Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Snail and the Centipede - a Modern Fable

The Snail and the Centipede

The sun was absolutely brilliant today. So brilliant, it streamed through the two-inch thick carpet of grass that made up the refuge and home for one of natures little workers. The breeze off the coast filtered through in wafts, cooling other occupants scattered amongst the grass.
A diminutive figure slithered out of the lawn and onto the concrete mass of the path. His slow, inexorably measured progress clearly marked by the trail of slime that emanated from his shelled body. Derek was in no particular hurry this day. He had seen the humans disappear in their conveyance, noted the pesky feline disappear over the fence, and had determined that any threat-predators to his safety were snoozing it off in the midday sun. He had determined now was the time to make a dash to the other side of the path, to the sanctuary of the garden hither. He had been watching carefully from his retracted home for some time, the thought of that lovely lettuce too much of a temptation to ignore. There it stood before him now, a bright iridescent green in the midday sun, leaves softly brushed by the breeze. And not a sign of any bite marks or indications other species had spotted his prize.
"Hey, snail, where the hell are you going, not like you to be out in the midday sun."
Derek turned in startled horror, terrified that he had been discovered, and immediately dove back into his home for fear of being consumed by some great predator.
"Hey, what you doing snail? I ain't gonna eat ya."
"Ummm, how do I know that is true?" asked Derek, peering out from under his shell. He saw a number of brown encrusted legs approaching him, a large number of them in fact, marching in perfect unison, just like those crossed hammers he had spied one night, when he had been slithering on a window on the humans shell.
"Because snail, I know where you are going and what you are going there for, but I have a better offer for you and I thought you might like to share it with me?" replied the pesky centipede. "By the way, my name is Stryder and yours is…."
"Derek," volunteered the snail, "and how do I know that you don't mean to eat me when I come out of my shell? I know your kind, I've seen the evidence of your carnivorous intents before!"
"Oh, come now, I'll be honest with you, I found this plant in that garden you're heading for and I want to see what you think. I had a feed of it the other day, and I didn't come to until this morning. Really weird!"
"So what has that got to do with me then, you know I only eat leafy vegetables. Is it a leafy plant or something else?" asked Derek, now somewhat bemused by this turn of events.
"Well," started Stryder, " it has these rather funny leaves on it, and it gives off a bit of an odour, but since I hadn't seen it around before I decided it must be alright to eat, as it was with all the other delicacies. I didn't count on the after effects though, and still can't explain it."
Derek noted the confused look on the centipede's face, and decided then that this creature was indeed confused about something, and apparently no immediate threat to his survival. He slithered out of his shell and raised his bulbous torso fully erect to display his full size to the centipede, who now shrunk before him.
"Come on then, show me what you have found, but don't rush too quickly, remember I'm only a snail and not one of your flighty fillies." Derek turned in the general direction of the garden, keeping one eye on his intended path, and the other firmly fixed on the centipede.
"Hey Roy, they gone, bro, fucken A1, Man."
"Whada fuck you talking 'bout, bro?
The two figures peered over the fence now, both looking at the neighbours yard, noting the disappearance of the occupants next door. No movement in the house, from the garden, or the yard, and the garage door wide open and the Mercury not in its secure stowage.
" Hey, Dickface, how long they bin gawn for, man?' asked Roy.
"Aw, bout five minutes, bro."
"Ah, shit man, better give it another five, jus' in case they forgot somink. Get me another JD's shithead."
The two bikers refilled their glasses and sat down to wait out the time they had decided on. The sun really was hot and the shade offered by the veranda only served to keep the light out. It was still screaming hot!
"Hey, Roy, flick another CD on bro, bit of Dave Floyd eh, and turn the sound right up! No one home to piss us off next door, eh!" Marcel ripped off a peel of ranting laughter, and vented a vociferous belch just for good measure.
Roy, ever the dutiful younger brother, did as he was bid, and the Delicate Sounds of Thunder peeled off into the atmosphere at full volume.
