“Alright, I’m going to explain this in laymen’s terms and then we’re going to figure out how to get the fuck out of here.
“I don’t know how much you know about biology, but there’s this concept in evolutionary biology which states that the crab is the ultimate evolution. I’m … ‘ultimate’ is subjective here I guess, but they even have a term for it. Carcinization. Convergent evolution. Different species evolving into a similar thing. And on Earth, it’s crabs. Five different times in the history of the Earth, things evolved into crabs, separately from each other. You got crabs, but you also got lobsters, shrimp. Some are crabs, the ones call crabs are crabs, ‘true’ crabs they call them–“
Something thuds against the concrete wall in the distance.
“–holy fuck. Okay but also there are ‘false’ crabs, which are creatures that evolve crab-like traits. The king crab, for example–the fucking king crab!– is not a true crab.”
“What is it?” says Laura.
“False crab. Crustacean, a, ah … decapod crustacean. Strange taxonomy because they usually only have eight appendages but whatever. The thing everyone used to eat all the time wasn’t even a real crab.”
“Why are you telling me this now–?”
“Because. It’s important. Let’s extrapolate this concept, okay? If life on Earth regularly and eventually evolves into crabs, then it follows that crabs or creatures with crab-like traits are advantageous for, for living. Right?”
Laura nods, hesitantly.
“Crabs, everything should be crabs, right? Well … what about life in the universe? Is life everywhere meant to be crabs?”
Laura stared at Paul for a few seconds. Another thud in the distance, reverberating dirt off the ceiling into a fine mist in the dimly lit room.
“Are you saying,” she began, before pausing and staring at the ground for another couple of seconds. “Are you saying they are here because we’re not crabs?”
Paul smiled, the kind of smile your dad gives you when you walk across the stage to get your high school diploma. “Yes. Maybe. But probably. Now. We gotta get the fuck out of here.”
The Crustatians, or crab people if you will, arrived about six years ago? Hard to remember. First contact seemed innocuous enough; they landed in their spaceship created entirely out of the chitin of their intimately strange “queen” crab, a spaceship that was also a giant crab, with enormous hollowed out sections for living quarters, lavatories, food storage, etc. Upon embarking, the queen crab’s appendages are torn from her body, the jelly-like meat inside stored within a brine solution which keeps indefinitely. The crabs eat this while they travel through space. The queen crab survives this, by the way. They are not traveling through a corpse.
Their hyperspace, or subspace, drive (we’re not sure which) is mind-boggling and during initial talks, their attempts to describe it to us were met with blank stares. In essence, the queen crab is capable of producing a level of energy we spent centuries trying to harness, which she uses to fold space, allowing for near instantaneous universal travel. It seems related somewhat to a mantis shrimp’s ability to strike their claws with the force of a gunshot; a level of energy creation that far surpasses the size of the shrimp itself, much like how an ant can carry 10 times its own weight.
The queen crab does this in space. She, and I can’t believe I’m writing this out, but she clacks her claws together like you or I would snap our fingers, and then folds space using the energy, which is so massive that it defies mathematical explanation. The crab snaps her fingers and boom, they’re here. Apparently, queen crabs can only do this so often and occasionally their claws break, leaving the Crustatians stranded as the queen crab slowly regrows her limb, often using the sustenance of her own stored brine-meat, literally eating herself to grow herself back again.
Needless to say, the scientific community was both aghast and agog during first contact.
The concrete wall broke with a loud crash, revealing the blunt and thick end of an enormous green and white claw. Laura screamed and Paul grabbed her arm, and the two of them rushed through the network of now dry sewers beneath the city.
“The crab people are the judges,” Paul said as a crash of debris sounded behind them. A shaft of light revealed the silhouette of the blunt-clawed crab person, only around five feet tall but broad, with one enormous hammered claw and one smaller, pincer-esque claw. Two others appeared behind them, another with a blunt claw and a third, slightly more slender, with two very thin, almost needle claws. They began pursuing Paul and Laura.
“What do you mean?” said Laura.
“They judge the evolution of species in the universe!”
“Judge what? If we’re crab enough?”
They turned a corner to the right, into a smaller side tunnel. Standing in the tunnel about 20 feet away was not a crab person, but one their crablings: essentially a giant crab, not sentient like the crab people. A dog to them, in a way. Its body was wide enough to block the majority of the tunnel.
Paul pulled Laura back and they backtracked for a bit, attempting to cross into a tunnel in the opposite direction. As they did, one of the hammer clawed crab people approached and swung their hammer claw, striking Paul in the back of his left shoulder, knocking him hard enough to send him flying and losing his grip on Laura’s hand. He slammed into the sewer wall and crumpled to the ground.
Laura screamed but stopped then the needle-clawed crab person placed one of their claws gingerly on her lips. It made a trilling sound that was the closest thing a crab person could do to say, “Shhhh.”
