Mandy-Suzanne Wong

Seeks Position after Final Meal with Friend


ISSUE 65 | LEATHER | JUN 2016

You probably don’t get many applicants from Japan. In accordance with your Diversity Statement, I should think you’d welcome some. For talents like mine, Japan is the sensible place to look. Ambiguity--as in being more than one thing and none of them--is the essence of everyday conversation around here. So is a deep sense that the world is weirder than it looks.

My point is, being Japanese has enabled me to nurture just the kind of talent your organization seeks. Anti-immigration laws won’t be a problem since I’ll live not in Florida but beside it.

But you’re probably wondering why I’d leave Japan if it’s so perfect.

The truth is a friend of mine died recently. In classic novels, people often travel after that happens.

Which brings me to the key question on your application form. Why do I believe myself uniquely suited to your organization in the capacity in which I’m applying?

First of all, Hannibal the Cannibal, the role for which I hope Hauntington Beach Theme Park will grant me an audition, is like myself a cultured mind, well-versed in classic literature, art, philosophy, &c. You must admit few Floridians are well-read or well-spoken. Local applicants are thus unlikely to be suitable. But I, having studied human intellectual pursuits, can guarantee your guests appropriate, spontaneous, stimulating banter.

I can even do the “Hmmm?”. You’ll agree this is the hardest aspect of the role. My experiments indicate that a Hannibal “Hmmm?” originates at the bottom of the gut, winds its way upward through the intestinal coils to a suitably lowered diaphragm, up and up through the chest into the vocal chamber, quitting the body through the mouth in a spiraling motion. This requires strong, malleable intestines that connect with non-digestive systems in practical ways.

Simply put: I’ve got the guts you need. I can “Hmmm?” with incontrovertible precision. I’m also an experienced man-digester.

If you’ll permit, I can envisage your objections.

You must be thinking, first of all: But she ticked “female.”

Well, yes. I could’ve chosen “male.” I’ve sometimes had occasion to do so. For all intents, it wouldn’t have been any less true. In fact, it might’ve been more accurate to leave both boxes blank. But on this type of form, blank boxes look like carelessness. I wouldn’t want you to think that.

I’d also discourage you from thinking of me as “female-identified,” although I was born female. It’d be equally misleading, not to mention gauche, to think of me as “snail-identified,” though I was born a snail. To do so would be to deny my long history, which wouldn’t be fair. The whole notion of “identity” really has no meaning for me anymore. As Hannibal likes to say, you can’t reduce me to quantities.

Moving on, I imagine you’re concerned about the Home Address I specified.

Pacific Ocean
Off Shima Peninsula
Japan
That’s my birthplace. And I would opt for oceanic accommodations near Florida. But I recently spent time in a house on top of Shima Peninsula, so I’m good at navigating human dwellings and communities. I’m more than proficient with the ambulatory limbs appropriate to theme parks.

Finally, you’ll notice the + I added to the Age box, as in 30+.

Age doesn’t really mean anything for me either. However, I’m fairly confident that I’m at least thirty years old by human reckonings. That’s because legends say that sazae-snails transform into sazae-oni at the age of thirty. Except when they say it happens at the age of 100.

The measurement of time is of little interest to a marine gastropod unless you’re fleeing a predator, in which case all you care about is getting away in less time than it takes him to catch up. I know I ate a lot of algae early in life, spawned countless generations, and had a knack for avoiding predators.

At the whiff of starfish in my tentacles, I’d be out of there faster than a high-jumper on a pogo stick. Have you ever seen a snail rocketing towards the stratosphere on her own power? That’s not something you’d expect. Starfish never do.

But there are lots of predators out there. Stingrays, octopuses, crabs. The women divers, or ama, who eat us raw or grill us roadside...

In short, if you want someone “ready for adventure,” you really couldn’t do better than a snail. When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing for a ten-centimeter mollusk to make it to the age of thirty (or 100).

