(This story is based on actual events, but names have been changed to protect the identities of the participants)
Click on the links below to read the earlier parts
Steve stirs with the change in wind that presages dawn. He catches this wind through his open window. He does not awake, not yet, but will soon do because in less than a minute his internal alarm with go off, and Steve has trained himself to rise at its first chime. Its being a Saturday notwithstanding, Steve will rise. Then a strange thing happens. The alarm has not tolled, but Steve rises anyway. His data centre rapidly updates itself, and in less than the time it takes to blink, he thinks: “snail!”
Only half-awake, he hustles to the kitchen and espies the porcelain bowl sitting as he has placed it. Good, he thinks. He finally decides in favour of plain-leaf at that instant, as the transparent mini bucket filled with yellow garri (from being treated with palm oil during processing) sitting on the cabinet catches his eye. A dish of that garri rolled into eba (as his Yoruba people call it) with plain-leaf is simply nectar and ambrosia, as far as plain-leaf goes. There will be other snails because he resolves in the next instant to raid constantly in that leafy patch for snails. May he always secure such buxom catch. Amen.
He moves closer to take a look, wondering the while at the back of his mind why mum is not yet rendering her usual morning descant of high praise. She gets it on around five, thereabouts, and if he is up, then it surely is past the hour. He is brought up short by the empty space that greets his inspection as he lifts the porcelain bowl. He lays it back, and ponders. The thing makes no sense, so he lifts the lid again. Still no snail. He inspects the insides of the dish minutely, as if the snail could somehow have secreted itself in the tiny pores of the dish (assuming the dish was possessed of such).
The thought flashes through his mind that perhaps there is no snail to begin with, but the slimy trail of waste it left around the edges of the bowl makes that conclusion impossible. Next he considers it may have taken a stroll (he refuses to consider how the bowl was raised and put back in place by a snail that big; at that, an animal lacking limbs) and may be secreted in some cosy corner. He fairly combs the kitchen from top to bottom, and its dusty crevices. Still no snail. Then voodoo going-ons insinuate itself into his imagination, and he felt a momentary trepidation. But he shakes it off. He is a very practical young man, and he knows that snails, giant or not, simply do not exit a fairly enclosed space and vanish from a locked kitchen in a locked house. Not, it does not happen. The slimy bugger will turn up, he assures himself.
Just then, the alarm goes. A harsh jarring note, contrapuntal to its normally euphonious pitch.
Aha, he was not even half-awake after all!
His mind simply came awake ahead of the frame of matter enclosing it and teased it (the frame) with that which was not!
Very naughty, that.
Steve rolls over languidly, gingerly unlimbering his frame from Morpheus’s romancing embrace. He gets out of bed in slow motion as it were, feeling extremely disoriented. He becomes slowly aware of his mum standing over his bed. As he also remembers first the events of the yester night, and in a swift supplant the events of his dawn fancy, he suddenly leaps out of bed and dashes for the kitchen. It occurs to him during this latter flight that he practically snubbed his mum. Now, there will definitely be hell to pay.
Steve’s frenzied dash terminates suddenly as he runs up against the kitchen’s shut door. It terminates in fact in a very inelastic collision, with fortunately only a change in his wind (and later surely a furious forehead bruise) as the collateral damage to his person. The shut door gives a glimmer of hope. And it is soon dashed as he makes the kitchen, sees the perfectly placed porcelain bowl, and lifts it to reveal mostly air, plus a few snail droppings.
The puzzled frown makes an uneven moiety of Steve’s recently assaulted visage, even as the indignant strains of his mum’s ire begin to assault his ears afresh.