A shadowy figure moves through an alleyway. Past a tabby cat. Around a dumpster filled with refuse. Dancing over muddy puddles that reflect neon signs advertising coming attractions.
A spy movie. Perhaps a prestige picture.
The mysterious and nefarious being makes his way up to a couple waiting with their young child for a taxi to whisk them back to suburbia. Back to a pleasant house in a pleasant neighborhood where there are no alleyways or honking horns or men who know nothing but darkness in their hearts. The kind of darkness that crawls up to innocence looking for a dime or a dollar or a hundred dollars so it can feed the greed that vines its way around whatever’s left of a soul.
This little family is about to be terrorized by that rogue, that soundrel, that antagonist. The little daughter will be traumatized as her doll falls to the sidewalk. The mother will scream, but that dastardly devil will put his filthy, gloved hand up to her mouth to silence her as her husband watches on in horror. He’ll hand over what cash he has on him, and the evildoer will disappear into the night, but the damage will have been done.
Someone puts a stop to it.
A hero with the agility of a lynx, the intelligence of a dolphin, and the ambiguity of a Yeti. Someone who can intercept crime before its inception. An advocate for justice and righteousness who can break the morale of those who would wound the most vulnerable among us. A champion to help the common man dream sweetly in their beds.
Am not that hero.
Am Snail Man.
That is what brings me here today.
I am requesting--a name change.
For you see, there is no way for me to perform my duties as a superhero if the animal I am meant to emulate--is a snail.
Now, I have nothing against the adorable little creatures. Yes, it’s true that I resist touching them or looking at them. Yes, I have sampled the occasional escargot when visiting Paris. Yes, my father was killed by a rout of snails as he was walking home from the chalet of his mistress, but none of that matters when it comes to my sworn duty as a crime-fighter. The only salient point is that I am unable to run at the unethical when I see them in action, because snails do not run.
Once I reach the criminals--assuming they haven’t fled, most don’t, rather, they stay and mock me--I am unable to pummel them as my costume does not allow me movement in my arms and legs since snails have neither. The victims must watch as I crawl back into my shell while assailants wail on the poorly insulated structure. I hide out there, covered in my own goo, wishing I could be any other kind of creature.
Please, I beseech you, let me take on another form.
It need not be something glamorous.
Were you to bestow upon me the title of Lemur Guy, I would wear it happily. Sloth Fellow? Proudly. Naked Mole-rat Boy? I’m a bit long in the tooth to be a boy, but other than that, I’m fine with it. I welcome it. I wrap my arms around it.
Just please relinquish me from the title of Snail Man.
None of the superhero teams will have me fight alongside them. Not even the Ninja Turtles, who, if you ask me, are hypocrites for discriminating against me due to my lack of speed. I expected better from my shelled brethren, and yet, here we are.
I am an island.
A snail island.
Felonies pass by me the way a ship would and I must simply sit on the sand and witness their travels, because I am incapable of fighting back.
When I travel out at night to begin my shift, large birds swoop down and try to consume me. Half my life is spent hiding from owls. One particularly hot day in July, I saw a bank robbery in progress and could do nothing, because a mischievous teen had aimed a magnifying glass at me and I was nearly burnt up on the spot.
I understand that we can’t all be Batman or Captain America, but must the lower-tier heroes be thrown the scraps of names and identities? It’s bad enough that I’m Snail Man by night, but by day isn’t much better. Tasking me with being the man at the mobile phone store who helps the elderly set up their voicemail? Forcing me to live in a squalid apartment with three other roommates--two of whom are owls? Expecting me to spend my own money cleaning that ghastly suit you make me wear because when I’m in character, the goo drenches every inch of it, and the smell is--
It’s too much, I say!
This cannot continue.
I am warning you now--a man can only take so much.
If I had a finger available to me right now, I would be shaking it in your collective faces. You, the Commission for Naming Superheroes, has done me a disservice, and I demand that it be rectified post haste!
Mark my words, you will either grant me a new persona, or you will have one less hero out on the avenues fighting the good fight, and a new villain to worry about instead.
Yes, you heard me.
I shall take Snail Man from light to dark, and I will do so with gusto!
Though I may not be able to make much of an impact while I am on the side of right, it is lucky for me that destruction requires far less acumen.
So help me, I will slither through these streets slowly knocking over trash cans and leaving a trail of mucus everywhere I go! It may not rise to the level of anarchy you usually worry about, but someone will still have to clean it up, and Janitor Man retired last week.
Now that I’ve said my peace, I shall retire back to my apartment and hide out in my closet so as not to be eaten by either of my roommates. My third roommate is a stand-up gent, but I believe he may be The Polar Bear in disguise. I notice he likes to keep the air conditioner on even in the dead of winter and I’ve spotted him scooping fish out of the bathtub when he thought nobody was home.
You see how observant I am?
I’m an asset.
One you’d hate to lose.
Because once I walk out that door, it’ll take me forever to make my way back.