It was a dark and stormy night when Grandpa One-Eye entered the tavern, sluggishly making his way to the dais, cracked shell burdened by the weight of loss yet to be known to the rest of the small town.
“I went up the Cliffs today.” The statement, ringing with untold stories, brought silence to the crowd of humble towns-snails. Several gasps erupted in the small pause it took for the group to register the gravity of the situation. Then, whispers spread through the snails like wildfire. The Cliffs? Some exclaimed in astonishment. And it was heard of the gentlewomen here and there – Oh, dear, the Cliffs! Especially after last time! – and – I fear my heart will not endure such horrors, should it be as before…. And despite this, they never would have been able to prepare themselves for what the night would bring.
“Yes, you heard me correct. I had to, you see… I witnessed something truly heartbreaking.” Delicate sobs swirled through the air, tearing at several heavy hearts in response to the old snail’s gravelly voice. “It is Johnathon… he was always one for adventure, I suppose, and it is the fine line between bravery and stupidity on which he treaded.” Several eyes straightened high towards the ceiling, wide and tearful, as they understood the use of the past tense. “And today, he crossed that line. Daringly, he climbed the Cliffs, and paid dearly for it. With his life.” At this, Grandpa bowed his eye toward the ground for a moment of silence. “Bigfoot ensured that he met his end, and I think it is time that he paid the price for such horrid acts against snail-manity!”
The crowd whooped and shouted in angry reply to this cry for justice. And so it was, that night, scheming and plotting were the council-snails, devising a plan to rid their homes of this menace Bigfoot once and for all. The common folk, somber and forlorn, returned to their respectable households for a night of mourning, allowing all matters of retribution to be handled by their council, whose wise eyes had seen many years’ experience.
And so, that next morning, the plan was set into motion.
Bigfoot had given life to two fair princesses, the younger of which was the fairest of all the giants in the land. The council had heard legends of the princess’s kindness to the snail folk of their history, and, perhaps dangerously, relied on this to be of complete truth. The Plan completely depended on her caring nature, and they could all meet a perilous death should they be wrong. However, all the snails of Snailville believed in her religiously – where Bigfoot was the Evil in their world, Her Highness was the Good. And so, with a great deal of stealth and effort, all 143 snails of Snailville persevered their way up the Cliffs – reassured by the fact that they had watched as Bigfoot and his wife settled into their big, moving, metal box-thing, and zoom off, out of their world and to the next one over and beyond.
Led by Grandpa One-Eye and the rest of the council, the horribly frightened, yet determined and justice-seeking of the snail folk trembled, and pushed their way up the set of nine cliffs with determined, anger-fueled valor.
It was a mighty progression, and had any of giant-kind passed by, they would have paused for a great deal of time to watch as the snails traveled, millimeter by millimeter, centimeter by centimeter – couples linking eyes to share strength – and eventually and victoriously arrived at the foot of a looming door, meant to scare them off with the… giantness of it all. However, the snails did not even pause at the daunting sight, and Grandpa One-Eye began the perilous trek up the rail, to the brick wall, along the window sill, and, finally, into Bigfoot’s lair through the open window. First, though, he paused just before the entrance, and waved all the other snails on with his single eye.
And so the journey continued, and through the giant home they made their very slow way.
Grandpa was of the first to reach the ginormous kitchen, the others being Aunt Sue, and Grandma Terra. They found the young princess twirling gracefully to a wondrous melody emitting from some strange rectangular prism. The princess was most lovely, with her large hazel eyes widening at the sight of the snail folk in her kitchen.
“Oh, my, well where in the world did you three come from?” kneeling toward the snails, Her Highness held out her hand gingerly, just touching the ground, her palm face up. Aunt Sue and Grandma eyed her hand tentatively, and so Grandpa, sensing their fear, gave them a grave look, telling them to stay on the safety of the ground. Then, feeling a great surge of bravery, Grandpa moved onto the princess’s palm. As soon as he was safe and secure, she brought her hand up to her eye level with dizzying speed.
