The attack of lion’s mane

Delma was enjoying a swim around the coves near the Aquatic School. She always reached school early, because she loved to watch the other aquatic creatures file in and the school premises become a hub of activity. That particular morning the sky was overcast and gloomy clouds foretold rain.

“I love rain!” exclaimed her jellyfish friends as they organized themselves in lines for the assembly.

The students became silent as Olly the octopus climbed a high flat rock in front of the large cove where assembly was held. But today the wise octopus did not bear his traditional smile.

In a solemn voice he began, “Students, I regret to inform you that there will be no school today. You all may return home.”

A murmur went around the pupils. Even the teachers seemed to be astonished at this declaration.

Delma was concerned. It was very unlike Olly the Octopus to give them a day off from school without any reason. Olly had seemed quite agitated in the assembly and that was also peculiar to notice in the eight-armed creature who was usually quite jovial and in control of himself.

While pupils and teachers of the Aquatic School filed out, Delma swam towards the cove which served as Olly’s office.

“May I come in, Sir?” the dolphin asked courteously.

“Are you alone?” Olly simply asked.

“Yes,” Delma replied. When Delma entered she was surprised to see that the octopus was not alone. There was someone behind him lying on one of the rocks. It was Luke the lake trout, their Science teacher. His body was pale and there were red marks over it.

“What’s happened to Sir Luke?” Delma asked aghast.

“Delma, I need you to lower your voice,” Olly said urgently. He led Delma to the rock where Luke was lying. The lake trout’s breathing seemed laboured.

“Please tell me what happened to him?” Delma urged.

“This morning when I came to school I found Luke in this state floating near one of the coves where classes are held. He was breathing heavily and couldn’t speak,” explained Olly, perplexed.

“Look at these long, red marks on his body, as if someone has whipped him.” “Oh dear!” whispered a stupefied Delma.

“There is someone or something which has attacked Luke. Until I don’t find out what has caused this, I cannot risk the students being here,” Olly said, shaking his head.

“I will help you find out,” vowed Delma.

“I was hoping you would say that,” said Olly with a grateful smile. “In the meantime, go and fetch Dr. Owl.”

Dr. Owl came as soon as he heard. After examining Luke, the doctor shook his head. “I have not seen anything like this. It seems as if he has been tortured.”

“But who would do that?” objected Olly. “He is the most amiable person I know.”

“I am giving you a herbal ointment to apply to his wounds. But his heart rate is very erratic and that is what’s bothering me,” Dr. Owl mused aloud. “Let’s hope for the best.”

Delma volunteered to stay with Luke that night.

“He has no family,” Olly explained. “So we have to keep him here.”

“I will take care of him,” Delma reassured the octopus. “Please go home, Sir.”

That night as Luke lay unconscious on the rocky slab which served as his bed, Delma scoured the Aquatic School premises. Eerie thoughts flooded her mind, but she was intent on finding out who could have done such a vile deed.

“Did anyone actually attack Luke? Or did he hurt himself?” Suddenly, a movement caught her eye. A tangled fibrous, jelly-like mass lay on a rock. Delma had seen a lot of jellyfish but this one had tentacles which seemed never-ending. There was something eerie about this creature and Delma did not venture closer. She quickly swam to Olly’s office and was relieved to see Luke breathing normally.

The next morning when Olly reached school Delma shared her observations, “Nothing strange happened but I did notice a strange jelly fish with a mass of tentacles. It didn’t seem like an inhabitant of this lake,” she explained.

Olly’s head jerked up. “Wait!” He rummaged through the scrolls which lay on the rocky shelves in his office. Taking out one he opened it and pointed a tentacle at a picture.

“Did it look like this?” he asked breathing heavily. It was a rough sketch of a jellyfish with a cluster of long silvery tentacles.

“Yes! I believe it was,” Delma replied. “The Lion’s Mane!” exclaimed Olly triumphantly.

“What in the world is that, Sir?” quizzed Delma.

“It’s a jellyfish which has a poisonous sting. Its tentacles, which are like a lion’s mane, emit poison. Its touch is very painful and leaves a mark on the victim’s body,” Olly shared.

“Is the sting fatal?” asked Delma, worried.

“Luke is young and healthy. It shouldn’t be lethal,” Olly hoped.

Just then Luke gave a moan from behind them. Olly and Delma rushed to him.

“W…what happened to me. I was swimming to the classes when something seemed to catch hold of me. It was so painful! I think I fainted after …” Luke whispered.

“It was the Lion’s Mane — Cyanea capillata,” revealed Olly. But Luke was drowsy again.

“I will speak to it; we must ask it to leave the school premises,” Olly said. That night Olly and Delma swam to the spot where the large jellyfish had been spotted.

“There it is! “pointed Delma. Olly stayed at a safe distance and said, “Hello! Welcome to D’Land. We are glad you have made our lake your home but may I request that you find another spot. This is a school and the young aquatic creatures might get stung, without you meaning to harm them,” Olly said in his soothing voice.

The jellyfish seemed to look their way but did not respond. “I hope you understand?” Olly urged.

The jellyfish moved closer until its tentacles threatened to touch Olly. Delma’s heart raced. She prayed that the poisonous tentacles would not reach the octopus.

“Will you direct me back to the sea?” the jellyfish whispered hoarsely. “I have lost my way. I need to go back to my kind.”

“Certainly,” replied Olly. He explained the complicated route which led to the sea.

“Thank you,” the Lion’s Mane whispered. “And please trust me, I mean no harm!”

As they saw the mass of tentacles float away, Delma mused, “What a sorrowful existence he has.”

“Yes,” Olly agreed. “Some creatures are destined to a lonely existence.”


The Adventures of D'Land
Animated Series

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