First Encounters

Chapter One

From the outset let’s get one thing crystal clear. It wasn’t me who broke into the lab, freed Hendrix from his tank and then dumped him in our pool. I was just as surprised as the next guy. I just stumbled out of the pool house like usual and dived on in. It never even crossed my mind that an eight foot, bright orange sea monster would be chilling in there, not until I saw the thing through my blurry, unfocused eyes once submerged. I only saw it for a second before a wave of blackness devoured me but that was enough. I lost my shit. Scrambling out of the pool as fast as I could, I screamed for Brad.

‘BRAAAAAAD! BRAAAAAAAD! THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE FUCKING POOL! BRAAAAD GET THE FUCK OUT HERE! BRAAAAAAAAD!’

It wasn’t long before my housemate and a few others rushed out of the house and joined me poolside. ‘Shhhhhh’ said Brad pelting along in just his boxers, desperately holding his forefinger against his pursed lips. ‘For fucks sake Toby shut the hell up before someone hears you!’

Looking back down into the pool, I could still see the murky patch of water spreading out, like an iodine clock reaction, right there in the centre, turning clean water into darkness. Then I glimpsed the creature again as it thrust itself out of the black and glided into a clear section of the pool heading towards where I was stood.

‘Brad, what the FUCK have you done?’ I said to him, heart still racing. ‘Is that a giant squid? Where did you get a giant squid? And more to the point, WHY?’

I was pretty upset. I’d just come face to face with a real life kraken while severely hung-over. It was at this point infact that my hangover caught up with me. I doubled over and blew some pretty meaty chunks onto the tiles at the edge of the pool. A tentacle appeared from the water and started scooping the puke into the pool. I vomited again.

‘Calm down dude’ said Brad ‘that’s just one of the specimens we rescued last night. While you were getting shitfaced in the pool house, we were all out doing something important, you know something that actually matters.’ Brad emphasised this last word. He could be such a douchebag sometimes, especially when surrounded by his eco-freak friends.

‘It’s an octopus, not a squid’ said the girl next to Brad, throwing me an evil look.

I was confused. I knew that Brad hung out with a bunch of animal rights activists and that they sometimes hit up labs but he’d never brought back any crack addicted monkeys or guinea pigs with chronic flatulence with him before.

After my nausea had abated I stood up, wiped the drool from my chin and asked ‘whatever it is, why is it in our pool?’

‘MY pool you mean’ replied Brad bluntly. ‘You rent MY pool house remember, therefore I can put whatever I want in MY pool. If I wanted to invite all my friends to take a dump in there, I am well within my rights to do so.’ A few of Brad’s friends looked at him nervously.

‘You’re such a dick Brad, why do you have to be like that’ I implored.

‘Just go back to your hot box and party your life away dude, leave the octopus to us.’

‘Yeah’ chimed in the girl next to Brad.

‘And who the fuck are you’ I asked. I was really starting to get pissed off with this chick. She went to tell me but I just waved her off and walked back into the pool house. I didn’t really give a shit who she was, I just wanted to go back to bed. It’d been an eventful fifteen minutes since getting up. I grabbed a joint from my stash and had just sparked it when Brad stormed in.

‘I’m sick of your shit Toby’ he shouted, not making any effort to keep his voice down. ‘If you’re not careful, I’m gonna kick your ass out on the street.’

‘Oh give me a break’ I said, exasperated by Brad’s pompousness. ‘I’ve just faced off with a fucking octopus AND whatever hoe bag it is you’re dating right now. I think I’ve earned some piece and quite thank you very much. Besides, I’m guessing that octopus could likely get you into a shitload of trouble. You wouldn’t want me out on the streets knowing about that now would you? You know how bad I am at keeping secrets.’

Brad looked at me venomously while he considered the implications of what I had just said. Finally he spoke up. Through gritted teeth he said ‘it’ll only be here for a few days, until we find a more permanent home for it. You’ll have to forego your usual morning dip until then, unless you want to share of course’ and with that Brad slammed the pool house door shut.

I took a long drag on my joint, heart still pounding hard from my encounter. After drying myself with a towel, I flipped on the PS3, dropped onto the couch and tried to forget about my morning by smoking dope and immersing myself in another world. I’d recently acquired the Final Fantasy MMO ‘A Realm Reborn’ and needed to get up to speed with it before Baker came round, otherwise the ribbing he would give me would be insane. He’d been playing it religiously since release and always seemed genuinely pissed that I didn’t give a shit about it.

‘It’s just not my sort of game’ I said to him whenever the subject had previously come up. ‘I like games like Project Cars, GTA 5 and Call of Duty. I’m not into all that character creation, levelling up World of Warcraft fantasy bull.’

