Before you can answer, you feel your corporeal form becoming intanigble once more. As you regain consciousness, you feel as if you are moving more slowly than normal, as if your attempts to move are being met with a slight resistance. Your belly is being tickled by bubbles and you give out a little giggle; more bubbles, this time out of your mouth. You look up and squint at the brilliant patterns of light undulating and slowly warping on what seems to be a translucent, moving ceilling. \n\nYou're a crab again, alright, except this time you are on a sea bed. And what are all these bits of random shite covering one of your limbs? A flicker of cosmic knowledge arises in your memory as you remember, faintly, that you must be a decorator crab, a name given to a wide range of species who all belong to the superfamily Majoidea (not all of which are decorator crabs). \n\nYou also recall that decorator crabs use various materials scavenged from the sea floor to hide from or ward off predators. Further knowledge floods your tiny brain, such as the fact that you stick mostly sedentary animals and plants to your body as a form of camouflage or, if the attached organisms are noxious, to ward off predators through aposematism, or warning colouration.\n\nYou have your bearings now. You feel graceful, tall, elegant, but is it any wonder, being of the species Macropodia Rostrata; the Long-Legged Spider Crab?\n\nDaintily you prance across the sea bed, picking out juicy tidbits from amongst the rocks like a spindly street-cleaner. You can't recall a time you felt happier; the swell of the ocean makes you feel truly alive. This, you think to yourself, this is what it means to be a crab.\n\nYou freeze in your tracks as you spot a suspicious-looking rock. It sticks out amongst the existing geology in that it appears to sway slightly. Crabs might be your bag, but you know a camouflaged cyanea octopus when you see one. As a decorator crab, your best bet to avoid being eaten is to do what you do best; adorn yourself with exotic marinal accoutrements. \n\nYou need to act fast; the "rock" ahead of you is altering in shape and colour, pulsing a vivid red then gradating to a rich, deep blue and back, over and over. The cycle lasts no longer than a second at a time; it's as if the octopus has become a squidgy, wobbly siren and is coming to read you your rights. You have the right to remain tasty.\n\nThere are two types of detritus immediately to hand: a vivid plume of bryozoan Bugula Neritina and, to your right, the chemically noxious alga Dictyota Linearis.\n\n[[Decorate yourself with Bugula Neritina]]\n\n[[Decorate yourself with Dictyota Linearis]]
You hastily decorate yourself with the bugula neritina and snuggle into a corner of the coral in an attempt to blend in. You do your utmost to remain perfectly still as the octopus slithers along the coral toward you. She has enveloped you now and her floppy bod slops across the rough texture of your exoskeleton. She appears to remain in transit, however, and you feel as if she may have overlooked you.\n\nThen she stops dead. Your vision is filled with suckers. And that's what you are for thinking you could fool her with camouflage. A sucker. Everyone knows that Long-Legged Spider Crabs decorate with Dictyota Linearis, the toxins of which may have dissuaded her from approaching in the first place.\n\nHer chromatophores contract and she turns a satisfied, dull brown colour. Using her tentacles, she begins to guide you towards her hungry beak, as if you were on an airport travelator to Deathsville. As her poison enters your body, you feel strangely happy; at least you know you will now provide energy to this octopus so that she will be able to complete her final journey of looking after the twenty million kids she's about to lay in her cave.\n\nTwenty million. Christ. And you thought Barry on his own was a handful. Oh Barry, my one son, you deserve better than this. Your think of your human son as the hard shell of your head shatters and splinters, pushing itself into your miserable little mound of mush you call your crab brain, and all goes dark.\n\n[[Shit.]]
