from the archives of Essex Terror: The Barren Lands: The Horrors Of Essex In Literature And The Popular Imagination

[Notes: To commemorate the final passing of Essex Terror, and it’s brief but now obsolete resurrection on an accumulation of things, I post here an essay on the existence, and some would say persistence, of Essex in literature and the popular imagination. And then, we shall never mention Essex, Terror, or any other related commodities ever again. Good-day!]

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The Barren Lands: The Horrors Of Essex In Literature And The Popular Imagination

It is not easy to feel sorry for Essex, but if you do it is likely to be for the way in which its very real horrors are ignored in favour of the (often wholly imaginary) terrors and the transitory transgressions of some of our citiziens, highlighted by a banal media incapable of self reflection – nor even at times self-awareness – and that for this the entire county is maligned, ridiculed and occasionally violently attacked [1]. Although there are a number of reasons why an untrue vision of the county is almost always presented to the outside world [2], it is altogether less certain why the real malignancies of the county do not seem able to travel along with them.

Even if the popular imagination is content to see nothing more here than a wasteland of retired criminals and talent show wastrels all choosing to remain trapped together in a vast bubble of garden centres and grooming parlours punctuated occasionally by roadside car crash memorials, occasional glimpses of the deeper actuality of our existence do seep beyond our carefully controlled borders, and an understanding of this is necessary to uncover the existential emptiness which fuels much of our more notable behaviour [3].

As with all essays that touch upon the hidden but persistent horrors of the world, our first point of reference is to HP Lovecraft [4]. Plagued by ominous dreams for most of his life, the vast majority of them depicted “a slimy expanse of hellish black mire which extended about me in monotonous undulations as far as I could see.” [5]

His description of these hellish visions – which continued by saying that “[t]he region was putrid with the carcasses of decaying fish, and of other less describable things [6] which I saw protuding from the nasty mud of the unending plain” [7] – were unmistakably Essex in origin. When a young fan [8] sent him photos of the marshlands of the Blackwater, Lovecraft was said to be overcome by a trembling fear that would never again leave his bones. “It’s terrible – monstrous – unbelievable!” [9] he said. “It’s too utterly beyond thought – I dare not tell you – no man could know it and live. Great God! I […] dreamed of THIS!” [10]

Lovecraft lived with the shuddering aftereffects of this revelation of the true location of his dreams for the rest of his life. Unsurprisingly, he refused all invitations to visit a place he had until then thought were glimpses of the true nature of hell.

“Perhaps I should not hope to convey in mere words the unutterable hideousness that can dwell in absolute silence and barren immensity [11],” he said. “There was nothing within hearing, and nothing in sight save a vast reach of black slime; yet the very completeness of the stillness and the homogeneity of the landscape oppressed me with a nauseating fear [12].”

HP Lovecraft was of course not the first to chronicle the dispiriting nature of the Essex landscape. William Hope Hodgson [13], however, knew well their horrors from first hand experience. The son of an Essex Reverend from the evocatively named Blackmore End, he grew up so disgusted by his surroundings that he joined the merchant navy at the age of 13 in desperation, but ultimately discovered that no matter how far away he sailed the tides would always bring him back.

In “The Boats Of The ‘Glen Carrig’” [14], Hodgson describes the first view of the county from the point of view of a first time visitor. “[W]e had come so close to it that we could distinguish with ease what manner of land lay beyond the shore, and thus we found it to be of an abominable flatness, desolate beyond all that I could have imagined.” [15] The only ingress is “a slimy-banked creek… the banks being composed of a vile mud which gave us no encouragement to venture rashly upon them.” [16] As they travel inland it becomes plain that the land is “a great plain of mud; so [great] that it gave me a sense of dreariness to look out upon it.” [17]

The similarities here with Lovecraft’s visions are remarkable, lending credence to all manner of theories about the powers of the mind and the origins of consciousness [18].

[As an aside, American interpretations of Essex are not always accurate. In “The Snow Goose” [19], Paul Gallico [20] reimagines The Crabbus Man [21], one of Essex’s most notorious nightmares, as a misunderstood, sensitive and altruistic recluse who carries in his deformed and monstrous breast the very best aspects of man. It is only the incredible ridiculousness of this transformation that saves it from becoming blasphemous.

