(This story is based on actual events, but names have been changed to protect the identities of the participants)
Read Part One here
In a moment of pure panic, before the compensatory sensory enhancements that accompany the deprivation of one sense is activated, Steve has the impression of a sudden immersion in the deep; the earlier frolicsome pool now assumed the proportions of a forbidden main. He could almost hear his ears pop as they forthwith begin to process the sounds of the night they earlier chose to ignore. The thoughts of the un-neighbourly reptiles nudges every which way the overwrought furniture of his excited imagination, causing the most fantastic construal to be assigned to the minutest of stimuli. He glides ahead faster, all antennae attuned to the void, and harvesting thereby a rich plethora of sensory chimera.
In the midst of all his heightened awareness, smack in the middle of the patch, Steve’s leading foot connects its toe suddenly with a rock. No, not a rock, his hyper-tuned mental data processing centre informs him milliseconds later, you aren’t hurt and surface topography all wrong for rock. Best bend and investigate with main probes – better adapted to task. Steve bends almost automatically, leading arm outstretched to probe the tenebrous depths. It takes, in fact, the cool droplets bathing his face (as he dips his head in the green pool that held him) to make him realise what he is about. He completes the task his modified reflex arc has already initiated anyway, and straightens up, clutching what can only be a snail, yet he vigorously disputes his senses.
The cloud that held the moon captive chooses this moment to let go its prisoner, seeming to bestow upon her a boon of lustre as compensation for an unjust detention. The moon emerges with a sharper silver gleam though remaining still a crescent, and Steve can see by her tiny light that what he holds is a snail, albeit the largest he has ever encountered. With the return of sight, the enhancement of his other senses fades, and he returns to an even keel of perception. The patch of vegetation he is traversing ceases quite to register as an obliging pool, and even becomes mildly incommoding as the straggling undergrowth, entwined around one another in a kind of vegetative cooperative, seeks to impede his progress (which by the way, but quite unrealised by him, disrupts their tranquil community). The wetness now only adds to his discomfort, and his earlier pleasure transmutes into irritation. He contemplates the mollusc recently liberated from the unlit depths, and the thing squirms in his grasp, frightening him a little by the amount of power surely packed in this dense mass of solid snail flesh.
Steve has been brought up to regard snails as dainty savouries, rather than a repast in their own right or as (in the best Yoruba tradition) the main accompaniment of one. But this thing he holds in his hands, the thing he is reluctant still to call a snail, and which thing he would sooner have as a rodent but for its very obvious shell, will furnish meat (yes, the exact thick, tough fibres relished by Yoruba elders) to serve, unstinting, two adult dishes. If he were a bibbing fellow, and who had had a drop or two, he will conclude that the liquor were exacting its due. But he is stone-cold sober, maybe a little drained from all the imaginative flights of the immediate past moments, and he is quite with his feet on terra firma holding what his unabridged senses affirm is a snail.
Snail it is.