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Curled like a tadpole in the confines of the ball turret, he slips into his mind and enters the first nautilus ring of memory.

i.

He sees a potting shed littered with terra cotta fragments, soft loam, and quietly rotting tomato vines. It is fall now, and the place hasn't been used for nearly a month, not that his mother was ever much of a gardener - she prefers the career of a socialite, and complains constantly about this heathen life in the country. His father yells whenever she embarks on a new tirade, and his mother drinks something out of a square-cut glass bottle that looks as though it were pilfered from Oz, and then everything is still again. For a while.

He watches himself enter the shed, gawky and fair. Tears have made a paisley pattern of sorts in the skim of blood on his pale cheek, and the skin about his eye looks like an oval of wet blotter paper rife with plum-colored ink. He purloins a splinter of stake from the tomato ruins, and in his rage and helplessness, assaults the spiracles of a nearby snail until it shrivels and twists and finally goes still.

He shivers and casts the splinter as far away from him as he possibly can.

ii.

In the second ring of memory, she stands inside the skeleton of a charred house. She is still, and calm, and clearly more than a little numb, though the clenched spirals of her tiny hands indicate at least some awareness of calamity. He cautiously walks behind her and places a hand upon her delicate shoulder. He can see the pale blue veins of her neck pulsing. They are oddly beautiful.

At a loss for what to say - and he never was a man of many words - he rummages awkwardly in his left pocket. A familiar curve graces his fingertips, and he fingers the brittle snail shell as he whispers inaudibly, "I don't want anything to hurt ever again."

The next week, the German planes return, and he stands beside her hospital bed as the woman quietly fades away.

iii.

The man in the ball turret is crying, but no one can see, and with a wave of revulsion, he flings his hands away from the trigger mechanisms of the twin .50 caliber machine guns.

"We can make life however we want it to be," he says quietly to himself.

iv.

They flush his carcass from the B-17 in the evening like gourmands scraping the meat out of a particularly recalcitrant piece of escargot. A snail shell rolls out of his hand in the process, and someone steps on it. Its fragile whorls smear like chalk on the runway. Life goes on.
A story about a memory palace shaped like a snail-shell. And WWII. Also a rather late-ish something for :iconwriters-workshop:'s Flash Fiction and Compressed Poetry Workshop, if they'll have it.

Inspired by Soap&Skin's song "Spiracle" and the poem "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," by Randall Jarrell.
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Daily Deviation

Given 2013-10-25
House of the Snail by *orphicfiddler is a beautifully poetic snapshot of the WWII era. ( Featured by DorianHarper )
:iconthegalleryofeve:
TheGalleryOfEve Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations on your well-deserved DD!!! :iconflyingheartsplz::iconlainloveplz::iconflyingheartsplz: :clap::clap::clap:
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:iconaquagalaxy:
AquaGalaxy Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013
congratulations on the DD! >w<
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:iconlostgryphin:
LostGryphin Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Amazing! Love the concept and the imagery!
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:iconsrcpcsoha:
srcpcsoha Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Congrats on the DD! Have a good day~
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:iconmizzmint:
mizzmint Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations on having your piece featured as one of today's Daily Deviations! :glomp:

Well deserved :heart:
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:iconlintu47:
lintu47 Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    Congrats on the DD! :dalove: Have a nice day! :heart:
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:iconrobson666:
robson666 Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Hobbyist
congratulations to the well deserved Daily Deviation  Clap
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:iconmanigran:
Manigran Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Just superb. Superb writing, superb imagery, superb idea that ties the story together. Brilliant!

And congratulations on the DLD!
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012
Thank you so much! :heart:
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:iconmanigran:
Manigran Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
You're very welcome.
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:icondailylitdeviations:
DailyLitDeviations Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2012
Your wonderful literary work has been chosen to be featured by DailyLitDeviations and has been selected as our "Pick of the Day". It is featured in a news article here: [link] and on our main page.

Keep writing and keep creating.
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012
A very belated thanks to you guys. :) I haven't been on dA much lately, but seeing this in my inbox from months ago is great encouragement to start posting more often again.
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:icondisrhythmic:
disrhythmic Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2012
Beautiful imagery. :heart: I love the ending, too--depressing, but it just fits perfectly somehow.
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012
Thank you. :)
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:iconlucy-merriman:
Lucy-Merriman Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2012  Student General Artist
Wow, so apparently you posted this in March and I never read it. It's gorgeous.

Although I was thrown for a loop when I saw the WW logo; I didn't realize it was old and didn't read the description, so I assumed it was for the current prompt [plot twists] and I kept reading it and thinking, "Well this is brilliant, but where's the twist? And why's it so short?"

All my writing is odd lengths of words.
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012
Surprise, it was all a dream! And the rest of the words are written in invisible ink.

Ha, glad you liked it. I wish I'd had this version back when I wrote a draft of it for an NPR contest. It's a lot better than what I submitted.
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:iconlucy-merriman:
Lucy-Merriman Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012  Student General Artist
I always feel like that after submitting something somewhere. Like, "Wait! No! One more revision!"

