Tails and Tales Writing Contest Winner

Blond woman in a red checkered shirt with a tan cowboy hat
Lauren Loya
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Sep 13, 2021

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Lauren Loya has won our essay writing contest on the theme of Tails and Tales with her piece "Call Me Cuttlefish." 

Lauren Loya is a graduate of the Literature, Language, and Writing program at the University of Kansas. Her work has been featured in Coal City Review. A Kansas City native, her favorite local haunts include the Green Lady Lounge, Stroud’s, Antioch Park, and many of the shops and eateries along 39th Street West.

You can read more of her work at https://draculauren.wordpress.com/.

Call Me Cuttlefish

She pressed the packet of paper into my hands. “I’m glad you’re willing to try homeopathy. As soon as you complete this quiz we can have a follow up appointment about your treatment plan,” my naturopathic doctor said, smiling. I’d heard of homeopathy before and was already skeptical of it. If you’re not familiar, homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine that was developed in the late 1700s in Germany. It’s common in many European countries but not as popular in America. The basic principle is “like cures like” and the belief that the body can cure itself using tiny amounts of natural substances like plants and minerals. Something that creates symptoms in a normal person may be used in a very small dose to treat an ill person experiencing similar symptoms – the goal being to trigger the body’s natural defenses. When you have a chronic, frustrating health problem you’ll try just about anything if it’s affordable.

One week later after answering a lengthy questionnaire about my mental, physical, and emotional health, it was determined that highly diluted sepia ink would be my homeopathic remedy. This substance was to be taken in the form of a sugar pellet which I would dissolve under my tongue. I learned that sepia is derived from cuttlefish ink, and that there were parallels between myself and this Lovecraftian creature.

The first time I saw a cuttlefish at my local aquarium I was mesmerized. It happened to be a dwarf cuttlefish, only 3-4 inches long. As I bent down to take a closer look, it approached me, its frills undulating rhythmically, finally stopping to hover in front of my face. Its tentacle beard waved in a friendly manner. Two w-shaped eyes studied me, and it seemed as curious of me as I was it. Bands of color pulsated along its body. It was a magical moment.

Dubbed the “chameleons of the sea,” cuttlefish are famed for their ability to change color in order to communicate with other cuttlefish, for camouflage purposes, and to intimidate predators. They can even change the texture of their skin to look smooth, or more like a coral or rock. Like the flamboyant cuttlefish, I’m known by friends, family and coworkers to change my style often. Up until recently my hair color would morph from emerald green one month to lavender the next. I like to express myself creatively through fashion, hair, and makeup.

Another way I relate to the cuttlefish is that we’re both on the move. If I can’t get out for a walk or complete my daily weightlifting routine, I will get restless. I often pace around my apartment. The cuttlefish and I, we just aren’t bred for a sedentary lifestyle. Cuttlefish can jet propel themselves backwards in order to escape predators. I’m still working on this skill myself, but I’m a high achiever and promise you I’ll accomplish this soon. When cornered, these subaquatic marvels escape by ejecting a dark cloud of ink and hiding within that cloak of darkness. Often antisocial, they only come together to fight or mate and tend to be solitary animals. Sounds like me, as I require exorbitant amounts of personal space and typically wear lots of black.

If you’re wondering how they got their name, it’s because of a bone in the middle of their bodies, called the cuttlebone, which is filled with gas and used as a buoyancy control device. Cephalopods, which include squid, octopus, cuttlefish, and nautiluses, have been around for a heck of a long time. It’s possible that humans separated from cephalopods, evolutionarily speaking, more than 700 million years ago. Cuttlefish are invertebrates, meaning animals without skeletons. Cuttlefish and octopus have the highest ratio of brain to body mass of any invertebrate and are considered highly intelligent. Research has shown them to have problem solving capabilities, dexterity, calculated predation methods, complex communication, and the ability to use tools. Guess what? I can use tools and I have extremely calculated predation techniques when I hunt men. As far as dexterity goes, some of my hobbies and pastimes include playing musical instruments and working with my hands on crafts such as intricate macramé knotwork. Baby cuttlefish are independent straight from hatching, ready to hunt their own prey. Similarly, I’m an only child and have always been self-reliant.

While I’d love to say that sepia ink cured all of my problems, I don’t believe it did anything at all and I really wanted it to. Systemic reviews suggest that homeopathy only produces a placebo effect. It seems that a thorough consultation and compassionate clinician are what truly helps the patient. The pellets cost me under $10 so no harm done. On the bright side, I have a new obsession with these beautiful alien beings.


Reviewed by Helen H.
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