Revenge of the Crab People
Revenge of the Crab People
The brochures were right. Holeport, New England sure was quaint, and tourists Togg and Norna Lamteem were in the mood for quaint on their rented boat that calm night. Until the scraping.
“I’ll see what it is, honey. You enjoy the quaintness,” chuckled the good-natured awning salesman.
“If it’s a fish, tell him he’s welcome if he’s already cleaned,” chuckled Norna, wielding her own gentle humor. But the only answer was a dull thud, which was not like Togg’s thuds at all. Then silence.
“Honey? Is that silence you?”
Norna slowly walked starboard. A dark figure stood astern. Cautiously, Norna moved closer. When Togg turned, she was relieved. Until his lower face opened like crab mandibles and his eyes moved to the sides. Norna’s scream ripped through the night like a paper cut.
Chasmaggon Cannery loomed, more gothic than one would expect for fish processing. Agent Newcott Waikes of the Department of Touristry looked worried. Holeport depended on two sources of income: Cannery and summer people, and the latter were disappearing like midges.
Inside, secretary Alice Greem looked sympathetic. Owner Gideon Chasmaggon was too busy to see Newcott. The Touristry agent wasn’t surprised. In fact, unsurprise was practically an old friend. The locals just didn’t trust city folk like him. But his spirits lifted when Alice asked to meet him at the diner. “Never let it be said a Touristry agent turns down food, information, or a pretty face, in that order,” chuckled the born charmer.
At the diner, Alice seemed uncomfortable. Over bacon biscuits, she informed Newcott that workers were behaving strangely, acting peevish and morose. Plus they were walking sideways.
“At first I thought it was a safety thing around the canning machinery,” she chirped.
Before she could chirp anymore, Clain Hoake swaggered in. A canning legend, the two-fisted troubleshooter naturally was the jealous sort. “Whattya doing with my gal, slick?”
“Clain Hoake, I’m not your gal,” harumphed Alice. “Act like a human instead of a caveman for once.”
Her words fell on unlistening ears as Clain and Newcott erupted in fisticuffs. Fortunately, it ended in a draw, but the biscuits were ruined.
“Say, you Touristry guys are every bit as tough as I’d heard,” growled the can-handler.
“You canners give as good as you get also,” begrudged Newcott, beginning an unlikely alliance. After brief discussion about the strange doings at the cannery, Clain agreed to hire him so he could go undercover; though he insisted government men lacked “canning hands.”
As “Bark Barkson, novice canner” Newcott kept his ears open, quickly befriending chatty fellow canner Mizdy Hammis. Mizdy informed him that some of the workers were whispering about something going on after hours at the plant and so, at closing time, Newcott hid among some unused fish parts.
Soon workers began gathering, in that strange sideways manner, and it soon became evident it was a secret meeting. Before the horror of Newcott’s horrified eyes, as one, the workers’ faces opened in crab mandibles and their eyes shifted to the sides. Darned if they weren’t crab people!
Most crabbishly monstrous of all was the owner, Gideon Chasmaggon, much larger, and crabbier. He spoke of their universal loathing of the “landers” and their “foul canning ways.”
Newcott was spellbound. Suddenly, there was a noise behind him. To his relief, it was Mizdy. But relief quickly turned to jelly pie as her cherubic face went full-crab-mouth. They immediately began to grapple and her strength was considerable. Finally, Newcott maneuvered her to a canning machine and, with great effort, shoved her into it where she was canned.
Newcott ran through darkened streets, straight to the Holeport Police Station where he spilled his story to the desk sergeant. He’d barely started when the man’s face opened crab-style and said, “Care for some crab cakes?” which made no sense to the agent as he ran out the door.
Believing crab police would be of little help, Newcott ran again. Who could he trust? Was the whole town taken over?
Suddenly, he ran into Alice and Clain. Were they crab people too, also?
After trying to stretch Clain’s face to see if it would open then making him walk forward and backward — much to the latter’s annoyance — Newcott decided he could trust them.
“If only there was a plan,” mused Newcott.
“Hey!” snapped Alice with her fingers. “I just remembered something. Clain, wasn’t Holeport named for the giant hole in the center of town?”
“Oh my gosh, Alice, you’re right!” exclaimed Clain, also snapping fingers.
“Course, I don’t know if that can help us any.”
“It might, Alice… It just might,” mused Newcott, wheels turning that didn’t even really exist.
A short time later, “the last people in Holeport,” as they now called themselves when asked, ran through the streets luring every crab person they came across to chase after them. Soon there was an enormous phalanx of crab folk in hot pursuit.
Clain led the way as they veered towards the town’s namesake. It was quickly obvious he was no stranger to veering. Soon, the giant hole was within sight.
“It’s a wonder they never put a fence around that!” shouted Newcott.
“Just like a city person,” smirked Clain, and Newcott smirked back in a show of mutual smirking.
“Veer off at the last second!” barked Newcott.
“Sorry. That’s a risk I can’t take!” bellowed Clain.
“Not this time, old chum,” uttered the brave canner as he leaped into the hole’s inky depths, followed by an enormous cascade of tumbling crab people.
The two survivors stared into the hole. Alice sobbed.
“He… gave his life so crab people would die.”
“He also gave his life so we wouldn’t,” added Newcott as he held her close in silence.
“Wonder how deep that is?” said Alice.