• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 03
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Open Slowly

Between the large LIVE ANIMALS INSIDE notice on the side of the box and the crooked red and white OPEN SLOWLY sticker above her name, Charlie was not optimistic she would like what was inside. She hadn’t seen her sister in six months, wasn’t sure where she was on her grand tour of the southern hemisphere, but she would be willing to bet Cat was somewhere near the reefs again.

The last box that arrived on her doorstep bearing her name also bore DON’T PANIC! in large green letters that must have passed for a company logo to the postal service but Charlie knew was a warning that the contents needed to be handled with caution. And given the injured shark pup inside the polystyrene cooler, she had been correct.

“You sent me a baby shark, Catherine,” she had hissed when Cat called to make sure the package had arrived in one piece. “Are you out of your mind? No, don’t answer that. Of course you are. You put a hammerhead shark in the mail!” She could hear her voice getting higher, the words coming out faster and louder with every syllable.

“Special delivery,” Cat said, far too cheerfully. “Guaranteed to arrive within 24 hours.”

“What am I supposed to do with this?”  

“Stick him in your quarantine tank and relax, Charlie. I just need you to keep him for a week until Foyle can get his permit and take him to the center for rehab.”


Open Slowly

“You are out of your mind,” she had answered, watching the fish lazily circle the bathtub full of copepods and young cauliflower coral she was working to colonize.

But the shark was gone now, having stayed with Charlie for a harrowing month while Foyle tried to get the correct paperwork together to allow him to move the fish to the center where he and Cat worked. And here she was again, with a box holding some aquatic lifeform sat in front of her. Carefully, she dug her nails beneath the tape holding the box closed and peeled it away, shaking her head at the second OPEN SLOWLY sticker affixed to the polystyrene inside the box.

Charlie lifted the lid as gently as she could, finding three triple bagged blue ringed octopuses inside the box. As she watched the deadly cephalopods press their tiny tentacles against the plastic they were enclosed in, she knew she had been correct. This was going to be far worse than keeping a baby shark in her bathtub for a month.