Kumiko had already bought every single thing she needed to cook her mother's favorite dish: a soup filled with several types of seafood, native of her birth city. She boarded the train and sat down calmly: the trip was a long one, as her home was near the terminus station.
She decided to check her emails on her smartphone but a strange sound distracted her as she drew the phone out of her backpack. She looked up and stared at the people in the train with her: they were all distracted by their mobiles phones, some others were sleeping or trying to. She grabbed her phone and then heard the sound again. It came from inside her backpack, most precisely from the bag with all the things she had bought at the market. She tried to hear the sound again but nothing happened so she zipped the bag up and left it on the ground.
As she checked some messages, she heard another noise, this time from somewhere on the floor. As the wagon was filled with people, it was hard to determine its origin. Kumiko looked at every shoe and foot around her but couldn't see a thing.
"I must be very tired", she thought. She had been working too hard on her thesis, staying at home for days without ever going out or resting properly. She would fall asleep very late at night and wake up early to investigate and structure her work. Her mother would cook delicious things for her but she never finished any of them. To be honest, she always left more than half of what was served to her because the thesis absorbed her attention.
In a nutshell, she had been a zombie for almost a month. But the day before, she had finally finished it and today she had delivered it to college and, after that, had the idea to make her mother an special dinner, as a way to thank her for her support and understanding.
But all that was now on the back of her head. That sound, that strange sound that she could hear every so often, had taken the first place in her list of priorities. Maybe she had gone crazy from so much work... But it came again, she could hear it. Not able to stand it anymore, she stood up, her backpack tight on her body and followed the particular sound.
It was something small, on the floor. Kumiko could see she wasn't the only one hearing the sound: a little girl was staring at the floor without saying a word and an older gentleman was staring at the roof, most likely trying to remember if he had ever heard that same sound.
Then, Kumiko heard a scream. It was a crazy scream to be honest, she even thought someone was been killed or stabbed or mugged but it was nothing like that. She ran towards the woman that had screamed and she was pointing to the floor. So... that was it.
On the floor, crawling slowly, was a tiny octopus. It looked wet, slimy and weird. The woman screamed again and Kumiko put a hand over her ear: too much exaggeration for such a small and defenseless creature. He must have escaped the cup the vendor had put him in. And Kumiko had asked for fresh octopus so he had taken it a little bit to literal. She started to reach down for it but then the train slowed down: it was nearing a station.
The girl only stared at the window for a single second but that was enough for the tiny creature to crawl very fast and exit through the nearest door. She reacted clumsily and ran for the door, as it was closing. If she had been late for a couple more seconds, her hand would have been caught by the metal doors.
Now, on the platform, people were staring at her, which was funny: there was an octopus somewhere in the station and she was the one been looked at. She looked to every side but couldn't see anything. So she turned around and walked towards the edge of the platform. Well, she didn't walked too much as a security guard grabbed her strongly by the arm and started yelling at her. He clearly thought she was going to commit suicide.
And then she reacted in the worst way possible: she started laughing, which made the scene even crazier. The man yelled even more and she just couldn't stop laughing. The situation was so ridiculous. And then, over the man's shoulder, she saw the tiny creature getting on an elevator. She didn't stay for the rest of the lecture, instead running towards the elevator which doors closed right in her face.
Kumiko ran up the stairs, for three floors, until she saw the tiny creature gliding down the handle of some other stairs. She wanted to laugh again but stopped herself from that as it would take a lot of her time. She ran, again, after the creature. Kumiko smiled as she ran down the stairs after the creature: it had been a long time since she had had this much fun. And it made her feel alive to see such a tiny fellow gliding and jumping and crawling. It was amazing to see it, so alive and desperate to keep living.
They got to a different platform to the one they had been before and the creature jump right into a waiting train and she did the same but through a different door. As the train began moving, she grabbed a metal pole and rested. She remembered playing with her friend in school ,running around and just being young. She missed badly, she missed them so much. Kumiko had invested her life on the thesis and in her career and she had left out all those other important things.
The train stopped and she stared through the window. The creature must have left already. No need to chase it. He would be able to fight for his life, hopefully not being stepped on or caught before he gets to a water source.
Kumiko walked past some busy people on the train, towards the back of the wagon, and stared at their faces while stroking the phone on her pocket. It was so sad for her, to be always so busy and giving importance to such stupid things, missing out so much from life.
The train slowed down again, this time on Takebashi station. Kumiko began thinking how to get back home from there, when suddenly the small creature jumped out of the train. She ran after him again and chased him to another elevator. The difference was this time she was able to get in with the octopus.
The trip towards the street was short but it was enough for her to see the small animal was not feeling very good. Its skin seemed pale and its tentacles were drying. Its escape stunts had taken their toll, leaving it too tired and almost dead.
When the elevator opened, they could see car and a street. The creature stepped out first and Kumiko decided not to intervene. It seemed as if the octopus knew were to go, which seemed crazy but the girl was sure something had brought it this far.
Then, she noticed were she was and she understood, as the octopus crawled towards the edge of the sidewalk. No, not to throw itself at the moving cars but on the other side. They were steps away from the Imperial Palace. And it had a surrounding moat and that was were the octopus was going. With its last breath, the creature used all of its tentacles to jumo over the railing to the water below.
Kumiko saw it all but was worried not to see it anymore. She knew the canals around the palace led, somehow, to the ocean but that must be a harder journey.
As she was getting worried, she saw the head and eyes of the creature, that sunk almost inmediately in the water, leaving a small trace in the water. Kumiko stayed there until she wasn't able to see nothing else.
An hour later, she was cooking in her house. Her mother had thanked her for the unexpected present but was disappointed to see Kumiko hadn't bought her favorite food, octopus. The daughter then told her she had a story to tell her. Her mother smiled and kissed her in the forehead.
- You're a free woman now. And I want to hear all of your stories.
And for Kumiko, that was the cherry on top of such a strange and wonderful day.