By John Daugherty
Professor Henry Trowel always thought the idea of invasive species was silly. Animals come with legs, flippers, wings and such for a reason, and it’s not to stay put. But that was before Professor Trowel stepped on a Cornu aspersum—the brown garden snail—on his front stoop. Crunch. Brown and grey whorled shell smashed under his brown work loafer. “Darn,” he said. Professor Trowel loved nature and just hadn’t seen the snail.
Professor Trowel unbuttoned his tweed coat and bent down to pick up the corpse. Casually flipped it in a nearby plastic trash can. Looked up and saw another brown garden snail a few yards away. Its tentacles extended out sideways, eyes on each end. Did it see that happen? But it must know it was an accident. Professor Trowel half wanted to apologize but then thought that would be silly. This wasn’t murder. And this was a snail. Am I really going to apologize to one snail over another snail’s accidental death?
Professor Trowel walked by the other snail, got in his car, and left for work. When he returned home later, it was dark. By the shine of the front door light, he saw three brown garden snails oozing across the front walk. One snail even seemed to turn in his direction as he passed by. But once inside, he convinced himself he must have imagined the whole thing.
A couple hours later, Professor Trowel, now in his pyjamas, peeked out a thin window next to the front door. There were now five snails out front, in a line, facing the door. Impossible. Must be neighbors’ kids punking me, he told himself.
Professor Trowel should have fled when he found the first snail inside the house. His border collie, Spot, woke him the next morning with loud barking. The snail slowly oozed across the checkerboard linoleum after the dog. The dog barked but skipped backwards as he did.
The snail must have come in the back doggie door, Professor Trowel told himself. He grabbed a paper towel, picked up the snail, opened the back door, and tossed it in the yard. Problem solved.
But alas, not so. When Professor Trowel walked around the front of the house, dozens of snails crisscrossed the driveway, walkway, and stoop. Face turned red, veins popped on his forehead. Loafers or not, he dashed to the garage and grabbed a large shovel. Ran back out front, sweat raining down. Began swinging and swinging. Metal scrape sounds as the shovel hit the concrete, interspersed with a pleasing crunch half the time. He smashed so many snails that morning and left their shells as a lesson for the others. He tossed the shovel on the front lawn, got in the car, and felt the pride of a battle veteran.
When he got home that night, Spot was cowering in front of the house. He must have run out of the house and shoved the gate open. Spot panted, whimpered, and paced. “What’s wrong, Spot?” But just more whimpers. Professor Trowel couldn’t see anything obvious, and the snails out front were gone.
Professor Trowel put his key in the door, turned it, and stepped into the dark hallway. He heard a couple crunches and his body shivered. He flipped the hall light on. The tile itself seemed to move, a turbulent sea of writhing brown and gray snails. Professor Trowel took a couple steps into the hall but began to slide on the caked mucus trails. He fell on his back and hit his head on the door, which snapped closed. He felt dizzy and couldn’t get up. The brown garden snails began to crawl all over him until he drowned in the sea of shells. Feet. Tentacles. Eyes. Angry eyes looking at him. And then they began to dine on his flesh. He heard crunches, and this time they were him. His head began to hurt worse, and everything went black.
Invasive species guides note that brown garden snails have the ability to home and aggregate in large numbers, making them hard to control. But Professor Trowel didn’t believe in invasive species. And now it was too late.