(Happy Birthday Mom!) Though I know I spent a majority of the night having “normal” (read: not scary) dreams, the last one I remember, the one I woke up to, is of course the one that sticks to my brain. Of course it is also the most terrifying.
We are all on a bus, my extended family and I. We are driving above and through a city together. We spot several people we know out and about walking their dog, playing in a park. I joke that it feels like we are the opening sequence to The Simpsons, they laugh in agreement.
Finally the large school bus squeaks to a stop and we unload to a small back alley. It is a grassy patch, maybe fifty square feet, tucked in between two large buildings. Everyone is there. We busy ourselves, unpacking coolers and setting up tables. It is for a wedding or a picnic, maybe even a family reunion since I see so many family members I don’t get to see very often. I spot my mother. She smiles and gives me a hug.
“Happy Birthday,” I say smiling, knowing she thinks I forgot.
The rest of the family chimes in with their birthday cheers behind us and her grin is wide. People rub my cousin’s pregnant belly while she stands by with maternal patience.
As we stand in the grassy patch the members of my family fade to people I can’t say look like family but know that they are. Except now I stand not on a sunny piece of land, but I’m wading in waste deep ice cold water. The people surrounding me are in the same positions but the environment has shifted. Old, mossy trees arch over us, blocking out the sun and the patch of grass is now a black pond. It is not very deep but I am instantly uncomfortable. I cannot see anything beneath the inky surface. I want to get out of the water. I make my way to the edge of the water, hoping to pull myself out onto the safety of land.
I cannot remember if I spot it first or I hear the screams of someone else, but when I look up I see the thick, black bodies of two water moccasins. They are poisonous I remind myself and so I freeze not wanting to draw attention, but mad I am still in this water. They float on the surface of another pond that is only a few feet away and separated by only a small strip of soaked land.
“Everyone be still.” My voice is calm and demanding.
I think that there is no way they will come towards a group of people. I continue to hold out hope as their bodies follow their narrow, fierce heads out of the water and over the strip of land.
Everyone is still. Everyone is silent.
Even the surface of the dark pool is still like an onyx stone, save the area where the snakes slip into the water. They undulate over the water as smoothly as though it were land, releasing tiny ripples that break across our bodies.
They move towards me.
They are just trying to get across, I tell myself. If I don’t move I will be fine.
They pass me so close I can see individual scales along their bodies tensing and relaxing.
I let out a steady breath as the first one gets up onto the bank and the second one follows. Before the second one is completely out of the water my uncle, the jokester, slaps the surface of the water and yells “and stay out!”
Why would he do that, I think but it is too late. The water is gone but I stare down and see the snake latched onto my foot. Now that I see it I can feel the burning pricks from the sharp fangs.
I stare up in disbelief. “I have been bitten. Someone please call 911.”
My voice is calm. I do not want to upset the snake anymore. It remains clenched hard onto my foot. I’m afraid to pull it off for fear it may strike my hand. I’m afraid to move for fear the poison pump through my body faster.
Nobody moves. They all just stare at me slack-jawed and wide-eyed.
“Someone call 911.” I repeat but this time the words come out garbled together. I realize my tongue is swollen and my jaws pinch as if I ate a sour candy. I wonder briefly, if I can recall what the poison of this snake does, but I cannot remember.
Still nobody moves. One woman, whose land we must be on, says something. I can’t quite make it out. Her arms, like everyone’s are still lifted in the air as if the water still surrounds us, but it is gone. She mumbles something about protecting the land.
I don’t understand. I plead, still so confused. “I’m not trying to kill the snakes. I just need to get to the hospital.”
She looks away, as do several others. My heart quickens. The poison spreads faster. My vision blurs and I feel my body sway.
“I need to go to the hospital.” I say to a different, kind looking woman next to me.
She shakes her head sadly. Until the very last moment I cannot comprehend what is happening. Until I get what they are doing. They are a united front.
The snake is deadly. I am dying. It’s too late. I look around at each one of their faces with pleading eyes, if only they could feel some sympathy, see my pain, then maybe one of them would take me to the hospital. They avoid my stare.
The alarm goes off.
Current Song: "Satin in a Coffin," Modest Mouse