In stark contrast, it is the calls of The Crabbus Man that first alert the adventurers in “The Boats Of The ‘Glen Carrig’” to the existence of life in the barren Essex wastes they find themselves approaching. “And it was at this time, when I was awed by so much solitude, that there came the first telling of life in all that wilderness. I heard it first in the far distance, away inland – a curious, low, sobbing note it was, and the rise and fall of it was like to the sobbing of a lonesome wind through a great forest.” [22] (This great weeping is echoed in the lyrics of “Crabbus Man” [23] by Vom Vorton [24], where it is declared that “Crabbus Man Crabbus Man With His Knowledge He Will Do What He Can Crabbus Man Crabbus Down In The Caverns He Weeps And Plans.” [25]) In the fullness of William Hope Hodgson’s vision, The Crabbus Man (and his offspring, or possibly corruptions) set upon the crew. “And now we saw that it was full of crabs; yet they were not all small, for in a while I discovered a swaying among the weed, a little way in from the edge, and immediately I saw the mandible of a very great crab stir amid the weed… [A]nd thus we had full sight of it, and discovered it to be so great crab as is scarce believable – a very monster… And further, it was apparent to us that the brute had no fear of us, nor intention to escape,; but rather made to come at us.” [26] This is the true nature of The Crabbus.]

The barrenness of the Essex landscape, both physically and spiritually, is difficult to comprehend for those not familiar with the terrain, hidden beneath a superficial void that barely hints at the infinities beneath. JA Baker [27] describes it most beautifully in The Peregrine [28]: “Farms are well ordered, prosperous, but a fragrance of neglect still lingers, like a ghost of fallen grass. There is always a sense of loss, a feeling of being forgotten. There is nothing else here; no castles, no ancient monuments, no hills like green clouds. It is just a curve of the earth, a rawness of winter fields. Dim, flat, desolate lands that cauterise all sorrow.” [29]

His conclusion that Essex is “a dying world, like Mars, but glowing still” [30] is probably more optimistic than these lands deserve.

Notes:

1 – Most recently The Battle Of Basildon (March 2003), The Canvey Incursion (October 2007) and The Great Big Argument (ongoing).

2 – See the upcoming essay “The Essex Illusion: 100 Years Of Manipulation And Misinformation From Within”.

3 – See “Essex Girls? We’re The Best”, by Germaine Greer, The Observer, 5th February 2006.

4 – HP Lovecraft (1890-1937) was an American writer who, with his interminable racism, misogyny and xenophobia, could well claim to be the foremost proponent of the Essex way of mind, even if he never dared travel to the county itself.

5 – From “Dagon” (paragraph 4, line 3), written in 1917 and first published in Vagrant in 1919.

6 – A reference possibly to metal shopping trolleys, which had not yet been imported in any meaningful quantities to North America.

7 – “Dagon” (paragraph 5, line 2).

8 – Ted Vaaak reveals his correspondence with HP Lovecraft in his memoir “A Scream Or Two Before We Go”, currently unpublished.

9 – Recounted in “The Statement Of Randolph Carter” (paragraph 12, line 1), first published in Vagrant in 1920.

10 – “The Statement of Randolph Carter” (paragraph 15, line 1).

11 – “Dagon” (paragraph 5, line 3).

12 – “Dagon” (paragraph 5, line 4).

13 – William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918) was born in Essex. His attempts to escape consumed most of his life, ending tragically in the even more hellish mires of the First World War.

14 – “The Boats Of The ‘Glen Carrig’” was first published in 1907 by Chapman and Hall.

15 – “The Boats Of the ‘Glen Carrig’” (chapter 1, paragraph 2, line 1).

16 – “The Boats Of the ‘Glen Carrig’” (chapter 1, paragraph 3, lines 3 and 4).

17 – “The Boats Of the ‘Glen Carrig’” (chapter 1, paragraph 5, line 2).

18 – Especially, but exclusively, the idea that the human mind exists beyond the physical dimensions of the universe and that our brains act as a conduit to this purely conscious realm, allowing seepages between closely proximous ‘pipes’. It is therefore likely that Hp Lovecraft’s brain pipe was closely pressed against that of an Essexman’s or Essexwoman’s, and that his visions were merely the waking perambulations of an entirely ordinary days journeying transmitted into the sleeping (and therefore, more vulnerable) mind of HP Lovecraft. The six hour time difference between Essex and Rhode Island adds further data in support of this supposition, as the early morning is the safest time to enter the marshes, and the only hours in which you are likely to be able to escape.

19 – “The Snow Goose” was first published in 1941 by Knopf.

