Nothing to do with autism, this one. Just a short story I wrote last week in a quiet moment.
Enjoy … 😉
The Snail who would be King
There was once a snail named Cecil. I don’t know if snails usually have names, but this snail did. He had chosen his own name, of course. It wasn’t a gift from his parents (who he didn’t remember), it was a gift to himself. He thought it was a grand name. Cecil. King Cecil. Yes, very grand indeed. A name dripping with potential.
Cecil had only one problem with his desire to be a King: He was terribly shy.
Luckily, Cecil had his shell to hide in, and hide in it he did. It was smooth, and dark, and safe in his shell, and it smelled good. Sort of snaily, earthy, and nice. It was a rare moment when Cecil peeked out of his shell and looked at the world around him. He found it very scary out there. Open, and exposed.
He still wanted to be King, though.
But a King needs subjects, and he needs to feel safe enough to face them, doesn’t he?
Cecil didn’t feel safe very often.
There was the Thrush – a terrifying bird. Huge and sharp-beaked, with a creamy-white chest and arrow-head markings all down its front. Arrow-heads! I ask you, how creepy is that? Its beak could pierce a snail’s shell in a single determined thrust. Cecil had seen it happen. He didn’t know the snail it had happened to, but he’d seen it, and he’d learned.
He shivered, and snuggled deeper into his shell.
And feet, he thought, carrying on his monologue of things to be afraid of. Huge flat slabs descending from on high, with the power to flatten not only a shell but a snail too …. bleugh! … and dogs, and lawnmowers, and cows, and hailstones, and cars, and bicycles, and horses, and trucks, and the occasional cat’s paw …
Cecil trembled in the comforting darkness of his sturdy shell. He wanted to be a King, but how could he possibly be King of things which seemed to want nothing more than to destroy him and squash him flat? How could he speak to his subjects when his voice was so small, and they were very, very big?
Cecil took a deep breath, gathered what little courage he had, and popped his head out to look around.
In front of him was a long stretch of open land. Green. He turned an eye to his own brown shell. Not much chance of camouflage out there, he thought. I will be a little brown lump in a sea of green. Obvious. Exposed. I’ll be seen, maybe even – Cecil gasped, and dropped his tiny voice to an even tinier whisper – Maybe even by a thrush! He shuddered.
Determined not to let his fear overwhelm him, Cecil forced his thoughts away from all the things he knew could go wrong, stretched his head high, his eyes prominent on their tentacles, and allowed himself to ponder an important question.
What sort of crown should I wear as King? he thought. I saw a bottle cap once. That looked crown-like. Or the top of an acorn – except that’s more like a helmet, isn’t it? mused Cecil. Perhaps not such a bad idea at that, a helmet … But I want a crown that is obviously a crown, and subjects who love me, and a beautiful kingdom of colour and joy and safety.
Cecil may have been small, but he dreamed big.
He set off across the green expanse of openness. Up and down, up and down, up and down – Grass is a real challenge when you’re a snail – and suddenly a huge brown thing reared up in front of him. Poor Cecil nearly had a heart-attack, but it was only an old leaf. Sanctuary! he cried, as he ducked beneath it to rest.
And rested, and rested, and realised he was avoiding his quest. So he peeped out from underneath the crinkled old leaf, and looked this way and that, and most particularly up, because nearly all threats for a snail came from above.
It looked clear, and Cecil set off again. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down …..
After a long and terrifying journey of about seven feet – 84 gruelling inches if you’re a bee, but many more inches if you’re a snail, and go up and down along the way – Cecil came at last to a flower pot. He slowly climbed up the side of it, leaving a trail of shiny slime behind him – good, healthy-looking slime; he was quite proud of that – and as he crested the lip of the pot, he rested and bravely took a good look around.
He saw plenty of brown to disguise him in the pot, and loads of tall plants to protect him.
My, sighed Cecil with relief, this is paradise. Look! Colours above, and camouflage below, and safety, and food! I could live here forever. This is a place fit for a King!
A breeze stirred the flowers over Cecil’s head, and a daffodil bent low, towards him. Hello, she said. And who are you?
I am Cecil, and I’m here to claim this kingdom, and be your King. King Cecil! That’s me.
The daffodil flower was lifted by the wind, and nodded heads with her sisters as they chatted excitedly amongst themselves. Cecil reached his head up and listened hard – which for a snail is a problem, given that they don’t have ears.
Where’s his crown? rasped a pink tulip. If he’s a king, he ought to have a crown.
Cecil looked around the earth beneath him for something that resembled a crown which he could hastily don and shut up that nasty garish pink tulip, but apart from a couple of small weeds, there was nothing. He was about to make excuses – I lost it on my way; it was so heavy, I couldn’t carry it that far – when the daffodil dipped its head towards him again.
Here, she said, holding out a tiny jagged piece of quartz, your crown shall be this little crystal.
A crystal crown! Presented to him by his subjects themselves! Cecil wouldn’t have been able to believe his ears if he’d had ears, which he didn’t, as you now know – but the crown was there in front of him. All he had to do was put it on …
Would it weigh him down? Of course it would. A crown was a weighty thing, saturated with purpose and responsibilities. All Cecil knew was that the daffodils were cheering his name and nodding their vast golden heads in pleasure and excitement.
At last he had his kingdom, and his subjects, and his crown.
He didn’t have to be Shy Cecil anymore. Timid Cecil, Scared Cecil, Nervous Cecil, Trembling Cecil – all in the past.
This was a new era, the era of King Cecil of the Crystal Crown!
Cecil closed his eyes to the cheering daffodil heads, and rejoiced in the warm earth of his kingdom beneath his mantle.
A large thrush landed quietly on the lip of the garden planter and, with beady-eyed focus and the delicate precision of a master clockmaker, began lifting daffodil leaves ……….
~ The End ~