by Jonathan Laidlow
Coryde walked onto the podium to play her snail. The amphitheatre was full, though in these backwater towns you couldn't be assured of a quality audience. She turned to look out at the brutal raked seating, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the house lights in her face. The faces that emerged were talking and laughing, eating and drinking. This was just another novelty act from the big city to them. They definitely didn't look like they were capable of appreciating the melancholy squeals of a snail-singer.
She strode to the instrument case, which had been placed on a table by the podium. Nobody noticed her. She wore the traditional plain carmine tunic and trousers first worn by the Snailists in Europe, but that meant nothing here, so they assumed she was some flunkey, and not the artist they had come to see. She unlocked the lid, then lifted it, obscuring her actions from the audience.
She stroked behind the head of her mollusc, feeling its gelatinous flesh respond to her touch, her fingertips moistened by its familiar slime. She patted the shell and sighed, running her fingers around the whorl. The hollow chambers in its shell gently amplified the faint sigh, and as it reverberated around the hall, it brought the crowd to a hushed anticipatory silence.