by Connor Schafer
art by YaYing Yu
Many millennia ago in the far off land of Quk there once lived a girl named Daqutr. Although a small girl, around the age of six, she already understood much about the world she called home. She first understood that there was little comfort or freedom for her, as she and the other tutks were only destined for lives of hardship and labor. For her, this meant long hours in the pin factory. So secondly, she understood pins. She knew pins so very well. Although only six years old, the child had likely already manufactured thousands. When she slept, she could only see pins. Thirdly, she understood that the men with the funny hats were dangerous. Even though the hats were squishy and bright yellow and sometimes had very small men inside who would open trapdoors to peer out… the men were dangerous. She often received a bruised cheek or spinning head for not making enough pins. And as she lay on the ground, crying in pain, the terrible little men who live in the hats swarmed out like bees from a nest. They covered her in a forceful restraint until the real men came to take her away. Long story short, the men with the funny hats are not so funny.
One night, Daqutr put her weary little head on her straw pillow and closed her eyes. Pins, as usual. Recently, a deep anger had begun to boil against the pins and whoever decided she had to work in the pin factory. In her resentment she got up from the alley where she and her siblings slept. Her eyes darted back and forth between the walls and clutter with no particular purpose. Eventually, her attention went far to the distance. She was instantly captivated by a shape emerging from low in the night sky. The shape emerged from a tower which belonged to the astronomer’s guild.
Known across the city, the astronomers would retreat each night to their stone tower in the corner of the city to study the stars, or so they claimed. The city folk found their obsession with the night sky strange, instead enjoying the comfort of sleep and warm fires in the dead of night. Often, people would speak of the astronomers guild’s strange contraptions, which would etch strange shapes in the sky high above the rooftops.
Daqutr saw dozens of individual lines twisting and turning, but which together created an amorphous shape that protruded from the tower like a wilting plant, sagging from its own weight. Daqutr thought it looked a bit like an octopus. Never before had she seen anything like this. Daqutr quickly forgot about her grueling day in the pin factory.
She woke up her sister Snii’i with excitement.
“Snii’i, Snii’i, wake up, wake up!” she said playfully.
“What,” her sister said, in the disengaged tone of any teenager.
“You won’t believe what is in the sky!”
“If it’s not trying to actively kill us, go back to sleep!” She said while burying her head into the blanket.
“There’s a giant octopus in the sky”
“I said an octopus!”
Snii’i finally opened an eye.
“Yep,” she agreed. And then dug her face back into the pillow.
Daqutr waited in anticipation for her sister to give the shape any more attention. How could she simply dismiss it! For Daqutr, there was something about this octopus which had materialized in the night. The dark form seemed like it had so much power, sitting ominously above the rooftops. In her excitement, she had not noticed that some of the octopus’ arms extended from the astronomer’s tower. Perhaps this would have enlightened her on the form’s origins. But nevertheless, Daqutr was so hungry, sore, and cold that she simply latched onto this octopus in the sky as her ticket out of a life of despair. Looking up from the dark, cramped, rat infested alleyway, her eyes sparkled with hope. She was going to the octopus.
But she knew it wasn’t safe to go out alone, she would need her sister for safety. So, she had to convince her to get up.
“The octopus is an alien that has descended from the stars, do you not want to meet an alien?”
“Perhaps the octopus is here to save us from the men with the funny hats!”
“Perhaps the magical octopus will take us away!”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Snii’i I’m begging you! We must heed the call of the octopus!”
Snii’i let out a dreadful sigh and slowly stood up. She looked down at her sister in a moment of contemplation.
“Will you promise to shut up if we just walk up the hill for a better look?”
“Yes,” her sister said grudgingly.
The two of them slowly walked up the hill, hand in hand. Snii’i dragged her step much more than her little sister. They both kept a close eye on their peripheral, but nobody was out. Instead, the street was eerily quiet. A moon with an orangish tint eerily fed the shadows which reached out to grab the two.
Once they got to the top, they took in the view. They gazed at the octopus figure attentively.
“What’s it doing there?” the older sister asked
“It’s here to save us!”
“How do you know?”
“A feeling, I just believe.”
“What makes you think…”
She was cut off by quite rude interruption by one of the men with the funny hats who had approached from behind.
“What are you doing here in the dead of night?!”
The sisters turned behind themselves and saw 5 men with the funny hats, daggers drawn. The little men in their hats presented tiny pistols out the trap doors of the hats.
Daqutr looked at her sister for guidance. Snii’i, however, didn’t know what to do. So, she ran down the hill. Her sister joined in stride, but they were both pelted by a slew of little men who live in the men with the funny hats’ hats. But they could not run to safety. Quickly, they became covered in the little men from the hats of the men with hats. Their little hands dug spikes into Daqutr and Snii’i’s skin, sending an explosion of prickling pain across their bodies.
Daqutr jolted forward in pain, willing herself to move faster. But Snii’i, overwhelmed by the little men, collapsed in pain.
“Get up!” Daqutr shouted as she ran, bolting down the hill. After a moment, she bolted down an alleyway. Her life depended on it, so she ran. Snii’i, however, could not. Snii’i was instead covered in little men from the hats of the men with the funny hats and then taken away by the men with the funny hats. Her fate now lay uncertain.
Once she felt safe, Daqutr lay in an alleyway and cried for an hour for her sister. She was devastated. The guilt overwhelmed her. After having a nice cry, however, she stood up and looked back at the octopus. Maybe the octopus can save my sister, she thought. So she willed her tired, sore body to walk towards the shape. Hope kept her going through that dark night. Miraculously she evaded the men with the funny hats for the rest of the night, perhaps aided by her short stature.
