The quiet man who fed the octopus

2 beep..5 bip.. 5 bip.. 2 beep.. 4 barp..#blip. The bolt clunked open and was held there by whatever device it is that makes that buzzing sound. The subject, head down, hands in pockets, pushed the door open with his hip and walked into the foyer. He didn’t notice the lady watering the aspidistras, but she saw him. Later to be known as witness D, she was often fussing around in the foyer, and she didn’t miss a trick.

“They always wore those hooded jackets and they always had these wispy beards.”

She could single out this one though. “He always opened the door with his hip and he never ever looked at me. All the others looked and smiled. And yes he was definitely wearing a blue hoodie, black jeans and those fluoro green runners on that day. That horrible day, I will never forget it.”

At unit 7A the subject removed the leather tonging from around his neck and with the key threaded on it, opened the door. The apartment was clean and barely furnished. A table and two chairs occupied the dinette. The kitchen had a fridge, a kettle and six small glass tumblers sat inverted on a tea towel next to the sink. Everything else was bare. One bedroom door was closed but the second was open to reveal an assortment of rectangular mats all arranged in neat rows facing one corner of the room. The bathroom and toilet doors were closed. The lounge room had one sofa which faced the opposite wall which was draped with a large white sheet. In the middle of the room stood a video camera on a tripod. On the adjacent wall to the sofa, in stark contrast to the rest of the place, was an aquarium. It was a six footer, illuminated and humming, and contained only water, gravel, two aerators and an octopus the size of a rockmelon.

“Hello Ahmed,” said the subject to the mollusc.

Ahmed blinked and partially unfurled one of its tentacles – a greeting of sorts. The subject smiled and proceeded to the freezer. He withdrew one pilchard and returned to slip it quickly under the tightly sealed glass lid. Except from its pulsing siphon and a quick change of colour from grey to a cream that matched the gravel, Ahmed remained motionless, watching as the pilchard sunk to the bottom corner.

“It will be thawed soon my friend.”

Opening the door to a built in a cupboard in the small hallway that led to the toilet and bathroom, the subject removed a black back pack and placed it on the dining table. He found a piece of paper with a mobile phone number written on it in the side pocket. He took out his mobile phone from the pocket in the front of his hoodie and punched in the number, he hit SAVE, looked up to ceiling for a moment and then punched in PARADISE and hit SAVE again.

Noting the time on his mobile, the subject twitched and reached into the back pocket of his jeans. He removed three warm creased envelopes and placed them onto the table, arranging them neatly, orientated like the mats in the bedroom. The first was labelled Mum, the next Kelly and the third envelop was labelled Yousef with not to be opened until 12 in brackets under the name. He looked up to see Ahmed moving from his corner towards the pilchard.

The subject placed the key on the leather tonging next to the envelopes. He stood, slung the back pack over his right shoulder and left the unit. Witness D would later recount: “When he left he was carrying a black back pack,” and answered: “No I did not notice anything different about his demeanour.”

The train was fuller than usual for a Friday afternoon. The regular commuters, in various shades of workplace grey and black, pretended not to notice the dozens of noisy young people. They were dressed in retro uniforms – worn to fit in at the music festivals that lately seemed to be on every second weekend. The subject sat on a bench seat facing inwards in the vestibule section of the carriage. The back pack was nestled between his knees, and looked straight ahead without expression. It was hard to ignore the many nubile female buttocks hanging out from the bottom of denim short shorts, particularly at eye level, but the subject remained poker faced. The jostling, giggling and a cocktail of deodorants and perfumes, named after pop divas, assaulted the other senses.

A member of the party crowd spotted the subject, “Hey Brad, is that you?”, and he edged over to squeeze in on the bench seat.

“Man you look so different, haven’t seen you in years bro. Hey have some calamari.”

The seafood eater, though at least ten years older than the other festival goers, sported a left wrist engulfed by at least a dozen assorted festival wrist bands.

“Hey come on have some calamari, it’s the best stuff to line your stomach. You’re going to the festival aren’t you?”

The subject declined: “I can’t eat that type of seafood, thank you.”

“Allergy eh? My dad blows up like a balloon if he even looks at a prawn.”

The man boy asked again if the subject was going to the music festival. He pointed at the back pack.

“You know they’ll go through that with a fine tooth comb. Pretty hard to get anything in these days; just got to drop the pills and skull down as much as you can before you get there. You know pre-load.”

“So Brad, you going or what?”

The subject shook his head. He twisted his head and squinted to look through the graffiti scratched Perspex window. The harbour disappeared as the train left the late afternoon sun, and with a whoosh of changing air pressure the fluorescent lights of the crowded carriage became apparent for the first time.

The subject took out his mobile and hit the key to bring up CONTACTS. He scrolled down quickly and stopped at PARADISE.

“So where you going then Brad?”
The subject held out the phone to show his long lost mate the contact name.

“Paradise? What are you on Brad? I’d like to give that a try mate.”

The hyped up calamari eating hipster laughed.

“Yes, paradise my friend.”

Simultaneously the subject hit the call button, illustrated with a green phone handpiece, and kicked the back pack out under the legs of the excited party crowd.