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As he entered the forest that morning there had been snow. It clung to his cloak as it drug against the earth and kissed the soles of his feet through his worn out boots. His thick wool socks were almost completely soaked now, yet he trekked onwards. In his hands was a basket filled with small amber vials. Antidote - or at least that was what the man in white had called them. The vials were supposed to save those who’d fallen ill in his village. 

He wasn’t smart nor had he ever claimed to be - so he listened to this mysterious man. He had to. He had to trust this man in a white coat knew what he was talking about. The village didn’t have much of a choice in the state it was in. The man in white used such big words and when he was by the sheen of his office he almost seemed ethereal. Oddly enough, the use of his big words made him feel rather small.

This was probably how people who saw angels felt, he figured. To be in the presence of something so large and white and feeling like you know nothing at all. The man in white might’ve been an angel. Or perhaps the devil. The deal that he struck certainly didn’t seem like a holy song. He might as well have sold his soul, but weren’t the old stories all about how devils were just fallen angels?

He shook his head, trying not to think too hard about it. He knew what he was risking the moment he left his village. He didn’t much mind serving the man in white for the rest of eternity, or one human life. They’d made a deal. He’d work to pay off the debt of the Antidote. He’d trek through this forest a hundred times over. He’d learn the city’s names. He’d eventually learn if the man in white was an angel or the devil himself.

Something in the forest shifted.

He stopped, suddenly, looking through the dense fog, the ground covered of a beautiful mix of green pine needles and untouched snow. Oh, the fog.., it seemed to swallow human mind and imagination. He squinted - his vision had long been poor, so at such a distance through the dense fog all he could make out was a blur of green and white. Oh the fog. It was so eerily peaceful. But in mind he just kept thinking, fog fog and more fog.

And although he didn’t notice it at first, when he got close enough, the air shimmered around it, like a mirage. It left no imprint in the snow. Its form flickered back and forth, back and forth as steady as a metronome. A trick of the eye. A trick of the fog. 

When he finally - finally - realized that it was real, no trick of fog or eye or weary mind, he almost lost his grip on the basket. He might’ve if he hadn’t already sold his soul to get what the cleanly woven basket held. Instead, he tightened his grip and pulled the basket close to his chest as if his feeble human arms would protect it from the thing that approached. it seemed to approach without touching the snow with foot... or scale.

“Hello there, little human,” the beast said. It was big. Bigger than he thought it’d be. He’d never actually seen one up close before. No one really had. This one was white. He would’ve liked to believe that the reason he hadn’t seen it until it was this close - close enough to swallow him whole - was because the coloration of its scales.

The village called them snakes. They weren’t really snakes - not like the snakes the outside world knew. They were massive. Monstrous. They stole children who wandered too far. One bite and they were gone. There was no saving anyone who was swallowed by a snake. Yet this one seemed to have no intention of making him an easy meal.

In a heartbeat, the snake was gone, replaced by a boy. The snake must of been young - that much could be seen by his misty human form. The mirage effect became stronger when snakes slipped from their beastly disguises. The snake was without scales, but dark-skinned, with white hair and the bluest eyes that he’d ever seen. The snake was still looking at him with… gentle curiosity.

Another beat and the monster was back.

He stumbled backward, gritting his teeth. Antidote. He needed to protect Antidote. The snakes didn’t just swallow up people, but they’d also cursed the village. They’d caused the sickness which in turn swallowed everyone in the small village. This snake was probably here to make sure the village never saw Antidote.

The snake cocked his head. The form shifted halfway through and he felt his heartbeat quicken. Human forms of snakes were supposed to be ugly. As ugly as the snake’s wicked heart. But this snake… this young snake who looked his age was… handsome? No. That didn’t do it proper justice. The snake was beautiful. His head of white hair cast a halo of morning light. The little kink in his brow as he gazed at him so… softly. Curiously.

Another step back. Then another. “Leave me be!” he said, eyes darting around the forest floor, looking for a large branch or… something, anything he could use to ward the snake off.

“Do not fear,” the snake said, sitting down and crossing his legs - and then he had no legs so he sat in a coil. “I mean you no harm.”

Those words sounded familiar. He frowned, trying to remembe where he had heard that before, and then it hit him. The angels had use those very words when they came down. Why did angels say that sort of thing? He thought angels were supposed to be pretty, were they not? The way the preacher talked about them it sure seemed as if they were.

“Snakes eat people,” he said, narrowing his eyes. “And they cursed our village.”

“Cursed?” the snake asked, frowning - though he couldn’t quite understand until the snake turned to boy. “I don’t know anything about a cursed village.” the snake mumbled.

He scoffed. “Sure.”

“I do not,” the snake said.

He narrowed his eyes at the snake but its blue eyes were so wide and so confused there was something… something that compelled him to think the snake was telling the truth. That everything the snake said was the truth.

He never thought of himself as smart, but bright enough to know not to trust his instincts. He’d been wrong before. He’d thought bad people were good before. And this was a snake. Weren’t all snakes supposed to be evil? It was a snake who tempted Eve in the garden, wasn’t it? Right. Exactly! This was the tempter. He needed to keep his guard up.

“Human I just want to see if you could tell me where I am,” the snake said, lifting its mighty head upwards. “I am looking for someone.”

“Well I can’t help you,” he said.

“I see,” the snake said. He bit his lip, as his tongue flicked, his expression darkened. “Then do you know if there is a place where I could find a good meal?

“No,” he said again.

“Ah,” the snake said. “I see. I guess my kind does not get along well with yours here?”

He pulled the basket closer to his chest once more. “What gave that away?”

The snake smiled. “Where I come from, humans like us. We are worshiped in temples and given as much food as we desire. I have not eaten since I left my homeland.”

“Go back then,” he said.

“I cannot,” the snake said.

Once more the snake was in his human form and this time it was impossible to ignore how thin he looked. His collarbones jutted from the thin fabric of his clothes and he seemed to shiver every time the wind picked up. He looked… he looked… well, he looked a lot like his self and he didn’t like that one bit.

He sighed, opening his basket and pulling out a crimson red apple - the last bit of food he had and was hoping to save it for a midday snack but… well, whatever. Maybe the snake would choke. He tossed it to the snake and he caught it with ease.

“There. Now leave me alone.”

The snake looked up at him, with those impossibly blue eyes, before the impossible happened, he smiled.! The snake smiled at him, the human. He felt his heart race but not out of fear of fangs or being swallowed whole. Rather it was something far, far worse. The realization that this snake was not like the others. No… he was something worse. Something more threatening., because when he smiled… well, when he smiled it did something to his heart.

A shift. A horrible, horrible shift. Angels and devils looked a lot alike after all.

“Thank you,” the snake said, bowing his snowy white head. “I am forever indebted to you.”

“I- yeah. Don’t mention it.”

The snake lifted his head and took a bite of the crimson apple. Yet that was not the only forbidden fruit swallowed that day.

May 16, 2020 01:52

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2 comments

Sadia Faisal
10:47 May 27, 2020

great story, please like my story if you like it and send me feedback and follow me if you would like to

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E. Christian
22:03 May 21, 2020

Intriguing! I'm left wondering what sickness has afflicted the village, and if the antidote works, and if the protagonist is about to have his worldview completely shattered.

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