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The marmorkreb hustle

November 2nd, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

For what seemed like the longest time, there was only the one. Alex called her Dahlia for some reason he couldn’t recall. Alone in its aquarium, his marbled crayfish would eat whatever Alex would add to the tank: plants, insects, minnows, even dog food once. Dahlia would consume anything. Though the honeymoon with her yawned across months in Alex’s mind, it was in fact only eighteen days before the inevitable happened. This was an anticipated development, though also an underappreciated one.

After changing her water one afternoon, he awoke to discover that Dahlia had reproduced and was no longer alone in the tank. Two more crayfish were there with her, just as the shady pet store owner had promised. This was a relief for Alex, who had begun wondering if it had been worth his trouble to jump through all those hoops with that guy to acquire Dahlia since possessing a marbled crayfish is illegal in Missouri. But finally her asexuality had kicked in and Alex’s imagination danced with excitement at the thought of feeding her offspring to his puffer fish, Greg.

Alex was too young to have ever had the movie Gremlins on his radar, which was a shame, as this is one of the few times it would have proved to be instructive. As a rule, buying outlawed creatures from a person who warns you repeatedly about the potential consequences of your actions while you daydream of a utopian future with your new pet is a bad idea. This was precisely the trap both Billy, the protagonist in the film, and Alex had fallen into. So while he waited for the new arrivals to grow large enough to satisfy Greg, Dahlia was making other plans.

Three days after the initial reproduction, four more crayfish appeared. Alex was elated. This was just what he had hoped for! If Dahlia and her children could live on whatever detritus came along, he now had engineered an entire food chain for Greg at no cost. But just as quickly as fortune seemed to favor him, suddenly the population was capped. Worse, the offspring simply didn’t grow up. They would increase in size progressively over a period of maybe four weeks, then suddenly shrink back to their birth size. This went on for over a year before a local newscast clued him into the reasons behind the phenomenon of anti-aging crayfish.

Apparently an invasive species had overrun the lake down the block from Alex’s home, and had been ruining the ecosystem for the past year, the extent of which was just being realized. The pests were a rare form of crayfish sometimes known as marmorkrebs, that possess a “Houdini-like ability to escape poorly-maintained aquariums and cross land to locate the nearest body of water.” Alex realized he had in fact been witnessing an assembly line of crayfish created, briefly nurtured and then sent away, but had always mistaken the third step as a reset to the first. Dahlia had created an army down at the lake that nearly owned it already.

Alex blanched, knowing he looked bad in the story, yet also recognized the author as very sleepy. Oh, if only he could explain the part about th-

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