(Content Warning: Gore and Violence)
Dawn approaches with the first rays of light glimmering on Adder’s body, flashes of red and blue trailing behind him. Adder didn’t understand why they were chasing him, or trying to shoot him down. So he continued to run. He would run the road crimson with his blood if he had to, if that meant getting his wife to a hospital faster. Mara had collapsed in front of him, and he had no idea why. So, he did what any caring husband would do, pick her up, and run for assistance. Yet, everywhere he went, they wouldn’t accept her.
Adder could see car lights approaching, this would make the fifth one since his wife collapsed. He was getting frustrated that none of them were stopping for him. Stopping for her. He wouldn’t let this person do the same. He would get them to help his wife. Adder stepped in front of the oncoming car, standing his ground as they honked their horns. Reaching a point of no return, the driver slams the breaks and swerves out of the way. Adder quickly runs and opens the passenger door, “Please help! Everyone else won’t! Please take us to the nearest hospital!” Adder lifts his limp wife up for the driver to see, “She needs help!”
The man behind the wheel freezes while looking at Adder, letting out a whimper and clumsily opening the driver side door, tumbling onto the road. Adder screams at the coward scrambling into the forest. Turning, he sees the flashing lights approaching and places his dear wife in the passenger seat, buckling her up. Quickly, he hops into the driver's seat and slams the accelerator down.
Shadows creep along Adder as he lays on a mountain of foliage. Leaves fall onto his face, waking him up from his nap on the trail. He lets out a yawn and stretches his arms as he focuses on the dancing trees. In a panic, Adder jumps to his feet realizing he’s slept too long. Mara will be furious with him if she learns he slept the whole day away, especially today.
Adder moves with an ease he hasn’t felt in years as he rushes back home. Mile after mile Adder jogs, not even breaking a sweat. When he emerges through the treeline, he can see his home by the edge of the road, where his wonderful wife and son await his return. A breeze picks up flower pedals that swirl around Adder, leading him to the front door.
Adder grabs the doorknob and twists it, but the door does not open. He reaches into his pocket for his keys, but can’t find them. They must have fallen out while he was napping. Adder knocks on the door, “Hello? Mara? You home?” he knocks again, chuckling to himself, “I seem to have misplaced my keys, can you let me in?”. Adder is met with silence.
With no spare key to the house, Adder moves to one of the windows and peers inside. The lights are off and it doesn’t appear that anybody is downstairs. Placing both hands on the window, he attempts to slide it up, shattering it in the process. “Fudge. What a pane.” Adder chortles to himself as he crawls through the window. “Mara? I’m home.”
Glass cracks under Adder’s feet as he breathes in the aroma of a freshly baked cake. He walks over to the oven and turns on the light. He can see his Angel Cake sitting there, waiting for him. He takes a moment to quickly glance over his shoulder to see if anyone is watching. Comfortable that no one is, he quietly opens the oven and tears a piece of cake off and eats it. Expecting a bouncy and cloud-like texture from his favorite cake, Adder is disappointed that it is beyond dry. He continues trying to chew the cake, as nothing tastes better than food cooked with love; however, he ultimately spits it out. Adder wonders if Mara forgot an ingredient while making the cake as he closes the oven door and cleans up his mess.
Walking through the house, Adder picks up the toys tossed about, “Mara! Alastor! Dad’s home!” He continues to move about the house with no reply from his family. “Mara! Alastor!” Adder shouts, once again with no reply. Adder swiftly opens each door of the house, calling the names of those he loves. With each door and plea, Adder is met with silence.
Adder shambles to the fridge to see if Mara left a note, there is none. Distraught, he heads down the hallway to the garage where he feels the vibration of the garage door being opened. Excited, he hurries to open the door. His wife and son are in the family car, pulling out. He locks eyes with Mara, she looks terrified. “Mara! Is everything okay?” Adder asks. As if not hearing his words, Mara drives away.
The smell of burnt rubber hangs in the air as Adder feels his heart echo in his chest and his blood burn from anxiety. It’s like his nerves are screaming at him to run. So, he does. Adder runs as fast as he can towards his fleeing family, his hands outstretched, “Mara! Come back! Let me help!”. They don’t turn around, instead they continue to accelerate until he can’t keep up and loses them.