I didn’t think about it much. I was too busy surviving to realize what an accomplishment it was. I wasn’t, in my early days, what you’d call an intellectual. I was content to slide one-footedly along, make mucus, nap, and build my shell.

Incidentally, my shell is very fine. Black with several whorls, a pointy spire. Cunning protuberances with defensive capabilities and pinkish bits. A lovely pearlescent front door.

But when I reached the age of thirty (or 100), something happened. Something I can’t explain. I can’t even be sure if it was a gradual change or an instantaneous mutation. Part of it was that I started acquiring concepts. I learned to understand and make myself understood by the majority of species in a way that did and didn’t have to do with language.

I do know that what happened had to do with kami. Secret forces in the ocean, the oxygen, sand, and everything, and the ambiguous meaning of Being.

I began to feel these forces in me and around me. One day, I realized I could use them to change myself. I didn’t have to be who I was.

Just as when I caught my very first whiff of starfish, I instantly knew I had to leap away, sometime after I turned thirty, I knew I could be a sea-bass.

Next time a starfish refused to get the message, I became a bigger starfish and ate the bugger. And the world started getting weird.

Things weren’t as solid as they once seemed. Especially me. Although in every moment I was still myself, a little sazae-snail, I also wasn’t a snail when I was an octopus.

I came to understand my predators intimately. I got into their heads and bellies without having to get eaten first. When I was a starfish, I knew why snails were tasty. Metaphysical conundrums and existential crises abounded.

Still, I liked my powers. You want someone with a “supple sense of fun,” look no further. I was even accused of getting carried away hunting my hunters.

When you’ve eked out an existence at the bottom of the food chain for perhaps 100 years, helplessness gets old. Leaping for your life, unable to hit back because you’re just a few centimeters long and made of ooze, wears on the nerves.

Especially where humans are concerned.

For millennia, the ama have ransacked decent homes, demolishing entire underwater neighborhoods, in search of tasty sea-creatures. Thousands of my relatives grilled alive by a gill-less, finless species.

Maybe you’ve heard the legend. A sazae-oni turns into a “drowning” woman who’s “rescued” by pirates, “invites” them to gang-rape her and eats their testicles. Later--somehow they survive--she returns said testicles in exchange for pirate-gold.

Not how it happened. I didn’t give them back. Having spent time as a shark (male), I’d learned how yummy sweetmeats are.

The shark thing wasn’t worth repeating. Sharks move constantly or they go funny in the head. No stopping to smell the seaweed. No attaching yourself to cozy rocks.

But the woman bit I’d do again. For someone who’s never touched her sexual partners, gang-rape was rather interesting. Besides, my human predators were all women. As part of my hunter-hunting program--I didn’t know yet it was a program--I climbed on the peninsula and ambled through a fishing village.

It was there I met my friend. The one who died.

I hope you won’t mind if I backtrack a little.

Shortly before I became an oni, an ama picked me up. I was a great-great-grandma many times over. I was certain that the painful deaths of my descendants had begun precisely with ama picking them up. I hadn’t lived to be a great-great-grandma just to go out like that.

Against all my instincts, I thrust out my foot as far it would go, made my oozy bits as large as possible, lashed out with my tentacles, and attempted to slam the attacker with my spines.

She gave a start, blew bubbles.

Nobody expects resistance from snails.

She put me down. Even bowed. And left me alone.

Leaving things alone isn’t what humans do. So this ama stuck in my mind.

Years later, I ran into her again when I tried being a woman on Shima Peninsula. She was walking on a sidewalk. She bowed in greeting to someone.

I remembered that bow. Remembrances from my snail-only days strike hard.

It was a stiff, one-sided bow. For she was an old gal, like me.

I of course looked nothing like the way I’d looked before. Yet she knew me at a glance. This had to do with those bizarre forces. And with her being an ama. Ama don’t scuba-dive. They breathe like dolphins, trusting themselves to the ocean. Vulnerable, like me.

