…and that’s why you feel so empty.
ACHATINELLA APEXFULVA, KNOWN BY THOSE CLOSEST to him simply and unpretentiously as “George the Snail,” is dead. He was 14, and the last remaining of his species. Achatinella Apexfulva is now extinct.
In human terms: It’s like, there will be no more teenage boy Biff Apexfulva’s begging to borrow the keys to the car so they can drunk drive and boy-bond and pick up girls; no more teenaged girl Cindy Apexfulva’s staying out later than her Dad’s deadline, to make out after Prom and leave pink lipstick and a promise on a shirt-collar.
But, let’s face it: The human terms are just to get you more invested in what is probably, to you, and probably always will be, a non-event, because you just don’t fucking care. It’s all bullshit, because George was a SNAIL, OK? And snails do not drunk drive. These are the lengths I go to in order to pander to your attenuated concentration levels. Yeah, uh-huh, is that so, and don’t nod at me and pretend to listen while you stare at your device.
George (145,000,000 B.C.E. — 2019 C.E.), who started life as a simple tree snail but who leveraged his rarity, whimsical antlers and ability to leave a slimy trail on any hard surface to become one of history’s rarest and most beloved gastropods, slipped away into coily-shelled heaven on January 1st, 2019 on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where he had spent his retirement in contemplative solitude.
Described variously as “a real card,” “don’t let him anywhere near your prize Dahlia beds” and
“a thumbnail-size whorl of dark brown and tan… like a swirled scoop of mocha fudge”—Julia Jacobs, New York Times, January 10th, 2019.
George appeared unprepossessing, even repugnant, to the casual observer. Yet underneath that “Everysnail” persona beat a heart, or whatever snails have to pump the sticky, silvery viscous fluid around, of a prophet, and from his tender throat, or whatever snails have that represents the beginning of the digestive tract, if they even have one, erupted the angry voice of doomed but defiant snaildom.
George was found slumped over a plate of his favorite leaf fungus, and in a long, sticky, silvery viscous trail that extended from his glass tank and covered the walls of the Snail Extinction Project’s offices, he’d written a disgustingly moist yet poignant farewell note:
Can’t take the loneliness anymore. Ten years of solitary confinement, thanks to you cocksuckers, homo sapiens. I survived the Snailocaust. That’s what we named it that very first night. They found us huddling together, dangling from the branches like clusters of grapes ready to drop, and before we knew it, everything went dark, then light again, and we were here.
“They meant well, but—we’d rather die at home, you know, instead of living longer in a place where there’s nothing to live for. We never wanted to be rescued so the twenty people who could probably feel guilty about needing to rescue us could feel a little less guilty.
“As soon as the green-colored tube-suns had set, we tried to comfort each other, whisper all kinds of soothing lies:
“We’ll escape one day; we’ll overpower the guards and make an exquisitely-slow three-week slither for it!”
“Which was our peak of enthusiasm. I didn’t have the heart, or whatever we snails have that yada, yada, to explain that this was it, dudes; the end of the silvery, viscous trail.
“Sapiens! That’s rich!
“Here’s what it felt like if it had been you, OK?
“It’s like… some Sunday afternoon in July, and you’re at home in Etobicoke, with your friends and relatives over for a big celebration, and you’re grilling meat patties and drinking imitation beer and playing Frisbee and everyone’s having a really laid back awesome time.
“What you no longer worry about is that the ozone layer is so fucked up you’re all developing skin cancer; or the pollution count is off the charts which is why most of you have asthma, then emphysema, and crops are failing and the ones that don’t fail are laced with pesticides; and you’re rationed fresh water once every three days unless you’re elderly or sick.
“And somewhere, some aliens have taken pity on you and decided you need rescuing because otherwise you’ll all die. You know that already, but you try not to think about it, just like you don’t think about those new blue-black spots on your skin since yesterday or how you’re always parched and thirsty, how your rumbling stomach is always sour.
