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Squid President

  Although no one exactly knew how or when it started, it came as no surprise when the President of the United States became a giant squid.

  As far as anyone could recall, there was no singular event that indicated what was happening. Some insisted that the first clue was when he started vomiting up viscous ink on reporters he did not like. This proved to not be dissimilar enough from his normal behavior to warrant examination in the moment. Some believed that the first sign that the change was occurring was when his hair took on a hypnotic, undulating wave as he moved. Even then, though, very few could recall a time when it did not capture their attention in some way, shape, or form. Even when his flesh roiled and changed color with his mood, people had a hard time differentiating squid-time and person-time.

  And yet, everyone could agree on the big, seemingly instant changes that punctuated the overall evolution. This was especially the case when they happened asymmetrically. The first press conference where he threw a meaty tentacle over the podium was hard to ignore, for instance. The suckers clung fast to paper and pens as the bulk of the muscle flopped about. Positively pacific in contrast, the other appendage only gradually assumed the form of its mate. Fingers slowly fused together and lost articulation over the course of weeks, weeks in which everyone felt too embarrassed to bring it up.

  Of course, the slow transformation of one arm was only noticeable due to the rush job of the other. The more drawn out the metamorphosis, the more likely it was that no one documented it as it happened. The replacement of human eyes with saucer-sized shimmering voids of alien consciousness was so gradual that most Americans had always believed the man had possessed eyes that consumed 80% of his skull’s real estate. For weeks, his human mouth worked floppily beneath an inhuman gaze that no one questioned, even as those flapping lips were pushed further and further to the underside of his chin like a sagging stalactite.

   It was the Paris incident where the American people had to finally come to terms with the reality that the leader of the country had turned into a cephalopod. The best attempts to disguise the change had failed miserably, the petulant invertebrate ripping off all clothing save a red tie that clung to his conical forehead. The English language, never his strong suit, had been totally abandoned for tentacle slaps, the click of a beak, or vibrant chromatic displays.

  Most of these things were easily ignored or otherwise explained away as quirks of character. The squidy context of it all was much harder to ignore when eight writhing, sucker-slathered arms and two floppy tentacles wrapped around the Australian Prime Minister. The Aussie at first attempted to play the situation off as an overly-aggressive handshake, but when the American began to bite the ruse could no longer be maintained. Deftly, she sunk a butter knife above the left saucer-eye. Less gracefully, the President barfed up gooey ink and disappeared into an air duct.

  It took two weeks for the President to be extricated from the vents, fighting for every inch of yielded space. During his absence, his advisors attempted to parlay the event into something approaching either actionable policy or spin. Was this an act of war? A statement on Australian immigration? A groping to be explained away and forgotten about in a week? The possibilities seemed endless, and each talking head imitated their Commander-in-Chief to the best of their human ability, vomiting a cloud of words so thick and meaningless as to disguise their eventual retreat.

  When the Secret Service managed to finally pry the surprisingly vibrant executive out of the air ducts, they found him slightly scarred but not any worse for wear. This was conjecture, of course: he did not directly address his mortified public, instead slapping paparazzi with both arms and head as he was led to the waiting motorcade.

  The elected squid secured, it was anticipated that the chaos that reigned for fourteen days would somewhat decrease. If anything, his presence and increasingly erratic behavior did little to affect a positive change. Sputtering, inarticulate, and stressed spox were left to their own devices when the President ate half a tour group one day then held an incomprehensible press conference on another. The only saving grace came when, in moments of fury (or was it pleasure?) the squid would cycle through spectrums of pink and purple to the delight of reporters, reporters who then took to breathlessly discussing how very presidential the squid had become. This, naturally, lasted just long enough for someone in the press pool to be snapped in two and partially consumed.

  There appeared to be a general agreement to not actually talk about the grim reality of an elected official—let alone one in such a high station—dedicated to being a full-time squid. Yes, Andrew Jackson spent his last week in office as a really racist snail until he was eaten by a stray dog. And people were readily aware of Theodore Roosevelt living as a bear for six months, but even then he had the dignity of actually remaining human at the time. This was too much and too early. Surely the pressures of office would conflict with the growing concerns about his condition and he would have to quit. The nation had silently agreed on this: quitting was inevitable, so kindly refrain from mentioning the big ol’ squid in the room.

  No, not even when he is chewing on you.

  Especially when he’s chewing on you.

  Although the tension was fierce, it did not last long. On an otherwise innocuous day, two spokespeople contradicted each other in how they addressed the President. Such slipups could be ignored, but their proximity—one within a single hour of the other—unavoidably highlighted the question that hung over the nation.

  One, when asked about the rather flaccid attempt to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game, gripped the podium and sputtered, “You will find no man more comfortable in his own skin.”

  It was an odd thing to say in response, but in a world of perpetually oddening responses, it went unchallenged.

  That is, until forty-two minutes later when a proxy for the President responded to a query about the President biting a kindergarten class’s pet gerbil in half: “I think that what we’re seeing, what is being seen about this president, is that no one, especially the media, is that no one thought that a squid could be so resolute and effective, and that is what he is breaking down all these barriers for, in the presidency for the squid and why aren’t you talking about the gerbils that don’t go eaten every day by our President?”

  This begged an answer to the unspoken question and journalists, sensing proverbial blood in the water, worked themselves into a frenzy. Was the President a squid or a human? Was a squid president a bad thing, and is the possibility of an underperforming squid president worse? Did this constitute breaking a campaign promise? What kind of message was our Commander-in-Chief sending us by sending out two people so clearly at odds with each other? Did potential squidiness suggest a sympathy toward octopods or hatred of grey whales? Or would this result in sanctions against aquariums in a desperate attempt to rebrand himself as 100% human?

  For their part, the President’s people only spent six days unable to articulate a coherent response. When they finally coalesced around a singular idea, it was fairly straightforward in its awfulness: the President had always been a squid. There was never a moment when he had not been a squid. When he was running for President, he openly admitted his propensity for his squidocity and people embraced the pro-squid stance. He had done as he promised, for he was always a squid.

  Interestingly enough, and despite their own memories and photographic and video evidence, most quietly accepted this. After some time, even those who resisted felt the need to agree that it was very likely that, yes, the President had always been a squid. Soon, they couldn’t remember a time when the sitting President hadn’t noisily devoured a turtle on live television or plucked the head off of a screaming child with flailing, sucker-covered limbs.

  The real shocker was when, in the Rose Garden, he belched out a geyser of ink and flew into the sky. Those who had come to see his speech stared, agog, at the rapidly disappearing politician as thick gobs of black goo rolled off faces and plants and puddled onto the ground. The only sound, apart from dripping, was an echoing “Plerp!”, a word that remaining squid loyalists insisted was quite profound if one took the time to really understand it.

  Everyone agreed that there were much worse ways for that presidency to end.

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