The Squid Farm
Small Giant Squid
The squid undergoes their infant stages of life as a Small Giant Squid. Aged 6 – 24 months old, a Small Giant Squid establishes its diet during these years, and chooses what they eat. They retain their inability to digest kelp.
I have had a life-long fondness for squids, and while I cannot remember the exact year that it started, my parents have said that my first ever catch from Ye Old Fishing Vortex was a Small Giant Squid. Technically, the catch hadn’t been mine; I had yet to acquire language at that time, let alone having the strength to make it. No, it had been my father’s. I used to watch him fish with a kind of newfound wonder that renewed itself energetically every single day, and one day, he had taught me how to grasp the fishing rod. I was much smaller back then, and holding onto the rod on my own was like trying to carry an Autumn Birch Tree. Of course, I wasn’t alone, and my father did everything; I just had an excellent view.
I had never been more ecstatic when we caught something, and even more so when the Small Giant Squid shot out of the water and into my father’s outstretched hand. I remember touching it, and finding the slimy, somewhat rubbery skin strange and exciting. If we had had all the time in the world, I don’t think I would have ever let go. The experience had been new, exciting, enthralling, and it opened up a new level of curiosity in my mind.
My family consists of my parents and my older sister Mary-Ann. We have lived in Maraqua all our lives; although my mother and father painted themselves Maraquan Kau and Moehog, respectively, it seems that Mary-Ann and I were Maraquan from birth (she is a Buzz, and I am a Zafara). My parents knew how to play the Stock Market, and so we were comfortably rich, but never billionaires. Our house is more spacious than the average Neopian’s, and we used to employ a gardener to keep the back garden in good shape twice every week. He was the only person we ever employed, for my parents unanimously agreed to never spoil us by keeping servants.
The biggest treats we ever received from our parents were on our birthday, but even then, they had to be within limits. When Mary-Ann was five, she wanted a Rainbow Fountain Faerie Doll, but she never received it, and had to be content with a Fair Maiden Usuki Doll. She enjoyed playing with it, but I know she never got over that incident; she couldn’t stop crying for the next twenty days, and every night, she would snuggle in my bed, and I had to do my duty as a caring younger sister, and not complain about how wet my fur was the following morning.
I had never asked for anything as expensive as a Rainbow Fountain Faerie Doll – at least, not until I was eight. In previous years, I had requested Quiguki dolls (I always preferred them), and I suppose my parents were expecting me to ask for another. When I told them I wanted a squid farm in our back garden, they looked at me with grave faces that barely hid their surprise, and they had slowly answered me, “Yeeees, of course we’ll build a squid farm for you.” I had already been a very active fisherwoman for five years at the time of my request, and I had grown to familiarise myself with all the types of squids I had ever caught. I never kept any of them; if I fished them up, I would inspect them like a child inspects a new toy, and then throw them back into the vortex.
It took only a fortnight for my parents to change the layout of the garden; before, there had been a lovely rainbow coloured border of kelp around the edges, so as to mark our territory, and in the center of the garden had been an even lovelier cluster of various plants. Everything else had been paved over with stones. My parents had planned to change the layout, so that the top half of the garden would be overrun with the pond; the paving stones were duly removed, and the pond was dug and filled. Anybody looking down from a birds-eye perspective would have been reminded of a Combo Battle Mirror, albeit the pond being a lighter hue than the terrace.
I was jolly excited when I saw the completed pond for the first time – it was like a dream come true for me. I had long dreamt of keeping my own squids, yet I had never used my imagination to invent the facilities until now. I could barely wait to start putting the farm to good use, and with my rod, I returned to the vortex to catch a squid.
I wish I could say that I had caught a squid and took it home with much felicity, but what really happened was that I had caught a Chaosfish. I promptly threw it back in the vortex, and forced myself to be patient. I found myself in those moments where I had caught squids aplenty before I actually needed one; Cubefish, Eyefish, Doomfish, Spectral Shrimp, Golden Mechafish, another Cubefish... those were my next catches, and with each one, I grew steadily impatient until I was at the point of a tantrum. I had never been a particularly patient person, but even I felt that events were just growing ridiculous. I could see my goal, I was so close – and yet so far.
I finally succeeded with my next catch. That relieving moment was even better than the brightest diamond; I was convinced I was holding onto a gold trophy, not a Small Giant Squid; I felt as if I had just beaten a game, and was the best player in the whole of Neopia. Unsurprisingly, I named this Small Giant Squid ‘Gold’, and happily released him into his new home several hours later.
My fascination for these creatures was further broadened – nobody had ever been as interested as I was, and a whole new potential was open to me. I could spend my life researching them, write numerous articles for the Neopian Times, even publish some books – I was certain I would gain fame, and be forever known as the first Neopian to research into squids.
