Serpentine Shadows

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The snakes, they slithered all over her cold body. They slithered and groped along her, over her, under her, a dark festival of reptilian persuasion. They cheered in hisses; they booed in bites of toxic venom, all while she was asleep, asleep in a bed of serpents. She was restless, yet she was tired, and she couldn’t escape from the snakes. They slunk closer to her face now. They covered her now, a blanket of slippery scales. And all were swathed in black, morose blood—
Her eyes opened wide. There were no snakes, no evils lurking around her. It was a dream. It was a nightmare.
Leisurely, she got out of bed, and realized once again who she was.
She was Margaret Garrickson, a mid-aged widow.
She had gradually gotten dressed into her dress, and into the rest of her garments, over the course of twenty minutes. The apartment was quiet otherwise.
Her mind was and had been in a far away place for a long time. Well over her head did her thoughts go by, along with her feelings and such. She was usually sensitive, but today she was not.

Later on, from her town apartment, still grieving over what happened in her old abode, only weeks before, the woman walked quietly. TAP, TAP, TAP, went her shoes as she sauntered down the sidewalk near her complex. TAP, TAP, TAP. Grey was the sky, and her soft, mushy brain. A gust of cold wind blew through the street, seemingly going around Margaret, avoiding her. Her black dress swooshed around her body, dancing in what wind it could find, along with her black veil. A dark haze on her face, it stopped almost immediately when it tried to dance. The veil was nervous. And shy. And scared. Like Margaret.

Along her arm Margaret carried a small, artificial-looking purse, the same hue of the night, and the rest of her apparel. It swung back and forth in an upright way, a happy way. Too bad she wasn’t happy.

Her face was solemn. TAP, TAP, TAP. Expressionless and vague, it didn’t even glisten in the morning sun, not like it used to. But on a day like this, no one would be shining with pleasure. The grey clouds smothered the sun’s rays, and stopped all feeling. The day was numb.

But otherwise, Margaret was not happy. Not happy at all. Not like she used to be. Before she was happy at home, happy with life, and happy with–

Margaret stopped in her place. She thought over and over again, Bruce, Bruce, Bruce, Bruce, Bruce. The tapping had stopped, thus explained by her motionless steps. Bruce, Bruce…

The black purse fell with an almost slap-like sound. A slap to the face.
Margaret remembered, and felt her pale face.

Slap, slap, slap. The little minute thought made her think of Bruce even more.

She picked up her purse, and regained herself. Margaret walked on. Bruce would be a constant thought on her mind for all of the night.

Margaret, looking both ways in a casual fashion, crossed the busy street through the façade protection of two white lines. She wasn’t safe, she knew that. Margaret knew that at any moment, a truck or car could drive right through her spot in existence, cripple her, crush her, and possibly split her. She knew that it wasn’t good to think things of death, but today was a death day, and Margaret was going to celebrate it appropriately. Every second that she was crossing the street, she was wishing to be run over. Possibly by a tractor trailer.

Walking along, the TAP, TAP, TAP now recommencing as usual, Margaret looked closely at everyone she passed by. They were all miserable. Their faces were horribly disfigured, with wrinkles, tears, and horrid sighs of relished grief. At a bakery, an old woman sat on an ancient bench, probably as old as her, and stared at the world. Margaret couldn’t understand how such a woman could do such a thing. It was surprising, but not too much so. At a fruit stand, a crying man waded away into a corner, looking at his watch, and rubbing his tear-stained eyes. He looked at Margaret, and looked to the ground. The man let out a wince of sorrow.

Margaret, now more than ever, wished for the rain to come.

TAP, TAP, TAP

It would be a special embrace, it would

TAP, TAP, TAP

make everything better. It would

TAP, TAP

solve all of Margaret’s problems.

TAP.

Margaret stopped to feel for the rain. It never came down. The clouds were neither happy nor sad, and wouldn’t show mercy for anyone. Not one.

Just a slap…

Margaret was finally at the cemetery. She didn’t realize the other miles that she walked, along the dirt paths, with the evergreen trees all around, plentiful fruits of the Earth. There were sweet scents that the trees produced, of sap, of pollen, of dust, and of beauty. Together all four odors, all colorful, created an aroma of desire. Almost fazed by the melodious tunes that entered her nose, tingling, Margaret quickly snapped out of her state. Although she wasn’t happy, she didn’t want to seem happy either. Not at all. Margaret didn’t want to be the one who comes to a funeral for their husband, showing a bright smile on their icy face. No. Not at all.

In the gloomy distance did Margaret see the procession of men and women who she knew so well. Like a black shade, they all stood, weeping, looking at one another. In the far, far distance, there were the acrid lands of death and shame, sometimes bliss, but mostly death; this natural habitat for carrion and crows was also home to many hewn stones that, in casual and non-casual ways, showed where every unlucky soul that was misfortunate to lose their life, was buried.