20 – Paul Gallico (1897-1976) was an American novel writer, who, along with “The Snow Goose”, is most famous for the novel “The Poseidon Adventure”.

21 – Although for centuries it was considered impolite to talk of the creature, in more recent years there have been various attempts at writing histories of The Crabbus Man, perhaps the best of which are “Night Of The Crabbuses” (1976) by Guy N. Smith, “The Crabbus Man Scratches Out” (1997) and “The Crabbus Man Scratches Out Again” (1999) by Toby Vok, and “McBluebeard” (2009) by David N. Guy (no relation to Guy N. Smith).

22 – “The Boats Of the ‘Glen Carrig’” (chapter 1, paragraph 9, lines 1 and 2).

23 – “The Crabbus Man” was released in 2007 on Cowboy Democracy Recordings. The full lyrics (copyright Raz, Vom 2007) read:

“Crabbus Man
Crabbus Man
With all his knowledge he will do what he can
Oh, Crabbus Man
Crabbus Man
Down in the caverns where he weeps and plans

down in the caves his pincers clacking
he wonders why his life is lacking
despite his father’s financial backing

he knows he cannot leave his lair
he knows he’ll never breathe fresh air
but he doesn’t mind, he doesn’t care

he understands the reason why
he’s been forced underground to die
a single tear escapes his eye

he knows they were right to ban
his freakish limbs, unique to his clan
goodnight, sweet crabbus man”

24 – Vom Vorton (1982-thepresentday) is a singer, songwriter and chronicler of beasts, witches and werwolves. He one day hopes to travel to the moon.

25 – see note 23.

26 – “The Boats Of the ‘Glen Carrig’” (chapter 6, paragraph 11, various lines).

27 – JA Baker (1926-1987) was an Essex writer, who was cruelly forced to live and work in Chelmsford for most of his life.

28 – “The Peregrine” was published in 1967.

29 – From “The Peregrine” (chapter 1, paragraph 5, lines 1 to 5).

30 – “The Peregrine” (chapter 1, paragraph 18, line 9).

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from the archives of Essex Terror: Home Of Hell!

Home Of Hell! is an exciting, terrifying, incomprehensibly horrifying choose your own adventure story where YOU! are the hero.

Presented here in an interactive browser-playable format for THE VERY FIRST TIME! Home of Hell is possibly the most exciting adventure story you will ever play this afternoon.

Play Home Of Hell here

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Notes:

1. Home Of Hell was originally written in November 2011
2. But has since been re-written
3. And updated
4. I’m not sure if this has ever been published online before
5. And if it was it was only as a pdf
6. Of the print version
7. That sold 10 copies
8. Or maybe 9

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from the archives of Essex Terror: The Laughter Never Dies

[Notes: This was from one of the printed Essex Terror’s, rather than an onle Essex Terror. I can’t remember if it made more sense in context but it’s still the most frightening thing ever written. And every word of it is true.]

***

The Laughter Never Dies

THE CLACTON CLOWN has been horrifying the children of Essex for most of their lives. It is described by some as Ted Vaaak’s most disturbing creation. Yet it lives out in the open with impunity. We sent Karen Parallax to investigate.

It sits unassumingly at the entrance to the pavilion. Looking to the casual observer like any other glass box of seaside entertainments, the Clacton Clown has managed to evade the notice of adults in the town for what feels like decades. Only children appreciate the true horror of its existence, and the malevolent hold it has on their dreams.

The first, and so far only, product of Ted Vaaaak’s entertainment and leisure devices corporation, VELDC (pronounced Veldoc), the Clacton Clown has been designed to horrify and unsettle the young and the timid to the maximum possible level without ever inducing within the victim weeping, flinching, spasming, biting, fleeing, or any other overt external manifestation of terror. Ted claims it has been a complete success, and that the longer it stays unnoticed by adults, the greater its victories must be.

The clown sits in a glass box, which is to be its prison for all eternity. Faced with the horror of its fate (that of being bound to Clacton until the end of time to be glared at or ignored by the Essexmen and Essexw’men and the mutated offspring that are forced to follow them), the clown chooses not to despair but to do what clowns are designed to do — laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh, its hand pressed up against the glass, its body rolling back and forth and round and round as it is overcome with mirth, its head lolling wildly yet with eyes that never ever stop staring straight at you, until its suppressed anguish at the horror of existence is radiated out from deep within itself across the ether into the young hearts of its victims (the frequency of the laughs is such that they are mostly inaudible to the adult emotional system, sounding like nothing more than the regular chuckling of the commonfolk, aggressive and tinged with contempt but containing nothing sinister).

