Deep in the heart of the ancient woods, two slimy hermaphrodites were sharing a slimy embrace, suspended high in the air above a carpet of woodland leaves and mulch. Fuelled with strange invertebrate desire, they hung from a string of mucus like an umbilical cord and spiralled and pirouetted and danced through the night. For hours on end they hugged and kissed and smooched and cried together. They lost themselves in each other’s slippery skins and tasted each other’s slime until one final burst of enthusiasm that marked the conclusion of their meeting. The atmosphere pervaded with awkwardness all of a sudden. Immediately the two slugs were incapable of eye contact. It was now time to go separate ways. With their teeth like clandestine guillotines they severed the cord and dropped to the ground and slid away in opposite directions like they had never known each other. No goodbyes were uttered. They plunged into the darkness, never to meet again.
Hoot-hooooot. Yellow eyes glowing in the distance, between the leaves without blinking. Fast-forward to the night of our protagonist’s birth. The momentous night. A litter of slime in the dark. Hoot-hooooot. Yellow eyes glowing in the distance. A pale and translucent thing at first; the colour a gentle light blue, nestled into the rotten undergrowth, among others, all feeble little sacks- some without motion. Hoot-hoots in the distance. Yellow eyes glowing between the leaves. Two slugs remained, one sizeable and full of life. The other a runt, pathetic, soon to expire. His mother stared only at one, who she has named Zengin. Hoot-hooooot. She rejected the other slug, and gave all her attention to its superior. Yellow eyes.
“The owl is coming!” uttered the maternal slug, covering her favourite son with a leaf as she saw the flapping of wings through the needled branches of the pine. The young slug was devoured in one peck. Zengin watched from a gap under the leaf as the owl finished chewing, and then slowly rotated his head as he locked on its prime target, who on this occasion had not the haste to escape. Zengin’s mother’s shouted to her son one last time “be proud, Zengin. You are the greatest!”. The owl then scooped her up with his claws and cackled to himself as he dived into the air.
“Bless my feathers! I do love the fat ones. This’ll feed the kids for a whole week. Hoot hoot!”
From this point onwards, Zengin was left on his own to confront the world, however barbarous. All that he had to take with him were those precious words uttered by his mother. Being too young to understand the concept of hyperbole, he regarded them as infallible, as literal truth. Be proud at all costs. You are the greatest. As soon as Zengin could develop thoughts, they were exclusively self. Or I. Or me.
The young mollusc soon left the leaf under which he had viewed the slaughter of his mother, and got on with his life. He feasted on all of the rotten treasures of the woodland until he increased in size and strength, and his muscles began to show. God I’m handsome, he thought to himself. The mollusc purchased designer clothes from brands such as Ralph Lauren and Paul Smith God I’ve got style, the mollusc thought. The mollusc soon met other slugs of a similar age and established a clique full of admirers God I’m popular, the slug thought. The mollusc began to have dalliances with other youthful and exuberant slugs God I’m a stud. He watched his children grow up God my children are better than everyone else’s. The mollusc began to read the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, William Wordsworth, William Blake and George Gordon Byron. God I understand poetry, he thought. It was only a matter of time before the keen mollusc took up a pen himself. The mollusc composed an epic poem of twenty eight thousand lines titled The Eternal Quest of Zengin the Perfect Slug. God my verses are delicately cadenced, I’ve outdone Dante! were his thoughts on this occasion. Nobody read them of course; It’s just a shame nobody is intellectual enough to appreciate this emphatic work. The hubris was frightful and burned bright like phosphorus, and was equally corrosive, as we will soon learn.
The slug began to develop an insatiable sense of anger at the world, the world which he deemed to be insignificant for a slug of his intellectual capacity. But most of all he felt that his excellence was constantly unrecognised. In his bohemian slug circles he began to vocalise his thoughts about the pretentiousness and lack of ability that surrounded him. He ended up telling a slug with a liking of impressionism to “fuck himself” for refusing to make him the subject of all of his paintings. “Impressionism is shit anyway. An impressionist picture of a family of slugs eating a dock leaf is just a regular picture of a family of slugs eating a dock leaf, only slightly more blurry. Paint me, and you must not ever blur what is immaculate as it is.” The disgruntled impressionist slug left the society and was never seen again.
