by Arnold Snyder
The first time I saw my mother turn into a serpent I was mildly surprised, though I felt it was something I already knew about her. I was thirteen years old at the time—soon to be fourteen.
It was late on a Monday night and my father was at work. He was a night watchman at the Strait City Bank. He wore a uniform and had a pistol in a holster on his belt. When I was younger, I thought he was a real policeman. But he didn’t actually do anything but sit at a desk by the front door all night.
My sister Lola and I had been in bed for hours in our separate bedrooms upstairs. Lola was fourteen, going on fifteen. It was summer, so I had no school and I was often staying up late and reading in my bed. And looking at porn. Mostly pussies. I was addicted to looking at pussies.
I considered myself somewhat a connoisseur of pussies. Not that I’d ever seen an adult female’s pussy in person. I’d seen Lola’s a bunch of times, up until she was about six. But that was the totality of my live pussy experience. Having seen and studied so many photos of pussy, however, I considered myself a pussy expert, at least aesthetically.
I preferred the smoothly shaved pussies, primarily because you could actually see them. I didn’t mind a bit of neatly-trimmed pubic hair on the mons veneris, but I didn’t care much at all for five o’clock shadow anywhere near the pussy. Wouldn’t the photographer tell the girl it’s been too many days since she shaved and her whiskers look like they’d be scratchy? Who’s taking these pictures? How about some professional standards?
I had an urgency to pee, so I got out of my bed and went through the upstairs hallway to the stairwell that led down into the living room. A light was on in the living room, the lamp on the end-table I couldn’t see.
Ours was a typical middleclass ranch-style house on the outskirts of Strait City, where a few miles west of our neighborhood closed factories haunted deserted streets.
I sat down on the top step, hesitant to go down. The staircase was carpeted, wearing thin, and I sat there twisting some of the frayed carpet strings around my finger as I waited. I was wearing my pajamas and I had to let my boner subside before I could walk normally. Also, I felt something was wrong. My mother didn’t often stay up late. She left for her job at the hospital early in the morning. It was now after two a.m. She should be sleeping.
Then I saw her. Despite her being a snake, I knew it was her immediately. She went slithering across the living room floor and as she passed the staircase, she saw me and doubled back and stopped dead, looking right at me. She had not been expecting to see me.
She came slithering up the stairs to confront me. I had no fear of her. She was my mother. She was a very long snake though I couldn’t tell how long. Her body was thicker than my thigh and the back half of it wound down the stairs and out of sight into the living room. She looked powerful and very beautiful. Her scales were iridescent blue and green in triangle and zigzag patterns. She stopped when her face was about a foot in front of mine. She looked me right in the eyes. Her forked tongue slipped quickly out of her mouth then slid back in. Her snake face was soft and vulnerable. I noticed two small pointed horns at the top of her head.
“I got up ’cause I had to pee,” I said, feeling obligated to explain myself to her. “But I was afraid to come down ’cause I didn’t want to bother you.”
She looked down at my finger that was wrapped in the frayed carpet string, then looked up at me in admonishment.
I pulled my finger free from the string that was spiraled around it. “Sorry, Mom,” I said.
She moved her head closer to me and nuzzled my cheek affectionately. In a soft breathy whisper, she said, “It’s okay … you can come down. And don’t poke any more holes in the carpet.” Then she turned and slithered back down the stairs.
She disappeared into the living room. Moments later, the living room went dark.
My erection was a distant memory. I went down the stairs. A sliver of light beneath the closed door to my parents’ bedroom told me my mother was in her room. I was glad the bedroom door was closed. I went to the bathroom and peed, then went back up to bed. Whether she was snake or human, I didn’t want to confront her.
Sleep did not come easily. I was not in the mood to masturbate, which I’d often found to be an excellent sleep aid. The thought of my mother in her bedroom as a twenty-foot reptile got me to wondering if she would sleep that way. I knew that by morning, when she went to work, she would not look like a snake. I knew it. But would she sleep through the night as a snake, or as a human? And what triggered that transformation in her? I knew the moment I saw her that she had been turning into a snake for many years.