The clown is purged through this desperate laughter while the victim is stricken, often terminally. On a quiet day particularly susceptible children can receive these dread transmissions from as far away as nearby Frinton, and often do.

I ask Ted how he and his team managed to create such a lifelike facsimile of a living clown for imprisonment within this Amusement. He looks at me and pauses for a second, pondering whether to lie or admit to me his crimes. He opts for the latter and it all comes tumbling out of his cracked lips in a rushed jumble.

“Clowns, clowns, more than us, more than anyone, are immortal. Both metaphorically in that they live on in our minds frightening us with echoes of their cries long after we are immune to their actual vibrations, and physically, in that clowns cannot truly die. They do die, obviously, but whereas with people when we die our flesh and blood rot and crumble away while our core of bone and claw solidifies into permanence, a clown, an inversion of humanity in spirit and in flesh, rots from the inside upon death while the outer flesh solidifies in defiance of natural law. Instead of intricate bonework they leave behind a leather skin filled with ash for us to find and fetishise.

”It is common for a person, upon finding an intact clown skin, to obsess and marvel over it, hiding it from friends and family, caressing it in privacy and seclusion, eventually donning it yourself, and thereon surrendering your soul to its legacy, eventually becoming clown yourself, living as they do, unendingly, until your own eventual murder, leatherification, discovery, possession, the cycle continuing onwards throughout time, one clown making one new clown, no growth but no diminishment neither.

“I must admit on discovering this specimen that I too became obsessed for a time, but knowledge is innoculation, and I knew what I must do. Levers and tentpoles and pipes became arms, legs, spines and more, a teapot a skull, butterknife fingers, an old tobacco tin heart, a shoehorn tongue. Over this skeleton I slipped the skin, and it fitted, perfectly, just as my measurements suggested. Its memories poured into the teabags left rotting in its head while its malevolence seeped into the dried and clotted tobacco that cluttered its heart.

“Awareness came before movement fortunately and I had time to erect a glass prison for this monstrosity, this undying abomination. He sat on his nest staring out in horror at me. But then came the cries, the gyrations, the never ending laughs.

“I abandoned it in Clacton, by the sea, where the people come, where the children come. For twenty pence you can amuse yourself in this town, the flashing machines and the grasping claws and the guns, the guns, simulated and real, water and pellet and cork. Yet for free you can feel his pain. And you cannot avoid it. From this each child will be hollowed out, emotion eaten by the maggots and worms of his thoughts until nothingness is all they have, empty husks lost and vacuous and insane, our county forever changed. Yet unchanged, too, still here maintaining ourselves as a void of horrors to buttress against the sickening disgustments of the civilisations beyond.”

Ted begins to laugh and his chuckles and guffaws mingle with the desperate laughs of the clown. Up close you can see the sorrow in its eyes. The clown stops laughing for a moment as I hold my hand up against his, the cold glass seperating our palms and undoubtedly saving my skin from his frosty touch. From beneath the unit a wave of scuttling sea bugs emerge, miniature trilobites with extrajointed legs. Are these physical manifestations of the clown’s dreams? Or just mutations hurled here by the crashing waves of the sea against the sea wall? I do not know. I catch my finger on a splinter on the wooden edging of the clown box. The sudden jolt of pain shocks me and I involuntarily stamp at the creatures, my DM clad feet crushing relentlessly down upon them. They burst under the harsh soles of my boots in a spray of grey mucus and a satisfying crunch of shell and bones. A single drop of my blood falls from my finger and mingles with their remains.

“The clown will never die,” Ted jabbers at me later while I run my welling hand under a tap in the toilets. He shouldn’t be here in the Ladies with me but he is. “One day the children will be old enough to vote, to work, to join the council and decide its ways. The clown’s secret will be known and they will have it removed, buried like the rest of its kind in a skip full of rubble and old furniture, everything rusted and moldgrown in the rain.

“But someone will find it, rescue it, take it home and sit it on their settee, nurse it back to health. Knit it a new uniform, stitch its eyebrows back to its face, replace its hat, mend its bones and warm its skin until it begins to awake.”

He looks me in the eye for the first time this afternoon. “This time it will be uncaged.”

***

The Clacton Clown can be located at the entrance to the Clacton Pavilion, Marine Parade, Clacton, Essex. The Clown can be seen at any time during the day throughout the year, but it is usually taken inside at night in the winter months for reasons of safety.

