Tim first became aware of the eight-foot long cobra when he saw its shadow play in the reflected light on the walls of the swamp’s wall.
The snake had spotted him and recognized him as an enemy. So it now stood a good three feet off the ground, ten feet away, facing him, its hood spread wide, ready to strike by releasing an accurate spray of the most poisonous venom into the eyes, blinding him instantly.
Tim felt trapped.
He sat where he always sat, and the Egyptian spitting cobra was blocking his only way out of Rufus’s cave. He had read in the library in the encyclopedia that a spitting cobra never missed. The poison would strike his eyes, like sharp needles being injected into his eyes. He would be blind in seconds. And the cobra would be free to sink its deadly fangs into his defenseless body as he raged on like a madman trying to find his way out of the blind world’s nightmare.
“Rufus, there is a cobra, lo-ok…” his voice was hardly a whisper.
Rufus was beside Tim, his head resting on Tim’s lap. The swelling in his stomach had disappeared. He was now able to move about. Tim realized just how big Rufus was.
They had been busy enjoying the teasing heat warming their bodies from the shaft of light pouring in, together with the myriads of light rays rushing in through the window-like cracks in Rufus’s cave walls. Rufus stirred, his head rising inches above Tim’s head. He flicked his tongue and set his eyes on the cobra at the other end of the entrance.
Tim remained frozen, his mind wondering what would happen next. His limbs felt like they wouldn’t summon the strength he needed to flee from this confrontation. He could hear his heart beating so loudly he was afraid the cobra could hear it too.
He knew he was trapped. Rufus was his only hope.
Rufus rose to dwarf the cobra, flicking his tongue rapidly. Tim watched the snakes initiate a ritual they had perfected in the African jungle thousands of years ago, thousands of miles away. The cobra reacted. It tried to raise its body to match Rufus’ height. Rufus rose an extra two feet high until he almost touched the cave’s rooftop.
He emitted sounds Tim had never heard before. Guttural sounds that came out like he was talking - no, commanding the cobra.
The cobra hissed back and talked the same way Rufus was talking. It was eerie. The serpents sounded like two men with hoarse voices, who were too tired to release words, and instead were almost breathing loudly at each other, trying to outwit each other.
Tim watched the two serpents communicate in a language he would never comprehend. He wanted to pee so much that he bit his lower lip, trembling like the shakes were with him.
Rufus’ eyes were now glowing, like sources of light. Tim had never seen this. He became giddy, aware of Rufus’ power over other creatures. The cobra swayed like it was about to begin a dance of an evil sort. It shrunk back like a thick rope succumbing to gravity in slow and magical decreasing spirals. It recoiled back and retraced its path before slithered away.
Tim watched the cobra disappear from the cave. Tim had never seen this.
“Wow, Rufus you did it…” he whispered so softly, it was more to himself than to Rufus. He noticed the wet stain on his pants. Geez, I pissed on myself, he realized with disgust. The fear was still sitting on him, stifling him like a thick blanket on a hot summer’s day. Good thing the worse was over. Thanks to Rufus, King of the Swamp! Rufus came back and rested his head on Tim’s lap.
Mary Jane would have loved to have been born a boy. So she tried her best to be one and ended up making every effort to be friends with boys, and be like them. Now, the boy she would have liked to befriend most was Timothy Bacher. Problem was, Timothy was always running off after school, she had noticed lately.
For more than two weeks Timothy had sat quietly in class, not provoking her. She missed the old Timothy. So, one day she decided to follow him after school. She rode her pink Trek bike as fast as she could, careful Timothy wouldn’t see her following him.
They were out into the swampy area, an area her mom had always warned her never to venture into. Mom said a woman was raped there once, and a child disappeared there too. Also, good girls didn’t go into bushy areas. It was more about honor than anything else.
Mary Jane found this to be funny coming from her mom. There were things she was discovering about her mom, things she wasn’t too proud of. Having a single mom brought its own problems, like not having a father to look up to. Now, this was a problem Mary Jane couldn’t solve.
She saw Timothy turn and hide his bicycle in the dense bushes. He walked towards a dense coppice of swampy mangrove trees and creepers, at the edge of the stream. At the end of the coppice was an archway almost like a dark tunnel. The place looked so creepy. Where was he going? She hurried after him, afraid she would lose him.