Her husband would be next in line. Next to buy a resting home in the cemetery for the next eternity, or however long the earth would last. Margaret’s husband, either way, would be next. Heaven or Hell, though, the miserable wife would never know.

The blades of dry-brown grass whispered to each other, crunching under the feet of the funeral guests. Dark and morbid were their conversations unknown.

After the priest let his final arrow of words shoot from his mouth, all were targets for the sorrow that would follow. Some men, most of the women, and none of the children, were crying for Bruce Garrickson. Tears hit the dry ground like rain, like the rain that Margaret had wished for. The wet tears of pain, they all dissolve eventually, Margaret figured. I don’t need to cry. I don’t need to cry…

Her heart felt like it had been frozen, and no angelic warmth could break its sheath over the wounded organ. Still beating hard, but weakened, Margaret’s will began to die.

When everyone else left, stopping their participation in the “main event” of their day, Margaret stayed, leaning against one of the tombstones. Her back was cold, and she was cold. Margaret’s hair swayed in the wind, now a constant reminder of the day, the day, the day…

…and so Margaret ordered pizza.

Striding through the kitchen, sock-footed, the girl began to set the table, getting out not much of anything but napkins, soda, and a pizza-cutter above all. Bruce is going to be happy, Margaret thought to herself. He’s going to be thrilled. He hasn’t had pizza in a long time.

Feeling her swollen belly, round and hard, Margaret awaited the garage door to open, and her man to walk right through the door. Her heart raced, beat after beat after beat, a soloist drummer in a universe of blood and organs.

Ding-Dong! said the door. Margaret rushed to open it, and found she was paying a fare to a messenger bearing food. The aroma of pepperoni and cheese intoxicated Margaret’s senses, as she closed the door with her free foot. Putting the pizza on the kitchen table, she walked towards the window in the front of the house, facing the driveway.

As the delivery man left with his low-grade iron steed, Bruce arrived. The loud, mechanical sound of the wide door in the garage signaled that it was beginning to open, almost comparable to a medieval drawbridge. The low hum of the car ran for at least five minutes before it finally stopped, and when feet meet cold, cement ground. They were Bruce’s feet. By this time, Margaret was already there, by the door, to greet him.

The garage had seemed more dark and dank than usual. Shadows laid upon the ground, ceiling, and walls, soaking up whatever darkness they could. Margaret turned to close the garage door, and click went the button. Slowly, like a grinding torment, the door went down.

Bruce…

Bruce…

Bruce looked like he was a specter, lifeless. He walked towards Margaret until they were face to face, looked at her with a cold stare. His

breath smelled like beer
face was expressionless, and his eyes were stones. Bruce blinked only a few times, and then went around Margaret into the house, without a word. Stunned at how unusual he looked, Margaret quickly followed to see what was wrong with him.

Bruce went to the kitchen, and looked at the pizza. Margaret was at his side, almost scared now, thinking about what was going on inside Bruce’s head.

Bruce was not happy.

Bruce was drunk.

Bruce was angry.

The quiet man scowled, and began to talk.

“What… What is this?”

“Dear, it’s dinner. I thought that we could take a brake from the usual. Besides,” Margaret said, “You love pizza.”

Bruce took a breath in, and slowly let it out through his flaring nostrils. His eyes weren’t stones anymore. They were dragons.

“I…” Bruce stopped, “I want to know why you didn’t…” Bruce stopped again, “didn’t make dinner tonight.” His words were slurred and deformed in context.

Margaret, shocked, quickly answered, “Because I was tired, that’s all.” Puzzled, the girl asked, “Are, are you drunk?”

Bruce’s eyes widened from their previous state. “I am not drunk! I am not… drunk!” His breathe reeked. He was getting into an unusual rage. It all happened so fast.

“You are drunk!” yelled Margaret, feeling a strong tension inside of her. “You are drunk, you are! You are! You are! You are! You—”

Bruce quickly raised his hand, and slapped Margaret across the cheek, causing her to fall to the ground from shock. With tears coming from her plain, simple face, she now sported a new, red, painful trophy. Bruce’s dragons had let out a deadly blaze, and it was hot. It was scorching hot.

“I come home, after a long day’s, a long day’s work, just to find that you haven’t done your share! Why, why is that? You don’t feel committed to this, to this marriage anymore?”

Margaret tried to speak. “What are you talking abo—”

Another slap landed on her face.

“I’m tired of how you treat me, and I’m tired of you.” The fire was blazing high, high, high, like an avatar of Vulcan, a deadly flame in Mt. Etna’s hollow center.

Trying to crawl away, Margaret saw something gleaming on a cutting board.

Bruce walked towards her. She tried to stand up.

His fist came hard into her stomach. A gut-wrenching sound emitted from Margaret’s mouth. For a second, she felt the baby, she felt the baby within her. Margaret fell again. This time she was closer, closer to the gleam of steel.

