Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
The hissing of a thousand scales, the snapping of fangs, a murderous pair of yellow eyes.
I place a curse upon you. I seal it with my blood. The sky bears witness. It shall never be lifted. Even after the skies crash down to meet the earth, my words shall hold.
Blood coats the ground and my feet. Everything is red. The inside of my mouth tastes like iron.
You will live to see the oceans dry. Your life will last longer than the stars. A thousand knives will not kill you. The hottest flames will not turn you to ash.
Venom drips from the enormous serpent’s fangs. The ground sizzles and turns black. There is a distant wailing, as if the winds themselves are writhing in sorrow.
Yet you will not know love! The serpent’s voice roars in my head. The words are sharp and cruel, stabbing through my skull. The voice feels loud enough to shatter my head into pieces. Overhead, the clouds are shifting restlessly, following an invisible path to the west.
You will never be of any meaning to a fellow man. Every time you reach out, you will be rejected. Nothing but your own hands shall dry your tears. Your heart will break into pieces, but nobody will know or care.
The serpent’s body thrashes wildly, uprooting trees and sending rocks flying. A pebble flies by my face and cuts a deep gash, but I can hardly feel the pain. I can hardly feel anything at all.
Suffer! The serpent rasps. Its eyes are starting to dim, staring up into the sky. Perhaps there is longing in those eyes, or sorrow, as rain begins to fall and droplets roll down the serpent’s face in a cruel mockery of tears. You will suffer as I suffer now. You will suffer until time itself stops. You will watch everything around you die. Your eyes will run until you forget how they felt when they were dry. Even sleep shall not give you rest!
A shrill scream tears itself out of the serpent’s throat. Thunder rolls across the sky, and with the first strike of lightning, the serpent’s head thumps heavily onto the ground. Its eyes are glassy and unseeing. Blood and poison mix with rain: the ground bubbles and winds wail.
Closing my eyes, I drop onto my knees.
* * *
It’s still dark outside when I jerk awake. Groaning, I kick my bedsheets aside and glare up at the ceiling. In the darkness, the broken lightbulb stares back at me quietly, illuminated by the soft moonlight streaming through the shattered window. Rain is falling softly outside, and I briefly wonder if I am still dreaming. After a brief internal debate, I end up vetoing the idea: as far as I can tell, there is no blood or screaming.
“The sun’s not even up,” I complain out loud at the lightbulb. “It’s my birthday and I had to wake up this early?” Thankfully, it doesn’t reply.
Sighing, I lift my pillow and bury my head under it. There’s no going back to sleep now. Rubbing my face lazily against the relatively clean bed, I figure that I should thank myself for choosing to sleep in the house last night. It was kind of like a birthday gift to myself. Even to me, the idea of sleeping on a tree branch or something on my birthday seemed kind of pathetic.
“Pathetic? You’ve slept on a tree branch for more than a hundred birthdays,” mutters John. “Did wonders for your back, didn’t it? Now that time when you decided to sleep in that old truck, that was pathetic. When that stupid thing blew up —” I let his rambling fade into a pleasant background noise.
I mean, he may be annoying, but he’s got a point. I spent the last birthday stuck under a car. The one before that, I got a bit lazy, slept under a tree, and got bitten by a snake. But this birthday is special: it’s a multiple of ten. Of course, I’m not sure exactly which multiple of ten it is.
“Dumb-ass,” John tells me.
“I would like to see you try and keep track of them,” I reply. “We both know what a pain that can be.” John makes a noise that is somewhere between a grunt and a snort, then falls quiet. Oh, John? He’s a friend, but I use the term loosely. My definition of friend is something along the lines of a voice in my head that never shuts up and hates my existence, which I also named John. But he’s usually tolerable.
With John’s voice gone, I turn my attention to the creaking of the house instead. Last night, I checked to see that nobody else had decided to spend the night here. It seems to have stayed that way. As I listen, the floorboards sometimes creak randomly, but not in any way that would be caused by human feet. Sometimes I hear what I assume to be rats scurrying along the vents. Outside, raindrops create a fabric of sound that drapes itself pleasantly over the smaller noises.
“You hate when it rains,” John snickers.
“I hate when it rains,” I grumble at the same time. Registering John’s words, I pause in annoyance, then sigh, giving up. I would love to strangle John, of course. Unfortunately, John doesn’t have a neck that I can strangle. It’s both bad and good, really. John can’t leave me because he’s stuck inside my skull. I can’t get rid of John because he’s stuck inside my skull.
“They cancel each other out,” John suggests. I ignore him. Pressing the pillow more firmly onto my head, I wonder what it would feel like to be smothered with a pillow. Oh, I’ve tried. It just didn’t work. Unfortunately, it’s not like I can just go ask somebody. Snorting at my own train of thoughts, I roll over onto my side and stare at the wall. To be more precise, the remains of the wall. There’s a big hole in it.
After staring at the hole morosely for a few minutes, I put the pillow over my head again. “The dream,” I murmur, my voice muffled by the bed. “John, the dream.”
John scoffs. “What about it? Nothing new.”
“No, I haven’t had that one for months. You said it might not come back.”
“I really only said that to give you false hope,” John responds, then cackles to himself.
John is very good at being an asshole. I’m very good at ignoring him. “I will watch everything around me die,” I say out loud. It’s as if the words are written on the back of my hand. Yeah, that’s me. I forget my own name and what my mother looked like. But I have never forgotten the words that a snake said to me about a thousand years ago. Genius.
“Not a snake,” John whispers. He sounds afraid, and I scowl, refusing to entertain him.
To be fair, though, it wasn’t a snake. At least, that’s what I should have said. Or, even better, I should have said nothing at all. I should have walked away.
My eyes begin to sting, and I press my face harder into the mattress, wishing I could suffocate.
“Don’t we all,” sighs John wistfully.