Tim found himself in a dense part of the swamp. He became frightened. He had never been this far away from home on his bike. Not in the swampy bush. But he wanted to get as far away from home as he could. He never wanted to go back to that house where every bubble of happiness was ripped into loveless threads by his parents’ fights.
He was now pushing his bike as he enjoyed the cool shades of the trees and creepers forming a thin canopy above. A stream, with clear water flowing across, stretched ahead of him, from the grassy swampy grasslands to his left before it disappeared beyond the thick, dense archway of treetops and a flamboyant spray of flowers from the creepers.
Tim was tired. He laid his bicycle against a rock and found a spot to seat, careful not to step on the slippery rocks and fall. The water looked so cool and clear he was almost tempted to drink it. I might find fish in here, Tim told himself, already imagining a pool full of fish. He became excited. Streaks of sunlight poured down like beams from the sun. Something silver flickered in the water. Tim’s eye widened as if a dream was unfolding before him. He gasped as he caught sight of a fish swimming in the stream. He remained still, even holding his breath, afraid the fish would panic and swim away.
The fish was about half a foot long, metallic silver like a salmon. The fish kind of danced in the stream, flickering silver gleams and swam in circles. Tim’s eyes remained fixed on the fish. It snapped off and swam onto his left, disappearing in the dense swampy bushes ahead. There was an archway ahead. Tim jumped to his feet and followed the fish.
He soon found himself at an entrance to a cave-like opening. Up ahead he could see the wider river extending to where a family of ducks swam. Tim waited, his keep eyes, trying hard to find the fish. He spotted it. The fish was busy nibbling on something. They were pink flakes. Joy filled him. His face glowed. Tim had spotted another fish, about the same size as the first one. Two fish! Tim could not hide his excitement.
He sat down, careful not to disturb them.
The fish seemed unaware of his presence. They were dancing and swimming in endless circles. Without warning, they darted off, single file, the first one he had spotted leading the way. Oh no! They disappeared into the curve, to the left. Tim hesitated. It was too dark inside. Curiosity overpowered him.
He followed the fish, careful not to step on anything slippery and make a big splash. His eyes froze. In front of him was this blinding bright beam of light. He stood there and let his eyes adjust to the darkness. A few seconds later, his eye adjusted to make out what was in front of him.
There was a cave-like enclosure with a gaping hole in the roof from which a beam of sunlight poured in, lighting up the floor beneath. Here the stream formed into a round pool of a rich deep blue color. There were rocks and green plants all over the bank of the pool. It was a beautiful display, like a storybook illustration, but real.
Tim ventured into the enclosure and found a spot to sit. Here the sunlight shone so intensely that the warmth flowed into him filling his entire body. For a few minutes, he sat there enjoying the heat not wanting the moment to pass. He absorbed the sunshine until his entire body became hot. Yeah, this is a good place to come and play. He noticed the pool of warm light was moving and he realized he would soon be out of its spotlight. His keen eyes were on the pool of clear water.
It took him a while to spot the fish swimming in the pool. There you are. He realized they were after the sunlight, bathing in its heat. As he took another look around, he spotted a huge rock-like formation running along the bank of the pool. The sunlight had thrown part of its beam on it.
Tim marveled at the beautiful colors of the spread of rock. There were patterns, like a neatly arranged array of rocks, some of them yellow, others golden brown and black. Who could have designed such a beautiful pattern? Tim leaned over to touch the rocks. His hand snapped back and he bolted to his feet. The rock had moved, slightly. But, all the same, it had moved! No, there was something beneath it. His eyes widened as he refocused and studied the rocks.
It took him several minutes to make out the mystery of the rocks. When he did, he at first wanted to flee from the cave. He realized something more frightening was there. All the time he was in the cave, his left hand had been gently caressing a cold rock. No! It was not a rock.
A cold sweat fled from his forehead and, from all over his body, tiny blisters of sweat broke free and fled too. A different chilly feeling, one he had never experienced before, rushed through his entire body and set off tremors throughout his body.
Tim realized he had been caressing the head of a huge snake!
Fear robbed him of all the strength. He felt a dryness in his throat and his limbs go weak. Tim realized he was frozen with fear, glued there like a statue. He couldn’t even open his mouth to scream. The snake moved its head. The head was larger than both his dad’s palms clamped together and stretched out flat. Tim felt a warmth spread as his urine rushed out and flowed around his groin, down his thighs and disappeared on the rocks.
