Sunday, January 23, 2011

Snakes on a Brain

Even from the relative comfort of my bed on the second story of my house I could hear them. Had it been the wind, the rustling of the leaves would have been welcome, soothing. This was not that morning, though. No waiting for the breeze to waft in through the window and impart its freshness, no waking to the baking of skin energized by early rays of sun. Only urgency, only panic. Their scales rasped on the hardscaping below and on my eardrums as they came up the hill and into the side yard. They had given us the night to allow us to believe we were safe. They'd waited for morning and now they were here. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and reached the door in one motion.

Downstairs I found my sister. She didn't yet know about the hordes invading the space we'd played in for so many years, where our parents barbecued. I told her we had to leave, that the house wasn't safe any more, that we couldn't come back. I screamed at her that it had to be now, but I couldn't make her understand why. Then I saw, out of the corner of my eye, that it was too late. A snake coiled itself on the back of our reclining chair and had its gaze fixed steadily upon her. It lunged - it flew - at her and knocked her down to the floor. Instantly, the place my sister fell became a swarm of snakes that had already made it inside the house and had just been waiting for their chance. They piled on her until I could no longer see any patch of humanity between the bodies of the growing, writhing mass of snakes.

I turned and ran for the front door. All of my energy flowed down and out of my feet, into the floor, displaced by despair as I realized I was up against flying snakes. Somehow I made it to my car. I drove until my exhaustion convinced me I'd put enough distance between myself and the snakes. I checked into a hotel so I could rest, regroup, and figure out what to do. I knew I wasn't safe. I was being chased, hunted, and I would never be able to stop running. I'd make my plan in the morning.

I slipped my key card into the door. I didn't even have to enter the room to see that the floor was a moving, tangled carpet of snakes, eager to drown me among them and dissolve me. I slammed the door closed and ran back down the hall. I felt helpless. I couldn't win my survival alone. I needed someone. The only person I found was the hotel's concierge. I told him, breathlessly, about the dissatisfactory state of my accommodations. He had no trouble believing me that my room was suffering from a snake infestation. He was conciliatory, certainly, but he felt that there was really nothing to worry about. No cause for alarm. He would take me to my room himself and remedy the problem himself, handily, closing the issue. I begged him, I pleaded with him, but I couldn't make him understand. I told him about my sister and what had happened to her. As I tagged along behind him down the hall he didn't turn his head my way or say a word. He strode, chin up, to what I knew would be his doom.

That was it, then, I thought. There was nothing else for it. The world was insane and would never comprehend the threat posed by flying snakes. I, alone, saw. I left the hotel and drove on down the road.

Grief took me, then frustration, and finally resignation. One faint glimmer of hope pushed its way through the cracks of my skull, though, and took root. It became an idea, and soon hardened into an imperative. I fled before the burden at my back at first, yes, but soon I was leading them. Unbeknownst to the snakes, I was luring them like the pied piper to the place where the great battle for the fate of the world would be waged, and God willing, the snakes would be vanquished. To rid the planet of this scourge, I raced for the land of the flying mongooses.

1 comment:

  1. I like this! I love how your stories always start out seeming like these self-reflective kind of musings, and then suddenly you wrap it up at all Heinlein-style with a twist ending and a punchline. It makes it so funny and tidy, and gives it arc. I'm sitting here thinking I'm going to be left with this untidied, sort of disturbing metaphor of the snakes, and then you're like, "No. They're literal snakes. And they're only defeatable by flying mongooses. And I am now the hero in a post-apocalyptic thriller." I love it.

    I think with that in mind, you could pick up the action a little bit by making your sentences shorter and more percussive.

    "They had given us the night to allow us to believe we were safe. They'd waited for morning and now they were here." These two sentences hit like drums. They're thrilling.