First man

October 29, 2021

First man is a spooky short story I wrote for book club. I had missed the deadline as I was busy with work but inspiration struck the morning after and I was compelled to write something. Enjoy!

Natural museum of history

A mystery donation is left by the front doorstep of the museum. A large wooden crate, several metal chains are wrapped around its circumference with a large padlock to secure them together. The parcel has not been addressed to or from anyone and no writing of note other than in large-print black ink:


How is one supposed to open such an item without a key? The padlock is heavy in my hand, it drains my warmth and is cold to the touch. The air is brisk and a small cloud of vapour lingers from my hot breath. The sun waits below the horizon; it is still too dark to see well, but “the early bird gets the worm” or so they say.

I return with a bolt cutter, a crowbar, and a small flashlight. I cut into the first chain-link, it buckles and snaps. The chain rattles off the crate and falls onto the ground in a heap. One down, two to go. The next two aren’t quite as easy, I grit my teeth and press into them with all my might. One, two, three, and on the third attempt I cut deep and the chain falls to ground with the others.

I take a few steps back to survey and plan my next moves. It is then that I feel a sense of unease. I shrug it off, the crate calls to me. I must know what’s inside. Armed with a crowbar I set to work. I peel the slats of wood off with relative ease. The difficult work appears to have been done. A wave of salt air rolls out and with it a stench of dead fish and brine. Too dim to discern anything but a ominous shape of oceanic origin. I step closer to get a better look.

Up close, the stench is unbearable but I persist. I can see now, an object is trapped inside; tangled within a web of netting, a fisherman’s net. The net is covered in barnacles and rot. A curious thing, what prey is caught off the coast of the Atlanic? A few sea creatures surface in my mind: jellyfish, seal, squid, whale …, etc. Except none fit the bill. The size and stature leads me to believe… A human ancestor? And that’s when I see a human-shaped skull hidden beneath the net. A misshaped oblong head, with a cold expression; large bulging fisheyes, and razor sharp pointed teeth. I cannot believe my luck, the discovery of a century. I’ll be famous.

With the net off "the thing" is a sight to marvel. It must be examined and documented. I turn on the flashlight in my hand to shine where the light dares not. I begin: 5'1" tall, webbed claw-like hands and feet, red gill-like slits along the neck... Odd, I feel a wet breath on my face, and then I see it, the slight heave of its chest. I’m struck with terror and the light tumbles from my hand. A claw whips out, grasps my neck and pulls me close. Its maw opens wide, glistening, hungry. What a fool I’ve been, it’s too late for me now.