Short Read: A Snail’s Search, Part VII

As he contemplated how to get across the Gray, Sylvie’s warnings about its terrible dangers were still fresh in Gaston’s memory. Yet, he felt compelled to go there, feeling that some important event loomed in his future, and that it was inextricably entwined with his quest. He gazed at it with trepidation and worked up his courage.

Gaston moved out of the Green toward the Gray, arriving just as dusk descended. It was a desolate-looking place: strangely devoid of life, and it smelled odd, too. He touched it, gingerly, and it was both hot and rough. And frighteningly dry. Gaston wondered if this would be where he would die – shriveled, alone. He quickly backed away and withdrew into his shell. The next leg of his journey would have to wait until it was cooler.

He thought of his friends at the White, whom it felt like he hadn’t seen in a long time. Were they soaking up the cool dampness of early morning? Did they think about him? He wanted to be brave, but, right now, he longed to be in the company of Sophie and Remy, joking around like they used to, and just daydreaming about adventures. Sophie and Remy..!

As night fell, the temperature dropped and Gaston became more energetic (for a snail, that is). It was very dark as he moved into the Gray, now just tolerably warm. Though he couldn’t see anything, he knew he was moving forward. It was eerily quiet – even the usual night bugs were silent.

“Watch out!” cried a tiny voice in his ear. Gaston wondered if he was having some kind of auditory hallucination. “It didn’t survive the Gray,” the voice continued.

And then, there was a tiny light. Right in front of him. “Hi. I’m Lucien,” the light said. Gaston realized that a small dead animal, rather flat, lay before him, briefly illuminated. A squirrel, perhaps?

“Thank you,” said Gaston. Lucien blinked off, plunging them into darkness again. Then he lit up again. A firefly. And his friends joined them, too, lighting a path for Gaston. “I’m Gaston, and I very much appreciate your help!” Gaston moved more confidently with his entourage of new friends. He was going to make it!

The fireflies were excellent conversationalists, and remarkably well-read. Lucien seemed to particularly enjoy flashing messages in what Gaston soon realized was Morse code: …. . .-.. .-.. — (hello), … .. -. –. .-.. . (single), -.-. .- .–. .-. .. -.-. — .-. -. (Capricorn).

Gaston chuckled as he realized the messages were intended for single firefly ladies out there. Lucien must have been sending the right signals because, before long, Gaston saw a response flash back: …. . .-.. .-.. — (hello), … .. -. –. .-.. . (single), …- .. .-. –. — (Virgo). Lucien assured Gaston he was in good hands with the rest of the troupe and flew toward Ms. Right. Romance was in the air.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, there was a loud noise, louder than anything Gaston had heard before, and blindingly bright light. Lucien and his friends were swept up by a tornadic gust of wind rushing by, flickering lights relaying their distress (-.. .- -. –. . .-. danger!), and Gaston heard the monster bearing down on him. He pulled his head into his shell. Was this it?

The wind lifted him up and he knew he was flying…but there were no Hands. Were the turtles mistaken about what had happened to them? Then, Gaston landed so hard on something that he heard his shell crack, just a little. He hung on for dear life, hoping that he might somehow survive the encounter —

He had the sensation of traveling at an almost-incomprehensible speed, but he couldn’t see what was happening in the darkness. He didn’t know how long he hung on, but he realized that the motion stopped. He was grateful, because he didn’t know how much longer he could have clung to the creature. Exhausted, he let go. And fell into oblivion to the chorus of crickets – but not before he heard a pattern in their song. It sounded like …. .. … / .. … / -. — – / – …. . / . -. -..(this is not the end).