Krilly was a frisky little blue crab that lived in the waters of St. Augustine Creek, near Savannah, Ga. On almost any day, you would find her playing her favorite game - hide and seek. It was a fun game to play in the dark waters of the creek. There were so many things to hide under. Lots of rocks, and mud, even old tires and algae-encrusted bottles. The coolest places were up in the marsh. During high tide, the stalks of the Spartina grass were covered with brackish water and Krilly would love to hide in the stalks of the tall marsh grass.
Krilly always had lots of other crabs to play with, too. Hundreds, really. Brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and friends and neighbors. Krilly spent most of her time (when she wasn't eating) playing with all of the other Blue Crabs that lived in the waters, nearby. They would chase each other, swimming sideways through the water, with their strong back legs and their flipper-like back feet.
They had 10 legs altogether, but they could only swim with the back pair of legs. The front pair was actually a pair of claws they used for catching their food, and the middle three pairs of legs were used to walk along the muddy bottom of the river. When Krilly swam, she would tuck-in the leading claw and her walking legs, and paddle sideways as hard as she could with her back paddles. She let the trailing claw hang beside her and used it to help her steer.
Sometimes, when she was hungry, Krilly would wiggle down in the soft mud, until all that stuck out of the mud were her round eyes on their little stalks and her antenna. She would lie there in the soft mud and wait for an unsuspecting critter to drift by in the water, then quick as a wink, she would snap out her claw and grab her dinner. When she was full, she would go play, again.
She had heard that many of the older female crabs would swim as far as 5 miles in a single day. Krilly liked to swim, but not that much. Maybe, when she was older, she would swim like that, too. But for now, she was happy to walk across the soft bottom of the river, swimming from time to time, hiding from a big fish, or playing with her brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and friends and neighbors.
She liked to play tag with her brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and friends and neighbors. When they caught each other, they would hold on with their strong claws until their opponent would finally yell, "Uncle!" and then they would let go and swim off for a another game of hide and seek. Sometimes, the bigger crabs liked to grab a hold with their strong claws and not let go. She didn't like to be held down, and learned how to be quicker that the older ones. She discovered that when she grabbed their back legs, the old ones were trapped. The couldn't reach her with their powerful claws and they couldn't swim away. They always yelled, "Uncle!" the loudest.
Then, one day she saw one of her cousins was missing a leg! She asked her other friends about it and they told her that he had gotten in a nasty fight with one of the mean crabs that lived under the bridge and the bigger crab had pinched off her cousin's leg. "Ouch!", she said out loud. "No big deal", her friend explained. "In a couple of weeks, it will grow back. "Really?", exclaimed Krilly. "Sure, right after the change", her friend said, as she swam off find some food.
Krilly had heard about the change, but wasn't sure what it was. Some had told her to watch for the sign. "What sign?", she asked. The sign on you back feet, silly.", she was told. "When the line on your back feet turns white, you have one to two weeks to go. Then when it turns pink, it will be just 3 to 6 days, then red means just 1 to 3 days are left before the change." "What change", thought Krilly. But it was too late to ask the question - her friend was gone.
Krilly considered herself lucky to be part of such a big community with millions of new friends to play with every day. She thought the fiddler crabs were so funny to watch. They would hold up their one big claw that looked like a fiddle and say, "Hey, Krilly, over here. Bet you can't catch me!" The other little claw just waved in the air like a bow about to play the fiddle. When Krilly would dart across the water at them, with her strong back legs and her flipper-like back feet, the fiddler crabs would rush up on the bank and away from the water. They looked like a small army, there were so many of them. "No fair", yelled Krilly. But the fiddler crabs would just taunt her, by waving their fiddle-like claw in the air and teasing, "Can't catch me, can't catch me." Krilly had no desire to crawl up on the land. She needed the water to breathe, just like a fish does, and her gills just weren't suited for breathing outside the water. "Learn how to play your fiddles", she taunted back, then swam away.
