I’m walking around Chatfield’s campus, down by the heart shaped pond, where the Canadian honkers congregate every fall. Sam is with me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a snake, but I don’t take alarm. It doesn’t look venomous.
In fact, I think I’ll have a closer look, so I pick it up, and only in that instant, when my hand closes around its middle, do I realize the snake is poisonous, the worst kind. It whips around and sinks its teeth not into me, but into Sam. He screams, and then the snake bites me. Sharp, bruising pain runs up my arm where the fangs sink in. No blood. Rather, my skin turns instantly purple and shrinks away from the wound.
I have to grab it behind the head if I’m going to stop it. But the snake is out of control. It thrashes and bites me, three, four, five more times, then leaps away into the pond. But I have to catch it. I need it to make the antivenin. If I’m going to save Sam, I’ve got to mix the cure. I’m not so worried about me. I’m large enough. Even with six total bites, I can get to a hospital. But Sam is only four, and his time is running out.
So I dive into the pond, and instantly the snake surfaces, seizing me in its suddenly giant jaws before I can grab it. Inside the mouth, I stand up, smack my head on the putrid, dripping roof with a bone-jarring rattle, and push with my whole body until the fangs pry apart. I jump free, but the snake strikes. Its fangs penetrate my back, and it engulfs me. But then I seize it and begin choking, choking, until it shrinks away, dissolves into nothing.
The snake is gone, but I am still poisoned. And it has bitten Sam. I grab him and run towards the sacred heart chapel, where my Mom is waiting. The hill is long, the climb seems unbearable, and Sam’s weight is growing as the venom runs into his blood.
“It’s already bitten Sam!” I scream, when I finally crest the hill.
“The post office!” Mom says. “They know how to make the cure.”
So we race to my car, where she drives and I cling tightly to my child. Even as close as the post office is, we won’t make it. And so I leap into the air, through the roof of the car, and yes, I can fly. And if I can fly, then this is a dream, and I can leave. But Sam is trapped, and I’m floating away, swimming against the air trying to get back to him, but he stays in the car, which will not make it to the post office in time.
I sit up in bed, breathing hard, my body too hot for a room this cold.
When I go to Sam, he has wet the bed, and he tells me, “Mom, I had bad dreams. I don’t like snakes anymore.”
And I look out his window and see the snake, giant once more, staring in at us, ready to strike, before I finally, finally wake up.
This post was written in response to The Lightning Bug’s Flicker of Inspiration prompt #22, which asked us to share our nightmares. As I said last week, my dreams have always been vivid, and they have an annoying habit of capturing little bits of reality to fool me. I can also typically roll right over and go back to sleep even from the most horrible ones and not fall into nightmares again. Mostly. Happy Halloween.