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CRAB FEST

by Call Me Les about a month ago in Horror · updated 12 days ago

When you lay down to sleep on a beach, beware of what scuttles in the night.

"Fred!"

"Fre-" the end of the word was lost as Amelia choked on blood mixed with sand. She'd bitten her tongue in the crash. There was a head wound, too, she realized because she could feel the sticky wetness dripping down her forehead.

Moments ago, the world had been serene—perilous but serene. Flying above the clouds was like being a God. Maybe it's why so many pilots were men; you had to believe you deserved to be up there to have the guts to fly. She was determined to change that; this flight was her crowning glory.

But where was Fred?

Fred was no pilot. He was a drunk, a functioning one, but a drunk. Still, he was also the best damn navigator the aviation community had ever seen. Fred should have been able to get them safely through the last leg of their journey half-gone. What the hell had happened? Where were they?

Amelia ripped part of her pant leg off and tied it around her head to stop the bleeding. Then she ran her hands over her body, checking for other wounds; besides some minor abrasions, she was intact. Behind her, the wreckage she'd climbed out of smouldered and smoked.

Good. The smoke will alert any ships nearby. But where the hell is Fred?

She'd done her best to land the Lockheed Electra 10E on the atoll when their fuel ran out, but the landing was rough, and when the wheels had caught on debris, the plane had lurched forwards and flipped on itself. Amelia had come to upside down, suspended in her seat belt, but her navigator must have been ejected. From farther up the beach, she heard a groan.

"Meely," he choked.

Fred pulled on the tree roots to try and stand, but pain ripped through his legs and he slunk back down. Amelia caught sight of him and rushed to his side.

"Aces! I thought I'd lost you!"

Fred shifted to a sitting position under the palm tree and grimaced.

"Not yet."

"What's the damage?" she asked lightly.

"I'm not sure. I think I broke my leg."

Amelia glanced down and noted Fred's right leg had an odd bulge in the fabric of his pants along his shin. Without waiting for approval, she ripped the thin cotton up to his thigh. Amelia held in her gasp, but just barely. It was a break alright, the kind where the bone comes through the skin. Doctors would have a hard time fixing this kind of wound without amputation in the best hospital in Manhattan. She sure as hell didn't have a hope of treating it on some godforsaken atoll in the South Pacific.

"Is it bad?" whimpered Fred.

What could she say? She looked away at the ocean instead.

"Never you mind, Fred. Help will be here soon. Let's get you settled."

Amelia removed Fred's belt and used it as a tourniquet. Left on too long and he would surely lose the leg from lack of circulation, but if the bleeding eased, at least he had a shot at surviving. People would be looking for them in a few hours. When they didn't arrive at their destination as scheduled, there would be a search. It was simply a matter of waiting it out a day or so.

"There ya go," she continued, pulling the belt as tight as possible, "Eggs in coffee, practically ready to race."

Fred grimaced. The pain had to be excruciating, and she prayed he would pass out soon.

"We need water Fred. I gotta take a look around."

He nodded, and she turned to scan the interior portion of the island, wondering which way would lead to freshwater. It was nearly flat except for a slight hill to the NW, which meant there might be a chance of a spring. Before she left, he grabbed her arm,

"I'm sorry, Meely, truly."

They both knew he'd been on a bender the night before. But they had also both assumed the risk of taking off anyway, hadn't wanted to delay the flight and ruin the plan. The blame was equal. She took his hand in both of hers and gave it a squeeze,

"S'alright, Fred. Get some rest."

He coughed. Blood sprayed on his shirt. Neither of them commented on it, and he scraped his mouth clean on his sleeve.

"Fire first, Meely. Use the wreckage before it burns out."

It was a good point. Making a campfire come nightfall would be tricky. Couldn't hurt to make the wreckage a bigger blaze, too, she thought. Amelia set about gathering up palm leaves. She went for the greener ones first for the plane, heaping them on high so the smoke would billow for miles. Then she built a small fire ring with stones next to her navigator and set off in search of driftwood to get them through the night.

She wandered from tree to tree along the shoreline, picking up bits here and there. When she spotted a patch of broken debris, she hobbled there next in the hope of something more substantial. As she lifted up the dried patch of palm leaves, a revolting stench wafted up and punched the bile into the back of her throat. Under the palm was a large fish carcass, likely washed ashore during last night's storm. But it wasn't just the smell of rotting meat that turned her stomach; no, it was the sight of dozens of clicking, clacking, scuttling crabs feasting on its flesh. Once exposed to the light, they scattered outwards like a grimy, disgusting fireworks display.

Not one to scream, Amelia did a double-take at their frenzied movements, threw the leaves down hard and jumped backwards. Merely looking at them made her skin crawl! She hopped up and down, brushing at herself to remove the sensation. Paradise was clearly not without its predators; she'd have to be more careful about what lurked in the dark. Briefly, she had wondered earlier if maybe they could roast some crabs for supper, but after seeing these crabs enjoying theirs, she lost her appetite.