The first year or so was routine and surprisingly mundane. The Crustatians exchanged ideas with us and learned much about our history and evolutionary path. We were amazed at these humanoid looking crabs with their giant queen crab spaceship; they were amazed that apes had evolved into using tools and even inventing space travel. This is where, of course, things took a turn for the worse.
I was a junior science officer aboard the TI Manifest, the space installation that is now about 65% in the Marianas Trench, when the crab people ordered a meeting with the chief science officer, Admiral Bening, along with the cadre of senior level scientists. I was called to join because Bening was grooming me for senior level advancement within the burgeoning exploratory xenobiology field (not re: the crab people, but more for possible alien life forms found on the planets we were exploring at the time).
The crab people were short. The tallest one was a lithe female standing around 1.3 meters. They all had the broad abdomens that crabs typically have, a single abdomen with eyes and antennae sticking out the front, except that the crab people are also bipedal and, over millions of years of evolution, their second and third sets of legs became vestigial, dangling helplessly from their sides like the tyrannosaurs of the dinosaur age. They worked, but were used mainly for communication; the crab people utilized a language of simple words coupled with intricate sign language. Admiral Bening was at the meeting where they brought a deaf colleague, Dr. Sybari, who was able to achieve communication with the crabs twice as fast as prior attempts.
The crab people wore no clothes and their exoskeletons were vibrant, full of different colorings. The females were bigger and more colorful than the males, and did all the talking. And talk they did: it was at this meeting where we learned that the Crustatians were performing a galactic survey of the Milky Way and discovered us, the only sentient life forms in the entire galaxy. Hard to describe the level of nihilism that passed through the science crew when we heard that–there’s something about a giant crab who can snap her way through the universe that made us not doubt their ability to discern how much life was in an entire galaxy.
They found us and found that we were apes. Hominids. Mammals. Soft, squishy meat bags. And they were … disappointed. The only way I can think to describe it is like when your favorite horse breaks a leg and, even though you love it, you know you have to kill it. The Crustatians looked at us like that, and told us that apes were not the apex of evolution. Crabs were. That meant that we would not progress to the apex of evolution. They sounded sad when they told us this, their soft vocalizations coupled with the weary limpness in their limbs.
And then they started killing us.
Paul awoke on a bed with a blinding headache that seemed to ripple down into his shoulder and left side. He moved to press his hand against his head to ease the pain but found that his arms were tied to the bed frame. As were his legs. Even his head was pressed back with some kind of strap against his forehead. The most he could do was turn slightly left or right to survey his surroundings.
The room he was in was dirty and smelled of brine and seawater. This was a perpetual effect of the crab people–their colonies were mostly established along the beach and especially in estuaries, but some also in more distant lands like forests and mountains. Regardless, they all smelled like the ocean.
Eventually Paul realized he was in a medical room, though one repurposed for crab people. There was a bed beside him; Laura was in that bed, but unconscious, her head facing away from Paul. Her skin looked sickly but Paul couldn’t place why.
“You have questions,” said a voice. The vocalization was a crab person, one chosen to speak with humans. Their voice had a permanent sort of “buzzing” sound to it, making “questions” sound more like “quezztions.”
The unique clicking of crab person footsteps approaching. One of their “liaisons,” crab people who wear clothes, try to integrate with human culture. It was wearing a lab coat and a stethoscope that it could not use as it did not have human ears. It was male, its two bulbous eyes moving back and forth quickly, studying Paul’s body in the bed.
“What are you doing?” Paul asked. “Why am I bound like this? What’s going on?!”
“You are not wize to run from uzz,” the crab person replied. “Your true evoluzzun has begun. Zee your zizter.”
The crab person took their claw and gently ran it under the strap holding Paul’s head. With a quick clack, the strap broke. Paul turned to look at his sister Laura in her own bed. “Laura! What did they do to you?!”
Laura stirred, then turned to face her brother. Where her human eyes once sat were now two bulbous black eyes, sticking out from stalks. Above, on her forehead, two baby antennae were growing.
“Paul? What’s happening?”
Paul felt a stabbing in his arm and turned frantically to watch the crab person pushing a syringe full of what looked like brackish water into his body. “The true evoluzzun beginzz,” they said.
“You bastards! You fucking bastards!” was all Paul could get out before the liquid inside him wracked him with pain until he fell unconscious.
So, now we are entering the new era of humanity. Our own carcinization, forced upon us by a benevolence of the King Crab, who pities us for our poor evolutionary divergence. All of these other creatures saw the beauty of the crab–why not humans? We, who can’t even fit our wisdom teeth in our fucking jaws anymore.
I hope when the crab people find you, that they are merciful and kill you quickly, or deem you worthy of carcinization. Because they will find you, eventually.