do, what did it do to her? Oh god, oh god, oh god, please Sarah you can’t die, no, no, no, I’m sorry, this is all my fault, this was so stupid, please no, I love you.

He got up and grabbed his phone, dialed 911, then went back to chest compressions.

“I’m at the Ventura Aquarium, my girlfriend is dying, she was attacked by the octopus here… I… Jesus Christ, I know it sounds stupid, but she needs help, send an—”

Uhh-huuaaack! Sarah spewed out a mouthful of water, and then another. It made the most God-awful puking sound. Nick was so shocked he lifted his head up, sending the phone bouncing from his shoulder to the ground and into Roger’s tank. He backed off of Sarah.

More water came gushing out of her, and she started coughing. It was a horribly sour cough, like a running garbage disposal.

“Oh thank god,” Nick said, tears welling up in his eyes.

Sarah lay on her side. Nick looked her over; the color began to return to her skin. Even some of the wounds from the suckers inflicted only moments ago began to fade. He looked at the wounds on his arm; the swelling flesh was still throbbing and beginning to sting very badly as the adrenaline left his system.

He looked down to find his phone floating in the tank.

“Oh, crap. Well, I hope they’re sending someone,” Nick said, clutching at his arm. “You’re going to be okay—wuhh!” he said, before Sarah pulled him down to meet her face. She embraced him in a deep kiss, and he let his eyelids collapse.

If he’d left them open, he’d have seen the crazed, deep, dark red eyes, the same as Roger’s. The eyes grew larger and larger.

Dazed, Nick submerged his love and passion for the woman in his last eternal kiss.

Then something actually felt wrong. Sarah’s tongue—it was doing something weird. It almost felt like it almost bit him. Nick opened his eyes, and then it sunk in. Something was definitely wrong. Sarah’s eyes were huge, mad, and horrifying. He screamed a noiseless cry. He tried pulling away, but something gripped his tongue, pulling his face in closer and closer. Then, twining up the sides of his face, red tentacles sprouted out from Sarah’s mouth. He cried and screamed, and tried to push her away. It didn’t take long before Nick’s entire face was consumed.

There was a sharp suckling sound, and then Sarah peeled away, taking Nick’s face with her. The aquarium went quiet before Nick’s corpse slumped over, and then fell off the side, into Roger’s tank. His body floated up to the surface, revealing the empty shell of his skull. Chunks of skull and brain floated and bumped into each other as the waters swayed and jerked.

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