\nThis is the last straw. You leap to your feet, ready to give the monk a piece of your mind. Except he's nowhere to be seen. Cautiously, you make your way to the exit. You grimace as you are hit by the same biting wind that welcomed you at the start of your journey.\n\nYou are suprised to see a sherpa, mostly because you thought they were indigenous to Nepal. He offers to lead you back down the mountain to the bus stop. You couldn't be happier. Soon you will see Jess and Barry and Crabra Windsor.\n\nThe sherpa retrieves a piece of tuppaware from his knapsack and offers you a crab salad. You laugh heartily, "no thanks", you reply, "I think I've had quite enough crab for one lifetime".\n\n\n\nYOU WERE A CRAB
This blonde bastard is too big to take head on, you think to yourself, and so you decide to play dead and concede the battle, hoping he will be satisfied eating the cod. No such luck. The Golden Retriever picks you up in his cavernous, stinking maw and starts to chew.\n\nAll you can do is tuck your eyes in and pray.\n\nFortunately, your tough exterior proves unpalatable to the canine clown, and he twats you several metres into the sea, which is more like several hundred metres in crab metres, which is really far.\n\nInjured but not defeated, you hobble agonisingly back to the place where you found your potential meal. It is, of course, gone without a trace. That damn dog. You will have to return to your burrow without food.\n\nAs you make your way home, you start to wish you had spent more time with your family instead of fighting large mammals.\n\n\nBut wait, is this a crab thought you are having, or a person thought? Suddenly you realise that your hands are the same size again, and the sandy texture of the beach has been replaced by hard floor. You are back in the monk's chamber. You still cannot make out his face, but you are certain he is smiling.\n\n"It was hard, wasn't it, knowing that you were unable to provide for your family? Did you feel the crab's anguish at the thought of returning home, empty-pincered? Look to yourself, to your own life, Darrell. Who needs you the most? The crabs? Or Barry?"\n\n[[Respond]]
The choice was a simple one. I mean, you're not a complete idiot; you're a goddamn Long-Legged Spider Crab for pete's sake, covering yourself in toxic Dictyota Linearis is what you do.\n\nThe slimy, amorphous pillock approaches you with curiosity, tasting the sea floor with her tentacles like a child with poor table manners licking her plate clean at the captain's table. You curse under your breath as one of your famously shit legs snaps off for no apparent reason and floats towards her. \n\nThe leg attracts her attention, however, and she quickly slurps it up like a neglected Dyson. The moment it disappears up her blubbery dress she turns a sickly green colour, as if she were vomiting internally. The toxins taste bloody awful, and she about faces and slumps away, dejected. \n\nYou are relieved, but far from happy as your human musings being to meld with your bog-standard crab thoughts.\n\n"It's a shame; I mean, she was only trying to survive and get food for her offspring. Nothing more. You'd do anything for your kids, wouldn't you?". You feel a pang of guilt as you are reminded once more of your son, Barry Pinch. As you attempt to hobble away, the world around begins to demateralise once again. Basially, imagine that thing they do in Assassin's Creed where it all starts turning into wireframes and shit.\n\n[[Shit.]]
You awake on a beach in an unidentified country. As a crab, you have no way of knowing for sure whether all the environmental details you can see are factually accurate, but that doesn't worry you, because you've just spotted a really dead cod. Lunchtime.\n\nAs a scavenger, as all crabs are, you instinctively move towards this fortuitous, fishy treat. Something's wrong, however: you seem to be heavier on one side.\n\n"Why the hell do I have this one massive hand?", you wonder. As if to answer your crab question, an echo of a memory arises inside the carapace housing your miniscule crab mind, as if another being is answering your question. You are a fiddler crab, and having one gigantic claw and one tiny one is perfectly normal. \n\nYou sigh a great sigh of relief and scuttle on towards the icthyic buffet.\n\nAs you approach the delicious cod-aver, a gigantic, hirsuite quadraped hurtles into view, blocking out the sun and casting you in total shadow. You shiver a little crab shiver at the sudden drop in temperature. A Golden Retriever has spotted the gill-bearing snack and fancies it for his own dinner. \n\nThis is absolutely horrible timing, as it has been exactly two weeks since you fertlised the missus and, any moment now, she is due to emerge from the burrow to lay her spawn. Not only that, but this fluffy, glimmering monstrosity is considering you as an aperitif. He brings his hulking great, wet nose right up to your stalky little eye and sniffs. The massive berk is in pinching range now, but you wonder whether attacking will merely enrage the beast. That said, will playing dead dissuade him from eating you? \n\n[[Pinch at the dog's nose]]\n\n[[Play dead]]
