Snakes

We headed to the outskirts of the city to buy snakes, travelling by train to a dirt track beside a busy road. We saw them uncoiling by a long ditch that ran along the dark fields: long black snakes, muscular and flexuous, some of them two or three metres in length. Headlights picked up the gleam of their skin, their movements frenzied and captivating. A local man offered to catch two of them for us, although in truth all he did was bend to pick them from the ground and hand them to us in turn. Neither of us expressed any fear or revulsion as we took hold of these creatures, although I was aware that this was a strange occurrence. The snakes were smooth and cold, more like eels with their sleek even skin. At my touch, the snake retracted into a short stub, its head pulled back so that it fit into my hand like a piece of black fruit. Only its eyes moved, restless, reddish-black irises that ticked across my face, as though trying to judge whether I was predator or prey. Later, on the train back to the city, I discovered that my snake had died, the flesh cooking away without me noticing, smooth and translucent, like frog meat. I held it in my hand, aghast and unsure of what to do, worried that the other passengers would notice, and I would be thought negligent or cruel.

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