Word Count 1,164
Note: This short tale was posted to the Lancer groups on Yahoo in August of 2003. After posting the third section of the first chapter of Teresa’s Birthday Presents, someone asked, “What’s next, the snake’s point-of-view?” I couldn’t resist the challenge.
* * * * *
Awakening to the chilly night air, he shivered and stretched. The rock, which had shaded him from the hot sun of the previous afternoon, was doing nothing to stave off the cold. Slowly, with the full length of his long lean body writhing, he began crawling across the meadow. It was time he headed home.
Part way to the cave beneath the ledge of rock on the west edge of the narrow valley, he came upon some stones that lay close together. Just beyond them, heat radiated from several glowing embers of what he assumed were the remains of a fire. He hissed his displeasure. Those red coals might look inviting, but he had learned early on in his youth that snuggling up to one of them was foolish. The searing pain they inflicted was almost unbearable.
A bit disgruntled, he skirted the ring of rocks and continued on toward his original destination. It’s not all that far, so why waste time looking for a bed along the way, he scolded himself.
The meager remains of the fire were several body lengths behind him when he stopped to yawn. He was so sleepy that he could hardly keep his eyes open. If only he could find a cozy spot closer than the den to curl up and spend the remainder of the night.
When a clump of brush blocked his path, he turned to his left in order to detour around it. A moment later, just as he was changing directions to get back on course, his nose bumped into something that blended into the darkness. He stopped and ran his chin up over it. It gave a little so he lifted his head higher and rubbed his neck against it as he wiggled forward.
“Scratchy!” he grouched in a loud hiss. “I hate scratchy things.”
Grumpily, he made his way along the edge of the coarse object while wondering where it had come from. He was sure it hadn’t been there the previous day.
Before he had gone far, he met with a new obstacle that was not quite identifiable. Although shaped somewhat like a thick branch of a tree, it didn’t feel like one. Instead of being hard and a little bit rough, it was firm with a small amount of give and the texture was smooth like water. What caught his interest the most though was the warmth that he felt. Here might be just what he was searching for.
Once he had squirmed all the way onto the strange limb, he tried to wind his long frame into a ball. It couldn’t be done. One half or the other of him wanted to slide off. His perch simply was not wide enough.
One of the hazards of getting older, he groused, thinking of sinking his teeth into the softness beneath him. He quickly changed his mind, however, and decided to explore this odd bit of terrain further. After all, it wasn’t the limb’s fault that he was no longer young enough to curl up anywhere he chose. Not only that, he was old enough to know better than waste his venom foolishly.
Further exploration seemed to be called for; so, keeping his head up and swinging from side to side, he crawled along the ridge that widened a little but not enough. Shortly he came to what might be the broad trunk of the peculiar fallen tree that he was on. Now he had a choice of which way to go. He moved his head to the right but was quickly obstructed by a small cliff of some sort. Upon feeling his way to the top of it, he found a bump with air blowing from it. Deciding there was no decent place to bed down in that direction, he swung back to his left.
“Ah . . . this is much better,” he sighed as he wound himself into a tight coil on the broad surface he had discovered. “Firm but not hard, and there is plenty of room. I kind of like these silky fibers, too.”
He flattened his tail and let his head come to rest on a section of his body. The heat radiating from under him was heavenly and the gentle rocking motion was quite soothing. His eyelids slid closed, and in no time at all, he was sleeping soundly.
Sometime later–how long, there was no way of knowing–his bed moved beneath him. He raised his head and glanced around him. The sun was just beginning to peek over the top of the eastern ridge.
There was a low moan and the log he was lying on twisted a little. His first thought was that the earth was quaking, but his world righted itself before he slid from his perch. “Don’t do that again,’ he scolded. “I don’t like my sleep being disturbed.”
Just as he thought all was well and started to close his eyes once more, he became aware of movement to one side of him. He immediately stretched his neck upward and warily watched the odd looking lump that was a little beyond his reach. When it shifted and rolled but didn’t come closer, he began to relax.
His head drooped–slumber on the verge of overtaking him–when suddenly the end of a stick appeared in front of his nose. “Sssssss,” he yelled while lifting his tail and rattling it as loudly as he could.
This new enemy, however, did not back away. Instead, it started circling in front of his face. He tried to look away, but his sense of curiosity was too strong. It got the better of him, and he simply could not keep his eyes from following the object’s erratic path.
An alarm sounded somewhere in his tiny brain, telling him that this was danger of the worst kind. Feebly he attempted to break from his enemies mesmerizing hold. He could not. Soon his head was also moving as though attached to the end of the shiny stick.
His vision began to blur and his mind stopped functioning. Like a puppet on a string, he went wherever his enemy led him. When his neck began to tire and he thought that he could not make another circle with his head, pain exploded through him, and for a split second, he had the strange sensation that his body was catapulting through space. In desperation, he sank his fangs into some unknown surface and expelled as much of the deadly venom as he could before all went black and he knew no more.
For the rest of the story,
read Teresa’s Birthday Presents
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