Storm Crabs, Yikes!

Voice Card  -  Volume 5  -  Stuart Card Number 4  -  Thu, Mar 2, 1989 9:10 AM

This is a response to volume 4, John Card Number 2 ("Crab One")...

Cartan looked up from his computer terminal. He felt cold. Why was he so cold? It was as if someone had bit into his bones. Even with his sweater and his down vest on, his teeth chattered like an old typewriter, but it didn't matter to him.

"It's been a wonderfully, satisfying day writing," he thought, as he set about to print up the day's work. He looked fondly at his antique Image Writer I Printer, his old, trusty writer's friend. It had been there from his first days as a writer, faithfully whirring away, printing up all his novels, his reviews, his stories. And now it was printing up his greatest work to date, his epic on the crab people.

"These dear, impenetrable, hard-plated creatures -- what a metaphor for the human condition," he thought, as his printer whirred, and whirred, and whirred away, seeming almost like a lullaby to him now, so familiar after all these years. . .

The phone rang. "I'm so cold," he thought, as he got up to answer it, "Why am I so cold?"

"Cartan! You missed your deadline! It's Thursday. The work was due Monday. Where is it!?" His editor, Archibald Pelago, sounded cold and distant, almost like a machine.

"It's all finished. It's wonderful, Archie, you'll love it. It's the best work I've done, Archie. But, wait a minute. what did you say? It's -- Thursday?. . . Archie! Archie, are you there!"

The line was dead. Cartan stood there with the phone in his hand, puzzled. "But I started working Friday morning," he thought. "I was going to finish up that last chapter and then express mail it off on Saturday. I distinctly remember that. Thursday? Could I have been working all this time?"

Cartan went back to his computer. As he looked at the pages that had been printed, he was startled. "What is this," he thought, I don't remember writing these words, these sentences, these thoughts. It's as if someone else had written them!"

And yet, he remembered distinctly. He had never felt more exhilrated than during this last writing session. Writing had never before come to him so easily, so effortlessly. It was like the words weren't coming out of him, but rather flowing through him. It was like he were some sort of vessal, some sort of transformer through which the words were being charged.

He remembered distinctly, as he was writing, it had seemed like he was actually there with all his characters -- making love to Heddy, chasing Xeronee, hurtling through space on the run away ship with little Zagnor. "But could six days have passed?", he thought. "Impossible! And why am I so cold!"

Cartan looked at the window. It was opaque. He opened the door to his little mountain cabin and stepped outside onto the porch. Now the cold assaulted him, physically, as if it had a knife. It forced him back. Snow was everywhere. It had gathered in drifts on the biggest trees and sheared them of their branches. It had bent the small ones over into stooped, old witches. The snow covered the road. It covered up the road sign that pointed the way to Helena so that only "Hel" was seen. The snow rose over the porch, presssing in drifts against his cabin walls. It was as if the snow were a giant beast trying to devour his house and everything in it.

The thermometer on the porch read fifty degrees below zero. Cartan's breath came out in labored puffs and crystallized into clouds of Ice fog. It hurt to breathe. Cartan's lungs and throat wheezed as his heart bellowed out air. "But the big blizzard wasn't to have come until the following week," Cartan thought. "Could this really be the following week?"

Cartan felt faint. When was the last time he had eaten? He grimly surveyed his refrigerator and shelves. He had no food --- no left over containers of Chinese food, no precious Pepsi, no Captain Crunch, nothing. The roads were impassable. He was so cold. He had to sit down.

"Think, Cartan, think," he told himself.

Even with the door closed, it hurt to breathe. The ice fog was in the house now. It hovered in all the rooms, but it hovered heaviest in his study -- over his computer, over his printer, over his precious work.

"What is this? What is going on?" Cartan thought.

And then he saw it. He stood in the hallway to his study, watching, dumbstruck, as the fog thickened more and more, until little slivers of ice rained gently onto the newly printed pages of his novel. The pages were soon covered with a fine film of the shimmering, delicate ice. They were beautiful. They gleamed like a palace in a fairy tale. Cartan was transfixed. . .

Later. How much later it was Cartan didn't know. He must have fallen asleep at his writing chair. As he rubbed his eyes, he noticed something. The fine sheet of ice that had formed over his novel was gone. But now -- "is it possible?" he thought -- the letters on the pages seemed to be moving. Cartan bent over them and looked closely.

Crabs! What were once letters seemed now to be little crabs! Little letter sized crabs, crawling about, scuttling about like lice! Thousands of them, one for each letter he had written! Cartan watched, unable to move as they scuttled all over the pages he had just printed. And then they spilled out onto his writing table, leaving his pages blank. "Oh my God!", he thought, "My work!"

Now the crabs were swarming over his study floor. It undulated with the mass of them. . . Cartan swayed dizzily. Now they were all over him.

"Oh my God!" he thought, "Oh my God!". . .