I arrived to the house.
People were already spread out and chatting in small groups. Gold dust floated in slow motion on crisp dimensional clouds of sunlight shining through the windows. There was no resistance and only the faint memory of the smell of air.
As I walked through the doorway our hostess held two baby snakes in her hands as she flitted from group to group; one green snake, one red. Their markings were distinctive yet unknowable. She glanced in my direction to welcome me with eyes that were a warm smile sharpened by one toothy shard of glistening spark. With a graceful movement, she set down her pair of slithering ones.
I stood still and held my breath as they zipped in my direction. They followed each other, entwining up my legs until they were resting in my hands. I released my breath as I looked upon them; so tiny and innocuous, spinning playfully in my palms.
As if sensing an air of hubris blown in with the ease of my breath, they began feeding on the energy of my pulse, growing in size with each beat. Simultaneously they nipped at my flesh creating little peaks which they held in the caverns of their mouths and little valleys which filled with the rushing of their scales. They turned their heads toward me; four black eyes met two.
A creeping sense of urgency crawled up my spine and I walked over to their cage and put them down so that they might burrow their heads into something less personal. As I looked in on them resting in their cage they returned to their tiny size and seemed to lack the mischievous and voracious intent that had panicked me seconds ago. I closed the lid and walked away to find a friend to anchor me back to reality.
There is no reality. All is reality. There is no comfort to be found. Comfort is all; alone.
I glanced back to see She was lifting their lid open again. She breezed past me without a word but said, “You should know better…”
I took a deep breath. The reddest one had disappeared. The greenest serpent slowly crept up and out the side of its glass cage and moved in my direction. It paused and looked at me with an executioner’s sense of compassion, slid up my leg again, then stopped just above my knee and began to coil and hug and tourniquet gravity out from under my foot. It began to burrow its head into my skin. I felt my weight shift, and my heart filled with tears that hadn’t yet found their way out. Waves splashed at my throat.
The waves-I don’t know if I can hold my breath this long…for all of this time, this time.
“Can you help me?”
She was laughing casually and telling stories.
This is a party, after all.
She glanced up interrupted by the urgency of my plea. Unconcerned, She smiled in an attempt to ease my anxiety and said, “Don’t worry. They aren’t venomous.” I wasn’t entirely convinced, but would She lie? I looked down and wondered if I could learn to balance here as if this snake coiling my knee were just a part of my natural mechanics; “is this motion not my motion and the rolling waves it creates of my own design?”
A spark from peripheral space drew my attention to a focused point. The red serpent had reappeared. Now larger in size, the snake veered into cobra pose, hissed loudly and flashed two prismatic fangs. It sunk its teeth into my other leg and a shock of pain charged me with an electric river of energy that began deadening my cells from the inside.
Half of its scarlet body had slithered into my own. I reached down, and as my fingers wrapped around its tail and I began to pull, I felt its head explode inside me. The thickest river of blackish green bloody venom coursed through my veins and replaced the combined individuality of my cells with its own singularity. I looked down and was shocked to realize I was still wearing skin; red blood and green tinted blackish goo seeped slowly out of a tiny black hole in my leg and pooled into the grooves and along the grains of the hardwood floor over which I was floating. I felt heavy, and I felt light.
Oddly, no one at the party noticed or was fazed in any way. Suddenly conscious that I had made a mess of myself, I worked my way toward the bathroom to clean up. I closed the door behind me and turned on the lights, temporarily expelling the shadows that seemed to be waiting ever so silently and patiently. In the windowless room, surrounded by four walls covered in white tiles, I noticed the medicine cabinet had been left open. The shelves were empty.
My body closed the cabinet and began examining itself in the mirror. I watched from behind as my once fleshy cage ran its fingers over the swollen welts of the slithering one’s love bites, and then traced and connected the points of black goo that had spattered all across my skin like a cosmic cloud of dark matter. I felt bruised and tender from a distance; pain was only a memory of a memory.
“I should put on some makeup.”
My hand grabbed for an eye-liner pencil that had been left on the sink. I watched as my hand lifted to my face and began drawing and manipulating the smoky creamed makeup in a ghost-like, blurred, and rapid motion. My shadow stepped in to resume its form, and my reflection was painted as a pristine black skull.
“This shit is too heavy for daytime.”
I bent to wash my face of its hypnotizing darkness. A stream of water and soot danced in a grey spiral down the drain as my face returned to its natural form once again. I turned the water off, opened the door, and returned to the party.
“Forget your troubles and dance.
Forget your sorrows and dance.
Forget your sickness and dance.
Forget your weakness and dance.”
– Bob Marley: Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)