macerate - \MASS-uh-rayt\
1 : to cause to waste away by or as if by excessive fasting
2 : to cause to become soft or separated into constituent elements by or as if by steeping in fluid; broadly : steep, soak
3 : to soften and wear away especially as a result of being wetted or steeped
The children had captured the slugs in a neighbor's garden. That summer the slugs came in colors from brown to a bright and unsettling orange. They were prevalent, in larger numbers than the children had ever seen before. When they played tag in the cul-de-sac they would sometimes step on a straying slug. The crowd of them would gather to watch the carnage with wide, fascinated eyes.
Thus torturing the slugs became a new kind of game.
They discovered the brutal effects of salt. Someone brought a magnifying glass and they learned to focus the heat of the sun to boil slugs that found themselves already half baking on the sidewalk. Some of the children turned these experiments into competitions. The reigning king of their play was whoever had lately concocted the most grievous punishment on the slugs.
Then they imprisoned the slugs. Two of them. One, slight and brown. The other, more bulbous and a softish orange in color. The children trapped them in a shoebox with holes poked in the lid. There was nothing else in the box.
They keep the box hidden in the bushes behind someone's house. Every morning, mid afternoon and early evening before running for dinner, they peek into the box to see what the slugs are doing. The first few days, nothing seems to change. The slugs traverse the bottom and sides of the box, leaving trails of slug slime in their wake. The whole box takes on a certain texture after awhile.
Then the slugs turn on each other. One day after returning from lunch at their houses the children open the box to see that the small brown slug seems smaller, slower somehow. His eye stalks retracted. The orange slug seems improved, replenished. The children discuss the possibilities, but there is only one explanation.
Orange is eating brown.
The reactions to this knowledge vary. Some of the children are newly fascinated. The experiment had grown dull, but this threw a new an exciting light on the plight of their slugs. They wondered how long it would take for orange to devour the entirety of brown. They wondered if orange was clever enough to keep brown alive as long as possible, as a constant food source. They wondered how long it could last.
The others were wary. Slugs had never seemed like real animals before. More like animated blobs that exploded or squished in unusual ways. Now it was clear, slugs may well be evil. At the very least, slugs were cannibals. They retreated to the monkey bars, no longer wanting anything to do with the game.
It only takes a week for the experiment to end. Eventually orange does devour the entirety of brown, and after that he wastes away on his own. Starved. The children leave the box where it is and return to other games. They fashion guns from sticks and chase each other through the woods. They build a makeshift tree house. They call it the prison.