We don't always see them, but they never fail to haunt each clumsy stride along the rock bund of Tanah Merah that divides a sandy flat from deeper reefs. To the jaded, their profile is etched in half-imagined memories of pain and suffering, but it's still entirely possible, during focused attempts to spot prettier things, to overlook a jagged frown amid slabs of slimy filaments and frenetic snails.
The epiphytes and bottom-feeders appear to make no distinction between broken stones and stubby bodies with broad fins and a tapering end. It probably makes no difference to the fish, as long as juicier inhabitants of the reef continue to come within range of its pout. What gives the game away, though, are the hollow cheeks, facial indentations that confer form to a pair of lidless eyes on bony ridges and a gape of ill-intent. Though damaged by a crude accident, the flats still seethe with gobies, cardinalfish, damsels and silversides that lose their confidence in the grey hours between day and flight. For these tender swimmers as well as toes who wander the shore with barely covered soles, it's a time of misgiving that could well end in a fatal stab into the dark.