“Wildlife has always fascinated me. A chance to write about snakes then, is one that cannot be missed. Thank you to Fandango for his snaky word challenge.”
I wrote this story in answer to the following prompts:
FOWC with Fandango — Regurgitate
Pensitivity’s Three Things Challenge — Liking– Shirk – Haste
Your Daily Word — Rickety
Ragtag Daily Prompt — Euphoria
The Snake Man
Austin De Lange placed his hand on a rickety fence post beside a euphorbia bush. He crouched in a slow calm way with his eyes on the dark brown to black scales of an elapid called the forest cobra. He watched with morbid fascination as the yellow bands of his neck and chin stretched and expanded over the carcass of a rat he was devouring.
As a lifelong herpetologist and snake wrangler, Austin had seen snakes eating many times. Yet it was still a joy to watch them every time. This particular snake had entered the garden of a single mother and her daughter. There was no choice but to relocate it for their safety. In a single bite, this cobra could inject lethal amounts of photosynaptic neurotoxic venom. Paralysis and respiratory failure could lead to death in as little as twenty minutes for a child and not much more for an adult.
“What I’ll do is, let him finish his meal. My hope is that if we let the snake swallow the rat into his stomach, he won’t regurgitate it when I catch him,” Austin said with his snake catching tongs at the ready. He knew the snake would make haste and bolt for freedom, the moment he finished his meal.
There was no reply from the homeowner.
Austin scanned the garden and gazed toward the tin-roofed house. She’d been watching from the broken slabs by her back door moments before. “Amahle?” he called.
Silence — the lady was gone.
“Well, I guess it’s just you and me now, Snaky.” Not one to shirk responsibilities, Austin refocused on the cobra.
Only the tail of the rat was visible as it hung between the fangs of the snake’s mouth now. The cobra’s body was distended where he was forcing the rat down into his acidic stomach.
“Man, that must cause serious indigestion!” Austin rubbed his stomach. He’d foregone lunch to come and catch this guy. A meal could always wait when it came to saving lives, both human and reptile.
Soon the rat was no more. The cobra’s tail flicked from beneath its body coils and then it began to slither from beneath the Euphorbia. Uncoiled it revealed itself to be close to nine feet long.
Austin followed it with a deep breath. Knowing how deadly the snake was, always set his adrenaline spiking. Beads of sweat ran down his face as he snapped forward with his tongs.
The cobra was in and out of the rubber grips in seconds. He spun on the human, raised his shiny imposing head, and flexed his hood wide with a nerve-rattling hiss.
“I hear you, Snaky. Man-to-man, I promise not to hurt you.” Austin locked eyes with the serpent as he dropped to a knee. He raised a shaking hand to hold its attention. “Unfortunately, you do have to come with me though.”
The cobra gave a throaty hiss but remained still. Following Austin only with his eyes. Tasting him with every flick of his forked tongue. This was no aggressive stance, just a protective one.
Austin knew the snake would rather get away over attacking him. Shooting out a hand, he caught the cobra’s tail.
The serpent lunged at once, missing his wrist by millimetres.
Austin was ready, he jumped back and snapped his tongs around the snake’s neck. That had been too close for his liking but no bite was always a good result. He felt a prickling sensation at his wrist and smiled. “Clever, boy,” he remarked while watching the snake jab his skin with the sharp end of his tail. It would be enough to make you drop the snake, fearing a bite if you didn’t expect it.
Returning to his gear, Austin knelt and gripped the snake behind the head with a bare hand. With his free hand, he opened and prepared a pillowcase. Next, he pressed the case beneath the snake’s head and changed hands. That allowed him to keep control of the snake as he gently stuffed it inside. Then he was able to secure the snake with duct tape and breathe a sigh of relief. The snake is now captured unharmed, leaving him smiling with euphoria.
Austin took a minute a gather himself, then with this snake’s pillowcase gripped in his tongs to prevent being bitten through the material, he walked to the house.
“Amahle, I caught the snake!” he called.
The house was silent.
“Amahle!” Austin felt the chills of something being wrong here. He took a breath and stepped inside. The home was small and dark. It smelled of the rats which drew in the hungry snakes. In the kitchen, Austin saw a row of damaged cabinets, missing doors and broken drawers. The blackened cooker was from the 1970s and without a doubt dangerous.
Moving into the lounge. He saw a dirty sofa before the thirty-year-old TV. This room was cleaner, but still had piles of clothes and toys scattered about. Beyond it was a single bedroom. Amahle and her daughter shared the two single beds here.
Austin could see no sign of them now. He glanced at his watch, school was still in session so that wasn’t the answer.
He turned to leave. It was then he heard it — the squeak of rotting floorboards beneath feet.
Turning back to the bedroom, he caught movement in a mirror. There was Amahle, in the grasp of a filthy man hiding in the wardrobe corner.
“Amahle, it’s Austin the snake man. Are you still here?” he called while putting the snake and his gear on the floor.
Silence answered him.
“Look, I caught your Cobra.” Austin reached into his bag, took hold of the snake and threw it onto the girl’s bed.
The reaction was immediate. Amahle screamed as she was sent tumbling to the floor. Her captor burst around the wardrobe.
Austin rolled back his arm and delivered a vicious punch. The man’s nose collapsed beneath his knuckles.
The captor reeled into the wall and spun on the snake man. “I kill you, man!” he seethed while bleeding all over his ragged vest and jeans.
“You will leave, and hope I never see you again. The SAPS might arrest and throw you in jail. I assure you my punishment will be much more severe.” Austin said, unafraid. He dealt with deadly cobras, boomslangs and mamba’s every day; a man could never be more terrifying than them.
“I gut you like warthog!” The man revealed a rusted yet keen machete. He swung for the snake man with a serpentine hiss.
Austin ducked beneath the weapon and jumped away. His feet slipped on fallen clothing and he crashed down on the sofa.
The captor pounced on him like a lion, swinging his machete with murderous intent.
Austin cried out as he jinked aside a moment too late. The blade nicked into his forearm.
“Now, you die!” the man pinned Austin down and reached for his throat.
Austin snapped up, headbutting his already broken nose.
The captor screamed in pain.
Austin felt no mercy as he buried a knee in his crotch and hurled him off the sofa.
The man crashed down inches from Austin’s gear.
Austin rose, holding his bleeding arm. “Watch your step.”
“What?” The captor brandished his machete.
Austin glanced at the floor, “I wouldn’t —”
The captor lunged. His foot trampled the pillowcase and he screamed.
The cobra’s centimetre long fangs sunk deep into the man’s leg. Like a hypodermic syringe, they pumped him full of venom.
“You threw the snake!” he screamed.
“That one was rubber, idiot,” Amahle smiled as she entered the room with the rubber cobra hanging from her fingers.
“You, okay, Amahle?” Austin asked while removing the real snake to a safer place.
“I’m fine. I’ll call the SAPS,” she replied with a grateful look at him.
An hour later, Austin opened the cobra’s pillowcase and let him slither out. The captor was in hospital receiving antivenom. He’d survive only to spend his life in prison. “I guess that makes me a snake and man wrangler now, hey, snaky,” he remarked as the cobra glided into the grasses and vanished.
Thanks for reading my friends.
Have a great day!