Fiction: ‘Serpent’

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Time stands still when it rains in the forest.

All the birds quickly hide within the shelter of the trees. Even the insects seem to have vanished into their unseen burrows. But that constant rain continues to wash over the trees and soak deep down into the earth, feeding the roots that reach out through the soil.

Everything takes on a shade of green or grey through the thick mist that fills the landscape. Every direction appears identical. The same vines drape across the trees; the same moss crawls over the bark of rotting logs; the same dead leaves decompose into the water-logged clay.

Like I said, time stands still here.

Unless, of course, you come across that rain-drenched snake that winds through this quiet world like a midnight river. Only then is it possible to break out from the endless rain and trees.

I found it once.

It was a pure accident; a shock to the quiet monotony of the day. I was following the sound of trickling water, drawn towards its subtle melody. It stood out against the rhythmic pattering of the rain. The closer I got, the fewer trees there were to offer shelter until, finally, they broke away completely to reveal the pitted black skin of the serpent.

Tiny channels of water ran along each side of its body. I followed it, lying as low as possible in the relative safety of the shrubs. The deep bends and wide curves of this colossal serpent slithered through the landscape, demolishing all that happened to have crossed its path once upon a time.

Animals passed over it in a hurry, afraid of its strange glistening surface. Every now and then I could hear the low rumble of its belly further down the mountain. It grew louder and louder, shaking the ground with unrestrained violence.

Suddenly two bright yellow eyes appeared, unnatural and cold as they flooded the shrubs with their brilliant glare. The eyes raced passed in pursuit of some unfortunate creature. It roared rather than hissed, higher in pitch as it approached, transforming into a low wine as it sped away.

The silence that followed was suddenly threatening.

Like the entire world was holding its breath in anticipation, or maybe dread. My heart hammered against my chest. I felt paralysed by the sudden appearance of the serpent’s glowing eyes, as though my skin and muscles had been turned to stone by its gaze.

I waited for my body to turn back into flesh. When my muscles and sinew came back to life, I turned away and dashed through the trees, back to the safety of my beloved woodland, taking delight in the freedom and pleasure of movement.

This timeless existence suits me better anyway.

~ Ekaterina

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