‘The Legend of the Real Snake’ by Emily Cramoysan

We never got told what the history of the village was. It was like a missing brick in a wall. I feel like I’m missing something, something important. We live in a small village, next to the Mississippi, you’d think it would be beautiful but it is far from that! The river is murky and the mud is all churned up, it smells of urine, it makes me feel claustrophobic. When the sun occasionally pops out, it makes the river shimmer; that is when the village looks the most “welcoming”.

Our town is built up from small straw roofed huts that lets bugs and cold in. Trees surround the village, making it seem lonely and secluded.

We go out every day, shooting sour looks at everyone we walk past. Everyone knows everyone; everyone hates everyone. I have one friend called Jack, he thinks there is something missing too. He thinks it’s something in the river, something dangerous, something murderous. We went fishing every day to get away from the trauma of the village. Every time we catch something the faintest glimpse of a smile dances across Jack’s face. He doesn’t smile very often. He has been rejected by emotion, he just talks.

In the last day or two there had been a disappearance. The last place they had been seen was by the river. Maybe Jack is right. When we went fishing the next day, we were even more aware than the previous times.

I think we were the only ones who suspected. I think we were the only ones who payed attention. We can never tell, but maybe someone had sensed our precaution, maybe something had sensed our fear. The next day we found a body. Not just any body, the one that had disappeared. Shock sprinted through the village. Nobody expected it. I don’t think anybody has ever witnessed death. I just went into silence, but you can almost see the cogs turning in my head.

The following days are havoc. All of the older ones in the village are so secretive. This just proved my case further. People come back every day claiming to have seen something, caught a glimpse of some scales or things alike. But the answer is always the same. “I’m sure it was just a fish or a small octopus”, what rubbish!

We have a plan. All of the children of the village have joined together to fight this monstrosity. Jack and I at the heart of it. If the adults won’t do it, we will. They didn’t know we had left to go to the river, they didn’t know we were sneaking past their huts at the dead of night. We are fighting for the safety of our village.

One girl, called Alicia, a brown haired slim girl with bright blue eyes, volunteered to enter the depths first to fight. We watch her wade into the darkness.

She shakes as she stands there in the cold water, spear in hand. She looks strong but weak, scared but fearless, I admire her, no one knows how or when the monster would attack.

There is a blood curdling scream; she falls, face planting the water, a beast like no other lifted it’s head above the surface before plunging down towards the screaming girl. It has scales and spikes running all the way down it’s spine, its eyes like black caves, its mouth dripping with red water. It’s face is the size of a table, its long body stretched three meters up from the water. It towered above us, we are just a few helpless children, we are in our own world now, imagining what could possibly happen, then Alicia’s voice brought us back to reality, screaming, weaker and weaker. Jack roared beside me, leaping into the black that was below with his spear; he runs into the water, trying hard to get to the monster. When he got there he stabbed and stabbed, but the scales were like armour. Everyone standing next to me turned their heels and ran as fast as the wind could carry them. But I stay, for Jack, for Alicia, I jump into the dark water, thinking I am running to my death.

I get to the monster and it seems to loom over me, like a skyscraper. I go behind, Jack in front, stabbing and hitting, trying to make the slightest bit of a difference but it carried on attacking Alicia. Every now and then we saw her face pop up, gasping for air, blood began to bubble and churn on the surface, she is not going to survive. Then Jack, as the monster is lunging down, stabbed the thing in the eye. It roars; my ears are ringing but I can still see, it is after Jack, lurching towards him, he is scrambling to get out of the water, I chase after the beast, trying to draw it back, but then I watch in horror as it grabs Jack’s leg. His leg came clean off, the things teeth like razor blades. Jack drags himself out of the water and lies on the sand with his eyes closed. I jump out of the water as well. It seems the monster couldn’t come completely out of the water, it couldn’t reach us, but it is getting weaker, we are collapsed on the sand, and there is no sign of Alicia. The monster is hurt, it’s eye is bleeding heavily, it is sinking back into the water, backing away. Jack is breathing in little gasps.

One day later Jack is in the hospital hut, but he is okay. He only just survived. By the skin of his teeth. His leg is just just a stump and he is in a lot of pain. All the parents woke up after they heard the roar the other night, but none actually came out of their huts, then when I ran into the hospital hut screaming, they all came out. The nurse had come out first, and she ran with me back to the riverside, she had gasped in shock when she saw Jack’s body, but then started breathing regularly when Jack murmured something under his breath like help me or something. We had carried him together to the beds in the hospital, his mum had come out by then, when she saw him she screamed and ran towards him. She had tears running down her face but when she saw him breathing she sighed in relief, then asked if he would be okay. The nurse gave him a little bit of medicine and said we all needed to wait until morning to be able to see if he would be okay. Alicia’s mum was running around frantically, I was dreading telling her what happened. I walked over to where she was pacing nervously,  and explained how her daughter had fought for the safety of her village and that she had fought like a brave soldier, and that she should be proud of her. She was tearing up and dabbing her eyes with her tissue.

The next morning I went to see Jack, his mum is already there, holding his hand, his eyes are open so he is obviously getting better. His leg is healing, the nurse has stitched his leg up for him. And the colour is returning to his face. Later that day we hosted a memorial in memory of Alicia. There are tears but everyone is brave and instead of crying about her death, we celebrate her life.

Ten years later,

I still see Jack, he is coping well with one leg and we still live  by the river. I wonder where the beast is. If we really killed it that day or if it’s somewhere else terrorising another river village…

Photo by Donald Tong from Pexels