Krilly soon got tired of playing with the fiddler crabs, so she would just sit and watch the hermit crabs. "How sad! They didn't have nice shells, like me", she thought. In fact, if they didn't go find those left- over, second-hand shells, they wouldn't have any protection at all for their soft little bodies. Krilly couldn't imagine what that would be like. To be so exposed. So vulnerable. She loved her shell. It was plenty wide and long, with pretty red markings on her claws. All the boy crabs (they all called the boy crabs, "Jimmies") had blue markings on their claws, but she liked the way her claws stood out. It looked like she had bright red fingernail polish on, all the time. But, besides being pretty, her shell made her feel safe. After all, no fish in its right might would try to bite into her hard shell with all of its spikes and sharp edges. No, she was safe and protected in her hard shell.
One bright day during a slack tide, Krilly was enjoying a fish dinner, when she noticed the first sign of the change. There it was as clear as the antenna which dangled over her eyes - a white line along her back swimming paddles. "Oh no", she thought. "It can't be!" All day long, that day, she thought about the change. "What could it mean?" "What change?" "What will I be like after the change?" "Will it hurt."
The next week went by with more questions than answers. Krilly felt her body changing in strange ways. She stopped being hungry and felt a strange sensation in her back and legs. By the beginning of the second week, the line in her back feet was definitely turning pink. When Krilly saw the line on her foot was now pink, she was almost sick with worry. "What's happening to me?", she cried.
Her beautiful, wonderful shell was starting to feel so tight and old. There just wasn't any room inside. She loved her shell and wouldn't give it up for anything, but it just was so uncomfortable. She needed more room. Maybe if I eat less, I'll stop growing", she reasoned. But that strategy wasn't working. She had stopped eating altogether, but still she kept on growing.
For the first time, she envied the hermit crab. "If he eats too much, he could just crawl out of his old shell and crawl into a new one. But how could a Blue Crab give up their shell", she thought. It was a part of her. It was attached. It was what made her who she was. Krilly was beside herself with anxiety. She would be so helpless without her shell. It was her security. It was all she knew.
Krilly didn't want to play any more. The line on her swimming feet was red. She swam as far away from everyone as she could and found a rock and wedged herself under it. It was time and Krilly knew it. She wasn't sure what would happen, but she knew that she couldn't stop it. What would be, would be. If she was going to loose her pretty shell, then she would loose it. She just couldn't imagine what life would be like without it. Over the last few days Krilly's shell had gotten looser and looser and a new hard membrane had formed over her body, inside the shell. Today would be the day. Something inside her told her so. "I must be brave", Krilly thought. "I must be brave".
The big rock that Krilly hid under served to protect her from potential enemies, but it also served to hold her old shell in place. As Krilly wiggled and struggled, a line formed down the back of her old shell and it broke in half. Finally, she busted loose of the old shell and quickly found a new place to hide. She felt so lost and afraid. So vulnerable and alone. "I'm changing, all right", Krilly sighed. "I just don't know what I'm changing into." Over the next few days, something miraculous took place. Krilly started growing... really growing. She was almost one and a third times as big as she was just a few days before. The new membrane just kept swelling up with salt water, getting bigger and bigger. Then it got hard and pretty.
"Oh, my", Krilly thought. What a beautiful shell. What a BIG, beautiful shell." "If I had know it was going to be this nice, I would never have been afraid", she exclaimed! This is wonderful" She swam quickly back to her brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and friends and neighbors. "Look! Look at me." She wanted everyone to see how grown up she was and to notice her beautiful new shell.
"Your beautiful", her brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and friends and neighbors said. "Now, the next time, you won't be so afraid of change, will you?" they said. "Next time?" she whimpered, not quite so sure of herself. "Yes, dear, the next time - that was called a "molt". You'll go through quite of few of those changes in your life time and now you know that all of your worrying couldn't stop the change from happening. Change is a good thing, isn't it Krilly?" Krilly waved her claw. "A very good thing", she said.