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from the archives of Essex Terror: Essex Terror #4 (The Moon Issue)

[Notes: This article and the accompanying pictures were originally published on October 21st, 2010]

***

Essex Terror Issue Four was a departure from the standard issues, containing no news, reviews, interviews or even horror, instead just consisting of a short story by an unattributed author. This edition was so unpopular with readers it is alleged that less than 2 copies were ever actually sold, making this perhaps the rarest of the Essex Terror issues, even though 8 more issues so far remain unfound.

This issue was discovered and supplied to us by Thomas Morton, author of “Vok: Unbound”, a collection of sheets of paper detailing aspects of the life and times of Toby Vok, a scientist.

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from the archives of Essex Terror: The Crabbus Man

[This is a collection of articles and other media concerning, sometimes obliquely, the compelling Crabbus Man myth of Maldon, Essex. What the truth behind the legend truly is has never been ascertained]

***

The Crabbus Man

‘As any fool know, to walk after dark through Promenade Park is to walk in the shadow of death; for there the Crabbus Man lurks and scuttles, with his clacking claws and twitching eye stalks, ready to leap upon the unwary and clack at them, they whose souls shall know no peace for all their remaining days upon the Earth…’ Or so wrote the Reverend Joseph Arkwright in his diary for the year 1863. Arkwright never saw the creature himself, though his borderline obsessive documentation of the Crabbus Man, including many incidents of its manifestations as sundry simulacra throughout Maldon (be it a cloud that ‘rather resembled a crab’s claw’ or a shadow upon a grass verge that ‘seemed to scuttle most unwholesomely’) has become the go-to source for Crabbus lore.

***

The Ballad Of The Crabbus Man, by Thomas Morton

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The Persistent Myths Of Maldon

The cultural worth of a town can perhaps be measured in its myths. As part of my research into the viability of Essex towns in this new millenium, I came across the following three tales repeatedly, uttered with barely any change through over a thousand years of paperwork and quilting.

The Crabbus Man was a child born with crab claws for hands and taken by the sickened residents to the river to be drowned. While the mayor was holding the child underwater it is said that he slipped from his grasp and fell to the bed of the river, but no amount of searching could yield a corpse. The whispered implication at the end of the tale being that he escaped down through the mud into the crab caverns below, where even to this day he weeps and plans and one day will have his revenge. To this day, crabs are caught and smashed to pieces by the townsfolk in the hope of catching and destroying him before he can return.

The Crow Child was a child born with the blackened skin of a crow. Thought to be a golem crafted from the muds of the marsh, he was hauled up into a tree and placed in the nest of a rook. It is said that eventually he flew away to the moon, and to this day the people of the town are afraid of crows and the moon.

Susan Swan-Neck was a child born with an exceptionally long neck, thought by the residents of the town to be the reincarnation of King Harold II’s wife Edith Swan-Neck. Still believing that Harold’s descendants were the rightful heirs to the throne, Susan was quickly made Ealdorman of Maldon. When next spring she laid several eggs of her own it was clearly revealed that she was an actual swan, and her and her adoptive mother were driven from the town by an angry mob. Their ultimate fate is unknown, but to this day swans are not allowed into the town hall while council meetings are in progress.

As can be seen above, there is a strange monotony to their legends which matches the drab uniformity of the town. It is with little regret that I announce here that the entire Maldon district is to be abandoned to the sea.

***

Dear Crabbus

The Crabbus Man Of Promenade Park has long been one of Essex’s most fearsome foes. Although no direct sightings of the Crabbus Man have ever been verified, he is known to be more than mere myth by careful observation of the aftermath of his actions. Periodic crab massacres litter the history of Maldon (but never Heybridge, almost as if the beast is afraid to cross the river and risk the wrath of the subhuman inhabitants of the northern bank); frequently the town wakes up to find the trundleways and amblepaths of the town are covered in trails of fresh gore dripped straight from his ever-bleeding claws; signs warning visitors to beware of the mud being gnawed upon with frightening regularity; all of these and more are all the proofs we have or need.

The atrocities and activities of the Crabbus Man ebb and flow, sometimes fading almost out of memory before coming crashing back into our reality in a storm of shattered shells and a puddle of rotting crab flesh festering in the sun. Residents have described the events of this summer as “intolerable”, with a new outrage at least once a week. Concerned locals, after a series of hastily arranged town meetings where they dicsussed ideas for combatting this menace, have now begun to post a series of notices across the town, beseeching the returned Crabbus Man to curb his rampages and display at least a modicum of respect and civilised behaviour.

