The Snails Are on the Move

Look, I got creeped out by snails one day and wrote this story. It was mostly to appease my own brain, but people seem to like it. Enjoy!

“Wonderfully visceral piece of story-telling.” – ABC Tales User

“How wonderfully horrifying!” – A Reddit User

The Snails Are on the Move

Harry noticed them immediately. Groups of snails clustered in three or four moving across the slick, freshly rained-out pavement. Steam rose in twisting tendrils off the warm pavement, obscuring their paths in a fine mist. Harry weaved through the snails like a slalom course, trying not to step on any. This can’t be normal, can it?  Every four to five feet in front of him, a new cluster of snails made their way through the world at a decidedly languid pace. 

CRUNCH.

Harry looked down, already feeling guilt and shame. Lifting his boot, he saw the shattered shell and gooey carcass of not one, not two, but three snails. “Ooh, I’m so sorry.” Genuine anguish filled his words. “Why do you have to cluster together like that?” It wasn’t the snails’ fault but asking helped. Harry made his way toward the grassy surface of the neighborhood park, hoping that the snails would stick to the concrete. His mistake was immediately apparent when he took his first step into the dewy grass.

SQUISH. CRUNCH.

He let out a gasp of horror and jumped back.

CRUNCH.

“Why?!”

The unforgiving gray sky, barely holding back a torrent of rain, didn’t answer.

Harry carefully moved away from the site of the kill, finding an unoccupied piece of pavement and staring out at the park. He was in the process of plotting a snail-free route home, when he saw the tree. The neighborhood park didn’t have many of them. There were rows of low shrubs next to the sidewalk, and a few saplings that would one day shade the paths, but an old oak dominated the landscape. Its branches were gnarled and crooked, standing out against the elements with suicidal determination.  

The tree looked sick. There were green leaves as one would expect at the end of spring, but something about the bark felt wrong. Bulbous knots dotted the thick trunk like sores waiting to burst. The tree groaned, giving the impression that it might collapse under its own weight at any minute.

Harold approached it out of a sense of need more than want. A slick, clammy chill fell over him as he stared at the bark. Growing dread mounted in his chest with every step he took.

CRUNCH.

Somehow, he found himself able to ignore the sound and the implication. He was transfixed by the bark of the tree. It looked as though it had blown a thousand tiny bubbles, and they shifted ever so slightly in the evening breeze. Only, the wind was calm. There was no breeze.

CRUNCH.

Harold didn’t look underfoot. Yes, the bark was moving. As he approached, he saw them. Thousands, maybe even tens of thousands. Snails coated every inch of the tree, writhing their way toward the upper branches. The soft, squishing sound of their movement was like a whisper in silence. Dread, confusing and all-encompassing, filled him in that moment. Despite the growing sense that something was very wrong, Harry couldn’t look away.

For an hour, or at least it seemed like an hour, Harry stared at the moving bark of the tree. Watching the snails make a seemingly endless march toward the sky. He didn’t feel the weight on his boots, or the slick sensation on his pantlegs. Time passed at blinding speed and was at the same time placid.

By the time the cold, creeping sensation had risen to his chest, there wasn’t much to be done about it. He couldn’t say why, but he knew the outcome was inevitable. His eyes darted down, just for a moment. Snails. Snails, covering his body from chest to foot. They were heavy, giving his clothes a sodden, soggy feeling. A numbing, slimy sensation ran up his neck. The snails are on the move. They were covering him, climbing, just like the tree. The inevitability of it was both comfort and dread.

His lips parted, maybe on the verge of forming a scream, but no sound came out. A snail, surprisingly heavy, slithered between them. Its bubbly shell filled his mouth. Why is this happening? Harry tried to take a breath and found he couldn’t. Soft, mucous underbellies covered his nostrils. He tried to move, wondering if there was a way out of this. Back to the path, back the few blocks to home.

Movement was impossible. His feet were fixed to the ground, weighed down by an endless wave of snails, measured and steady in their march. His lungs started to burn. A dark cloud came over the bottom corner of his left eye. He tried to blink, but couldn’t tell if his eyelid had moved. The world descended into darkness.

The snails are on the move. He knew that much was true. It would be impossible not to feel their movement. Wherever they were going, they were determined.

The burning in Harry’s chest changed to a shooting pain and he knew he would need to breathe soon. Against his better judgment, he inhaled, the sensation thick and wrong. His throat bulged and yet his mouth filled again with more slick bodies waiting to take the first one’s place.

The snails are on the move.


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