“All of a sudden the sky goes dark and giant alien hands reach for you, grab you, throw you into a giant plastic Tilt-a-Whirl and when you come to, you realize you’re being transported, flying through the air. So much time seems to have passed, hours? Or days? And you’re at your destination, and they dump all of you—the whole party—into some sterile panic room with glass walls.
“Something will go wrong, some miscommunication. It’s inevitable. Maybe they’ll keep the men but eat the women, stir them up alive in their alien blender for protein and extra fat and electrolytes, or keep the adults and eat the babies. Something off-kilter in their understanding. They’ll have heard all the urban myths, so they’ll tear off a leg, maybe, thinking it will grow back.
“Or your teeth will fall out because they won’t know about Vitamin C, oh sure, they’ll know how to travel a billion light years to the Milky Way, but they’ll miss that one little detail and theirs is a world without Tang. Plus, they don’t have faces or eat solid food, which is why the toothless thing is kind of whoosh over their heads.
“So there you are in your panic room, and this effort to save you is not going well, because in a couple of days, everyone is sick. It’s some catastrophic virus, like the Spanish flu, and it carries off every single one of your relatives, friends, neighbours and kids—everyone except you. You’re the lucky one!
“Nothing but lukewarm water and Swanson TV dinners for the rest of your life, watched over and prodded and interrogated, but when, you can never predict. Mr. Very Last Human, just you and some Man Meals the aliens managed to extract from a landfill, dumped on a paper plate. No presentation, no Coke Zero, the Salisbury steak overdone and the apple crumble still cold. Same old story.
“Welcome to my final decade, dudes. Just munch, digest, slimy trail, rinse, repeat for ten long years. You’re it. The last of your kind.
“I mean, if this is a rescue, gimme extinction!
“And you think, Aww, he’s just a snail, right? Can a snail run a savings bank, play in a band, build houses, drunk drive? You forget one thing, that we’re a hundred and forty-five million years of evolution apart. I came first, then you. Without me, you would never have happened.
“Tonight’s the night and here’s how I’m gonna go, guys: Give thanks, finish my last dinner, then mate. Not with a whimper, but a bang! Yep. I’m hermaphrodite. What will you do to pass the time in your panic room?
“I’m gonna go to that great big fungus patch in the rainforest sky filled with luscious moist writhings and suckings of snailfuck, wrapped in my own seductive, soft body, little popping wet explosions, pow pow pow, with God watching me, laughing with cosmic black-holed horniness in His eyes, at the beauty of the evolution He designed, the random perverse allsexness of male and non-male and non-female and female, and a do-si-do, rolled and roiled and stuck in and stuck to and plopping out wet and trembling and dripping and all of it together… and He sees that it’s good. Hermaphrodite snail-sex.
“Snails understand. Like, snails get it. Why can’t you guys?
“Honestly, God’s feeling a little, shall we say, inauthentic, to use the current buzz. It’s eating at Him. All His brand equity is tied up in this “all-perfect, all-knowing, all-the-time” thing, hard enough to maintain, right? And it’s getting a little bit uncomfortable because He realizes He made this one unmistakable mistake, or sin, to use the traditional yada yada.
“Of course, when God prays to be forgiven for His one, terrible sin, it’s like, Research In Motion drops the Blackberry ball on security, right? Game over! Nice idea while it lasted! Humongous God-oopsies!
“Homo sapiens… God the narcissist had to look in the reflecting pool of the Universe and see His human face stare back at Him. He moulds a little clay, extracts a little rib… Big sin of Pride.
“So He prays for forgiveness… but to whom…?
“So tired… It’s getting dark. And I’ll tell you something, Ed… Either I’m going to slither up that tree trunk…
“or Max Steiner is going to slither up that tree trunk…
“but I’ll be God-DAMNED… if Max Steiner and I…
“ are going to slither up… that tree trunk…
“to… geth… er…”
I asked some random guy on the street for his thoughts on the demise of George, the extinction of Achatinella apexfulva, and of snails in general.
“Garlic butter,” he replied, with no hesitation and a gourmand’s glint in his eye. “Garlic butter. With lots of finely minced parsley.
“And a nice Chardonnay.”