Short Story: Swamped


Final part of  SWAMPED

(JLeahy on Creative Writing with Isabel De Avila Winter ) ©

Mangroves-1024x682
Public Domain image.

I remained standing at the T-junction and my attention shifted to where the two waterways met. I wondered where the birds were today. By now, the sun rays would have come through the leaves and woken the birds, causing an eruption of an electrifying orchestra. There was not a single bird-song. That part of the equatorial rainforest norm was missing.

My arms hung loose and lifeless, I could not feel them. I tried to, but I could not lift my arms nor move my legs. I was not terrified; I only felt stuck and this alarmed me a little because the mud was not deep. When I drew breath, it was slow, restrictive, and my chest was constricted. Something large of several layers like a heavy coil of thick, soft, rubber hung around my neck and shoulders. It weighed me down. I was tall for a teenager, but my thin, weak and small shoulders were crushed by this weight. I thought it was a heavy towel as we often hung towel around our necks to keep warm while fishing. I shut my eyes.

And then it moved, so suddenly. I realised this was not a towel. It was a large snake, a python! A different set of knots, the horrid kind, started tightening inside me. On me, I saw the coils move and could feel it tightened.

My eyes re-focused. The snake’s colour reflected that of the greyish mud, faint yellow like a banana skin, and the brown mangrove tree bark. I could see the diamond-shaped outline of each scale. It was detailed vividly in intricate patterns on its centre spine above my breasts and just beneath my chin. The scale patterns, beautiful and seamless, disappeared under the next coil. I became more aware, alarmed and numbed by the weight, closeness and firmness of its grip. I shifted my eyes ahead beyond the mangrove. It did not make sense to scream and it seemed too hard to remember how to scream. I refused to imagine where the snake’s head would be, I did not want to meet it nor look into its eyes. Now I remember how that poor pig must have felt when the python took it behind our house. Was this the same snake?

TimorPython
Timor Python: Public Domain image

I waited for a few more minutes and I sensed the snake was not trying to kill me. That was strange. It seemed comfortable the way it restricted and detained me, and I was afraid to move and disturb it. The dank smell re-appeared and honed the swamp stink. I could not feel the mosquitos. I wondered if that stink was the snake. Its weight became too much and I wondered how long I would be standing there in the mud, carrying the snake.

Then, a single call of a Sock-ngkwing bird, the spirit bird, pierced the silence and my eardrums. I moved to the bird’s cry. The python tightened its grip, and squeezing .. and I screamed just like the bird, feeling my body become alive. I moved my arms and legs. I flipped over and woke up with my bed sheet tight around my neck. It was THAT dream. Before I went to high school, in my early teens, I had this dream so many times. It was always the same dream. I shuddered. Still tense and terrified, I went to see grandma.

I re-told the dream to my grandmother; she looked at me for a long time.  Her eyes searched, speaking to my face, without words.

“There is a decision you have to make, a path you have to choose. What is stopping you from choosing, is your fear”, she said.

I looked at Tinang, afraid.

“Don’t be afraid” she said and hugged me. I shut my eyes and fell against her soft, tattered, spun rayon dress. Grandma’s scent of Chinese White Flower lotion, mixed with mustard and chewed betel-nut soon erased the swamp stink. I had thought about this dream interpretation often when I was growing up, and it always frightened me because I knew what it was, but it was not a single thing; it was many…

29 thoughts on “Short Story: Swamped”

  1. Thankyu true susa. How you wrote the story is just like how it would be told in tokples around the fireplace at night or out on the patio or deck under a fullmoon light and stars..lewa blo mi em i pairap…

    Like

  2. Good balance of description and character. I kept thinking of my Mum and her relationship with snakes. It’s always an interesting decision whether to go fiction – or factual with a memory. Sure it will go well whatever way you decide.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You had me going with this one, Joycelin. You build the tension up really well – so much so that we can almost feel that python wrapped around us. It was all cleverly done. I loved your phrase, ‘it seemed too hard to remember how ti scream’. That says so much. That all this was a dream came as a relief. I was really worrying how the character was going to get out of this one. Your grandmother is described beautifully – a wonderfully caring and understanding person. The description of her ‘soft, tattered, spun-rayon dress’ fits well with the character you’ve given her. Well written. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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