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Invasive Species

Shy things

By Alexander McEvoyPublished 12 months ago Updated 4 months ago 13 min read
7
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“Oh, come you young sailors and listen to me, and I’ll tell you a tale of the fish in the sea,” Connor McKnight’s soft voice echoed off the high ceilings, bouncing uniquely from the glass borders of the exhibits. He loved this time of night, the quiet bubbling of the water filters and the occasional splash or pop from somewhere just out of sight.

It was blessedly cool in the aquarium, a far cry from the height of summer in his apartment, and Connor thought that life could furnish nothing greater. He paused in his patrol to read the plaque next to the newest addition, smiling at the words “very shy.”

“I love when they do that,” he said, laying a hand against the tank. He was very careful not to tap on the glass, it could do very bad things to the fish. “Telling me that the crabs are shy,” a small laugh as he searched through the shadowy water for the crustaceans.

When they showed no interested in revealing themselves, however, he went back to reading the plaque. Always something new to be learned, best part of the job.

These particular crabs had been collected in Venezuela, which made them the first specimen from that country in the aquarium’s history. Neat. They were lightly bioluminescent and, from what initial testing had been done, so little matched the native ecology that they were initially categorized as an invasive species. That was unfortunate, Connor kept reading, wondering where the crabs had come from if not Venezuela. But the plaque wasn’t certain. It relayed some interesting facts about their biology and-

“Connor, you listening,” Sarah’s voice boomed out of his walkie-talkie, shattering the silence like a dropped plate and making Connor jump nearly out of his skin. “Connor, can you hear me?”

“What? Yes. Hello,” Connor tried and failed not to sound either guilty or like his heart rate had just soared into dangerous levels. “What can I do for you?”

“Something triggered one of the sensors on your beat, D-Section. I don’t see anything on the cameras but you should still go check it out. Make sure it’s not another racoon or cat or something. Radio back when you’re done?”

Connor rolled his eyes, of course he would radio back in and report. What did she think he was, an amateur? Ridiculous.

Still, he responded that he would do just that and this time managed to keep the edge of annoyance out of his voice. Something about Sarah always managed to rub him the wrong way, maybe it was the fact that she assumed he was stupid. Three weeks on the job and she thought she was so high and mighty; she’d be a terror if she ever made it into management.

Shaking his head a the folly of youth, completely ignoring his own resounding lack of more than seven years on his colleague, Connor strode off towards D-Section. Maybe it would be nothing this time, he hated when one of the night custodians snuck out for a smoke and left the door cracked. The invading critters were always a nightmare to corral. Just walk through the building and use the proper doors, the ones that their key cards could access. Or ask one of the guards to let them back in when they knock – against regulations but it happened. Or better yet quit smoking. But no, they would do their own thing as always. Selfish.

With the ease of long familiarity, Connor pulled out his flashlight in a flourish and clicked it on when he reached D-Section. “Hey, Sarah,” he said into his walkie-talkie. “Let maintenance know the lights over here are out please. I can’t see anything”

“Sure, Connor.”

“I’m not seeing any evidence of animals, and the door’s closed tight,” he double-checked this statement with a firm push. “Any idea what kind of disturbance the system flagged?”

“No. It was pretty unclear, but one of the motion sensors picked something or other. I’m running the security cameras back now, hang on.” Connor shone his light around, checking in the shadowed corners in case anything frightened and furry was hiding there. “Looks like the lights there have been out for a while. Strange that didn’t show up on the board. Hang tight.” Rolling his eyes, Connor rotated his shoulder. If he had missed something like that, he could have guaranteed a rebuke from Sarah but- “hey there was definitely movement there.”

“What do you mean, movement?”

“The lights have been out for nearly an hour, but about twenty minutes ago the door opened. I could tell by the sudden moonlight. Someone came in the back.”

“Was it one of us? Someone out for a smoke break?”

“Might have been. I’m not seeing anything on the key log, but there’s a lot of strange things going on over there right now. Stay sharp, ok? I’m going to call the others and see if anyone’s been in D-Section tonight.”

With nothing better to do, Connor walked on. He still had his rounds to complete, even if the lights and computers were being contrary. Computers were, to Connor as to many other people, a kind of magic. There was no telling what they would do sometimes, and when they broke you needed specialized training to fix them. Codes and programs for some reason taking their own special language.

His light illuminated the floor before his feet, occasionally drifting off into shadowy corners as though it had a mind of its own. The aquarium – had he ever been in it when it was this dark before? – had taken on a foreboding atmosphere. The bubbling of the filters, and the small splashes that he never quiet knew the origin of rang out louder than ever. A rolling wall of inconstant sound disturbing the blanket of quiet that the darkness was imposing. Even his footsteps, landing softly on the polished floor… except that floor was not polished.

