Someone to Cuttle
By Luna Loupe
Copyright 2012 Luna Loupe
Even in sunlight dimmed by the water, the coral reef glittered like a jewel. Paul could hear nothing but the sound of his own breath in the scuba mask, although he knew his diving buddy and instructor Sharon was only a few feet behind him. The water gave everything an otherworldly beauty as he traversed the reef, careful not to disturb anything. A shoal of small, colorful fish flitted around him, strangely birdlike.
Paul glanced over his shoulder, and Sharon caught his movement. She signaled everything okay? at him, and he echoed the signal for his I’m okay response. He turned back again, heading along the reef: he could barely see what looked like it might be an octopus ahead.
When he approached, the octopus turned out to be a large cuttlefish - and to his delight he could see a pair of smaller cuttlefish nearby, likely females. Paul had always found cephalopods fascinating. They were so intelligent in a way so unlike most vertebrates. He liked to think that if he hadn’t inherited his father’s advertising firm, he would have become a marine biologist - part of the reason he had decided to go diving for his vacation. It was so good to be in the water instead of sitting at a desk.
He stopped, treading water, to watch the cuttlefish. The possible female flirted around the big male, trying to catch his attention, but Paul had the feeling the big guy was sizing him up. As he watched, a wave of darker color rippled over the surface of the big one’s skin, making him catch his breath: it was one thing to read about the level of control cuttlefish had over their pigmentation, and another thing entirely to see it in person. The dark pigment sine-waved over the cuttlefish’s skin, smooth and sinuous, and… was it forming a more complex pattern?