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The Depth at Which Spider Crabs are Found, Keely O'Shaughnessy


Each weekend, Mother would cook while Dad dove for baskets of spiny spider crabs hauled up from the seafloor. Until one afternoon, he failed to surface.

We paced the beach and shouted his name into the mean expanse of ocean that stretched beyond the horizon. I wanted to take a boat and search the waves, but Grandpa told us he knew the kraken had stolen my father away.

Mother said that this was just folklore. A whisper of something lost. The seafarer’s nightmare. Yet as I grew, I found bones washed up on the shore. Vertebras hiding among sea glass, polished smooth. A thigh bone as bleached and gnarled as driftwood. A mandible stripped of all its flesh and teeth.

At twelve, I learnt to dive too. Taking the scavenged bones with me, hooked to my suit, I learnt to navigate the current, gage the pressure of each new depth and maintain buoyance. I learnt to push deeper, search for all things hidden, and pluck only the sweetest, plumpest crabs.

And at twenty-five, the creature was there to greet me, it’s beaked mouth wide. Splayed, ruptured like the figs mother used to bake. Purple flesh peeled back into a gruesome smile. Fig seeds exchanged for razor-edged teeth.


Keely O'Shaughnessy’s stories have appeared online and in print. She has been twice shortlisted in Retreat West contests and has writing forthcoming in the 2021 National Flash Fiction Day anthology. She’s been published with Ghost Orchid Press and Ellipsis Zine among others. She is a Pushcart nominee. She’s Managing Editor at Flash Fiction Magazine. @KeelyO_writer.

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