by Nick Nafpliotis
“What do you think is in it?”
There had been a solid five minutes of silence between the two boys before Alex finally asked the question. Another minute passed before Andrew gave him an answer.
“My first guess would be a dead body,” he replied as they continued to stare at the coffin sitting in front of them.
Assuming that a corpse lay inside a coffin would normally be a safe bet, but not when it was sitting in the middle of one of the islands that dotted the cove near Martin Beach. The two best friends had paddled their way there in a canoe from Kingsport, pretending that they were explorers in an unknown land. The boys knew, however, that the tiny lake islands they “discovered” would likely yield little more than beer cans or abandoned camp sites.
So when they disembarked onto one of the islands furthest from the shore, the sight of purple and white foxglove flowers forming a path into the woods was more than a little surprising. The bizarre row of colorful plants eventually led to an open space among the trees. In the middle of it sat a large wooden coffin with a rough, unfinished exterior.
“I think we should open it,” Andrew finally said after another few moments of silence.
“Are you freaking kidding?!” Alex shot back. “This is probably some type of serial killer shrine or something!”
“Which is exactly why we should open it,” Andrew replied with a grin. “And besides, what if it’s not a dead body in there, but a living person who needs our help?”
Alex paused at hearing this. He knew that Andrew was trying to manipulate him, but now he couldn’t help but wonder if they’d be leaving someone trapped inside the coffin if they departed from the island.
“…or it could just be where the serial killer likes to take a nap,” Andrew continued after not hearing an immediate response from his friend. “But there’s no way I’m leaving here without finding out what’s inside of that coffin. It’ll drive me insane.”
Before Alex could stop him, Andrew lurched forward into the clearing. He darted towards the lid of the coffin, put his hand on it, and went completely still. Alex ran up behind him and quickly realized why his normally impulsive friend had stopped moving.
“What the heck is that noise?” Alex whispered.
A strange combination of rattling and knocking could be heard emanating from all sides of the coffin. Alex was sure that this new discovery would scare his friend into turning around without opening it. But a few seconds later, Andrew had overcome his previous trepidation and brashly pulled up the lid.
“Holy crap, Alex!” he exclaimed while pushing it off onto the ground. “Look at how many of them there are!”
Alex peered over Andrew’s shoulder into the coffin, where what appeared to be thousands of hermit crabs were crawling and swarming over each other.
“Why the hell would someone fill a casket with hermit crabs?” Alex asked, finally allowing himself to move closer to the pulsating mass of imprisoned crustaceans.
Before Andrew could attempt an answer, a giant topaz colored claw burst through the middle of the shells, sending hundreds of the small creatures flying in all directions. Both boys screamed and jumped back as the claw twisted and hooked itself into the side of the coffin. The pile of hermit crabs began to bulge and push upwards as the blue claw propelled something from within it to the surface.
Andrew and Alex turned and ran before whatever was climbing out of the casket could pull itself onto the ground. When they made it halfway to the tree line, however, a shrill, high pitched shriek that vibrated through the trees caused both boys to stop and turn. The creature, which had now fully emerged from the coffin, was bearing down on them.
Its appearance resembled an unholy cross between a crab and a lizard, which had subsequently been enlarged to the size of a horse. While two large pincers were all it had for front limbs, three powerful looking legs on each side of its torso helped to propel the animal forward. The creature’s dull blue skin tone contrasted sharply with the overcast sky and dense forest that surrounded it. Its face, however, was the animal’s most terrifying feature, resembling a foxhound whose jaws somehow opened out to either side rather than up and down.
The creature’s high pitched roar grew higher and more agitated as it galloped in a sickeningly quick gait towards the boys, who immediately turned back towards the beach to continue their escape. Just as they made it to the tree line, the monster raised one claw into the air and slammed it down on the ground. A force resembling a mighty wind radiated out in all directions, shaking the ground beneath it and causing Alex and Andrew to fall over onto the edge of the beach.
Alex was able to get right back up and dart for the canoe. When he got there, he turned to see that Andrew had been unable to do the same. The creature had burst forth from the trees and snatched up his best friend in one of its massive claws. As it turned and galloped back into the forest, Andrew’s screams were drowned out by another round of angry high pitched roars.
Alex returned home to Kingsport and told all who would hear him what had happened. The Arkham Police Department trekked out to the island to investigate, even bringing along an expert on marine life from Mistakonic University to assist.
When they got there, however, there was no coffin, there were no hermit crabs, and there was no sign of a nightmarish, topaz colored beast. The only thing out of the ordinary that they found was a few brightly colored foxglove flowers scattered along the beach.
Nick Nafpliotis is a music teacher and writer from Charleston, South Carolina. During the day, he instructs students from the ages of 11-14 on how to play band instruments. At night, he writes about weird crime, bizarre history, pop culture, and humorous classroom experiences on his blog, RamblingBeachCat.com. He is also a television, novel, and comic book reviewer for AdventuresinPoorTaste.com.