As you become a crab for the third time, you seem to have more of your faculties; where previously you wandered between the mind of a crab and the residual memory of Darrell Pinch, you feel more Darrell than crab.\n\nYou inspect your new body and marvel at your brilliantly bright orange legs and claws. Crabs really are amazing. Taking stock of your surroundings, you notice something artifical about the stones beneath your feet. Is that glass? It soon transpires that you are inside a tank. You are a pet crab!\n\nUpon scrutinising your reflection you see that you have a striking blue carapace; you are a Rainbow Land Crab, a crab commonly kept as a pet. \n\nThe tank is inside a large, blue room. Wooden shelves are adorned with various action figures. There is a whole shelf dedicated to models of various crabs, although it seems to be tucked away in a corner, as if it has been reluctantly included amongst the bipedal death robots and anthropomorphic rhinoceroses brandishing battleaxes.\n\nSat on a small bed in the corner, you notice there is a young boy, head in hands, crying. An unbearable wave of nausea overcomes you as you realise you are looking at your own son, little Barry Pinch. You have possessed the body of Crab-ara Windsor, the Rainbow Land Crab you bought Barry as a pet.\n\nThe door opens and in walks Jess. She kneels gently by Barry's side.\n\n"What's wrong, son?" she asks, delicately, although she already knows the answer.\n\n"It's dad" replies Barry, through the chest-heaving sobs that rack his tiny little body, "he was meant to be back two weeks ago. Has he left us?"\n\nJess steels herself, her voice wavering but not cracking under the strain. She knows she has to stay positive in front of Barry.\n\n"He's probably just spending more time up there than he thought he would. You know how he gets carried way with crab stuff"\n\n"But he's never away this long, mum. He was meant to come to my bassoon performance at school. Everyone else's dad was there. I felt so stupid"\n\n"Listen, sometimes dad lets work get on top of him. He really, really loves his crabs, you know, and it is important research, but that doesn't mean he doesn't love you. I know he does, even if sometimes it doesn't seem like he does. Why don't we talk to him about it when he comes back? I'm sure he'll understand"\n\n"But what if he doesn't come back? What if something's happened to him?"\n\nJess swallows hard and blinks a few times before answering. "He'll come back. I know he will. I just wish he could somehow let us know he's okay"\n\nDesperately, you pound the glass with all your might. Your claws hurt from the repeated impact but you just have to let them know that you're here, in crab form, and you'll never do this to them ever again. You wish you could just bury yourself completely in the sand like a Dungeness Crab, but as a mere Rainbow Land Crab, all you can do is mournfully retract your eyes. You look around for choices to make, but there is no choice to make. \n\nYou begin to cry. You cry huge, salty, crab tears. Your expert crab knowledge comes to the fore, however, and you remember that crabs are incapable of crying. You're back in the chamber once again.\n\n[[Where's that frigging monk?]]\n
"End of the line, pal. You'll have to walk the rest of the way from here", booms the coach driver from his seat. Looking in the rear view mirror, you notice a flicker of a smirk cross his lips. Grumbling, you hoist your backpack onto your shoulders and, stooping down, you emerge from the coach doorway into bitterly cold winds. \n\n"How dare they treat me like this, like a common citizen". You curse the team back home at Crab Central and vow to fire a few people when you return - clear out the deadwood – starting with the trip organiser. You begin to wonder, "what if this whole thing is a hoax? Why would a mystical crab monk live atop Mount Yari in Nagano prefecture, Japan, and what is the likelihood of him knowing more than me, Darrell Pinch, the world's number one carcinologist"?\n\n"Still", you think to yourself, "at least it gets me away from the family. Jess is always nagging me to spend more time with the boy. Doesn't she understand the importance of crab research? We could be as little as two years away from deciphering the Crabphabet (Crab Alphabet) at this point. I'm always telling her 'Jess, little Barry is going to have to learn to fend for himself one day, and he'll never leave the burrow if you're mollycoddling him all the bloody time. He needs to earn his pincers'. "\n\n"All she can think of to say back to me is 'Stop using crab anaolgies instead of proper ones, Darrell, they're weird and they don't make sense'. "\n\n"And now she's introduced this 'crab-free Wednesday' nonsense, where we sit at the dinner table, in silence, to 'spend some time as a family for a change'. That's a good twelve hours of eye stalk silhouettes I could have cut."