Another punch came. Margaret couldn’t speak. She had lost her breath, lost her feeling. Her hand grabbed for the knife.

“You try to get up again, I’ll, I’ll…” Bruce stopped when he realized that blood was dripping from his mouth. He looked down, slowly, and saw something sticking from his own stomach, a very quick just dessert. It was the knife.

“You…” Bruce fell to his knees. “You… you…”Bruce’s hands went to the knife, and in one split-second move, he pulled the knife out. A scream he did let out, as well as a stream of blood from that very puncture wound. The knife, stained in blood, was dropped to the ground, and Bruce was no more. In a puddle of blood, the dragons sluggishly faded into their own horizons, and Bruce was finally…


“… dead.” Leaning against a tombstone, Margaret found herself crying over her husband, and her dead child. The young, 8-month old almost-baby was also to be named Bruce.

This scene had been relived by the girl ever since it happened, and it was likely that she wouldn’t forget it. Margaret’s eyeliner was oozing from her eyes, and her hair was just a vibrant wisp of black. The sky was getting darker, but the clouds were still visible. It wanted to rain, but it didn’t feel the need to.

“And now it ends, finally…” Margaret said to herself, alone, almost unconscious. Saddened by her life, she got up from her place on the ground, picked up her purse, and moved on.

But Margaret wasn’t alone.

A hissing started, low and quiet. A hissing started, like a broken phonograph. A hissing started, made by its creator, coming fast through the growth of darkness. A hissing started, and evil had conquered good. A hissing started, and Margaret heard it.

Turning around, Margaret faced a behemoth, a large snake that resembled a boa constrictor. Blackened in the abyss of night, and because of its own hue, the monster let its tongue out, and back in. Out, and back in. It was a gruesome, pinkish tongue, thin and long.

Startled, Margaret let go of her purse, and began to run. As the sun went down, her fears began to grow, nightmarishly fast. The snake was on hot pursuit, groping along the damp ground, slithering and hissing. Margaret turned her head, and saw the beastly thing open its mouth, with its long, unnatural fangs, and quickly snap it shut. The snap made a slippery sound, but exposed Margaret to the realization of her situation: she was prey, and this snake was the predator.

Margaret then turned her head back around, and found that a low-ground stone was in her foot’s way. Unlucky for her, her foot couldn’t react fast enough. Margaret flew a couple feet, and landed horribly. In her view, in what light she had left, she saw a hope.

The snake now stopped its hunt, reared up its head upwards and, looking at its prey with wide, fierce eyes, it opened its mouth. It let out a grotesque hiss.
It wasn’t normal; it was wickedness, it was a monstrosity conceived by demons, it was malignant. Margaret looked at the snake’s eyes, still in a state of shock and convulsion, and found herself shuddering even more.

They were dragons. They weren’t regular, reptilian eyes… they were dragons. They were Bruce’s eyes. They were aflame with hatred, and sin, and haughtiness, and hunger, hunger for pleasure. They were Bruce’s eyes, and this snake, this Beelzebub recreated in a land of death from the fiery pits of Hell, was Bruce.

Margaret pulled herself backwards, still looking at the beastly snake, and found herself in an arm’s reach of what would inevitably save her.

The black snake, writhing towards her, almost smiled at Margaret, its fangs dripping with a substance that looked as viscous and thick as blood.

Margaret reached, and reached.

The snake hissed, and swung its long tail in the air, and hit Margaret across the face, almost like it had slapped her. Margaret stopped her struggle momentarily, recalling her life’s most horrible moments. She then tried again to get to the broken tombstone, the sword that lay stuck in the stone, which only a true hero could pull out.

Another slap came from the tail of the beast. The horrible monster began to open its jaws, about to clamp down upon Margaret’s soft flesh. She tried to reach even harder now, stretching every muscle in her body to their furthest extent. The tension was painful, and Margaret felt that she was ripping herself apart.

But finally, as the black snake swung its fangs down to render Margaret’s skin into pieces, the girl grabbed the broken tombstone, and in a jolt of hormonal strength ignited by the fire inside her own heart, she bludgeoned the beast’s head.

CLUMP.

The snake was down, trying to raise its head. But Margaret was, at that moment, a monster herself. With both hands now, feeling all the pain of her misery, her woe, Bruce’s death, her child’s death, her existence, her thoughts, and her own self-will to continue on in life, she bashed the snake’s head in until its brains had splattered everywhere. Blood gushed from the open crevices in the crushed skull of the beast, and this relieved Margaret.

Panting heavily, she collapsed to the ground, and smiled.

It began to rain. Margaret tasted it, and relished every bit of it.

The rain was finally here, to dance, to sing, to play, and to embrace Margaret. She was finally content with herself.

Although Margaret Garrickson would never forget her nightmarish experience, she would always feel better when the rain fell from the heavens.





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