Monday, December 13, 2021

Microstory 1776: Serpens Novus

Star Mountains rainforest, Papua New Guinea. The mysterious unidentifiable snake stares at me like I just ate his squirmy little children. I’m normally good with snakes, and for a special reason. I can commune with them. They don’t have complex brains, so they can’t talk, but I can convey my intentions to them, and they to me. I’m a herpetologist, which means I love them, so they always know that I never mean them any harm. I don’t know if this particular species is immune to my wiles, or if simply the fact that it has never been studied before means that it’s not in the database. I don’t understand why that should make a difference, though. When I first realized I could do what I do, it’s not like I had ever looked at that list. I actually had to switch majors in the middle of my higher education career to account for it. I didn’t grow up having any strong feelings about snakes. I try to move backwards half a centimeter, but have to stop. He doesn’t like that—or she. I don’t know how to tell, but that obviously doesn’t matter right now. It doesn’t even matter why I can’t get this snake to relax. All I can do is call upon the training I’ve never needed before, and get myself to safety. Unfortunately, I ignored a lot of what my teachers tried to teach me about dealing with wild animals, because it didn’t apply to me. That was stupid, it was so stupid. What did I think I was, invincible? Just because I’ve been able to handle myself in the past, doesn’t mean that’s going to work in the future. Why, my situation right here just proves that. Stupid. Stupid me. I wish one of my colleagues were here now. They would know what to do. They’re used to it.

Lots of people know how good I am at my job as a snake wrangler, but they don’t know why. They don’t know that the best word I’ve come up with to describe it is supernatural. Perhaps it runs in my family, but I was always too afraid to bring it up to my parents, so it’s just been something I’ve lived with on my own. I think I did a pretty good job at maximizing my abilities to their full potential. That may all be coming to an end, though. This new snake doesn’t give a crap what I can do, if it can even tell that I’m special at all. Maybe it can. Maybe it knows exactly what I am, and does not appreciate it. Maybe it thinks it’s offensive, in some way. No, that’s dumb. It’s not that intelligent. It may be the smartest reptile in the entire world, and it still wouldn’t have any prejudices against me. I am in its territory, and I am a threat. That is all it knows. That is all it’s worried about. I try to back up again, but it’s not having it. It’s not going to risk the possibility that it’s a trick, and I’m about to attack first. It snaps at my ankle, and before I even feel the pain, it snaps at the other one. I falter, and fall down. I can feel the venom flowing through my veins, headed quickly for the rest of my body. Before it can reach my arms, I reach behind my back, and retrieve my camera. If I’m going to die, at least people can find out why. The snake is still there, like some kind of psychopath who needs to watch the life flicker from my eyes. I snap the photo. Now it doesn’t seem bothered by my sudden movements at all. I guess it’s pretty confident in the efficacy of its own venom. It has good reason to. Man, that’s a good shot. If anyone ever finds my body, they’ll find this picture too, and see how scary it looks. I carefully tuck the camera away in its case to protect it from the elements. If I have truly discovered it, I get to name it too. It will be my last act in this world. I take out my voice recorder, and speak the first name that comes to mind, “Star Mountain Purple Viper.” That’s not half bad.

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