At 8.30 am on the morning of May 28th 2015, Lars Wilson had settled down on the beach after catching the early morning waves He was the first to notice them, but he did not entirely believe what he saw.
By midday, other residents of La Rochelle spotted as they took breakfast. Much coffee was spilled in shock when they saw it.
It was a strange contraption. It resembled a large goldfish bowl, about the size of a small car. It puttered by on an unknown engine, that occasionally spouted bursts of steam. It’s six sturdy wheels steered it through the streets.
But that was not the strangest part of the contraption. The strangest part were the tree octopi who resided within the bowl, apparently piloting the thing. One of them used it’s many tentacles to control levers, another consulting what looked like maps and a strange looking contraption that might have been a sextant.
Surely this must be some sort of joke ? A viral stunt perhaps ?
Nevertheless, the contraption eventually navigated itself out of La Rochelle, and into the countryside. It trampled over hedges, frightened sheep.
The police were at a loss as to what to do about it. The vehicle didn’t seem to have any human occupants, and there were no visible transmitters. No-one knew who controlled this contraption.
There were several attempts to rescue the octopuses from the machine, which all ended unsuccessfully. The hatch on top of it was sealed tight.
As the machine trundled towards monaco, disaster struck. or more specifically, a car struck the contraption. Cracks spiderwebbed across the fishbowls surface. This is where things became surreal. People were sure the vehicle would burst open, flinging its occupants out. What happened was very different.
As the bowl shattered, the octopi disappeared, and then re-appeared wearing what appeared to be space suits. If space suits had been designed for octopuses. News cameras gathered to film the extraordinary event, as they returned to their stations, and steered the contraption into the sea. Never to be seen again.
Until a week later when it re-emerged, its glass cage now encircled by a sturdy roll cage.
People around the world tuned in to see the exploits of the brave little octopi in their tiny vehicle, that people had named the octopod. Websites dedicated to the little creatures sprung up. The media held naming competitions for each of its crewmembers.
When it rolled into towns, people would run out to look at it. By the time it ha crossed through Italy, it was an international sensation.
Scientists attempted to create a line of communication. At night time, when the vehicle stopped, they would bring gifts of fish, and attempt to gain as much information as they could. At first, the octopi were wary taking such gifts, opening the hatch up only a crack, letting one tentacle slide out to quickly snatch the fish away. Then they would gaze at the scientists through the glass.
Eventually, the scientists convinced the “navigator” octopus to press their map of the world against the glass. They noticed that there were various marked spots all across the atlantic an the mediterranean, each with a different set of glyphs that made up the language of octopi.
It also had a line, indicating their intended path, and their path so far. It lead all the way across the eurasian continent, with stop offs in the black sea, and through the indian ocean.
We gave them a copy of our map of the world. Which caused a great degree of excitement. I think we might have triggered a fight.
The octopus we have come to refer to as the navigator seemed to have an intense argument with the one we tended to think of as the pilot. It furiously pointed at the map we gave it and gestured with its tentacles.
Only later did we figure out what they were doing. They plotted a new route, one which didn’t go through as many population centres.
Their journey was long, and eventful. We don’t exactly know what happened when they moved through siberia, but there was a conspicuous absence of the engineer, and the vehicle had been re-fitted with much more armour. This time, when we attempted to give them food, they didn’t respond. But they still communicate with us through the glass.
We hadn’t figured out their language, and they hadn’t figured ours out. But luckily, their grasp was good enough that when their engine broke down in guangdong, mere miles from the end of their planned route. Good enough for them to signal for help.
Fortunately, someone managed to capture it all on video. The navigator octopus bravely donning its suit and exiting the octopod. Soon, a crowd of curious locals appeared to watch as it opened up the cowling on the smoking engine. Clearly confused the octopus banged on the octopod in what everyone recognised as the universal language of frustration.
At this point, a couple of people had begun to examine the engine, with flashlights. One of them saw the problem, and pointed it out to the frustrated navigator. It turned out, one of the pipes had cracked. All it took was a little bit of sealant, and the octopod was ready to roll forward, onto its destination.
Massive crowds had built up at the destination point. Giant inflatable octopi balloons floated in the sky, and people threw confetti at the octopod as it trundled towards its journeys end. As it rolled into the sea, both of the surviving crew members stood atop the contraption to show the world the human gesture that they had learned. They waved at us. Then they disappeared into the ocean.
Who knows what stories they will tell of their adventures above water. Of the strange land they travelled through, its odd people, and what dangers they overcame. Perhaps, one day we shall find out.