Animal Dilemmas – Sheep Snail
Spring came and melted away all the grey from the rocky hill. The Snail woke up and un-wedged itself from in-between the two boulders, climbed the taller one and took a wide look around. There was nothing in sight but hills of all sizes and shapes, boulders frozen in space and time, a few bushes and young grass.
Most of the hills were dry and desert-like due to their north and northwestern exposure. Their sloping arms received little sun and little vegetation grew on them. Animals avoided those lands.
In the ocean of rocky hills there were only two that sloped south. They were leaning on each other like brothers and gently reclined towards the sun blending with the flat plains. Their slopes were green and full of life. The Snail made a capital decision to head that way on a quest for fresh grass and if lucky a mating partner.
It didn’t think of the dangers, the birds or the giants. It only thought of the better life to be had. Danger could come anywhere uninvited or not. So it started its sizable journey. It took two days to climb down from the boulder and another forty-seven to cross the valley, including two side-trackings in search of green leaves.
The Snail only stopped when in didn’t have any more physical energy left to go on. Mental in had plenty. It fed and rested optimally, it preserved its strength for the march forward. Its mind was only focused on the tasks immediately necessary for its quest.
The snail wasn’t without company, the world around it was teeming with life. Creatures of all sorts, insects, mice, frogs, lizards, snakes and predatory birds crossed each other’s paths in front of its eyes every minute. It also met many other snails. Snails of different sizes and colors, most of whom never left the vicinity of their birth rock.
The Snail was feeding next to them and often spoke of its journey, where it was coming from and where it was going. Most of them told it back that such agenda is impossible, insane, only a mad snail would even think about it, only a snail whose shell had been beaten against a rock by a hungry cat would dream of such nonsense.
They spoke of the beauty of their home rock and how delicious the grass around it was. How it magically grew back every spring and if they paced their feeding there was plenty without going far. They spoke of great years with a lot of rain when there was more grass than they could eat and they didn’t leave their rock the whole summer.
In those years they ate until they couldn’t fit back into their shells. They also mentioned reluctantly the dry years when they had to travel two boulders over and how in one of those travels they saw a lizard as green as grass.
The Snail listened attentively with great interest. When it was rested and moved on it discarded most of the talk as not relevant to its life and only kept what it thought useful. Like the fact that the more it rained the more the grass grew.
The Snail had never seen anything larger than a snake and most snakes where not interested in snails. It hasn’t encountered much danger that it couldn’t avoid by rolling into its shell. When it reached the green hills it was midsummer and the vegetation was lush and vibrant.
It turned out the Snail wasn’t the only one with the idea to settle in the land of plenty. The green hills were full of life. Snails and other creatures that could walk, crawl or fly all had representatives. Most of the local snails were large and have also walked a great distance to get there.
The Snail liked the atmosphere. The crowds motivated it. So it kept climbing, it wanted to settle on top of the hill. Gradually the ground started vibrating. As it climbed the vibrations grew and intensified. They were like a never ending humming.
All creatures crawled back into their holes. The Snail didn’t think much of the humming vibrations. It knew the climb would get harder and thought they are part of that hardness. So it kept climbing undisturbed. It started seeing the vibrations as an advantage because they scared all other climbers off.
The flock of sheep that caused the ground to vibrate came over the hill form the north side. It reached the top and started slowing down munching on the green grass. It was guided here by a giant shepherd with knowledge of the hill’s fertility.
Only when countless hooves started rumbling down over and around the Snail that it stopped, curled inside its shell and waited for the vibrations to stop. But they increased, more and more hooves reached the south side of the hill to feed on the green grass.
The sheep’s legs were strong and well protected on the bottom so they didn’t watch where they were stepping. One of the last arrivals, a young but full-grown sheep was walking eagerly fast. It stepped on the snail’s shell, heard it crack, glanced down and moved on unimpressed. It found a lush patch of grass and kept on feeding like its peers.
The Snail felt the skies crushing down on its shell. It cracked and light trickled in like never before. The Snail crawled out in pain and cursed those great powers that ruined its home. It knew it might recover but it also knew it could never climb again. So it started slowly for the nearest rock and called it home.
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photograph from lifeofpix.com