Soon the community began to realise that this Zengin slug was a most arrogant creature, whose thoughts were always completely concerned with himself. Thoughts that were descending into chaos! Why won’t they provide my food for me and attend me at all times? Soon became Why won’t they make me their Monarch? Soon became Why won’t they worship me like a deity? He was insufferable. They soon banished him from their circles.
Inflamed with rage and disappointment, Zengin decided to take a stand, and make his voice heard. Crowds of slugs were congregating to discuss routine political matters, and Zengin the slug, wearing a T-shirt with a pseudo-iconic picture of his own face on the front, climbed onto the top of the tallest dock leaf and commanded the attention of the populace, rudely interrupting a discussion regarding tax credits.
“Zengin stands before you. Worship me you pathetic slugs. I am the best. You are all worthless molluscs spawned from your mothers purely for the purposes of following my designs,” there was an intrusive silence. “I am the righteous dictator”. Each sentence took what felt like a life time.
“I am the greatest.”
The crowd had already grown tired of his grandiosity, “Are you not also a mollusc?” a little leopard coated slug dared interrupt from the back of the crowd. Slugs speak every bit as slow as they move.
“No. I am no mollusc,” if not slower.
“What are you then?” another slug, flummoxed by Zengin’s words gave in reply.
“I am a celestial deity in the form of a slug,” some slugs laughed in response, others were growing irritable and murmured to themselves their discontent and embarrassment.
“PROVE IT!!!” they all roared.
“Does not my mastery of oratory demonstrate this clearly enough to your impoverished brains?”
A long pause, “no.”
“Well what must I do?”
A fat slug with short stubby antennae addressed the proud orator.
“You say you are celestial and a deity and not a slug like the rest of us. Surely you must therefore be immortal?”
“Yes, immortal. I am yes.”
“Then we shall pour salt upon your flesh, and watch you return unscathed. Then we shall worship you unconditionally, for as long as our miserable lives may transpire.”
“How insolent of you to even require proof. Do you not know it in your souls when you gaze into my eyes, my eyes heroic like lion’s eyes on stalks?”
“Not really,” the fat mollusc replied with ambivalence.
“Oh as you please. Bring me the salt. You will see. Oh you will see that I am invincible.”
The slugs congregated and after eleven long hours of acquiring salt granules and carefully placing them on a dock leaf, which they carried to the spot where Zengin remained standing, facing the slug crowd in what he believed to be an imperious stance. The slugs violently beat their drums and violently waved their torches in the air. They drank beer and ate popcorn (sweet flavour)
The fat slug with the stubby antennae saw this as an opportunity to make money so took it upon himself to open a betting shop, and take bets on the outcome. Most backed death. The queue stretched further than the eye could see. It is rumoured that even a number of snails came to view the spectacle. And the other slugs were too captivated too notice. They were consumed and in a frenzy.
Zengin was not intimidated by the mob, and stood strong, laughing at the gormlessness of the crowd. The crowd were divided in their chants, some roared for Zengin’s divine rulership, others for his demise. Some wanted divine revelation, others simply the gore of death. The dock leaf full of salts –carried on the shoulders of eight labouring slugs– was moving ever closer to the mollusc orator by the hour. Zengin was not phased and stood magnanimously on the his rock. He imagined that this image of him would remain the most prevalent and revered image for the future of not only slugs, but all molluscs alike. The gastropods, the chitons, the bivalves, the cephalopods- they would all remember the image of Zengin on the rock. Some slugs took it upon themselves to video the event on their camera phones, others drew portraits. Some merely watched intently, waiting.
“Salt!”, “SALT!!!” they screamed.
“You shall see. You shall see pathetic ones. You shall see,” Zengin responded.
The slugs who were administering the salt couldn’t help but portray their enthusiasm. It was not often they had the opportunity to potentially destroy a fellow slug for sport. Zengin lay next to the leaf, unwavering and motionless. With smiles on their faces, the slugs began to tilt the leaf while the crowd was catapulted into ecstasy.
The first granule fell onto Zengin’s back. The second. The third. Then the rest. The eight began their journey to the other side of the leaf to witness the results. The crowd fell silent as the granules began to slide down the dock leaf towards Zengin’s back.
Yellow. Then came the swoop and in a matter of seconds the young slug was in the talons of the same owl. As they flew off into the trees, Zengin shouted to the crowd at the top of his lungs.
“Zengin is the greatest, and will be resurrected!”
“Shut up little slime! Hoot hooooot!” replied the owl as he carried off his dinner.