Baker was beside himself. ‘You ain’t even played it yet. You can’t talk shit about a game you’ve never played. That’s not cool dude.’ The combination of Baker’s thick hillbilly accent and the high pitched tone he had whenever he talked passionately about something made him sound like the worst kind of southern states pig rapist. ‘Plus you level up in all of those games dumb-ass, so your argument is as full of holes as your momma, only her holes get filled up on a regular basis by black dude spunk.’ Yep, that was Baker. Racist, exceptionally crude and a bit of a dick. I’m not sure why I always surround myself with these kinds of people now I come to think about it, be we were buddies and had had plenty of good times. Eventually Baker brought round a copy of the Final Fantasy game for me after my continued reluctance to go and get a copy myself. It had sat next to the TV unplayed for over a week but later, Baker would undoubtedly head over to check on my progress so I thought I’d better at least load it up and build a starting character.

I booted up the game and was immediately presented with a screen indicating that a fourteen gigabyte download was required before I could play. Fourteen gig! With my slow, lag ridden internet connection that meant a wait of three hundred and ten minutes for a game I didn’t give two hoots about playing. I left the console to it and wandered back outside, picking up my PSP for a bit of handheld GTA Chinatown Wars action.

It was all quiet poolside. I assumed that Brad’s hippy friends had all retreated back into the house, probably to decide which local restaurant they were going to picket this week. Hopefully not another one of the takeout joints I favoured. It took bloody ages before The Zen Garden would serve me again and the best Indian restaurant still had our address blacklisted. If I ever craved a curry after a bong session, a pretty common occurrence, I had to get in my car and pick it up. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

The dark, ink filled patch of water had now dispersed and I could see the orange octopus pootling about down at the deep end. I pulled out my phone and ended up spending a good twenty minutes Googling octopuses, different types, what they eat, that sort of stuff. After deciding that our pool was currently home to a crab eating bottom dweller, I laid down on a sun lounger and booted up the PSP. For the last few days I’d been stuck on one particular mission in GTA Chinatown Wars that involved a fire truck and it had pissed me off no end. The way to succeed seemed pretty simple according to the various walkthroughs I’d read online. Steal a fire truck, use its hose to put out the fire, jump in the car and drive it to a garage. The problem was that I just couldn’t manage it. I either struggled to put the fire out or couldn’t drive the car back to the garage without it getting too damaged and blowing up.

After about half an hour of making no real progress, I tossed the PSP away in disgust onto a neighbouring sun longer and shut my eyes. The sun was now high in the sky, showering me with intense bright light and making it really difficult to see the screen properly. I was just making excuses to explain away my failure and I knew it. I’ve never really succeeded at playing computer games. Sure I smoke a lot of weed and that probably doesn’t help but I just chalk it up to being one of those things I’m not good at. Some people are good at sports, others are good at video-games and then there are people like me who excel at procrastination. And illegally downloading things. And rolling up joints.


I must have dozed off because when I came to, the sun had arced through the sky and my lounger was now bathed in cool shade. I looked at my phone and saw that I’d just had a two hour siesta. I still felt some lingering remnants of my hangover but a midday nap is the cure that cures all. My mouth was pretty dry though, not surprising bearing in mind I’d been laying in the noon day sun without taking on any fluids. My skin also felt a little sensitive to the touch, I must have burnt.

Wandering back into the pool house, I grabbed a soda from the fridge and looked at myself in the mirror. ‘Not too bad’ I thought as I rotated around surveying my unimpressive body from various angles, ‘hmmm, maybe a bit pink in places. T-shirt time I think’. I threw on a comfortable plain black t-shirt and had a look to see if the Playstation had finished downloading updates for Bakers game yet. To my surprise it had. I spread out on the sofa and launched the game.

Straight away I was forced to do some button mashing to try and figure out which one would allow me to skip the intro and cutscenes. It’s 2016 for god sake, why isn’t there a standardised button that does this? Sometimes it’s X, sometimes it’s Start, sometimes it’s Select. We just need one ‘get the hell on with it’ button that works with everything. Is that too much to ask? I know game designers likely spend countless hours and millions of bucks on beautifully rendered 3D cutscenes but Jesus Christ, I just want to get to the bit where I can actually do something.

Once the game actually kicked in proper, I was presented with a character building screen. I ended up choosing to be some kind of cat man and then randomly selected all other traits by just button mashing again. So far this game was shit. After I’d finished building my character, the game then had him sitting on the back of a horse and cart for five minutes while some NPC talked to him. Actually let me rephrase that. While some NPC texted to him. That’s right, there was no voice acting in this game. I was expected to read everything. It was at this point that I shut down the PS3 in disgust. ‘What a steaming pile of poo’ I thought.

I strolled back outside and grabbed the PSP from the sun lounger, taking it inside to play this time so that there was no screen glare to distract me. Flicking it on, I saw that I was no longer stuck doing the fire truck mission. I’d progressed on to some form of box throwing mission. ‘What the hell’ I said out loud. I was convinced I hadn’t completed the previous mission. Infact I was 100% sure I hadn’t. I could remember my final failed attempt just before chucking the console onto the other sun lounger. A cop had seen me steal the fire truck and I’d run him over, causing more cops to come after me. Before I’d even put the car fire out, I had the whole goddamn FBI on my tail. I’d been blown to smithereens. So how the hell did the mission get completed? I stormed into the main house looking for Brad.


Next Chapter: Second Thoughts