By the time she entered the tunnel Timothy had disappeared. The tunnel turned out to be a thicket with a beautiful stream and an inviting bank where she could sit. Mary Jane discovered there were fish in the stream. Excitedly, she kneeled and found a rock to sit on. She watched the two fish swim and trace circular paths in the water. A shaft of warm sunlight touched her shoulders. She shut her eyes and felt the warmth of the sun’s heat on her back and shoulders. Mary Jane began to hum a tune, a lullaby her mom used to sing to her…
Mary Jane felt a gentle breeze fan her. She heard a slow, steady rasping of leaves. Mary Jane opened her eyes and saw the biggest snake she never ever imaged existed. The snake was less than a yard away, half of it was across on the other side of the stream bank, and the other half had crossed over and gathered in a thick coil at her feet. Mary Jane was seized by a freezing fear as panic set it. She felt her bladder let go and the urine came rushing out, as she gasped, like she was about to have an asthmatic attack. She fainted and collapsed on the stream bank.
When Mary Jane came to, she was confused. At first, she was astonished, wondering where she was. Nothing looked familiar. Before she had a full recollection as to where she was, she heard a familiar voice call out to her. It was not a friendly voice, but an angry, accusing voice.
“Why are you spying on us? You aren’t satisfied with making my life miserable in class, no! So you want to spy on us? Why?”
Timothy Bacher. Her eyes followed the voice. Timothy Bacher was standing at the entrance to some enclosure with a bright beam behind him like he was some spiritual aberration. She saw this snake, big terrifying snake. Timothy was gently rubbing its head with his hand. No, this wasn’t happening. She was dreaming…
She must have passed out again. This time she saw Timothy. He was carrying her bike.
“Come, you better get on your bike, it’s getting late.”
She rose to her feet and noticed the wet patch on her dress... She touched her dress. It then dawned on her what had taken place. She blushed, embarrassed. She wished Timothy would go away.
“Please go, just leave me alone. I want to go home.” The tears were pouring out of her eyes. Mary Jane grabbed her bike and hurried on, anxious to be as far away as she could from Timothy and that giant snake. Did she see a giant snake? Was Timothy certainly holding the snake’s head? Or was she imagining things? Was this Timothy Bacher’s big secret? Is this why he hates me so much? Because he thinks I make Mrs. Getty always go after him?
Mary Jane got home and had a quick bath and changed. That night she asked her mom not to switch off her bedroom light.
When she finally fell asleep, Mary Jane dreamt of Timothy. He was grinning and hiding something behind him. Timothy pulled out this big snake’s head and the beast opened his mouth covering her entirely…
Her scream woke up her mother.
Mary Jane sobbed so violently and cried about having seen frightening monster snakes. Her mom sat with her and tried to rock her to sleep. In the end, her mom gave her one of her sleeping pills and Mary Jane slept like she had never done before. The next day she didn’t go to school. Her mom phoned the school and said Mary Jane had caught a bad cold.
Two days later when she got back to class, Mary Jane avoided looking at Timothy. She was so scared of looking at him that she rushed out of class as soon as the bell rang. For a week she kept away from him.
One day, as she came rushing from the classroom, she almost bumped into him. He was standing, blocking her way, waiting for her. She tried to walk past him, but he reached out and touched her arm.
“What do you want?”
“Why are you avoiding me?”
“Yes, you are. Ever since that day at-.”
“No, please don’t. I don’t want to talk about it ever-.”
“Mary Jane, I won’t harm you. Rufus is my good buddy. He -.” Timothy’s voice was gentle like he wanted to reassure her.
“I rather not talk about it. Please, let go my arm.”
“Okay, but not a word to anyone about Rufus, promise?”
“Yes, I promise… I am sorry I followed you. I didn’t know that was your secret-.” Mary Jane shook with fear. She wanted to get as far away as she could get from Timothy Bacher.
“We won’t harm you, Mary Jane.”
“Rufus and I.”
“Is this what you call tha-?” She stopped herself. Careful what you say to him. “Look, I promise I will never come there again, ever. So, please, let me -.”
“That’s fine with me, Mary Jane.” He let go her arm. Mary Jane hurried away, trying hard as she could to get as far away from Timothy Bacher. She didn’t dare look back.