Did I do something wrong? Did I forget something important? No. Today’s my birthday, and tomorrow is our anniversary. Did she find the present I got for her? Did she not like it? Why did she look so scared? Maybe I should check back home to see if she left a note. Maybe Alastor is sick and she couldn’t stop to pick me up.
Adder turns to start walking back home and stops when he realizes that he can’t see it. He’s in the middle of the road, miles away from his country house, having never noticed how far he ran.
Vehicles speed past Adder, not a single one stopping or slowing down to pick him up. Recognizing that he won’t be able to hitchhike out of here, he jogs for the city that Mara is most likely to stop at, Nadir.
The sun is setting on the high rise buildings of Nadir as Adder walks its curving streets. He hates coming to the city, it’s always swarming with people who can’t see past their current life, clumped together like rats. Even lost in thought, Adder notices that the people are staying clear of him, some taking out their devices to take his picture. Disgusting, they haven’t seen a countryman in so long they have to take pictures. Adder pays them no more attention and focuses on finding his family.
Wind blows down the street bringing the scent of citrus and lavender to Adder, his wife’s favorite. Reinvigorated, Adder decides to chase the smell. People leap out of his way as he puts his face to the ground to sniff for his wife. He follows the trail, the scent getting stronger, almost to intoxicating levels that leave an aftertaste of citrus.
When Adder lifts his head from the ground, a door is blocking his way. The sweet aroma of citrus is powerful, so much so, it’s like he can actually see it with his eyes. He knocks on the door, “Mara!”. No answer. He knocks again, “Mara! It’s Adder!”. No answer. Adder grips the door handle, and pushes it open, snapping the lock, revealing Mara holding a knife at him.
Adder rushes forward, “Mara! What’s with the knife? Is someone trying to hurt you?!” She moves her mouth wordlessly. “Mara?” Adder looks over his shoulder and sees nobody. “You can put the knife down. It’s just me.”. Adder steps in closer, pushing the knife aside. He wipes the tears from Mara’s face and wraps her with his warmest hug before giving her a kiss.
Alastor sits in his mothers lap on the bed while listening to the news, “We urge all people to head indoors and bunker themselves until further notice. It appears to be heading for Hotel Bliss. If--”
Mara turns the tv off before squeezing Alastors hand, “Alastor. My sweet child. Know that no matter what happens, your mom and dad love you.” Alastor nods his head, not fully understanding the situation. Mara embraces her son and kisses him on the forehead, before a pounding on the door causes her to freeze up “Alastor. Hide under the bed and stay there. Wait for help to arrive.” Alastor nods and crawls under the bed. “Mommy loves you.” Another pound on the door. “Don’t make a noise. I’ll protect you.” Alastar listens to his mother pick up her hunting knife from the table and peeks out from under the bed.
Alastor flinches as the door shatters open. He can hear his mom squeal and yell, “What do you want with us?!” Her voice cracks, “Why are you chasing us?”. The figure comes in closer making weird rhythmic noises. It towers over Alastor’s mother, the light reflecting off its scales. A forked tongue comes out of its mouth and clicks in those weird rhythmic noises again, almost like it’s trying to speak. It takes an arm and slaps the knife away before slithering in closer.
Alastor watches his mother through the reflection of the tv. She doesn’t move, she’s petrified with tears rolling down her face as she stares into the creature's yellow-green eyes. Alastor is unable to scream as the creature coils itself around his mother, lowering it’s jaw to reveal large white fangs.
Like lightning streaking the sky, the serpentine monster pierces Alastor’s mother, her upper body flailing on the impact as she cries out, her voice becoming strained from the snake wrapping itself tighter around her body. A second flash, a second scream. By the third attack, Alastor can't hear his mother. By the fourth, he can’t see her move. By the seventh, the creature has wrapped itself fully around her, blood dripping down its scales.
