He heard a click as something chitinous hit his mask. Pointed legs scratched his cheeks where the hood didn’t cover them. He recognised the swimming crab as much by its aggression as by its shape, but it was the first one that had attached itself to his face. They went for the flashlight. Every time.
He fumbled for the crab’s body and tried to feel the shape of it through his gloves. He tugged and the legs left his cheeks. His regulator shifted in his mouth as he pulled. He pushed it back into place with his left hand. The crab must have got hold of the air hose between his tank and regulator. He clenched his teeth and pulled hard. The crab didn’t move.
He felt laughter simmering inside him, ready to boil up and overwhelm him. It was absurd to have a crab stuck to his face. It wasn’t strong enough to cut through the hose, but he couldn’t search the room while he was wrestling it.
Ian settled on his knees and took the regulator out of his mouth. The crab gripped the air hose with both pincers. Ian twisted the regulator around and pressed the purge button. A deluge of air bubbles sent the crab flying off the hose, all ten limbs flapping wildly. Ian replaced his regulator as the crab recovered and lunged back at his face. He caught it and flung it outside the room, then braced a hand against the wall and pulled the door closed. Ian passed a hand over his still throbbing head. What was making the wildlife so aggressive? First the wrasse and now the crab.
He was shut in Dad’s room. Sharper, colder feet than the crab’s scuttled up his spine at the thought.
He was procrastinating again. Ninety bars, twenty-four minutes. A pair of combat trousers floated in front of him, as though on an invisible hanger. He panned the light around the thick walls that were pierced only by a small window, designed to allow in a little light without making a larger gap than necessary in the insulation of the walls. Columns of bubbles glinted silver as the air he’d exhaled in the living room below filtered through the floor. Ian looked up to see the bubble of air he’d already exhaled spreading across the ceiling like a glass tomb for the mattress and a few cans that still held a little air.
Next week: The Box
Cover by Manda Benson
Other stories by DJ Cockburn available online