Justin DeCarlo



O Brave Monster, Lead the Way

Justin DeCarlo

What are we looking at?

The television.

Yes, but what is happening?

Don’t you remember? 

It looks familiar.

It’s that day on Christmas Island.


Oh, there I am! And look at you in your brown suit! You’re sweating.

So are you. It was such a sweltering October morning.

But I’m wearing a dress. It’s so pretty. I loved that dress.

Loved? Past tense?

I remember the fact of loving it, but I suppose I don’t know what the feeling is like now. But it was my favorite shade of green. Is that green?

Yes, I believe so. The colors have faded, haven’t they?

They have.

Is this a tour group? Why are we in that room?

You really don’t remember, do you?

Things are hazy. And my eyes still haven’t adjusted to the darkness of this room. I can barely see.

There’s not much to see. It’s just us, the TV, a nightstand, and a door that’s locked from the outside.

It’s slowly coming back, I think. I remember the stale coffee on that table in the corner. Oh, there I am, washing down a donut with some now.

I remember the donuts. What is that noise?

Static from the TV. It’s not the best picture, is it?

Can you turn it off? 

There isn’t a remote. And no buttons on the TV. I feel we shouldn’t be watching this. Watching ourselves I mean. 

But of course we have to.

Of course.

Keep your car smelling like the disgusting hallowed waters of the briny deep with these designer air fresheners, made with premium essential oils. Three distinct scents: Shellfish, Seaweed, and Chum. Now you can cruise down the highway with the spirit of the Lord flowing through your nasal cavity. Just $14.95 for the set! 

That is so annoying. I hate commercials.

Do you believe in reincarnation?

What? Why? Do you think that’s what happened to us?


But I don’t think we died. And we still look like us. Wouldn’t we reincarnate into something else?

When I was younger, my mom told me that we were reincarnated. Once, we were on a cruise and she told me that if you listened closely, over the waves, you can hear the barnacles that were clinging to the side of the ship whispering to each other, telling stories. She said we were barnacles in a past life and she wanted nothing more than to return to that life. That day, it was just me and her, but as barnacles, there would be thousands of us. Turtles, cucumbers, and hags—all of the sea variety—would gather ‘round the ship once a month to listen to our stories, waves crashing down on us. But the most powerful wave couldn’t budge us. 


You don’t like that story

It’s not for me. It was for you. It’s nice.

I shouldn’t have told you.

Would you relax?

Sorry, I’m just uncomfortable.

We can’t feel love and colors have lost their vibrancy, but we can still feel uncomfortable.


Or whatever. Wait, vibrancy sounds right. Oh, there’s that nun! We’re about to join her in the Lord’s Prayer. Do you remember it?

I think so, actually.

Let’s try to say it along with them.

With us. 

Us too. 


That was nice, I think.

I think so too. You’re going in for a second cup of that coffee.

To wash down those dusty donuts. 

Why were you there? Why was anyone there? Look at me. I’m the only one correcting the nun on the year that the church was founded on the island. No one else seems to care. Not even her.

I was lost.

And look at you now.

And look at me now.

Ever since I could remember, I felt so full of the great crustacean spirit. I took my first sideways step at nine months. That’s what made my parents join the church. They knew I was destined for greatness.

And look at you now.

And look at me now.

Are those your parents? In the shorts, holding all of those bags from the gift shop?

Yes. They tried. They were devout in their own way. Or, through me, they were vicariously devout. It gave them something. I don’t think that they understood that salvation lies not in a leap of faith but a delve into the darkness. A true union with Him can only be reached through suffering and anguish. I achieved this by moving back in with my parents, into my childhood bedroom. I emerged only to let others bask in my tears and for light meals. I remember passing out after some particularly violent sobbing and his Greatness spoke to me in a dream. The next day my family and I got on a plane to the island.

I remember the night before I got on the plane to the Island. I woke up sitting on my couch in total darkness, other than the blue light of the TV. The plate of eggs I had made earlier on the end table. I remember thinking that I must have slept for a while, but I realized that the same program was on that I had been watching. I just slept through the commercials. Then I got the sudden feeling that I was about to die. Like death’s hand was squeezing the back of my head, trying to take me. I wanted so badly to go with him but when I finally willed myself to stand up, I passed out. I fell asleep for one more commercial and he spoke to me in a dream. When I woke up I couldn’t even tell if I was alive anymore.

But your heart was beating?

My heart was beating.

And you ate the eggs?

I ate the eggs. 

I think this is why you and I are here. Why we were saved. He spoke to us both that night. 

Now you can own a piece of history! These individually hand-forged aluminum plates commemorating the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Battle of the Sea Cucumbers are an excellent addition to any home that lives in fear of the terrible crab monster. Dishwasher safe. Do not microwave. 

Oh, the nun is walking over to the metal door.

I know this happened but it doesn’t feel like I was there. I feel like I watched it on TV before and I’m just watching it again.

But you were there. I was there. Weren’t we? I don’t see us. 

Everyone is so quiet. The creaking of that heavy metal door was excruciating. It doesn’t bother me now. 

There he is!

His greatness!

Look how elegantly he crawls out from his crypt. He must be four feet long from leg to leg.

I wish I felt like crying. There we are in the back.

I had no idea who you were then.

You do now?

Everyone is crying.

Not for the same reasons. The salty stench was like a punch to their faces. They weren’t ready. Our eyes watered with devotion.

And yet there they were.

There we were.

The terrible crab monster. 

Their god.

Our pal.

Our pal? Our pal, the terrible Crab monster?

No good?

No… It’s fine… 

Well, the reason we all traveled so far. The reason everyone is down on their knees.

My parents. The change falling from the pockets of my dad’s shorts as he bends over. He was the first to feel the wrath. It wasn’t quick.

No one was gifted an expeditious death.

No mercy was shown. I remember the nun started cleaning up right away. She knew it was over.

And the way she ignored us. As if she knew that we were to be spared.

Were we spared?

I don’t know. But our fate is certainly different than the others.

And there we go, walking through the big metal door. 

Smoke Sea Foam brand tobacco! Inhale the thick, brackish flavor, forget your troubles, and sink down to the bottom of the sea. But wait! If you act now and buy just one case of Sea Foam brand tobacco, receive as our gift to you a stunning meerschaum smoking pipe. Hand-carved from sepiolite rejected by the Black Sea and washed up onshore. A handsome addition to any collection.

Do you know what this is?

Is it sea mango?

It is.

Where did you get it? 

It was on the end table next to the television.


Its real name is Cerbera Manghas.

That’s nice.

Do you know why it is called that?

I do not. Will you tell me?

The name comes from Cerberus, the hound of Hades.

The dog with two heads.

Yes. He guards the gate to the Underworld.

The Underworld.

Yes. But he prevents people from leaving.

Who would want to leave?

I don’t understand that either. But it’s true. Some say he had a venomous mouth. Poison.

Like sea mango.

Like sea mango.

The terrible Crab Monster eats sea mango.

He does.

Oh, the television is off.


That’s my favorite part of television.

What is?

When you first turn it off.

I didn’t turn it off.

Well, the first few moments after it gets turned off by anyone.

I see.

When the screen goes black. And it seems to crackle with relief. Listen.

It’s almost…effervescent. A death rattle for sure.

Was that door there before?

Yes, I told you earlier.

Right, but it wasn’t open, was it?

It was not.

It is now.

We should go through and stand before him.

Yes, it feels like the right time.

Do you remember what his greatness told us?

I do. But I knew it all along.

I did too.

Justin DeCarlo grew up in New Jersey. He now lives in New York. His work has appeared in the Brooklyn Review and Entropy Magazine.