She had books in her house. She was a connoisseur of classic literature, art, &c. I devoured it all. We discussed everything. If she were alive today, she’d confirm my “friendly, entertaining people skills.”

I slept in my shell at sea. Being human made the world weirder.

It was in human form, for instance, that I learned my hunter-hunting was “revenge.” This concept had connotations that made my ama-friend think there was something wrong with my “program.”

Well, I disagreed. It’s only eating. Her problem was that humans have too many concepts.

We both became indignant. Confused. Our excess of concepts obscured how ambiguous beings fit into the world.

You may’ve heard the legend. An oni comes out of the sea with sazae-tentacles, extra-extra-large. Her head’s a beautiful black shell with pinky bits. Instead of hair, she has more tentacles. Instead of hands, claws. (Everybody’s claws come out when they’re confused enough to get angry.) Lower parts like a Western mermaid’s but more oozy. She sneaks up on fishermen and divers, throttles them boa-constrictor-style with malleable guts, and eats them raw.

I made up that shape. My ama-buddy hated it. Eating humans is wrong, she said.

I said, Predators have predators too. It’s nothing personal. Even though it feels like it when someone rips you off your rock.

I still can’t pretend to understand her argument. I can’t offer any rationale for it except this, and it’s a guess: she couldn’t see past the end of her non-retractable digits because she thought she was the same shape day in, day out.

I can assure you that she wasn’t. I looked like a snail for at least thirty years, once I’d grown my shell. She, on the other hand, did not look like an ama either in her first thirty years or in her last. I’ve seen photographs. It’s also clear from how her grandchildren conduct themselves that she wouldn’t have to stay “Japanese-identified,” “female-identified,” or “omnivore-identified” if she didn’t want to. But she preferred to forget that, I think. Just as she forgot that I’m not “human-identified.”

Even if I was, I pointed out, starfish eat starfish. She said they wouldn’t if they knew better--in other words, if they weren’t starfish. Since tautology is not exactly fertile ground for discussion, I gave up on that angle.

Anyway, this argument of hers boiled down to: humans are better than other people, therefore killing humans is an affront to everyone.

This argument is flawed from the very first clause. Humans have concepts for what they do yet they do it anyway. “Better” just isn’t the word for that.

Even so, I tried to understand her point of view.

You’ll appreciate that I really didn’t have to do that. It wasn’t like she offered me any such courtesy.

What you mean is, I offered, humans have the wherewithal to do anything whatsoever to anybody, not to mention the chutzpah. Ergo any human-hunter must have serious...well, guts.

She said that wasn’t what she meant. She called me a monster. I’ll never understand it. She said I was a monster and my “program” was “monstrous.”

That’s why I figure you need a Hannibal the Cannibal at Hauntington Beach.

Our friendship ended. She said I’d merely used her to learn the habits of my prey. This was hurtful and unfair. When we felt munchy at her house, we had chocolate. I liked it.

I didn’t see her for a while. Neither in the ocean nor beside it. Then one day I spotted her on the beach.

She stared out to sea. Waiting for something.

I offered assistance for old times’ sake. She sat in the shallows with all her clothes on.

She said the cells inside her were eating each other. She wouldn’t survive it. She’d suffer terribly, possibly for a long time, until she died in agony.

It was a while before I understood what she wanted.

She said, It has to be you because you won’t feel anything.

She meant death-by-monster was better than being eaten by presumably blameless cells or, if you like, devouring herself.

I spared her having to say it. I gave her what she wanted.

After that, I felt like traveling. Which goes to show, maybe, something.

This might be more than you needed to know. It’s difficult to stop certain things once they get going.

Anyway, although I’m well-suited to Hannibal, I’m willing to consider other roles as well. Smaug or Carrie, for example. You should now have a comprehensive picture of my abilities and my eagerness to satisfy every desire of your human guests. I can say with confidence that my innate hospitability, unique level of experience, and all-around flexibility will make me a peerless addition to Team Hauntington Beach.