Grandpa, terribly afraid, fell into the deepest, most respectful bow he could manage with a single eye, nearly lying it flat on her skin.
“Dear me, did I startle you? Why, I am so terribly sorry, Mr. Snail – I truly have wishes only to help you and your family…” Grandpa felt a relief so great sweep through him, that he felt his eye wobble. However, he felt this too soon, because the princess’s eyes had drifted past him, and to her hallway, where she ogled at the large quantity of snails with shock, and perhaps a tad of worry. Grandpa watched with wariness as the princess brought her other hand up to cover her mouth.
When her eyes returned to his one, they were filled with concern and a touch of curiosity. “Well,” she said, “I suppose you all have a story to tell.”
And so they told her of the terror Bigfoot brings upon them.
“Why, I feel so horrible for all my father has done to you poor snails. Why he is evil as this, I will never know, and I hope to be able to stop him. Is there anything at all I can do for you sweet souls?” She was wiping absentmindedly at the corners of her eyes.
“Actually, that’s why we’ve come. It is a dangerous journey we’ve made, and I do so hope it was not in vain. You must understand, Your Highness, I am responsible for the well-being of this town, and I fear, after Johnathon’s death, that only justice can even begin to help these crumbling spirits…”
“I understand, of course! Just tell me what I need to do, and I will do it.” Her eyes hardened into a steely resolve.
“The Ancients have left us the dried mucus of one very special individual – magical, he was, absolutely magical… and we have been saving this for an emergency. We have been saving it for this exact purpose. We will grind it and mix it into a specially designed potion, and it will then have the power to do what we need it to do. You see, when ingested, the affected person will have to follow one command – any command – given to them, and if they fail to do so, death will descend upon them with the intent to take their spirit to the otherworld.” Grandpa gazed into the princess’s eyes meaningfully.
“I see. You wish me to make sure my father ingests this substance, and that I command him to never again harm a snail being.”
“I know this is a lot to ask –”
“Not at all! I said I would do what I could to stop him, and I will. I will meet you at midnight – if that’s enough time to make the potion?”
“It is plenty. Thank you so very much, Your Highness, you have no idea how much this means to our town. No idea!” Grandpa One-Eye almost teared up, he was so overcome with emotion. He quickly swiveled his eye so that he was facing the fearful, hopeful towns-snails and nodded once, slowly. The snails burst into cheers, or sobs, or both. It was a wondrous day indeed!
And so it was, as the clock struck twelve on July 4th, the princess snuck outside and met them, taking the potion that the council-snails had slaved away to produce – pouring everything they had into it. It was their only shot, and they were wary to just give it away without being able to see through with the deed themselves, but they knew it was the only option, and they trusted the princess with their lives.
No snail slept. No snail breathed. No snail blinked.
At exactly six o’clock that same morning, Bigfoot was served a delicious, and piping hot cup of coffee, fixed for him spontaneously by his marvelous youngest daughter, and he consumed it heartily. Following his last gulp of the rich brown drink, however, he found his daughter eying him anxiously, every two seconds at least. Just as he was about to ask her what was going on, he found he could no longer open his mouth, or move his tongue, and then, he discovered quite startlingly, that he could move not a single muscle, but his eyes, which darted around frantically, finally settling on the princess’s pleased, but slightly alarmed look.
“Well, I suppose this means you’re ready…” she speculated. After a pause of observing him once more, she continued, “Yes I do believe I have done this correctly. Okay, father, I have a command for you.” She looked into his eyes sternly. “You mustn’t harm another snail ever again in all of time. I order it.” Her chin raised slightly towards the end.
As the princess’s just command sank in, he felt his limbs releasing. However, ever since that morning, and to this day, whenever he thought of harming a snail, he found himself again unable to move…
The snails received word from the princess that the potion had worked, and that her father would never again bother them, and on that day, July 4th, they celebrated till the stars joined them, and every year on, they celebrated July 4th as the day they defeated their greatest enemy, and as the day they were free to travel the Cliffs and there might all they like, without fear of inevitable doom.
They lived happily ever after.