The postcard read “Dear Sophie and Remy, I am well and steadily making progress. I am still in the Green, but I know that I will find the Red. I miss you and hope you’re both well. Please eat something delicious for me. See you soon, Gaston.”
Sophie felt happy about the postcard – it arrived despite the “snail mail” – but worry crouched in the corners of her mind. Where, exactly, was Gaston? How did he know where he was going? Was he doing ok in the unusual heat and dry weather? Her mind spun, thinking about Gaston, alone, out there.
Remy was more cavalier: Gaston must be fine – he’d sent a postcard, right? And Gaston was brave…and foolhardy. Remy knew Gaston would find trouble, eventually. Remy still smarted when he thought about the fun Gaston had poked at him. Remy pulled his head back into his shell and sat in a funk. He liked Gaston (despite how Gaston had, maybe unintentionally, embarrassed him about his shell) and he wished him no harm. Remy hoped Gaston would return and tell Sophie and him all about his bold adventures.
But where was Gaston? Unbeknownst to him, he was terribly off course. He was still in the Green, but so dangerously close to the Gray – an inhospitable, terrible place. A place where no snail should go. And a place about which Gaston had no inkling. But fortune had smiled upon Gaston, and he had unknowingly avoided the Gray by a hair’s breadth.
During his travels, Gaston had discovered a very strange place. It was a hole in the earth, something that looked like a safe shelter to a travel-weary snail. He had inspected the entry, and, intrepidly, gone in. But someone was already there.
“Who’s there??” demanded Gaston. “Show yourself!” A strange voice answered, “welcome, stranger. Come closer and we’ll talk.” Gaston was quaking in his shell, but he moved closer, into the light. And he saw who was there. Definitely not a snail!
Gaston had never seen such a creature: it was brown and looked to be armor-plated. “Good evening, I’m René. A crayfish, by the way.” A crayfish? But this was dry land, surely unsuitable for shellfish. Was René lost?
René explained that he was a land crayfish: one that ventured from the water to land, digging a burrow in wet soil. Gaston pretended to understand, but he was flabbergasted – such strange creatures in the Green! He accepted René’s invitation to stay for dinner (an assortment of selected vegetation) and the night. René was an attentive and entertaining host, and Gaston greatly enjoyed the time he spent at René’s home. He knew he had made a lasting friendship, and René invited him to come back anytime he wished.
In the morning, when the grass was still wet with dew, he thanked René for his hospitality and resumed his journey. As he looked back, he saw René – who preferred not to be out in daylight hours – at the mouth of his burrow, sadly waving goodbye with one of his shiny claws. René wondered if Gaston would be successful in his quest, knowing there were monsters out there. With that thought, René backed down into his burrow, wishing Gaston safe travels. A crayfish out during the day was an invitation for a hungry predator to have a meal.
Gaston moved silently through the grass, wondering how far the Green extended. He also wondered if there were more places, far off places he and others hadn’t contemplated. What if there were places other than just the White, the Green, the Blue, and the mythical Red? How did you get there? Why hadn’t visitors spoken of these places?
As he continued on, Gaston marveled at the wonders he had seen so far, and imagined those yet to come. The world was so much bigger than he’d known. And he wanted to know about everything – creatures, plants, terrain, and anything else out there. His was a worthy quest, and the adventure of his lifetime.