This story is by Louis Chin and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The naming of The Longest Snail Island came about by its snail-like structure and superficial long body stretch. It encircled the Smiling Plantation that was situated on a higher ground than the pearly sands of the beach. A beautiful island but the inhabitants have lost their magic a long time ago. There was no fun. No joyous songs and no more cheerful sound of music in sight for KuChiKu’s annual celebration. It was a natural routine for the Islanders led by Chet Bluf the Village Chief to return to their respective boring life. Sadly, it was a bad omen for its people to leave the island in search of something better. For those who tried, came back to share their different experiences of terror. Some never came back. The old chose not to seek answers but contend to their boring days. The younger generation thought otherwise.
Nine year-old Ian and his grandfather, Groompa was the next Snail Islanders to attempt a change by eyeing GoodyMoo’s winning formula for unity. They felt deeply isolated as their comrades were too scared to support their ideals. But for them, reinventing life for their people was a personal quest that must remain their first priority.
GoodyMoo’s Island was widely known by its remarkable Horny Cow Head structure and its slippery marble-like juicy-stretch that resembles the cut of a Rib-eye Steak. It was situated seventy kilometres Northwest from its sister island. Many heard that it carries blessings of peace and knowledge for the good heart and sincere visitors of this paradise island like Heaven on Earth. Yet, they have been forewarned with unexplained reasons, that unknown forces may stop them along the way. It’s senseless, Groompa argued. He believed they can overcome the fear of the unknown, by using common sense and the courage to make a difference.
On the beach, even Groompa’s best buddies, Salty Pepper Pot, Dried Prune, Coldstraw were not there. Only Ash Varnish came forward to wish them well, “Gooder luck for the journeys. You’ll comer backer to us safer with gooder news, brother?”
“Grandpa, the boat is over there,” said Ian.
“It was Rokin and Chick Nugg’s arrangement. Let’s go, buddy.”
Ian shouted loud in cupped hands, “Thank you, Rokin and Chick, where ever you are. We’ll bring joy back to our people, we promise!” The Smiling Plantation echoed his shouts that reverberated way of the Longest Snail. They pushed the rowing boat for two on the water, mounted it and began rowing with two oars each.
“Row, row, row your boat, gently on the sea. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream,” they sang.
They propelled forward long enough to wonder why there were no seagulls gliding. There was no wind, no rain, and the sun was dying. It was dead cold. The puffy dark clouds were quietly suspicious. The sea slowly turned murky. A series of lightning flashed through the sky. A crash of thunderbolts split. Its silence was disturbed.
“Oh oh!” Groompa felt a rude jerk from beneath the water. One of his oars was forcefully dislodged and disappeared.
“I saw a dark gigantic monster below!” cried Ian.
There was a pull from Ian’s corner, one of his oars too, was crudely dislodged and disappeared. The monster brushed against the boat below. It swayed briefly and became still. A huge vertical fin silently surfaced beside Groompa.
“It’s a shark!” He shuddered.
There was a huge splash, followed by another and another. The unruly sea rocked the boat, causing the water to rain on them mercilessly. The shark appeared with its jaws stretched wide to its extreme, intimidating and forcing them to dodge sideways. It dived.
“Hang on to the boat! Don’t ever let go, Ian. I’m going to… ”
“Come on, show yourself again!” Groompa challenged as he regained his composure and as one of his promises of protecting Ian from harm is at stake. He held his only oar high above his head, ready to strike at any threatening sight.
The wrinkled shark resurfaced, exposing its smelly hard stained teeth. It was breathing down on Groompa’s throat. He tried out-staring the frigid monster. Both waited. Ian was taken aback and felt the horror of its persistence. He had never seen anything like this. The frill shark finally retreated and plunged underwater again. It was a jaw-dropping, stupefying moment for Groompa. He did not use the weapon in hand as intended… he forgot… he was not breathing… his teeth began chattering… he allowed the salty water to escape from his lips and sum up by a spit.
“You stink! You would even frighten a child, ya? Why stop us from visiting GoodyMoo’s Island? Shame on you!” He snarled.
“Grandpa, I think the dude is trying to play hard-ball with us. Let’s give it what it deserves!” Ian was inflamed and cheese off by the shark’s gradual advancement. “Come on, poo-poo, just you come again!” He held Dear to his oar and waited.
It was bitter cold. Visibility was poor but they could see the shark fins on the surface of the water, like trying to cow them into a submission of some kind. They couldn’t take their eyes off it. They could tell it was going to strike. Ian tried to crouch between his feet to shy away from its advances. He couldn’t. He tried to pull his knees up to his chest for protection. It wouldn’t work. He shivered. His face was frozen. Groompa’s heartbeat doubled. His throat tightened. What he cared about now was Ian’s safety. The monster rolled straight at them. It’s jaws reappeared, giving them a perfect view of its approach. Groompa attacked. “This is it, monster! This is it!” He shouted himself hoarse. He crashed the oar hard on its nose with a burst of speed again and again. Ian heard his Grandpa’s voice loud and clear. He too spun into action. Ian swung the oar wildly at the shark with all his might. It landed sharply on the shark’s right eye. Groompa’s follow-up action was instant, forceful and broke many of its teeth. The grands kept attacking and throwing desperate punches with their free hands as it came too close to comfort.
“My nose, my eye, oh my teeth.” The troubled shark felt as if it had swallowed some spiky corals mixed with sand and seaweed. It was feeling groggy but remained adamant and managed to issue a protest statement to the intruders, “I am actually a good shark!” It claimed. “It is just unfortunate that my playful nature had turned awry this time. Now go back to where you come from before I change my mind. I shall not be so forgiving then. Oh my nose, my eye, my teeth, oh my jaw!” The hyper shark’s jaw muscle was ripped by being overly ambitious. It began to groan under dreadful agony and gave a violent thrash on the bloodied water. It plunged and vanished in frustration.
Ian and his grandfather were simply staggered and found solace with each other by hugging briefly. They struggled back on their seats clumsily and continued their journey to GoodyMoo.
The angry sea was mellowing, the disturbing waves were calming down, the rain came to a slight drizzling. For once, Groompa could feel the starkest isolation creeping into him, leaving him lonely and slightly disoriented. Common sense is not so common sometimes, he thought. If only we, the Snail People have the wisdom of telling the difference between the things that we cannot change and the things that we can; our outlook on life could have been different. He had silently wished Salty Pepper Pot and his other buddies were with him there and then. It was a quiet moment of realization. Hey! Did we not hear a talking shark? Hark! A talking shark! He wondered.
Groompa could sense Ian’s uneasiness over the shark’s attack. “I saw you gave the shark a hard time at the half way barrier. You’re my hero. We do see some teeth marks on the hull. No damage done. No worries, Ian.”
“But the shark is still underwater!!!”
Instinct told them to row their boat away quickly. They negotiated a rude turn around against the wind that caused the boat to almost somersault.
“Hold on tight to the boat!” Groompa shouted desperately, “The danger is over!” They allowed the boat to sway until it was still, and you can hear them catching their breath. The rain soaked their clothes and flattened their hair completely. They understood the predicament and composed themselves amicably well. “Now, we can expect more excitement at GoodyMoo’s. We turn the boat around, buddy. We move onwards.” Groompa said in a steady voice.
The sun was re-appearing, weak but somehow flipping the mood for the better. They have only fifty metres left for the shores of GoodyMoo’s Island. They paddle on.
“Row, row, row your boat, gently to the shore. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream…” they sang.