As much as Alastor wishes to close his eyes, they are locked in place. He feels as if his body isn’t even a part of him when the monster licks his mother and puts her head in its mouth. Each bite taken by the colossal snake is another part of his mother he will never see again. It walks its teeth down her body inch by inch, until it reaches her legs. It unwraps his mother, and lifts her up, letting gravity sink her the rest of the way in. The only thing Alastor can see of his mother is a large bump in the creature’s body as it hurries out of the room.
After embracing Mara, Adder releases her, and she drops to the ground. Worried, Adder picks her up and calls out, “Help! My wife needs attention! Please help!” Only the sound of his own breathing answers his plea for help. He picks up his wife and rushes out of the building.
Adder sees the blockade in front of him and slams down the accelerator, pushing the last bit of fuel into the car for a final desperate push. The windshield cracks and breaks as bullets spray him, he feels a slight tickle, but keeps his foot down. Adder places his hand on his darling Mara, bracing her for impact.
One of the tires burst and Adder loses control of the vehicle as it rams into one of the barricades, causing it to flip over.
His first kiss.
The day his father died.
Holding his son, Alastor.
All of these memories flash before Adder’s eyes before the car hits the ground a second time, skidding on the hood.
Leaves fall onto Adder’s face, waking him up. He takes a deep breath feeling pain in his entire body. As he moves, he can feel the crunching of the forest under his weight. He looks through the blurry crowd of people on the forest floor, and panics looking for Mara and Alastor. He can’t find them. He collapses and shouts out as the people come closer, shining lights at him. Their figures are blurry and distorted, but he can see their yellow and red outlines.
Adder howls at the oncoming people, “What did you do with my family?!” Silence. “Where’s my wife?! My son!” Anger surges inside him as he grabs a shattered piece of glass.
Alastor watches the snakelike figure from the back of one of the armed vehicles. The soldiers were quick to the scene in finding him after the monster ate his mother. Numb to everything, he managed to take his mother’s hunting knife before the soldiers took him. Alastor watches as the snake-man slithers around biting, slicing, and breaking the armed forces. He watches as bullets bounce off its skin. He watches as the creature continues to screech its rhythmic sounds. The scene becomes blurry and Alastor rubs his eyes.
Adder throws one of the men attacking him into one of the trees, splintering branches and bark in every direction.
Alastor reels back as the glass shatters on the armed vehicle as one of the soldiers is thrown against it, tipping it over.
“Why are you attacking me?! Can’t you just let me help my family?!” Adder cries out to the glowing figures.
Dazed, Alastor hears the rhythmic tongue clicks of the snake-man again; however, unlike before, he can hear pain from its voice. Alastor focuses on the creature, on its eyes, just like his mother did. He focuses on the black pupils that shift in thickness, and focuses on the water underneath its eyes. Alastor starts to cry as he clutches his mothers knife and crawls out the broken window.
Blinded from fireworks, Adder continues to throw the people away from him. Ever since crashing, he hasn’t stopped feeling this tingling sensation across his body, like tiny bugs trying to bite him. When his vision clears, he whips around to punch the nearest person, but stops. His fist inches away from a child. The child holds up a knife, and flips it around so Adder can see his reflection in the blade.
Adder’s thoughts escalate. Why do I look like that? That can’t be me. This has to be some kind of trick! He grabs the knife from the child and looks closer. The sun's morning light reflecting into the blade, showing his scales, his tail, his lack of legs. Adder takes a moment to look at the child. Why is the child so small? No, why am I so tall? He bends down to look the child in the face.
“My son. Alastor.” Adder croaks, unable to keep the emotion from his voice.
Alastor gasps as he hears the words of the snake-man, “Dad?”
Adder falls onto Alastor as a blast hits him in the back of the head.
Alastor struggles to breathe under the pressure of his monstrous father. He tries to grip his mothers knife, but can’t find it. The last thing he saw was his father’s gaping maw. He can feel the pressure lighten, pain shooting into his arm and face. He can hear distorted voices, the soldiers, they must be yelling at him or consoling him, it doesn't matter. The world is half of what it used to be and covered in a scarlet hue as Alastor opens his eyes. Gulping, he turns to where his father lays, and sees his mother’s knife lodged into the mouth of his limp dad.
Alastor speaks words meant for nobody. Words meant for everyone. Words for his father, his mother, himself. “I love you.”