“Hey, Sarah. Do you know if the custodians have been through here yet tonight?”

Silence.

“Sarah?”

Silence.

Connor waited ten minutes, still wandering down the long corridors between the fish tanks watched by bulbous, staring eyes. Sarah did have other people to talk to, chances are she was just conferring with the rest of the team over the D-Section discrepancies. At the very least, he would be able to get some questions answered when he got back to the security station; Amy was always there, she was more helpful than Sarah anyway.

The walk out of D-Section had never felt so long before. His footsteps sounding almost alien on the unpolished floor. The soft, after hours light that always filled the whole exhibit gone, replaced with only the dim glow of the emergency exit signs. For the first time, Connor felt the tingling in his scalp, the quiet, creeping dread that steals over a place normally full of people and energy, now dark and empty.

Forcing a bit of levity, Connor sang to himself – not loud enough to disturb the fish – “I thought to make a horseshoe, and asked my hammer thus. He said I’ll ask the anvil, what you require of us. The hammer asked the anvil, and she at once agreed, that they should meet together in the way that I decreed. And it’s sparks a flying. Passion strong. I am the blacksmith singing the hammer and the anvil so-” His favourite Longest John’s song died on his lips as the circle of light played over a large C on a pillar he was passing. He was out of D-Section, had probably been so for a while now. And the lights were still out.

“Sarah, are you back yet?”

Silence.

“Sarah if this is some kind of-” a noise yanked his attention away from his radio. He stared into the darkness, playing his flashlight along the curving glass walls of the tanks, a single bead of sweat stuttering down his temple. “Who’s there?”

Silence.

Connor thought that maybe the sound had come from near the new Venezuelan crab tank, so he crept in that direction. It would not be the first time that the aquarium had been broken into, assuming that this wasn’t just an elaborate joke at his expense.

University students sometimes wanted to get frisky with a hint of danger, or a vagrant looking for shelter, or some poor desperate hoping they kept a lot of cash on hand. Once there had even been those novice eco-terrorists who objected to animals in captivity; that time a lot of police had been involved and Old Gil had gone to the hospital.

At the bottom of the crab tank, right near a decorative rock outcropping, a bluish light gently pulsed as though trying to draw attention. Connor looked appreciatively, then grabbed hold of his focus and redirected it to the matter at hand. Much to his disappointment, he did not have time to examine the new additions, not when so many strange things were happening.

“Hello,” he said again into the darkness. “Hello, is anyone th-”

When his head cleared, he realized that he was face down on the un-scrubbed floor, and looking at a dirty pair of running shoes. “You got it?” asked a voice that might have belonged to the running shoes, but Connor wasn’t certain. “Yeah,” said a different voice. Or maybe it was the same one, he couldn't tell through the throbbing. His head felt like it was about to explode from internal pressure.

“Shit look at that,” said the voice. Connor tried, he strained until black stars danced in his vision but could not see whatever was being talked about. When he opened his mouth to apologize and ask what was so interesting, only a pained groan emerged.

“He’s awake.”

“Doesn’t matter, we’re almost done.”

The next time Connor opened his eyes, he was still on the floor, but the people tap dancing on the inside of his skull had taken a break. Groggily, he pushed himself into a sitting position and fumbled with his radio, “Sarah,” he croaked without any real hope that she would answer. “Sarah, call the cops. We’ve been robbed.”

Looking left and right still hurt, but after several deep breaths, he forced himself to his feet. “Sarah,” he said into his radio, more for the sake of doing something than out of any hope that she would answer. “They knocked me out and took the Venezuelan crabs. There was nothing I could do, we need to tell someone about that. Let the administration know about the…” he kept talking, focusing on the words themselves not their meaning.

Each step hurt, but he put one foot in front of the other. Somehow, through the concussion, he knew that he needed to find his way out of the exhibit. From all the sports he had played he knew that falling asleep or passing out again would have been extremely dangerous.

Step after painful step carried him into the huge atrium of the aquarium. Through the vaulted glass ceiling, the moon illuminated a foursome of people in dark clothes all struggling with something. Connor stopped dead. On the other side of the atrium, away from the convenient wall supports he had been using, he could see a body on the floor of the security station. So they got to Sarah and Amy too.

“Hold them still,” grunted one of the robbers.

“I’m trying! How can crabs be this strong? They're so small!”

“Just keep the bag closed!”

Straining his eyes and making the tap dancers finish their break, Connor saw the almost comically large canvas bags on a trolley that the criminals was wrestling with. The bottoms of the bags were dark, water dripping through the trolley as something inside writhed. The impressions of long, thin legs and claws pressed against the canvas, the writhing was deeply unsettling.

