by Arnold Snyder
“What the hell happened to you?” Uncle Luke said. “Looks like you had a rough time down there.”
“I’ve had more pleasant afternoons,” I said.
“Did you meet … another snake in the orchard? A girl snake perhaps?”
“Yes,” I said. “Brandi.”
He started the engine and we got rolling back toward Strait City.
“How did you know her name?” he asked.
“She told me.”
“Are you telling me she was in human form?”
“Not at first. But then …”
“She wasn’t supposed to transform to human. I thought Mavis and I set up this rendezvous perfectly for you to have a little frolic with her niece. As snakes.”
“She accidentally closed her eyes,” I said. “So, that was that.”
“And you, gentleman that you are, joined her.”
“The two of you were naked in the orchard together?” he said, glancing my way so I could see the glint of mischief in his eye, adding, “Your mother will kill me.”
“No, not in the orchard,” I said. “Underground.”
He pulled the car onto the shoulder of the dirt road and stopped. He turned to me.
“Dammittohell, Sebastian … You didn’t fuck her, did you?”
“Oh no, nothing like that. We were too embarrassed. We didn’t do anything like that.”
“Well, thank god for small favors. Did you like her?”
He pulled back onto the road.
“I owe you an explanation, Sebastian. Mavis and I set you two up to meet each other because we know how awful it is to go through Hell and we wanted the two of you to have something to look forward to so you’d be eager to do it again. The two of you are part of my plan to save humans from the misery of eternal damnation. So, tell me … Is she worth going through Hell for?”
I thought about my experiences in Hell. The pain, the fear, the hopelessness. Then I thought about Brandi and the pleasure of being with her as a snake, and as a human. I thought about the last I saw of her and how I couldn’t take my eyes off her pussy as she was climbing naked from the cave we’d been in.
“When can I see her again?” I said.
Uncle Luke looked at me and smiled. “Thatta boy,” he said. “Now, do you have any questions about anything that happened?”
“Do I have any questions? I have thousands of questions. I’m totally freaked out. I was not brought up to expect any of this. I was raised Catholic. Now this? Shouldn’t we talk to the priests or even the bishop about this?”
He jerked the car onto the shoulder and stopped. He didn’t look at me but stared straight ahead, his hands on the wheel, as if still driving.
“Don’t ever say anything about talking to any human about us,” he said, “even if you’re joking.”
“But I wasn’t joking.”
“Neither am I”
“Sebastian, we would be persecuted, harassed, vilified. They’ve got a thousand religions but not a single one that believes the truth—that they’re all going to Hell for eternity because God’s a madman. It’s one of the most remarkable things about humans. They can’t see what’s right in front of their eyes. No matter what atrocities God reigns down upon them, they’re so terrified of him they’ll do anything to please him. They’ll torture, maim and murder each other in his name. But they’ll never stop and realize God’s a monster for making them this way. Believe me, if humans find out we’re devils, they’ll come after us with a vengeance.”
“But how could they hurt us, Unc? We’re devils.”
“But devils are not gods, Sebastian. We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve, but we can’t just do magic at whim.”
Uncle Luke pulled the car back onto the dirt road and resumed driving.
“But why didn’t someone tell me some of this stuff before?” I said. “I shoulda had time to prepare better. I almost died in Hell.”
“How did you almost die?”
“I couldn’t figure out how to open my eyes.”
“There’s always a bit of that. When did it happen? On your first trip to turn into a snake, or on the second trip when you came back?”
“On both of those trips, but the worst one was the fourth trip when I came back the second time.”
We pulled off the road again.
“You went to Hell four times today?”
“Yeah … first, right here in your car to become a snake, then to become human down there after Brandi became human. Then, to become a snake again—”
“How could you possibly have gone to Hell a third time after having just seen it twice in an hour? Devils are not masochists. Your sister went to Hell twice a few months ago and she hasn’t been back for a third visit yet.”
“I couldn’t find my way out of the tunnels. I was lost. I had to become a snake to escape.”
He sat there looking out the window at a barren pasture where a skinny cow in the distance was foraging in dry grass.
“I wouldn’t have gotten out otherwise, Unc.”
“Sebastian, you shouldn’t be going to Hell more than twice in one day at your level of experience.”
“I thought devils couldn’t die, Unc?”
“It’s not really death, Sebastian. It’s worse than death. You could get stuck in Hell and never get out.”
“Couldn’t you find me?”
“Yes, and I would. But I’m the only living creature that could find you and I don’t have time to be running around Hell looking for snakes who accidentally fell in. I am in charge of the entire Cherubim population. I’m a busy man.”
“Well, thanks for explaining so much in advance,” I said.
“Tell me what happened on your third trip through Hell.”
“When I went through the third time to become a snake again, I got so confused and didn’t know I was in Hell. I thought I was being eaten by rats.”
“Do me a favor, Sebastian, and keep all this between us. Don’t tell your parents about Brandi and definitely say nothing about four trips to Hell. Your mother will have a fit over this. This is our secret. Now, what are your questions?”
“How come Brandi knows so much about me?”
“That’s your question?”
“That’s the first one.”
“Sebastian, you’ve just transformed twice into a snake, you went in and out of Hell four times, and your main question is about a girl you just met?”
“She’s not a girl. Not just a regular girl. But my second question is … What would happen if me and Brandi stayed like snakes for a long time, like, you know, a few days or a week?”
He started the engine and pulled back onto the dirt road.
“Or a month?” I said. “Can a devil stay being a snake for a long time?”
Uncle Luke appeared annoyed for a moment, then sighed dramatically, relaxed his shoulders, and appeared lost in thought. Then he kind of snorted a laugh and without taking his eyes off the road, said, “I told you it felt good, you sonofabitch. Four trips to Hell on your first day. Don’t you dare tell your mother.”
I knew he wasn’t thinking about answering my questions. Why did he even ask me if I had questions?
I had a thousand questions. I wanted to know if Hell was a real place or just something in my head, like a nightmare. Otherwise, how could I make it go away by opening my eyes?
I wanted to ask him how many times he’d come to Earth. Did he come here when the first cavemen showed up? How many devils were in Hell? How many were on Earth? And what about my Mom and Dad? Have they been coming to Earth for thousands of years? Did they have other kids from other incarnations?
So, what comes out of my mouth?
“When will I see Brandi again?”
Go to Chapter Nine . . .