Flash fiction. Surface, by Rebecca Klassen. Image: silhouette of a children's ball pit. On the left of the image, a pair of legs are sticking out of the balls. On the right, a tentacle.


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  1. The Blue-ringed Octopus lives in colourful coral reefs. It relies on the rocks and crevices in its environment for refuge.


A customer wants to speak to the manager, but I’m trying to write my essay on cephalopods and their dedication to procreation behind the counter. A girl in a turquoise-striped jumper is hitting other children in the ball pit. I’m in charge of the soft play, the manager struck down by tequila shots, so I apologise to the customer, then go to find the offender. Ready to smile and tell them to pack it in, I wait by the ball pit, watching for stripes. I really wish I’d got that internship at the aquarium.

   2. The creature’s circles flash electric blue. They’re warning colours to ward off predators.


The sea of balls is motionless. A squeal crescendos from the tube slide, and a boy, static hair sticking out like dandelion pappus, plops into the balls with a rumble of hollow plastic. When he surfaces, so does the stripey arm, along with a brunette bob. She’s been waiting. Her hand whips the boy across his ear. He clutches it with a cry, then lets go, revealing a lobe as purple as coral. Before he sees her, she submerges.

  3. If threatened, the Blue-ringed Octopus will fight to the death. It will fight a Giant Pacific Octopus, over ten times its size, to protect itself.


Coral-ear boy runs past me, wailing, and I pray his parents aren’t the type to leave negative online reviews. I wade out to where I last saw the girl and ask her to come up. Usually, they crawl and scuttle away, but she stands tall with scarlet cheeks, red rimmed eyes, and streams of clear snot travel down her philtrum. Bending to her level with a horizontal smile, I tell her to stop hitting and ask her to get out of the ball pit. No tears, no denial. She doesn’t even tell me to piss off. I hold out my hand…

  4. Its venom is toxic. In humans, it causes respiratory depression and paralysis.


Her molars clamp on my index fingernail, incisors pinching my knuckle. Ripping my hand away, I clasp my finger, mouth open. I can’t move or breathe. I’ve had a milkshake thrown on my shoes, a tamagotchi launched at my shoulder. The aggression is always at a distance. I don’t care if this kid’s dad is the head of a biker gang or president of the boxing league. I’m throwing her out.

  5. Don’t misunderstand the Blue-ringed Octopus. Though it is deadly, it has three hearts.


Without protest or a second bite, she agrees to get out of the ball pit. I scour the tables of adults bowed over phones and coffees. Before I can ask which one is hers, she clasps her collarbone. ‘My necklace. It came off in the ball pit.’ It’s a choking hazard. I have to go back for it, feeling cautiously along the bed of dust bunnies, plasters, and sticky sweets. I find it. A silver chain with a round pendant, a jewel of the ocean. There’s script on both sides.


Daughter of Angels.

Their hearts will always be with you.

Author Rebecca Klassen

Rebecca Klassen

Rebecca Klassen is a co-editor of The Phare.


Her work has featured in Mslexia, Popshot, Shooter, Burningword, The Wild Word, Reedy Branch Review, Ellipsis Zine, Borderless, Literally Stories, New Feathers Anthology, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and other publications.


She has won the London Independent Story Prize, and was shortlisted for the Oxford Flash Prize and the Laurie Lee Prize.


Rebecca’s stories have been performed at Stroud Book Festival, Cheltenham Literature Festival, and on BBC Radio.


Rebecca is also one of the judges of our competition, Britain vs The World: Flash Battle 2024

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