The slugs on the moor would congregate at the same place, at the same time each evening. There they would gaze up for a while. After a period of gazing one of the older slugs would say “not yet…I guess” before they all dispersed, each slug sliming its own separate, slippery trail home. A hopeful few hanger on-ers would remain for a while longer. Looking up, they would stand together, pretending to be intent on their task of gazing while actually seeking solace from each other’s slimy company. Slowly, in drabs, these slugs would also make their way home. On the moor, this was the slug’s way. It had ‘always’ been their way. Nobody knew why they did this or why they were so disappointed when day after day nothing happened.
A few of the younger, more rebellious slugs would mutter to one another about the senselessness of it all. Often these exclamations of discontent were punctuated with derogatory, sluggish gestures towards their elders. They didn’t see the point in coming, nor did they enjoy it…but come they still did. And no doubt, when this rebellious phase of their lives was over and they themselves were heads of their own brood they would continue to gather…at the same time, at the same place, each day.
This was a slug thing you must understand. On more than one occasion a snail had tried to join in but this snail’s intrusion was met with a stone wall of contempt from the slug’s side. A wall so great that, squirm as it liked; the exhausted, disheartened snail would eventually slime its way home. The slugs of the moor were solitary creatures by nature. Their marked slowness was not limited to their physical speed but also to their rate of showing warmth and compassion to others.
There was a general belief among slugs that this was what they were waiting for. That one day, slugs would look up and things would be different. They would see the world through new eyes as they wove new paths through the moor. This was the long awaited day, the day they called: ‘the quickening’. Deep within the moor, ancient, crystallized slug trails from at least the previous year had been found. These had been studied by the leading spiritual slugs of the time and they all (in their own way) agreed that the trails pointed to a future event.
Some slugs believed that this quickening would be a physical happening. That all of a sudden, their old, wrinkly bodies would fall away and be replaced by sleek, gleaming, super-fast slug bodies. Slugs would be able to shoot across the moor in an instant and food wouldn’t be a worry anymore as they would be able to move so fast that they could eat their fill by 11 o’clock and spend the rest of the day relaxing. It was an idyllic life that many of the slugs held to.
More serious slug theologians scoffed at such ideas. They ‘knew’ that the ‘day of quickening’ referred to a more existential awakening of their sluggish souls, a ‘quickening’ of their intellects and a broadening of their hearts. They envisioned acts of spontaneous giving and of sacrificial compassion. Numerous days were spent discussing these future events.
It happened that in the middle of one of these discussions, a misguided snail seeking company had wandered into this enlightened group. The slugs took offense at this intrusion. At first they reprimanded the snail soundly for having interrupted their very important meeting. Feeling that something more was required to deter other like minded snails, they set up a ‘fun’ obstacle course which they forced the snail to go through. Slugs not being very creative, the course only consisted of a bed of small stones and twigs. High pitched laughter rung out from the glade as they watched the poor snail slither the length of their course. The small sharp stones and twigs irritated the snail’s delicate underbelly and sticking there, travelled with the snail. For days after the incident, the snail would make a rattling noise as it moved, the stones colliding with its shell. Suffice it to say: The slugs meetings were interrupted no more.
It was evening and the slugs had all gathered. Faces fixed hopefully upwards, eyes on the heavens, minds thinking about the dinner of fresh humus that they would soon be enjoying. They were there for what seemed like eternity, no slug made a sound. Soft, shallow breathing was all that could be heard as well as the muffled snore of one or two of the elder slugs. The meeting was just about over. None of the elders had yet said the words “Not yet” and a few of the younger ones were looking over to make sure that they all hadn’t fallen asleep at the same time. One or two of the more impatient slugs had in fact started to sidle out of the congregation, when an unusual wind swept through the crowd. It wasn’t the suddenness of the breeze that made it stand out, nor was it the power of the gust. It may have had something to do with its chill as it was the middle of summer but whatever it was, it did stick out. Slugs, so used to nothing happening at these meetings, took a while to react. Slowly they began casting glances at one another, their excitement growing. They looked up with renewed intensity. A slug let out a cry as it saw a shooting star. Moments later there was an exclamation from the other side of the gathering as another star flew across the sky. Soon the sky was awakened by millions of little lights swimming across its vast expanse.
Taken by the moment, a few of the slugs started humming an old tune that had been past from slug to slug and lost the words somewhere along the way. This tune was gradually taken up until all across the little glade, the warmth of the tune gushed out. The alert slugs now noticed more anomalies. The earth on which they stood appeared to be glowing as if it had an inner fire. The blades of grass seemed to be electrified with the veins running up their side sparking and vibrating with stored energy. Suddenly there was a fiercely bright light, followed by a tremendous BANG as though lightening had struck the glade. If we were slugs in the crowd at this point, a ringing would be filling our ears. Gasps would be heard as slugs all around us are trying to take in what is happening. We ourselves are half way between ecstasy and sheer terror. Reeling and disorientated from the shock of the blast, completely out of breath, we are gasping for whatever oxygen we can take in. Shrill cries can be heard “Take me!” From one fanatical slug, “I’m ready, I want it!” comes a desperate cry from another.
Then right when the slug’s world was about to explode and all that they had dreamed of was about to come true, nothing happened. The skies became still again, the electric blades of grass became neutral and the earth beneath them settled to its mundane, soily brown. Slugs began craning their necks around trying to see if they noticed any change to their bodies. It didn’t take long to discover that there was no improvement to their sluggish forms. No! Why? All that splendour, they were so sure that their time had finally come. A few more reasoned slugs began to speak once more about their visions of a new, quickened heart when -FLASH- with a streak of glistening light, something shot past them. Amazed, they turned to follow it. Whatever it was came to a halt before them. The slugs had to shade their eyes from the intense glare coming off this avatar. As one they moved forward, in awe of the creatures beauty, mesmerised by the gleam that shimmered off its…Wait a second…Was that a shell? That’s not a slug! What a load of —-!