Hermits of Halloway Bay

Hannah Parenteau

Hannah Parenteau

First Place Winner; Adult Category. San José Public Library | Fall into Fiction Contest, 2022

When it all started it seemed harmless enough. One windy morning little Tina Lee was out walking along the beach looking for pretty shells and smooth skipping rocks when she noticed a big shiny shell glinting in the sun just up the beach. As she moved towards the shell it seemed to be moving too, staying just past her reach. Determined, she zipped up her jacket against the biting chill and pumped her stubby little legs to catch up to the shell. When she scooped it up, she was so surprised she almost dropped it immediately. Two long eye-stalks and ten spiky grasping legs greeted her, scrabbling and straining to get back to the safety of the sand. Tina quickly complied, gently placing the hermit crab back on the beach where it skittered off unevenly. Shaken, the little girl headed home with only a few rocks and a piece of dull beach glass.

Tina's parents figured she had been exaggerating the size of the crab she'd encountered, subject to a child's memory of something frightening growing out of proportion to reality. But a few days later Mr. Rodriguez reported that while walking his dog near the pier he'd seen a massive hermit crab over a foot wide clambering along the beach wearing a hardware store 5-gallon bucket instead of a shell. Soon the town was abuzz with stories of ever-larger crabs and theories of their origin; the crabs were getting bigger from warming oceans, from all the french fries Mr. Rodriguez tossed on the beach for the gulls, from the processing plant secretly dumping radioactive waste into the water. It was just a local oddity until a video went viral of the Krishnans' doghouse standing right up and exiting their yard, occupied by a chittering hermit crab bigger than their bulldog, who was so confused he only sat there and growled in response.

Things really escalated when a crab wearing an entire garden shed careened into traffic and caused a pile-up that sent Mrs. Taylor to the hospital with a dislocated shoulder. She came out spitting mad and coordinated a "concerned citizens group" that petitioned the town council to *do* something about the threat of the hermit crabs against their property and their very lives. She came to shout at the council meeting every week, unsatisfied with the fence that was put up along the beach (too short to prevent the pesky creatures from getting through) and the anti-crustacean pesticide that was sprayed along the roads (made everything smell terrible). Then one week she was interrupted mid-tirade by a horrible crunching sound as one side of the city hall was ripped from the ground by a claw the size of a construction crane. An eye peered in under the gap, big as a dinner plate, and then disappeared just as quickly as it had come, apparently satisfied with its prospective home. With a groan the building continued to separate from its foundation, creaking and snapping over the shouts of the council and the accusing screams of Mrs. Taylor.

Soon everyone packed up and moved away. No humans have lived there for nearly ten years now. But it's said that if you go to the coast and look out over Halloway Bay you can still see the ghost of the town, buildings all off kilter and slanted every which way, rearranging themselves jerkily as the population wearing them go about their mysterious business.

First Place Winner; Adult Category. San José Public Library | Fall into Fiction Contest, 2022

We Love Sharing Stories

Select a story
0