Land of Snails, by J. W. Cassandra /Grotesque, detail/

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Land of Snails, by J. W. Cassandra

/Grotesque, detail/


Meeting of Snails

On a winding path disappearing around that can’t really be called a road, two snails run against each other. One carries such calciferous trusses on its back that intertwine into several castle-like shapes to form a storeyed “castle block”. The other, compared to this one, moans under a formation “merely” forming “blocks of houses”. Further away, under the dense tendrils, leaves and sub-shrubs of the undergrowth, a simple “housed” [1] snail spans slowly. The two snails sinking under the castle block and the block of houses give the housed snail an eager by-glimpse full of envy. But it doesn’t care about them, moves away at his usual snail’s pace, and moves on impassively.

Crime and Punishment

The snail carrying castle blocks addresses the one with blocks of houses, „If I could be a simple housed snail again, my friend! I would give a lot for it!”

„Oh, believe me, my friend and companion in distress, castled snail, I would be happy if I had to drag merely a single house on my soft body for the rest of my life!”

„What did you do to become a block-housed snail?”

„I scrounged, I did the poor people out of their little money, I made out-law the families , I made homeless the poor, the old, the sick people. For a pretty sum, I let out their flats, houses obtained under false pretence or I sold them for a huge profit, and in addition, I despised those whom I myself had deprived even of the possibility of a normal human life. And now I have to carry this horrible block of houses till the end of my life… Its lead weight bears upon me and forces me down to the ground, but I cannot stay in one place for long: I have to wander on and carry this horrible weight! ”, sighs the block-housed snail. „And what was your sin, my castled snail friend and fellow?”

„Do not even ask! I was a politician. With my laws I plundered the citizens of the country entrusted to me, I bought castles, palaces, houses, lands, mines, shares. I despised the unfortunate people plundered, ruined, done out of their money by myself, I humiliated them, brought down to their knees… And now I am crumbling under the lead weight of castle blocks, my soft body is constantly becoming flattened under the weight. Then a deep gorge opens up in front of me, I fall into it as if into the depths of a mine, and I have to struggle my way up to the surface, with the castles on my back… When my soft body is only a millimeter thin under the weight, I somehow struggle up from the depths, then I crawl on.”

Companions in Distress

The castled snail’s words are interrupted by a scream: a block-housed snail is falling down rapidly. An earthquake strikes as it hits the ground, all the three fall into the abyss, struggling mute to crawl up the steep wall up into the sunlight where they hope for liberation. Then, when they finally succeed after a long struggle, they rest for a while, and the third one says so panting:

“My companions, I was a politician, I stole, cheated, I did business in combat helicopters and planes, dealt with drugs, I made secret pacts at foreign embassies with which I created war situations. I abused my power in every respect.”

Its words fade in a dying scream: a henbane grows out of the ground next to him suddenly, and its toxic juice percolates under the block of houses into the soft body of the falling block-housed snail.

It is writhing, the blocks of houses on its back are crushed to dust, then the snail pops out from beneath them, then more blocks grow on its back. After a long lament, it says, „The henbane is the punishment for the drugs! And it always goes like this: the block of houses grows on my back, then a hurricane grabs me, later it drops me down, I have to struggle out of the crater I’ve hit, and then the toxin-rain of the henbane soaks me… Oh, if only I had not committed my sins!”

„We say the same for our own sins, comrade! But we have to leave you here because the footsteps are heard already…”

The Snail-Picker

And indeed: shuffling – tapping footsteps are approaching. Man picks up the snails in a bag with a long stick: housed snails, that of block-wielding, falling-block-wielding, castle-blocked snails… For the punishment is that just as they once have chased out the plundered, betrayed people and have forced them to eternal homeless wandering, now they cannot stop on their backs with the deserved castle or house blocks for a longer rest. Because if they stop, the Snail-Picker will come. Or the sun dries out their soft bodies.


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Written: 03/12. 2020., by J. W. Cassandra
Translated: 22/07. 2021., by J. W. Cassandra

[1] With this expression I would like to emphasize that this class or kind of snails has and carries always a complete house on its back – not as a snail with its shell. This house resembles to that of humans’ houses.

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J. W. Cassandra

About the Author: J. W. Cassandra

I’m a teacher and a registered author either, at Artisjus as a writer and a poet in Hungary. I love forests, butterflies, flowers.

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