****************************
"Whadya think, then snail, weird eh?" Stryder stood on his back 30 legs proudly holding the stem of the plant he stood at in his other 34 legs.
Derek surveyed the tall specimen of greenery, noting the unusual placement of the leaves, and the even more peculiar shape of its leaves. This Stryder was right, this was a new one, and weird to boot, but those leaves sure looked inviting.
"What do you think it is?" ventured the snail to the centipede, "some sort of creeper or herb perhaps?"
"I don't really know there snail, but it is sure as heck different. I thought you might know, seeing how you are the supposed expert on these matters!"
"Mmm, and you said you didn't remember what had happened to you for two days, yet there are no other side affects, right?" Derek looked quizzically at the centipede, trying to discern a trap, but saw only bemused disbelief at his own ignorance of what had happened. This Stryder, he surmised, was on the level.
"Look, I'll tell you what I'll do" said Stryder to Derek, " I'll climb up there and cut all the leaves down, and we'll try some out down here and see what you think, eh?"
" Yeah, good idea," thought Derek, "at least it would save me having to slither all the way up there and back again, and if what you say is true, I might not have a memory when I come down, and it would be better to try it on level ground, you reckon?"
"No problems, there, on me way."
Stryder scampered up the bush and in a matter of half a minute, had de-leafed the whole thing, the leaves dropping to the ground in a neat pile around the stem, and to Derek's relief, right in front of him. He watched the centipede return to the ground and they approached the feast before them. He noticed the smell, sort of pungent, but not too overpowering. The green of the leaves not as bright as his favourite lettuce but nonetheless inviting.
"You first," motioned Stryder, and the snail begun tucking into his gift from his new friend.
*******************************
"ay, B-B-BRO, wake up dude, we fell asleep in the sun man, hic!" Roy was standing, in fact swaying in front of his brother's vision. The liquor had had a very quick effect on the two men.
"Come on man, we gotta hurry, the fucken idjuts next door'll be back soon. And we gotta get some of that pot man. I'm busting for some fresh 'erb!"
They ran as fast as they could, scrambled over the five foot boundary fence and raced for the vegetable garden, not entirely aware of the noise they were making, nor the destruction they created on their flight from the fence to the garden. The overriding need to get the pot consumed their every thought, and stifled their need to be undiscovered. Hell, it didn't matter anyway, they were the only potheads around these parts anyway, and they wouldn't get killed over one tiny plant, that's for sure.
Roy arrived at the plant first.
"Hey, fuck, man look at this, all the leaves have fallen off it. Fucken weird man."
Roy stood transfixed by the vagueness of it all as his brother sauntered up to him.
"Wadda fuck, man that's a blast. Hey, hurry, scoop 'em all up and we'll take 'em all back. Shit I only wanted a leaf or two, but what the hell, eh!"
Roy bent down and scooped up all the leaves on the ground, palming them in his hand and placing them roughly in his pocket. They then turned and darted back to the fence, scrambled back over it and raced to the security of the veranda again.
"Fuck it's hot man, lets snort another JD's or two before we flash it up man." Marcel was exhausted from the sudden unexpected exercise, and the need to catch his breath and cool off a bit overrode any desire to hit up immediately. He headed off inside to get the required booze, whilst Roy sat wheezing on the veranda, unconsciously rolling the leaf into a big long cigar shape in his pocket.
*****************************
Derek was frightened, very frightened. One minute he and Stryder were quietly munching on the first leaf, and the next, they're being scooped up into a bunch of leaves and bundled into a dark space. The sudden interloping action had caused the cautiously frightened snail into his obligatory shell, and there he now remained, as he was rolled over and over. The pressure on his shell was immense, almost crushing it, but the leaf was acting as a cushion, softening the affect of the danger. Of Stryder, he had no clue where he was. For all he knew, the centipede was dead.
But one thing he couldn't escape, and that was the affect the leaf was having on his mind. Man if he, a snail had wings, right now he would be flying. Even with the danger of death around him, he felt really good. Wow.
