He was a slug.
Bobby knew this, that he was a slug. He knew that he existed to do slug-like things. He lived in a garden; it was the garden of a retiree in Seattle but he sometimes imagined that it was the leaves of Martha Stewart he chewed on, not those of Muriel Zathwait, someone who prized her roses but also loved all of God’s creatures. She often left bowls of beer out for the slugs in her garden. Bobby usually just sat on the rim, watching his brethren get drunk off the brew, raising their optical tentacles to the generosity of Muriel before falling over drunk and drowning in the golden amber.
Alas, Bobby was in AA. He had lost both his parents to alcoholism, and was not about to fall into that same trap.
Bobby liked Muriel, he really did. He’d sit under a mint plant and listen to her sing while she pruned her roses. He stayed clear of the roses, seeing how much she cared for them. Bobby often dreamt that she cared for him the same way, that he could slime his way across her palm as she sang about Casey and the girl with the strawberry curls as the band played on, or about the man on the flying trapeze. Her voice probably wouldn’t be considered good by human standards, but by the standards of a sober slug, she was beautiful and with the voice of an angel. A slug-angel perhaps, as her throat always rattled with phlegm, but an angel none-the-less.
Every day Muriel puttered and sang. Sometimes she talked to her roses — about the death of her husband, the man who gave her roses daily. About her one child across the country in New York living a life so busy he never called and never had children, and about the other child buried not too far from there. She took the bus there on Sundays, and, if her roses were in bloom, she’d bring one of those as well.
Every day Bobby listened to her stories. Then, one day, he realized what had happened — he was in love with Muriel. He lived for her stories, to listen to her speak and sing. He had begun suppressing his natural slug tendencies to make her happy — and even kept the other slugs away from her rosebushes. It was a love he realized was, if not wrong, at least damn inconvenient. She was a human; he was a gastropod, a hermaphrodite with a ‘love dart’ that wouldn’t work on her.
Then one day she stopped coming out back. Bobby noticed the lack of old-woman song immediately. He slimed his way over to the glass door separating her world from his, but saw nothing. He turned his optical tentacles first one way, and then the next, and still nothing. He sadly slimed himself back over to his space underneath the mint and watched the sun cross the sky. That night he dreamt of Muriel — he dreamt that she was surrounded by roses and many others sang to her — but she was quiet.
The next day greeted him with silence once again. The other slugs recognized a difference in him, but he had always been different. Plus, he kept them from the rosebushes, a tasty treat to all of slugdom. Bobby once again slimed his way over to Muriel’s house. This time he dared to slime through a crevice that led to her inner sanctum. He smelled the lack of Earth, which wasn’t what he was expecting. But, somewhere underneath it all, was the smell of roses and mud, and the echoes of Muriel — a tired echo, one that had hung around only to tell Bobby what he already knew. There was no more Muriel to hum and prune the roses. There was no Muriel to leave out beer for all the slugs to feast upon. She had joined her husband and child in the great beyond.
Bobby listened to the echo. He let out a sob of remorse that only gastropods can make, and this joined the last heartbeat of Muriel. Bobby knew he couldn’t live without his human love — she was his true sun. Her voice alone gave his life meaning. He slimed his way into her kitchen, his optical tentacles dragging on the ground, his cries falling on bleached linoleum. Then he looked up and there on the table saw his salvation — a blue cylinder with a picture of a little girl in a yellow rain slicker. That was his answer. He would once again be able to hear the sweet sounds of his Muriel, he would once again stand under the mint and gaze at the source of love in the world.
Victorya currently has works in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Necrotic Tissue, and various anthologies. You can read more of her Zooicides at http://darktomorrow.net/TZ.htm