Amelia finished her firewood scouting without any further bile-inducing explosions of crustaceans. She laid up a stock, set light and checked in on Fred, who she found had, mercifully, lost consciousness. The sight of the gnarled bone sticking up out of the torn limb not long after the grotesque tableau of scavenging crabs did her in, and the meagre contents of her stomach came pouring out. She quickly buried the vomit in the sand with her foot and turned back to her friend.

The wound wasn't bleeding anymore, but it wasn't drying in the humidity, and she could already detect the faint scent of decay. Another day or so—hours perhaps— and his leg would turn gangrenous. There was nothing for it, and though she hated leaving him, they needed water.

"Back soon, chap," she mumbled and grabbed the piece of fuselage she intended to use as a water bucket.

Picking her way through the trees for the higher ground, the sweat rolled down her neck. Or was it more blood? She couldn't tell, and there was no time to stop and check. Dehydration was already setting in, and she fought off a wave of dizziness. Amelia put her hands on her knees and paused to catch her breath. In the trees ahead of her, she caught sight of the most lovely, white bird she'd ever seen. Slender and delicate, it was cleaning its feathers. She smiled at the sight of it.

Snap! Crick....crack.

Suddenly, a massive, thick-clawed monster dropped out of the trees from above the parrot and SNAPPED the bird in half! Blood gushed over its pristine ivory feathers, and its final breath screeched out pitifully. Amelia screamed this time. Scuttling hermit crabs were one thing, but crabs the length of a baseball bat and as heavy as a small dog were things that hadn't even entered her nightmares.

Her mind spun, and the world went dim. Maybe she was seeing things. Crabs don't climb trees! She looked up again, but it was gone. There was no time to consider it further because to her left, she heard bubbling, and sure enough, a few more yards ahead of her was a small spring. She fell to her knees and drank until her stomach was near bursting. Then filled the piece of wreckage to take back to Fred.

When she returned to camp, she found him awake.

"I'm done for, aren't I, Meely," he sighed and looked away.

"Don't be dingy, Fred. Few more hours now. Just gotta make it through the night."

Amelia dribbled some water down his parched throat. He swallowed some; most of it spilled back out, so she gave up and sat the bucket in the sand. Sunset had arrived. The two fires were still burning well, and she heaped them each up higher. The ocean yawned empty before her. After one more gaze into the distance in hopes of a ship or plane, Amelia laid down in the sand next to Fred, weariness overtaking her at last. The sound of the waves was rhythmical. He had already passed out again. It was her turn next.

Sometime in the night, she awoke to a sickening, trembling, squelching sound punctuated by clicks and snaps. Her eyes flew open, and the sight before her stopped her heart. The scavenging monster that had killed the bird wasn't simply a figment of a dehydrated brain; oh no, this beast was real—and it had friends. While she had been sleeping, the monstrous crab, its kin and their small underlings had been disassembling her navigator alive next to her.

Amelia grabbed a palm, thrust it into the fire and wafted it over the crustaceans to chase them away. Some fled, but most were unperturbed. She grew more frantic, waving the burning vegetation as hard as she dared, burning herself and sobbing so much her ribs hurt. When it was clear Fred was no longer breathing, and the crabs could not be moved to leave their meal, she dropped the palm, tore at her hair and screamed. She screamed until she had no voice left. Yet the crabs continued to chew and snip and scuttle as though a mortal's scream was as commonplace as the sounds of the ocean. Amelia gave up. She had to get away from the grisly scene and tore off into the night in the opposite direction of the camp, back towards the spring.

High ground. Open. Safe.

But the night was so dark. There was no moon. And she wasn't watching where she was going.

Ooof!

A tree root snagged her foot, toppling her to the ground. Amelia tumbled down a ravine she'd not noticed in the daylight, slipping and groping until her back landed hard against a rock, moulding over it like a lemon squashed on a juicer. She heard the crack of her spine and knew it was severe. There was no getting back up. It was broken, and so she lay there in the dark, half-paralyzed, numb from the waist down, breathing heavily.

Then she heard it.

Whumpf. Whumpf. Whumpf.

In near unison, shadowy demons with claws as sharp as cleavers descended from the trees. She could hear them approaching her. The clicking of their appendages, the scuttling sound as they moved on their multiple legs, their tiny whistles of delight at new prey. She felt their antennae brush her arms and prayed they would start with her legs. If she was lucky, she'd bleed out before they got to the parts that still had feeling.

IF.

~This story is a fictional dramatization of Amelia Earhart's and Fred Noonan's last day on Nikumaroro.~

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Call Me Les

Keepin' it real since 1987 with 3 cats, a tiny apartment and too many words in my head. Admin at the Vocal Social Society. Find me here.

No words left unspoken. In memory of Tom Bradbury.

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