The notices, written in the terse and economical Essex way –

[an historical aside: in 1990, Essex County Council, having been impressed with Microsoft’s fledgling Powerpoint software, and realising the superiority of its methods of communications, banned the use of paragraphs and words of more than two syllables in all internally produced memos, notices, signs, posters, leaflets and other forms of written communications, eliminating the wasteful use of language and distilling everything down to the most salient points. This lead to clearer communications facilitating an increase in decision-making time savings of over 95 man hours per person per year, as well as the reduction of ambiguity-based misapprehensions and confusions by over 40%, and 75% lower paper purchasing costs.]

– have been tied to several railings that mark the boundary between the town park and the hallowed crablands of the Blackwater. The notices, addressed directly to the Crabbus Man himself, read:

“DEAR CRABBERS [sic]

PLEASE BE NICE TO CRABS

DO NOT hurt or damage them

DO NOT leave them out of water

DO put them back in the lake when you have finished

DO wash your hands when you have finished

DO enjoy yourselves”

Although the Crabbus Man’s name has been mangled by the rigorous adherence to the council computer’s spellchecking device’s suggestions, scholars think that this notices clear instructions to the man could appeal to the creature’s better nature and help work in pacifying the beast, although it is possible that his dual nature as part man and part shambling horror (alluded to in the “enjoy yourselves” directive) could be beyond rational control. At this stage, however, it is our only hope.

***

Huge Horror Brings Terror To The Marsh

Residents in the Essex marshlands were shocked by the discovery of a huge crab said to be the largest ever seen by crabbers in Maldon this week. The terrifying beast (an artist’s impression of which can be seen above) was found scuttling around near a child’s bucket by the ruins of the town’s hythe, which tragically collapsed earlier this year in an unrelated incident which caused the death of 72 tourists.

“It’s utterly terrifying,” said unemployed localson David N. Guy (no relation to the reporter). “No doubt it has been feeding on the bodies down there, growing fat on their unfathomable flesh. I said at the time that we should send them back to wherever it was they came from, but did the council listen? No. They didn’t listen to me at all. They never do. Perhaps when it’s one of their children’s fingers getting savagely nipped they’ll finally start paying attention. But by then it’ll be too late.”

Councilw’mn Eliza Dredgeland dismissed this as ridiculous scaremongering from an ignorant oaf. “As readers of your site will no doubt know [cf. The Ballad Of Shitpant N. Guy], this man is a shambolic mess who can’t even control his own gastric functions, so it is no surprise that he has no understanding of this complex situation whatsoever. It would be a gross dereliction of our duties to the council tax payers of this district to allow the financial burden of the removal of these corpses to be placed solely on their shoulders, when it wasn’t any of them who died. Is it too much to ask that those coming from outside pay their own way rather than expecting others to pay for the consequences of their frivolous gallivanting?

“Coupled with this, the idea that the crab could grow to monstrous size on a diet of human flesh is a simplistic and naive one, with no basis in the physical laws that underpin our universe or any of the known processes of accepted biology. Furthermore, I would question whether this crab really is the biggest ever. Our records only go back to 1604, so who’s to say what size crabs you had back then. 400 years may seem a long time to us, but it is utterly insignificant when you think of the 700 million year reign of crabkind. Crabs of this size might be a perfectly natural part of the crab lifecycle, and therefore nothing to do with these corpses in the river.”

The previous largest crab, dubbed Great Big Barry by locals, measured 5 inches from claw to claw when splayed out like a paper angel. Discovered on June 16th, 1978, postcards of Great Big Barry laid out before his captors still do a brisk trade, selling for upwards of 30p at local kiosks. And some people hope that this new find – or fiend, as the Mayor has claimed – will bring much needed economic growth to the town.

The Crab – as it has so far been called by the shocked populace, the “The” said in an exaggerated fashion that suggests a mix of reverential awe, horror, incredulity, terror and even arousal – has not yet been accurately measured, although eyewitness accounts state that it was at least as wide as a pretty wide shoe. Indeed, official measurements may never be known, since under Dengie law the crab has been quarantined at the customs hut since discovery, and if tests indicate even a hint of rabies then it must be incinerated immediately from afar, untouched and alone.

***

The Crabbus Man (a children’s book)

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