Unfortunately, my next few catches were wasted, and I quickly became prone to the boredom of owning just Gold. There were strong temptations to visit the Shop Wizard, and subsequently purchase more Small Giant Squids. I was growing desperate by the hour; Gold was becoming increasingly lonely, he needed a friend, and I didn’t want to spend Neopoints when I could easily fish them. I had other matters to deal with too; a squid’s diet still remained a great mystery to me, and everything I fed Gold seemed to be turned down. I was worried for his health; if I couldn’t find something, I would have to return him to the Vortex. Even though he had barely been in my possession for a week, I was already fond of him, and saw him as the youngest sibling in the family. Mary-Ann never really agreed with me (she thought I was weird), and while we never mentioned the subject, we both knew what she was thinking.
As we grew older, I found myself more distant from my sister than I had ever been, or imagined. Our views never agreed from the day my squid farm was unveiled, for she was a practical thinker, and I knew she saw no potential in my unusual habit. I, on the other hand, was too engrossed in my own felicity, and with it came a conceited world that only I had ever taken pains to understand. I preferred this world; it was perfect, untainted, and so new, so barely understood, that I could not willingly find the entrance again, or see any nearby exits.
My luck at the vortex increased again, and Gold and Silver were soon joined by Bronze, Nerkmid, Kew, twins Lunar and Cape, and Scorchstone. These names may sound peculiar, but I was only a child, and with my childish disposition, I called them after things that I found pretty. When I caught Lunar, Cape had been clinging onto her in a manner so desperate, so affectionate, that my disposition would not allow me to be cruel and force them apart, and I took them both back with me.
By then, I knew that squids did not eat the same food, and it took much experimenting to figure exactly what their diets were. The problem with variety was the lack of resource, and even with my parents and Mary-Ann (reluctantly) helping me, I soon found myself struggling to keep my supplies at a sufficient level. I had already feared that I would need to spend Neopoints, and now my fears were true. My reluctance to do so was never through selfishness, but the fact that they were so hard to earn; my parents had never distributed pocket money to me or Mary-Ann, and had I been good at playing games, I would have had less of a struggle. My parents had done their part by building the farm; from now on, all responsibility was down to me alone, including food.
Even though everything came cheap, it was still a burden. It was surprising how heavy and soaked a bag stuffed full of Blandfish could become, and I quickly found that swimming and carrying weights was impossible. Since then, I have had to take Mary-Ann with me on every shopping trip, and I always felt it did more damage than good to our relationship.
I never cared, though; my squids were my pride and joy. They always knew when it was feeding time; they would line up against the edge of the pond, and refuse to leave until they had enough. I had caught my squids around the same time, and I assumed they were of similar ages, for they grew at exactly the same rate as each other. Soon, I had a pond full of Large Giant Squids.
Large Giant Squid
This is when the squid matures, and prepares itself for adult life. Aged 24 – 192 months, it also starts to tolerate kelp, although it still avoids the plant.
I wish I could have dedicated all my time to my squids, but I had Neoschool to attend. I never got on with my classmates, not because they had bullied me in some shape or form, but because we had nothing to say. I wanted to talk about squids and the Ye Old Fishing Vortex; my classmates wanted to talk about Yooyuball, and which team was the best (the strongest support was for Maraqua or Darigan Citadel). Our topics of conversation just didn’t match, and so I said nothing. I had little interest in Yooyuball anyway, and until now, I still do.
I had witnessed my squids changing into Large Giant Squids, and it was a fascinating process. Their pale pink skins had grown rosier, then magenta, before turning a shade of red. Their eyes just suddenly turned green one day, and when they first became actual Large Giant Squids, those eyes were a brilliant shade of jade. Their bodies were bulkier, and it amused me to see how some tentacles grew at different speeds than others, and how unbalanced they became as a result.
I also noted a radical change in diet; I caught Nerkmid gently chewing on some kelp. At first, I tried to lure him away with a Cubefish, but then it struck me that he was beginning to tolerate the plant; if he could show emotions, I think he would have been curious, and certainly not sick. I kept a watchful eye over all the squids, and I discovered that they were all attempting to eat kelp, and they were all learning to tolerate the plant they had once been unable to.
I speedily applied my discovery to my family, and their reactions could not have been more opposite one another; my parents were pleased for me, and I could tell it was sincere; their eyes beamed at me in the way that they always did whenever I had done something worthy to be proud of. Mary-Ann stayed silent throughout my discovery, and she had half-heartily said “congratulations” to me. That was the only word she had uttered, but I was too pleased to pay her behaviour any attention.
The next day, she willingly followed me outside to the pond. Here, her demure attitude succeeded in grasping my attention, and I knew what she was thinking when she saw Kew and Cape fighting over a strand of green kelp. I dared not to try and make conversation with her; somehow, I knew she would cause heavy inflictions to both of us. She had a hypothetical grenade in her hand, and it wasn’t going to make us laugh.
“Kelsey,” she said to me suddenly. “Have you ever thought about letting them go?”
I was startled, shocked, and suddenly felt empty; “How could I leave them?” I cried. “They’re my family – just like you!”
“That is sweet of you,” she said with a smile that I did not like. “But you’re growing up, Kelsey. You cannot stay with them forever.” Had I been older when she said this, I would have been more composed, but I was in great agitation, and somehow felt myself being flung closer to the exit of the world that I so dearly wished to remain in.
