I've been trying for years to find a sci fi story I read as a kid. It had a stranded alien using shape shifting abilities to stalk and eat people in a town or city. The main character figures out that this is happening to people at dusk, and decides to inform the authorities. He goes to mail a letter to the government, but he's made a mistake and gone out as it's getting dark. The story ends with the character realizing the mail box is breathing on his hand.

I thought I remembered it being in an anthology with Fredric Brown's "The Star Mouse," but I may have been mistaken.

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    There is a list of anthologies that "The Star Mouse" has been published in on the ISFDB. Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 6:38
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    That somehow sounds cute, a mailbox breathing on one's hand. I realize it is in this case an excessively bad thing. I have not mailed a letter in a decade using a mailbox (do they still have them?) so I am safe anyway.
    – releseabe
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 22:45
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    I checked out most of the anthologies that have "The Star Mouse," and I didn't find any stories that match this.
    – DavidW
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 22:47
  • Many thanks to those tracking down anthologies with "The Star Mouse" - but as DavidW correctly noted, that's not where the story was... my recollection was wrong, I simply read both stories at the same time in the early '80s. Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 14:26
  • Thanks, marked as accepted. Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 14:30

2 Answers 2


Bob Shaw's 'An Uncomic Book Horror Story' in 'Cosmic Kaleidoscope'. I was very pleased to bump into this half remembered story last year.

It ends:

And much too late, he felt the hot breath issuing from the oblong mouth, as it closed greedily on his wrist.

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    This is it, added the quote. Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 11:26
  • That's it! It absolutely has to be! Many thanks... it's been bugging me for 30 years. Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 14:18
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    Confirmed - I found the story on InternetArchive. That's definitely it. Many thanks. Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 14:38

Possibly Dan Morgan's "The Humanitarian", in New Worlds #58 (April 1957).

The alien's normal diet is "food animals" who resemble humans but are not intelligent. He crash lands and they all die. On emerging he discovers that Earth is populated by intelligent "food animals". He adopts the human shape and eventually goes into a restaurant and gets talking to one George Beadle, who launches into a tirade against "vegetarian loonies" and declares that it is a natural part of evolution for more advanced species to eat inferior ones. This overcomes the alien's qualms of conscience about eating an intelligent being, and after leaving the restaurant he lies in wait for Beadle and eats him.

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