The snake placed its head on his thigh and rubbed itself against the warm wetness beneath. Tim sat there, stealing frightened glances at the serpent, seeing those beady eyes and the mouth which could swallow him in one bone-crushing move if it chose to.
He had never understood fear to be this chilly and immobilizing. He was aware of his own breathing, he could hear his heart beating fast. He broke into prayer like he always did every night, but with an intensity, he never knew he could summon. Please, God, help me… His small lips quivered, and his body shivered.
There he sat, with the head of a python resting on his upper thigh, and time moved on. The beam of light moved on and Tim realized how huge the snake was. It almost filled the entire cave. The beam of light shone on the bloated section of the snake’s body like… Tim then realized what had happened. The snake had swallowed something huge, yes longer and bigger than a grown man.
He had read about boa constrictors, anacondas, and pythons. He looked at the patterns on the snake. It was a python and it was abnormally big.
Think, think, think, Timothy! He recalled all he could from his encyclopedia, from National Geographic Magazines, and YouTube videos. His mind swiftly downloaded the facts.
The python had swallowed a big meal, meaning it would lie immobile for weeks, if not months. The python usually ate five to six meals a year. Tim told himself he was safe. The python wouldn’t attack him. It had placed its head on his thigh, maybe to show it wanted to be his friend. Yes, it wants to be my friend.
Tim relaxed a bit. He had always wanted a pet python. Now, here was this huge snake, a python! He felt the excitement flow through him, stirring him on.
He sat there for over an hour, occasionally caressing the python’s head. He began to speak to it as if he was speaking to someone. He told the python about his running away from home. He told it about his parents quarreling and how he was so angry with his father for having an affair. He told the python about Miss Tilly Sink and how she had gone and made his mom cry by stealing his dad away.
By the time he told the python he was leaving, he was feeling much better. All thoughts of running away from home had left him. Tim was no longer afraid of the python. He would come back and see the python. Yes. He had to give it a name. He would be back soon, he told the python and left.
That night Tim ate his food fast. He kissed his mom good night and rushed to his room. He took out his mini-laptop and went online. He researched all he could about pythons. He also read how he could tell whether it was a male or a female.
Finally, he decided he would name it Rufus if it turned out to be male and Cassandra it was a female. When he heard the front door open, Tim hurried into his bed and switched off the bedroom light. He knew his dad was home. Tim didn’t want to have to see him or talk to him. Obviously, dad had been with that slut, Miss Tilly Sink. Tim tried hard to fall asleep. He didn’t want to be kept awake by his parents quarreling. No, please, dear God, don’t let them fight tonight. I don’t want my mom to cry again, please God, I’m begging you. He kept on praying until he dozed off and slept.
The next day after school, Tim went back to the cave and found the huge python basking in the beam of sunshine. Tim realized the python had placed its body in such a way that the beam of sunshine was always shining on some part of its body throughout the day. He had brought the python a small cushion so it could rest its head on.
Next, Tim carefully checked the tail of the snake, there were two protrusions astride the opening. Wow, it was a male python! Tim was so excited he went and took the python’s head and placed it on his lap. Next, he took out a small crown he had bought from the toy shop on his way.
“I hereby name you, Rufus. I also hereby crown you The King of The Swamp. From now onwards, you are Rufus, King of the Swamp!”
Tim took the crown and placed it on Rufus’ head. He talked to Rufus, telling him all about his home, his friends, his mean teacher who was always sending him for punishment, and just about everything troubling him. By the time the beam of light was shining way down Rufus’ lower body, Tim realized it was time to go. He said goodbye to Rufus and left.
He felt happy and relieved. He had finally found a friend, someone who would listen to him. Maybe I might put up with what was going on at home, after all. Geez, what was wrong with dad, carrying on like that with that woman?
All the way home, he kept thinking, if Rufus could talk back to me, life would be good. He was excited and happy, no longer bothered by all the problems at home. He told himself he would get Rufus a cell phone. He remembered his mom’s discarded Samsung S4 smartphone. She had given it to him to use. It had a problem with connecting to network signals. Otherwise, it worked fine.
Yeah, it had a widescreen so Rufus wouldn’t have trouble watching videos on it. He would get a solar power bank and a solar-battery and give the lot to Rufus. That way, he could load videos of English tutorials on the memory card. Yeah, something like How to Speak English in a Week. And he could also load some other videos about the things he learned at school. He wanted Rufus to be the cleverest pet in the world.