My girlfriend left me the day I told her of my plan. She said we had “grown apart,” but I know she really meant “you’re fucking crazy.” I’d hoped that she’d understand, that she’d see the necessity of my plan, understand how much the city needed someone to stand up and do what was right, but I can’t blame her for leaving. If this is a mission I have to undertake alone, I accept that now. I’ve had plenty of time to come to peace with the idea.
I began training the next day. At first I tried strapping a hiking pack full of bricks and free weights to my back, but the way the weight shifted kept throwing off my balance, and it was no good trying to train myself for what was to come in a way that challenged my balance more than my endurance. No, building my latissimus dorsi, my erector spinae, gradually training all the muscles of my back and shoulders to support the load I was to bear was the first priority. Next I filled the pack with quick-dry cement, but I wasn’t yet up to the task of carrying such a burden for any meaningful length of time, and it seemed my training had hit a snag. How was I to prepare for my momentous undertaking if I couldn’t find a steady weight that my back could carry for the whole day?
So I settled into my chair at home and thought on the matter, and a crazy idea formed in my head, madder even than the one that had driven my love away from me the week before. Was it possible? I had been putting off the second stage of my preparations, namely creating the shell that would strike terror into the heart of the city’s criminals. Could I be sitting atop the very answer to both my problems? A search on the internet provided confirmation that what I in my desperation imagined to be the solution was indeed possible. The only question was that of my own ingenuity and dedication. I had nothing left to lose. I chose the path that destiny had laid at my feet.
I spent the next four days working on the outer casing of the shell. I knew that once it and I were one there would be no more opportunity to see to its construction; even repairs would be nigh impossible. The shell had to last. I coated the back of the chair with layer upon layer of plaster and chicken wire, applying wet on top of dry, and as the shell expanded well beyond the chair’s original dimensions I had to pull the chair into the center of my living room. As the shell grew I shaped the spiral that had taken over my mind into its surface, first wide along the outer rim, then ever shrinking as the spiral reached its point at the center of the shell’s surface. I don’t know that I ate anything for those four days, though the evidence of the carton and a half of Parliaments I went through at the time remained as a pile of cigarette corpses piled high within and around the Three Stooges ashtray on the mantle afterward.
With the shell completed, I arranged the space around my former chair so that I would have everything necessary to the continuance of my life available in easy reach, for I knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while, not until I and the shell were one. The hardest part was setting up the septic line to my bathtub. The hose had to wide enough for my fecal matter to travel through, but small enough that I could get it under my posterior without disturbing the contact my back had with the chair (for my skin’s constant contact with the fabric over the coming months was key to my transformation). I arranged for a rent-a-maid to visit the house once a week for the purpose of restocking my mini-fridge and ensuring my health was in good order.
Preparations completed, there was only one thing left to do: commit to sit.
The months passed slowly. I permitted myself to watch television and play videogames for what may seem to you a great deal of the day, but I pestered myself to read as well, and not just the fantastic fiction that had inspired me to this great endeavor but also works of true crime and investigative methodology. I studied videos of martial arts masters, and I did what exercising I could to keep myself strong and my body ready to bear the shell once it had become a part of my body in physicality as well as spirit.
Was there pain? I will not lie to you, I wept at the pain when the skin of my back blistered and cracked, but I knew this was a necessary part of the process, and after the second month I knew the process had begun in earnest. Yes, by the fourth month I could rock in the chair and feel the chair move with me, my back and the shell joining in a single slight arc that, though invisible, marked the realization of all I had dreamed.
But still I waited, wanting to be sure, dreading the thought that I might one day stand and find the shell did not follow me, afraid that after all I had endured it might yet not be enough. Eight months I waited, exercising my legs and arms the best I could, praying every day that my skin would fuse the more tightly with the fabric of my chair. Eight months, and then I could be patient no more. I knew that I had to stand. I had to walk again. I had to feel the shell’s weight supported by the muscles of my back. I rocked in the chair, feeling the now familiar sensation of the fabric fused to my body, and a grin split my face. Yes, it was time to stand!
But at first my legs betrayed me. I couldn’t muster the power necessary to propel my weight and that of the shell forward and up. I screamed, as I knew the city was screaming for its savior, and I threw my weight forward again. If my skin ripped free from the fabric, let it. I was going to stand. I was a man, goddammit, and I was going to stand on my own two feet again if it destroyed everything I’d worked for these past eight months. I stood, and the shell rose with me. It was all I could do not to collapse immediately to my knees in thankful sobs.
Since then I have spent my every waking hour in preparation for the final stage. I am ready at last. Tonight, the scum of this city shall know fear again, and the people shall once more be safe. I am your salvation. I am the Linen Snail.