Maybe there's someplace else you could submit this?
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2012
Prolly. I might try a magazine or something.
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:iconcherub999:
cherub999 Featured By Owner May 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This so vividly described. I love the almost phantasmagorical pace of this, and how the simple nautilus kept all the components connected and it's just beautiful. :)
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner May 14, 2012
Thank you! It's too bad it didn't all come together until after the contest I was writing it for ended, though. Ah well.
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:iconcherub999:
cherub999 Featured By Owner May 15, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
It won you lots of fans! :)
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:iconladybugscribbles:
LadybugScribbles Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I like the imagery of the snail shell.
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012
Thanks. :) I'm fond of snails, as you might suppose.
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:iconladybugscribbles:
LadybugScribbles Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome.
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:iconmagpie-poet:
magpie-poet Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012
Your work is always so gorgeous. Though it also normally leaves me hoping my bunny has some warm fuzzies to spot me!
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012
Thank you. Aww, I'm sure she has loads of warm fuzzies. I hope she does. Bunnies are adorable like that.
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:iconmagpie-poet:
magpie-poet Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2012
Mine is sort of a defective one. She's awful cute but awful crabby and a bit bipolar ;)
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2012
She sounds a bit like a cat.
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:iconmagpie-poet:
magpie-poet Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2012
Well put!
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:iconpomohippie7:
pomohippie7 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012   Writer
Your work has been showcased here! [link] :)
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012
Ooo, shiny. I like features. Thank you! :D
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:iconpomohippie7:
pomohippie7 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012   Writer
You're very welcome! :D
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:iconthornyenglishrose:
ThornyEnglishRose Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
As always, you use words brilliantly here. Just amazing.
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012
Thank you. Though, dang, I'd forgotten how hard flash fiction is, especially when the limit is 500 words. I kept having to cut things out.
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:icondelectabletea:
DelectableTea Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012
I like the feel and flow of this a lot. Quite a melancholy way to start the day for me! Part iv. was a particularily gruesome and wonderful ending.
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012
One should always have a melancholy story before breakfast. Er, puts the day in perspective, or something.

Thank you for reading! :)
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:icondelectabletea:
DelectableTea Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012
haha I'll take that as sound advice.
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012
*am kind of

See, I'm so crazy I put in extra words for no reason. Though a guess "a kind of" makes some weird sense.
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012
I dunno. I am a kind of nutters. You probably shouldn't listen to me.
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:iconcarmalain7:
Carmalain7 Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2012
I love the concept of moving through the different compartments of the snail shell. Might i suggest incorporating a spiral into your writing somehow? The spiral of life, a spiraled strain of hair, a spiral down to the ground before crashing, the Fibonacci Sequence, i don't know; all i know is that spirals are fascinating and, whilst the piece certainly doesn't need it and is quite brilliant regardless, i think it might add a cool extra layer for those who want to read too closely.

"Life goes on."
How strange it is to find such finality in those words; how strange it is to be anything at all.
You're rather brilliant, do you know that?
Thank you for these words.
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012
Thank you for reading and saying lovely things. :heart:

The spiral's a good idea. I've had a bit of an obsession with the nautilus shape after learning about the Golden Ratio in junior high, and it's amazing how many things relate to both it and pi. I'll see what I can do, maybe a third version of this. (This is actually version two - I've got another slightly longer version saved somewhere with a different middle section and the incorporation of a really stupid joke.) I'll prolly expand it to a proper short story at some point and add more spirals then.
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:iconcarmalain7:
Carmalain7 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012
Ya, the golden ratio is a bizarre phenomenon but certainly one that merits both obsessions and beautiful pieces of literature (i.e. this piece). i'm excited to see the continued progression of the piece; i've always been of the mind that some of the best writing come about with much deliberation, drafts, edits, and time put towards them.
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012
Most novels probably wouldn't be what they are without that crazy editing process. Though it also makes it very daunting to write one. I remember having so much respect for J.K. Rowling when she mentioned that she'd had to rewrite something like half of the fourth Harry Potter book due to plot issues. I prolly would just said, "SCREW IT," changed my name, and run away to Siberia.
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:iconcarmalain7:
Carmalain7 Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012
Would you really? i would have rewritten the entire thing if i had to for sure; think of all that guitar and vinyl money you could make by writing a series like that. ($)_($)
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012
That's true. It would be tempting. BUT LAZEEE . . . Maybe that's why she killed so many characters off. Repressed frustration.
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:iconcarmalain7:
Carmalain7 Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012
Ya but she could have at least killed some of the characters off in a more proper fashion; i'm not sure i'll ever forgive her for her cop-out of a death-scene she wrote for Sirius.
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2012
Sirius was my favorite. :( I spent two books just hoping he would come back for some really important thing to do, but nope.

Also made me glad I grew up while the books were being written. If all of them had been out when I was in late elementary school, I don't know how I would have coped with all those deaths.
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(1 Reply)
:iconangelstained:
angelStained Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2012   Writer
I like how it gets more disconnected with the progress... once you've noticed it, it's rather chilling. All the poignant spirals (phrase is odd, but 'sokay) throughout. The little hints of age are interesting, too: 'tiny hands' & 'gawky and fair'. And then those unassuming slight phrases like 'chalk on the runway' are are great & do haunt us much. Powerful concept + breathless execution.
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:iconorphicfiddler:
orphicfiddler Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2012
Thank you! I spent more time writing this than most long stories, so way more attention to detail. Short stuff is HARD.
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:iconsaevuswinds:
saevuswinds Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2012  Student Writer
Oh wow...How does this not have any comments? It was elegantly beautiful.
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