calliope, calliope 2016

Life of a Snail

by loh pei yi

Pitter patter, pitter patter.

You sense the steady drumbeats of the first drops of rainfall that swiftly hurtle from the sky through the tactile receptors on your skin, from your cosy little home under a tree log. Wait. But you’re sensing something else. The persistent swishing of water that seems to shudder the ground under your foot. Uh-oh. Not again.

“Guys, it’s flooding!” you exclaim, hoping to arouse everyone’s attention. Time is precious for you, based on the rate at which the family evacuates. Oops. Arrgghh…you forgot that snails are deaf! Never mind. You revolve in circles and leave behind a strong trail of pheromones. Fortunately, the rest of the family shows up. Frantically, you help to carry some of the babies on your shell, while the family attempts to hurry as fast as their single foot can carry them.

*

Dry leaves bigger than you crunch underfoot as your family reach a dry spot, under the silhouette of a towering tree. Above you are layers atop layers of lush, elliptical leaves arranged in immaculate circles of branches, huddled closely to the tree trunk. Good protection from the rain, you deduce.

The drizzle has unwittingly transformed into a downpour. Visibility has reduced greatly—amidst the smoky wisps drifting languidly across the sky all you can see are smudges of green and brown and grey in the distance. The rain has thickened into a blanket, seemingly enveloping the surroundings with its silvery threads, directed by gusts of chilly wind. Both your spouse and you nestle the babies beside your body as the family sits quietly, picking up the faint scent of rain, watching patiently as streaks of lightning illuminate the monotony, followed shortly by the rumbling of earth beneath.

*

The precipitation dwindles to a stop. Gradually, the sun shyly peeks through overcast clouds. You marvel at the golden pools of sunlight cast on the ground, filtered through thick foliage. A light, refreshing breeze strokes you and ruffle the leaves affectionately with its cool, gentle hands, blending the pleasant scent of earth and fresh leaves. You close your eyes and stretch a little. In fact, this is your favourite weather.

Your family decides to linger here for a while. After all, scenery in the park is clearest now: the slight nuances in hues of green, every groove and contour on a tree, the intricate splashes of colour from fruit and flowers.

Oh yeah, you register, I need to check the state of our home after the rain. Signalling to your spouse, you swiftly move on after obtaining her approval, heading towards the tarmac pathway.

*

Abruptly your surroundings dim greatly. That’s strange, you wonder, it clearly isn’t nightfall yet. Glancing upwards, you freeze in sheer horror. Adrenaline pumps through your veins as shivers run through your gelatinous body.

It is the sole of a foot.

At least fifteen times your size.

Closing in. On. You.

*

Your muscles tense. Become numb.

Your mind goes blank, blank. Like fresh paper.

You cannot accept your fate.

Images of the family flash before your face. Your dear, affectionate spouse, who commits herself fully to the household. Your elderly, wise parents. Your ten adorable and energetic children, one of those whose shell is still limpid and transparent. Who visibly rely on you, as the head of the household.

The demon of desperation engulfs you. You attempt to stretch every inch of your body with all your energy and strength, ignoring the increasing fatigue creeping up on you.

But the looming shadow towers over you, getting bigger. And bigger. And bigger.

The fine grooves of the muddy sole on the lurid yellow shoe show up in greater detail.

You can’t move anymore. You’ve been drained of all vitality. Resignation inundates your soul, right down to the geometric centre of your shell. And suddenly something else occurs to you. Well, this is destined to be my end, you sigh to yourself. There’s no point trying to escape from reality.

Life is short, really.

Once again memories replay in your head. One by one. But they are different. You relish the surreal beauty of the park you’ve grown up in, pristine white laces amidst a brilliant azure, the luscious and verdant greenery, the familiar roughness of the tarmac. You recall the first time you’ve gotten entranced by her gaze, resembling an autumn zephyr, radiating warmth and comfort. You remember the ebullience on the first batch of pearly, perfect spheres bursting with hope and life, and the numerous outings you have had with the new family, watching the newborns grow with time.

A potpourri of emotions surges into your heart. The pang of sadness on leaving this beautiful world. The tint of resignation and acceptance. The satisfaction of living your past days meaningfully.

The foot closes in on you. You give in as it pushes down on your deep brown shell.

Pain shoots in all directions, like a burst of fiery arrows. You feel a warm liquid oozing out and staining your body.

You smile as the edges of your vision fade and blur. You close your eyes.

I’ve lived my life. Goodbye everyone. Goodbye world.

Darkness engulfs your world with pain.

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