The Snake and The Shade

This Week’s Prompt:27. Life and Death. Death—its desolation and horror—bleak spaces—sea-bottom—dead cities. But Life—the greater horror! Vast unheard-of reptiles and leviathans—hideous beasts of prehistoric jungle—rank slimy vegetation—evil instincts of primal man—Life is more horrible than death.

The Research: Serpents and Sickeness

The wastes were a windy white plain, pale ashes whirling about. A wanderer walked alone in the wastes, having forgotten their name and face. Wandering in that wretched place of bones and broken ruins, even Death mistook them for a shade or a skeleton born by the breeze. The wanderer’s voice had not broken the silence of the wastes in ages unknown. In such silence they wandered slowly, as if beneath the weighty sea, until something broke the horizon. Which horizon cannot be said, for direction itself died in that land.

Lo, over the horizon rose a new color, neither white as the breeze, nor the black of ash and shadow, nor the gray of the sky. A brilliant green shown forth, alien to the wanderer’s eyes. The traveler, now aware again that they were not dead, or not as dead as they once supposed. They could feel blood pumping again, and a heart beat slowly quickening.

The green as he stared became differentiated, varied, formed and shaped. There were leaves, and vines, and bushes. Yellows and browns now came into view, and as the wanderer went from shambling to walking to running, it became apparent what was before them. A jungle, as vast as the sky above, and as deep as the earth. If the traveler had yet mastered his voice, he would have cried for joy.

Rushing through the jungle, the traveler reveled in the sounds, the choir of the jungle. Buzzing of insects, chirping of birds, and the howl of wild dogs. Wild apes and monkeys lent their voices, bellowing warnings or battle cries. And the noises, all new again, delighted the traveler. More innocent then a babe was the long tired wanderer. But there was one noise, at last, that struck an unwelcome chord. A scream.

The pale shade, still covered in the bone-meal and ash, stood still again, staring in the direction of the hideous sound. Nothing was so unpleasant to such simple ears. And he saw then, men and women fleeing between the trees in strange dress. The shade remembered such clothes distantly, as if in a dream. Permitting, of course, that the shade could name dreams. Sleep is the first to give way to death, after thirst and hunger and companionship have faded.

“He’s gone snake headed!” the shade heard one of the many living people shout. For while the shade knew, distantly, that it was like these hairless creatures, they seemed to him more akin to other animals than to him. Still, their tongue was strange to him. It lacked the music of the wild creatures, but it bore understanding.

The pack of living continued to run as he followed, not seeing what precisely they were fleeing. Then another of their kind came clattering through, his clothes torn and disheveled. Another new color marked this one different in the shade’s eyes, however. Red dripped from his sharpened teeth, red was on his hands, red was stained on his shirt. His eyes were wild and yellow, more slit like then the others. His expression was apelike, grinning broadly. And unlike the others, who’s voices sounded native to their mouths, his was a howling hissing sound, dreadful as a scream.

“Come, come! Return, return friends! I have so much to show you, so many lessons to teach!”

And with laughing glee he pursued the party. The shade stared on, confused at what occurred. The man tore and laughed, bite and clawed, shriek and smiled as the others stuck him with spears and arrows. They screamed in terror before the bloody man, but none died when struck. When a careful blow with a spear lodged it’s head into the man’s neck, such that red came pouring out of it like a fountain, the yellow eyed man barely twitched.

The yellow eyed man’s teeth has as little effect as the spears, but with each bite, he tore away some flesh. It was not long, to a shade use to a land without time, before he had devoured many of them whole. He swelled tall and large at this, and seemed exhausted as the other’s fled.

The shade approached slowly.

“Now isn’t that better?” the man said, in a hoarse voice, “We’re all here together now.”

While he spoke, other voices, fainter attempted to escape his mouth. Shrieks and shouts dampened to pleading whispers as his voice carried over. Most, however, echoed his words. It was as if a distant choir rejoined them, or the very wind was mimicing the strange savage man. His mass shifted about in his body, muscles growing, his chest expanding with more ribs than before. He grew sinous, his legs falling like useless masses of bone on the ground. As he slumped and crawled forward, his skin began to grind against the ground.

“We’re all together, now and forever.” the man said, more clearly and with a smile as his mouth widened and his head exteneded out.

The shade, curious now, approached slowly. The man thing was clearly no longer a human, or at least not as the shade recalled the living. It turned slowly as the shade approached. It grinned wide at the shade, it’s teeth now long fangs. The shade did not flinch as it breathed putrid breath, a number of maggots crawling in the beasts now long jaws, nor at the sight of rows and rows of bloody teeth.

“Are you not going to run, little one?” the creature asked.

The shade was silent, staring at the thing.

“Come now, you must run. I am one of those great beasts, immortal and beyond any bonds now. Come, won’t you run?”

The shade was silent, feeling the putrid breath wash over it, and the cries and pleads with in. In the skin, it was now apparent that a number of faces pressed against it. As the creature tried to rise, it’s skin finally fell away, reveling a set of golden scales.

“You are strange, little thing. You act as if dead, but none of the dead come here nor may ever come. We ate them all. Then broke apart again, and now ate them again. But you are new.”

The shade stared, unmoved.

“We will eat you too, add you to our immensity and wonder. Immortal you will be, part of one of the greatest.”

The shade was unmoved.

The serpentine thing was not and struck rapidly, biting hard and fast. The shade, long since lost senses of pain, barely spoke as it’s white clay stained the red of the teeth. It was aware of itself, it’s body moving and building the serpent. The serpent, it now felt, was a great old thing. A terrible thing, from long ago, that bartered away it’s fellows for power and praise. But that did not matter.

The shade was dead after all. Not as dead as they once thought, but the traveler felt it’s body scatter. The wanderer remembered the breeze and solitude of the wastes. And resolved, as a reasonable creature, that it was dead again.

The serpent went on it’s way, shifting and shedding, slaying and screeching through the jungle for a time. Then, then it felt a breeze. A familiar cough catches it’s throat. It’s eyes begin to blur and rage. The beast immortal feels a strange thought cling at it. Is it alive still? More and more of the chorus within grows silent. A dim darkness falls over it’s pupils. What strangeness was this, what death released his prey?

The beast staggered about again, feeling it’s teeth rotting and falling out. More and more believed now, as the shade did, that though they were thinking, they were dead. They were dead, a collection of corpses.

And the beast felt this tugging at it. It was a collection of sleeping corpses at rest. A dream, a nightmare that did not end. But naught but a dream. Screeching, that oldest of minds, that master who had partaken in the great serpents flesh and who had cast his lot out of heaven, felt a heavy weight come over him. That aged creature now found it’s limbs disobedient, convinced they were dead. Trapped he shrieked, as the other beasts of the jungle came to his inert body. And they feed.

And so the great serpent head, the mind of sadness, was scattered by a single lowly traveler who supposed he was dead.


 

This story, my brothers and sisters, I admit was rushed. Time has become short as of late, and I began work a bit too close to the deadline. Still, I think this is a salavageable wreck. What did you weave from the life drenched corpse?

 

Come next time for research on Mr. Lovecraft’s beloved furry felines!

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