Within an hour, she approached the massive figure. Made of a seemingly spontaneous arrangement of wood, metal, and pulleys, the figure loomed above the rooftops. It stood eerily still above the rooftops.
“Hey octopus,” she shouted to no avail.
Daqutr noticed that the figure touched the large tower in front of her. The astronomer’s tower. Daqutr approached it and then entered slowly through a cracked door and peered into their tower, revealing a small room filled to the brim with robed astronomers yanking at pulleys and bickering with one another. Ropes and bamboo poles shot up from the floor and along the walls and lofts towards the top of the tower, around 50 feet up. Daqutr watched as they prepared to hoist a large wooden barrel with taunt ropes. Dozens of brass rods with various instruments spinning and whirring shot out from the floor and stone sides of the tower like the quills of a porcupine. A feeling of purpose compelled her and she ran towards the barrel. As she got closer, she noticed a small door near the bottom of the barrel and leaped inside. Being as small as she was, the busy astronomers did not notice Daqutr jump in, and within minutes she traveled through the structure and was perched atop the large octopus. Inside the small vessel was a collection of brass instruments, slowly ticking a whirring, which left Daqutr with little room, but she did not let that discomfort deter her. Instead, through the door and small holes, she could peer out at her city far below her, mesmerized by the new perspective. Lights of the city twinkled as if saying goodbye. Daqutr smiled. Now, she was far from the men with the silly hats. No more pins. And no more Snii’i, she thought with sadness. But maybe, just maybe, the octopus could help. She sought the figure’s help:
“Octopus! Octopus! Octopus! Can you hear me?”
Meanwhile back in the astronomer guild’s tower, astronomers worked busily to keep their barrel in the air. The excitement was tangible amongst the robed figures, for their project was almost complete. For years they had prepared and expectantly waited, but in the morning it would finally happen.
An interruption in their perfectly rehearsed plan materialized unexpectedly in the middle of the tower. A short astronomer by the name of Frubh announced a discovery:
“Oh britches! Tis’ a floating pear!”
“Hmm” said the others as they encircled the fruit, “What a peculiar sight”
“Tis a sign, methinks,” said an old astronomer by the name of Pufk, as her son wheeled her wheelchair towards the pear, floating only a few feet from the ground.
Once close enough, she grabbed the fruit and took a vigorous bite. Savoring the fruit, she announced, “tis sweet!”
The astronomers cheered.
Up in the barrel, Daqutr received no reply from the figure below her. Instead, the cool of the night sent a shiver down her spine. Tears flowed from her eyes once again. She gathered her clothes tight to her body in a self-embrace. As she pressed her hand to her stomach, however, she felt something in her pocket that was vaguely circular and now a little bit squished. She pulled the pear out of her pocket and took a bite.
“Hm,” she remarked. How strange. Perhaps the octopus had sent it.
“What happens next?” BiWWun asked, a new recruit of the astronomer's guild asked.
“We don’t know. Frubh just kind of felt like it”
“Me’thought this twas the vibe, it was giving good vibes, one might say. You see, this night is a special night, as the moon turns orange.” Frubh explained
BiWWun began to understand.
“So you just felt like making a giant mechanical octopus in the dead of night and then sticking it out the top of our tower because the moon will change color?”
Looking outside, Daqutr realized that she was quite higher than before, and no longer supported by the astronomer’s contraption. The structure lay far below her, and now seemed distant and blurry like the city lights. She gasped with surprise when she realized that she must now be floating. The barrel quickly accelerated upwards, pushing Daqutr’s more and more against the pointy metal instruments. With increased velocity came increased movement and pressure within the barrel. Daqutr screamed as she realized how fast she was really going. Flames gathered underneath her wooden spaceship. Her fears erupted too. Then, the barrel erupted.
Far below her, on the surface of the Earth, the pears rained down like a torrential downpour. People woke up from their slumber to see the strange rain. They shattered on the ground in an explosion of delicious and sweet pulp. The children smiled.
Daqutr woke up from an unintentional, head trauma induced slumber. Her body felt weightless, no longer oppressed by gravity. Peeping her eyes open, she discovered that she was now miles from the surface of the earth. This couldn’t be right, she thought. What happened? Why was she here? Did the octopus bring her here? Why? She felt so very confused.
“Help!” she pleaded.
As soon as she shouted, a shape emerged from the depths of space. Another pear.
This second pear confused her once again. She hungrily bit into it and looked around. Suspended high in the night sky, she noticed she could faintly see her own body. Her skin radiated an orange color. Why was she orange now? Looking opposite the earth, however, she noticed the moon was orange. It looked a bit like a pumpkin, she thought.
Illuminated in the moon’s light, she bit into the pear once again. The fruit brought a level of clarity. She was brought here for a reason, and she didn’t need any more help. The sun, Earth, and moon aligned for her now. All she needed to do now was act. Her sister would be coming back.
Daqutr opened up her hand and orange sparks flew out, further illuminating her face. She focused on the octopus and brought her hand up. With it came the octopus, coming to life. The astronomers rejoiced, believing their vast efforts were now not in vain.
Flying above the city, the octopus’ arms shot out and suction-cupped the men with the funny hats, then depositing them in the pin factory. When finished with the men with the funny hats, the octopus picked up the factory, foundations and all, and dropped it off far from the city. Finally, they were free from the oppressors. She then thought of a beautiful apartment for she and her sister to live in, and it materialized. After transporting Snii’i into the apartment, she flew to her new home herself.
The sisters slept soundly that night, as well as everyone else in the town. Peace had now eclipsed the oppressive men with the funny hats.