While the foursome was distracted, Connor tried to edge around the very perimeter of the room, hoping against being noticed. He needed to get to a phone, even though there was no chance that the police could arrive in time, at least the criminals would not have too much of a head start and they needed an ambulance. He froze, though, eyes locked on the now screaming thug as he tried to shake off a glowing crab that had latched onto his finger with a huge claw.

“Get it off!!” His friends tried to help and Connor could have sworn that the crustacean was trying to pull the man’s finger toward its mouth. Still screaming, louder than Connor had thought possible, the robber thumped to the ground, convulsing. It was like the crab was venomous, the man’s whole body spasming as though he were epileptic.

Leaving one member of the group to try and hold the canvas bags shut, the other two set their feet and heaved on the glowing blue crab. The critter barely seemed to notice their attention, its claw had cut through to the bones of the man’s finger. With a crack the digit came away and all three un-assailed criminals drew back in horror. The one on the ground seemed to pass out and Connor fought a sudden and violent urge to vomit.

“How the fuck,” the blue crab, ignoring the exclamation and apparently content with what it had done, brought the severed finger to its mouth and opened wide. Wider than should be possible, long things like grasping fingers flicked out as though tasting the air then grabbed the finger and pulled it into the depths of the crab.

The robbers were silent for several seconds. Then the screaming started.

It only got louder as the unfortunate one holding the bag shut suddenly lost control and two dozen more glowing crabs spilled across the floor of the atrium. The criminals tried to run, called for help, one even made eye contact with Connor as the crabs scuttled up her legs like the trunks of a tree and started to feast.

Connor stood perfectly still, watching with horror as the robbers were quickly consumed. Then, when the carnage was done, the crabs gathered themselves into an orderly line, and clacked their way back into the aquarium. Following, in too much shock to think of his own safety, Connor watched as the crabs climbed the glass side of their tank like spiders, and dropped back into the water. Their glow dimmed as they sank below the surface and vanished when they went back to their hiding places.

Shy things.

Finally, the last one turned its strange eyes on Connor – his heart stopped when the thing met his gaze, afraid that he was about to be torn apart and consumed. It waved at him and a sound, a voice, drifted to his ears as though he were hearing someone talking under water, “this place is even better than it said in the brochure.”

-0-

When the police arrived, Connor explained everything that had happened to him with the exception of the end. His story corroborated by the testimony of Sarah, Amy, and the night custodians, he explained how he had been investigating the strange happenings before being knocked out. When he had come to, and here is where the lying starts, he had gone to find the others and found the atrium floor covered in blood.

He had naturally called the police immediately and not interfered with the crime scene. No, nothing had been stolen, or even interfered with as far as they could tell. Eventually, the whole grisly event was written off as a weird prank and forgotten by everyone. A ghost story to be trotted out when someone new joined the night team.

Every time Connor walked by the 'Venezuelan' crabs’ tank, though, he would hesitantly look in, and could swear that occasionally one would wave at him. Or that there would be more, or fewer than there should have been. Naturally, he never did nor said anything about these discrepancies or events to anyone. Who would believe him? But he was always very careful, and made sure to be on his best behaviour around that tank.

supernatural
7

About the Creator

Alexander McEvoy

Writing has been a hobby of mine for years, so I'm just thrilled to be here! As for me, I love writing, dogs, and travel (only 1 continent left! Australia-.-)

I hope you enjoy what you read and I can't wait to see your creations :)

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (6)

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  • Lamar Wiggins4 months ago

    You are a great writer! I was amazed not only by the story but how effortlessly it was conveyed. Bravo, my friend. 👏👏👏🍻

  • Shy things 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 I think I'm a Venezuelan crab. As an introvert, I'm very shy. But at the same time, if I had the opportunity, I would bite off someone fingers and eat them. Yes, I'm definite a shy thing hahahahhaahhaha! Loved your story!

  • Celia in Underland4 months ago

    Just brilliant -Your descriptions are phenomenal and the whold story is riveting. I will never eat crab again though!

  • Donna Renee4 months ago

    😱😱😱what!? this one was such a wild ride!! Amazing story 👏👏

  • Donna Fox (HKB)4 months ago

    Well I wasn't ready for that Mr. McEvoy.... that ending was eery and creepy and stomach clenching! I really enjoyed this read and was shocked I hadn't read this prior, it was a thrilling surprise and an unexpected tale coming from you! Very well done my friend!

  • Mackenzie Davis4 months ago

    Oh I feel sick after the climactic scene, but DAMN this was so GOOD! The full circle with "shy things" had me impressed. Awesome job. I love the narration style, too, perfect balance between Connor's internal monologue and the reader still feeling like they're able to look around and consider things apart from him. Was totally expecting a monstrous villain, not criminals who then get attacked by something unexpected. I was riveted! ❤️

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