This week, I had fun with Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge over at terribleminds.com blog. He offered a list of ten titles and challenged writers to choose one and write its story. I tried out a few different titles and story ideas, but “The Leviathan In The Fog” triggered a memory of a personal encounter, so I felt the most connection to this story. And with no further ado . . .
The Leviathan in the Fog
by Maria L. Berg
Moments past dawn and it is already hot. Dew, settled on the long blades of grass during the chill of night, sizzles to steam, creating a thick fog that hovers near the earth. The orchestra of invisible locusts plays a deafening song. The leviathan stirs, alert to an invisible invasion.
Fumes of diesel and rubber, hours old, still linger. A pungent deterrent, narrowing possible paths. The leviathan slowly stretches along the cracks and pebbles, finding every sensation an irritant. Gone are the days of wandering in mindless solitude, tentacles swaying fearlessly in the breeze. With the humans encroaching and the new fad of rampant hermaphroditic reproduction, the once vast world feels confining. Recently, the bumbling masses started eating each others’ shells. Eating each other! That’s what their uncontrolled orgies have gotten them. Terrestrial gastropods have no self-control.
Contracting, toward a leaf, the leviathan smells distinct clues of foreign intrusion: an unfamiliar sweet, rotting fruit; soil of a course mineral make-up; the bark of an unknown tree. Curiosity becomes alarm. The invasion is happening, but where are the invaders? The locusts continue their two-note serenade without pause. No breach could escape their scrutiny. Hunger prevails over alarm, but the leaf is all wrong: rubbery and stringy; each vein leaks a gluey, bitter puss.
Dissatisfied, the leviathan stretches further through the fog and discovers, retracting in horror, a capacious piece of broken shell. The deep mahogany and umber swirls are slashed with jagged white edges where violent pressure transposed it from home to waste. Only two other small pieces remain, the rest are crumbled and trampled to tiny specks and flakes. While tasting one of the smaller pieces of shell, the leviathan worries that the pebble irritants, glided over earlier, are pieces of a trail of snails.
The recognition of self in the smell is difficult to process. A perceptual dilemma like sucking on one’s own eye stalk. The leviathan feels ill and wants to recoil, but the calcium is difficult to come by these days.
The sun rises behind the trees. The fog will soon burn off and the leviathan will need to dig into the soft dirt under the tall grass to hide from predators and the blistering heat, but the second small piece of shell is too tempting. Enraptured in gluttony, the leviathan doesn’t hear the lack of locusts’ song, or the generators’ rising hum as lights are flicked on. Vibrations growing underfoot like a stampede gaining momentum do, finally, reach into the gorge. The click and scrape of heavy doors is the final warning.
The sole of a shoe. An earth shattering crunch.
In the throws of death, the leviathan hears, “Ew. What is that? There’s like slime up to my ankle. Is that a snail? A snail? We must be in hell because a snail that big will eternally haunt my dreams.”
Then a scream of shattering revelation.
“They’re everywhere. Oh, Lord help me, they’re everywhere.”