I felt mute, I could say nothing. Mary-Ann was looking at me gravely and solicitously, and the pain of her words was somehow rebounding off me and into her mind too. “I’m sorry, sister, but I cannot watch you descend into this madness. Our parents should never have encouraged you.”
“D – Don’t talk about them like that,” I wept. “I – I like squids, it’s –”
“Hush, Kelsey, hush.” She embraced me, and I willingly hugged back; our roles had been reversed, I was the one crying, and she had to provide me with comfort.
Giant Giant Squid
Aged 192 – 480 months, the Giant Giant Squid is the squid’s adult life, and its growth considerably slows. A well-nourished Giant Giant Squid will spend over twenty years growing, until it becomes a Titanic Giant Squid. As the Giant Giant Squid ages, it will eventually accept kelp as an alternative source of food and nutrient.
My mind remained stubborn throughout my remaining childhood years, and I could not see myself separated from my beloved squids. My temperament eventually lost all its childishness, although my matured disposition remained comfortably trapped in the squids’ world. My Quigukis were forever doomed to being stowed away in a storage box, which in turn sat in a darkened corner of my room.
My happiness numbed all negative feelings, and I grew immune to pain. I felt that way anyway; when Mary-Ann left home at nineteen, I cried, but not bitterly. I was saddened, but only for the greater part of two hours. My felicity returned instantly when I visited my squids; their skin had undergone a crimson shade for a while before browning, and their eyes now gleamed like emeralds. Disappointingly, their tentacles now grew at an even pace, and I felt robbed of warmly laughing at their struggles to restore their sense of balance as they attempted to swim, in a straight line, to the surface.
There were other squids in there, for I increasingly visited the Ye Old Fishing Vortex to the point where I willingly took unwanted squids from other fishers, and brought them home. Fyora, Psellia, Illusen, Ember, Siyana, Nereid, and Aethia were all Small Giant Squids when I took them home. They seemed to get along well with the others, and when I came to feeding them, their diets barely differed from the older squids, although Nereid preferred Bombfish; I had to unwillingly remove her from the pond, and my numbers dropped to fourteen.
I rarely heard from Mary-Ann throughout my remaining teenage years, or indeed at the start of my early adult years. She only visited three times, and I approached her with the warmth of a sister, and the hostility of someone dear to her. She always watched me care for the squids, but she made no attempt at trying to discourage me from them. I was never bothered; I just wanted to follow happiness, and I could never see myself in a position away from my squids.
I heard about Mary-Ann’s achievements; she was the proprietor and shopkeeper of a large shop, and had adopted a baby Bori and Xweetok from the Pound. I only ever saw them once, about two weeks after they had been adopted. They were sweet little beings, and I was happy for my sister, though I subsequently forgot about them again when I returned to my squids.
My parents never tried to stop me from raising my squids, and I was grateful about that decision; I had already taken Mary-Ann’s advice badly, I doubt I would have been able to cope if my parents had done the same. They seemed to be pleased with what I was doing, and it increased my felicity tenfold; I developed a sanguine temper warmer than the Lost Desert, and my incapability to develop rain clouds over my head made me a better person. I began to tolerate patience much better than I had ever done, and I no longer felt the burden of following in Mary-Ann’s footsteps, and make an independent life for myself.
I had my parents’ support, what more could I ask for? That was how I spent the large majority of my adult years. I only had to see the squids to make a living; my book, How To Care For Squids, was eventually published when I was thirty. It contained my lifelong work on squids, and sales went through the roof; I knew I had achieved fame. I even got a sponsorship deal on one edition of The Neopian Times.
I never knew how Mary-Ann felt about my fame; I sent her a Neomail, but never received a reply. If I had known where she was living, I probably would have visited; if I had known where her shop was, I would have gone there. Even though I have nobody but my parents to talk to, I never felt lonely. My squids are always with me, and I was so far lost in their world that the exit was just a meaningless door frame; in my eyes, it was just a decoration, a pretty thing to see, but to never go through. The entrance was so far away, I couldn’t see it. I had finally lost sight of it decades ago.
Titanic Giant Squid
This is when the squid lives its elderly years. It is unknown how long a Titanic Giant Squid can live for. It also abandons its previous diet in favour of kelp. Titanic Giant Squids usually begin life at 480 months.
As Gold and co. grew into Titanic Giant Squids, they could no longer fit the pond, and I had to let them go. They refused to leave me; I was their parent, the pond was their home, they would stay with me. Until now, they circle around my house like a living ring, and they are so large I can easily swim with them. My felicity had never ceased since the day I entered their world, and I had never been happier than to be with them.
As more and more squids joined the pond, the number of Titanic Giant Squids increased. Soon, our house was surrounded not by the kelp that had been there from day one, but by my squids. We became noticeable in a way that I wanted; even with the publication of three more books, I felt that I needed to be seen with those that I dearly love.
I turn fifty now, but when I look back at the forty-two years that I spent with squids, I don’t regret anything. I may not have seen Mary-Ann for the good part of thirty years, but as long as my squids remain with me, I shall stay firmly in their world.
If you're reading this, this is my first story in the TNT! :D I hope you enjoy it!
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