\n\nGathering your thoughts, you focus on the task at hand; to climb Mount Yari, which translates as 'spear' in Japanese, is 3,180 metres high and was first climbed on the 28th of July, 1828, and find the mysterious monk's chamber.\n\nAfter what seems like days, the climb still stretches out inexorably before you. You are exhausted. Just as you consider giving up and turning back, you can make out the dim outline of a structure in the thick fog. It is a magnificent, gargantuan stone crab, easily fifty feet high. You recognise the species immediately; "Akategani. Red-clawed Crab" you whisper in awe. Both the extreme cold and your fatigue take a back seat as you stand before the structure, agape. Such an intricate design. Such detail. You notice a small doorway hosted within its mandibles. Cautiously, you make your way inside.\n\nThe chamber feels immediately warm, yet you see no heating system, save for a dim torch on the opposite wall. \n\n"it is the warmth of knowledge" comes a voice, seemingly from inside your own mind. It is as if your mind is being read. The monk appears suddenly in front of you, yet you do not recall seeing him enter the room. Your limbs feel as if they are fixed in place.\n\n"Well, a combination of knowledge and underfloor heating" he concedes, "alas, I digress; Darrell Pinch, number one carcinologist, do you seek total crab knowledge? Do you wish to obtain...crab-niscience?" \n\nYou nod slowly, transfixed by the apparition before you. He is dressed in a simple black robe which covers his entire body. The gold trim rests gently on the underheated floor. You peer into the pitch black beneath his hood but you can see nothing, although you think you see a brief flash of what looks like mandibles. You are certain you detect the faintest scent of brine.\n\n" I know what you are thinking, Darrell. You doubt the worth of my teachings. Let me ask you this; what does a crab feel? What is crab love? What does a crab value, above all else? If you really, truly wish to obtain crab-niscience, make your way to the main chamber...and become a crab"\n\nWith these parting words, the monk departs, sideways, until he leaves your field of vision. It is only now you are able to move again. You whirl around to look for him, but he has vanished.\n\nYou know what you must do. You take a deep breath and stride forward, into the main chamber. You immediately feel as if you are evaporating into the air, yet it is not an unpleasant feeling. You lose all consciousness as the void rushes up to meet you.\n\n\n[[Am I A Crab?]]
The dog's nose looms at you like a grotesque, moist hillock. You stand your ground, calm, poised, patient. Then, at the optimum moment, you strike. The retriever howls in pain so loudly, it send your mechanoreceptors abso-bloody-lutely doolally and you instinctively retract your weird little eyes almost into your head. Upon recovering, you see that the dog has given up and is now attempting to mate with a deckchair, leaving you to claim your prize. You have struck a blow for crabkind and you triumphantly feast on the cod, before returning to the burrow with some fishy detritus for the family. \n\nThe missus is pleased; soon she will crap out your children into the sea and you can't wait to see their spongy little embryonic faces for the first time. A tear rolls down your cheek as you remember little Barry Pinch. But wait, crabs can't cry, can they? \n\n"You are correct, crabs cannot cry" booms the monk's voice. Looking around, you realise you have returned to the chamber in human form, "but they can feel. The crab's goal was to provide, to be a loving crab dad, and he put that before everything else, including his life. Is that fiddler crab's plight so different from your own?".\n\n[[Respond]]
As your consciousness returns, you gingerly extend your – yes – your human fingers and are relieved to run them over the incredibly efficiently heated chamber floor once again. \n\nFrom your kneeling position, you slowly and painfully lift your head. The monk stands before you, silent. Feelings of anger and deep resentment well up in your chest and throat; you feel tricked, judged, mocked.\n\n"Alright, monk, I've had enough of this. I've learned my lesson. I don't want to be a crab anymore. You need to let me leave. You are holding me against my will"\n\n"We're not quite finished here yet" he replies, as a strand of seaweed inexplicably flops out of his sleeve.\n\nYou begin to protest but your words are cut short as your mouth hardens and once again becomes mandibles. Crabs have no vocal chords, so any protestations will have to wait. \n\n\n\n[[Oh Christ I'm a crab again aren't I?]]