*******************************
Roy took four sheets of Rizzla papers from his packet, licked two together and joined them, and then licked another two together, and joined the two amalgamated pieces together to make one large long sheet of wrapping for the bullet he was about to manufacture. He withdrew the plant from his pocket, placed the now rolled leaf on the sheets of paper, and began to roll them together between his dextrous and nimble fingers, long used to doing this delicate task. He turned in time to see Marcel stagger out onto the veranda with the shots of JD, reached out for his glass, at the same time finishing off the roll, and licking down the edge for a secure finish. He passed the over sized joint to his brother, and motioned for him to have first dibs at the monstrous reefer. Hell, he knew it would be shit, what with using fresh leaf, but what the hell, he felt good, and this leaf looked high grade.
Marcel removed the well worn Army surplus Zippo his father had left him form his jeans pocket, and just as Breathe started up on the CD player, took to the reefer with relish, lighting and dragging deeply in one precise well practised motion, dragging the first smoke deep into his decaying lungs. He held it for about ten seconds, savouring the hit as it started to spread.
Then he toppled over on the veranda, clutching at his chest, beating it frantically, and throwing the reefer onto the grass as he toppled to the ground in a thunderous painful heap.
*****************************
Stryder wasn't prepared for what had happened. Sure the sudden change in circumstances, the jostling and the rolling, and even more rolling were scary, but by that stage, the first three bites had been consumed and he was tripping away into centipede nirvana again. Hell, he felt great. Death was the last thing on his mind. But the sudden intrusion of the hot harsh smoke had snapped him out of his reverie, and as he was sucked out of the leaf with a sudden gush, clarity permeated his mind, and fear took hold. The wind carried him down into a deep and moist crevasse, follicles of tiny hair reaching out to grab him.
And as suddenly as it had started, it ceased, and he found himself resting in a tube like encasement, pliable under his feet, moist, but nonetheless foreign. And the smoke began to affect him. Badly. His paranoia took over and in his moment of fear, he bit into the fleshy cavity, releasing his venomous protective juices to try and defend himself. He hadn't expected the sudden rush of liquid and in a matter of seconds, Stryder perished in the gooey mess of coagulating blood and hemp smoke.
***************************
Roy leapt off his seat on the balcony, trying in vain to reach out to his dying brother, and in his haste, failed to see the glass at his foot. He placed his bare foot straight down on top of it, breaking the fragile object, and shards deeply pierced his skin, causing extreme pain in his foot. But he had to get to his brother, and quickly, something bad had happened, and it was possibly his fault. The infernal joint? That damned reefer.
He reached the slumped figure, blood streaming from its agape mouth and nostrils, rich foamy red blood. He ran his finger through it, unable to believe what was happening here. He took a long hard stare at the tip of his finger to seek some sort of understanding as to his brother's plight, quizzically scanning the blood with his bemused eyes.
He got up from his crouch, suddenly aware that he needed to call an ambulance. He wasn't trained for this. Sure he had seen ER and Chicago Hope plenty of times before, but he was only interested in the great looking bods of the actresses, not interested in that medical shit. He started walking inside to get to the phone, and as the pain lanced up his leg from his wounded foot, he lost his balance, and began to topple backwards. The crack of his head hitting the veranda post was the last thing Roy ever heard.
***************************
Derek woke up in the long grass, the sun streaming in through the tall leaves, warming his shell. He crawled out from his temporary exile and surveyed his surroundings. He saw the path before him, and tried to think why he had seen it before. In fact his memory recalled he had been across it before, but for the life of him, he couldn't figure out when? Man, he thought to himself. My mouth tastes like shit. Ah that's right, those leaves the centipede had cut for them to share. Geesh, they were real bad karma. Trust a centipede to try and screw him up. Oh, well, he thought, back to that juicy lettuce plant. But later. When it's dark. Nobody around then.











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