Somewhere in my head, I had memories of seeing her like a snake, memories from my infancy I was sure, before I associated words with what I saw. Though just vague images, they were fond memories. It didn’t strike me as unusual that I accepted my mother as a snake. It was something I’d always known, but had forgotten.
I also knew my mother knew that I would have no fear of her as a serpent. She knew those old memories would return to me. I remembered the feel of her scales on my infant body when she held me and caressed me the way snakes do with their young.
My mother had a talk with me the next afternoon when she’d returned from work. I’d spent the day doing nothing. Tried reading. Couldn’t get into anything. Turned on the radio. Turned off the radio. Surfed the net. No interest. Wasn’t hungry. It was a humid day. I felt like a slug. I was sitting at the dining room table looking at a bowl of soggy corn flakes I’d barely started eating and couldn’t finish.
My sister Lola was out with her friends and Dad was sleeping.
“I know what they taught you about devils in school, Sebastian,” my mother said.
I would be entering the eighth grade at Saint Judas Elementary at summer’s end where most of the teachers were Dominican nuns.
“Yeah,” I said, not sure where this was going.
“Well, I’m going to tell you a family secret and you can never tell anyone what I’m telling you. Okay?”
“What kind of family secret?” Does it have something to do with you turning into a snake?
“Do you promise not to tell?”
“I won’t tell.”
“Devils aren’t really bad.”
I just looked at her for a few moments, then said, “Meaning?”
“I mean we’re devils. I’m a devil and you’re a devil, and your Dad and your sister, Lola. We’re all devils.”
Why did this not surprise me? “Does Lola know?” I said.
“Yes, I told her last year when she was your age.”
I could hardly believe Lola went a year without telling me.
“Is everybody a devil?” I asked.
“No, just us. Of course, your uncles and aunts and your cousins, they’re all devils too. And Grampa and Gram. Our relatives. And there are others, not related. But regular people don’t know about us. So you can’t tell anyone.”
I had always felt like there was something special about our family and that there was something different about me from other kids, but this was beyond my expectations. “I think there’s a pretty wide consensus that devils are bad, Mom,” I said. “You know … not nice.”
I looked around at the kitchen that looked like everyone else’s kitchen that I knew, too normal and mundane for this crazy conversation.
“Does anyone say why devils are bad?” my mother said. “Eat your cereal, Sebastian. Don’t let those corn flakes go to waste.”
“They’re already wasted, Mom. They’re soggy. I can’t eat them.”
“What did they tell you in school?” she said, getting back to the main topic, “about devils?”
“The devils had a battle in Heaven and God cast them out,” I said. “That’s what we learned in catechism. Devils don’t love God.”
“Well, that’s true, Sebastian. We don’t love God. But that doesn’t make us bad. If you can’t eat your cereal, I want you to eat something. Something healthy. I can make you a salad. I’m going to make one for myself, just for a snack.”
I sneered my disapproval of this idea. “But isn’t everyone supposed to love God?” I said. “I mean, because he made everybody?”
“Just because he made us doesn’t mean we have to love him.”
“Why am I going to a Catholic school? Why do you make me go to church on Sunday? And confession and communion?”
She went to the fridge and took out the iceberg lettuce. “For appearances. Appearances are important when you have a secret life.”
“But I thought I loved God for my whole life. Now, suddenly I don’t?”
“Oh, Sebastian, you never really loved him. You don’t know anything about him. And you shouldn’t love him.” She placed two salad plates on the table and started grating lettuce onto them.
“Well, for one thing, he put us in Hell for eternity. That’s not a very loving thing to do.”
I thought about this for a few moments. I could hear the electric clock humming on the wall over the spice cabinet. This kitchen was simply too normal a place to be having this conversation. My whole life was getting turned upside down. Finally, I said, “I’m not in Hell. You’re not in Hell. Our whole family is right here in Strait City.”
“It’s time you knew this, Sebastian. When you die you’re going to Hell.”
“I don’t think so. I go to confession every week. I get rid of my mortal sins.”
“That doesn’t make any difference. You’re going to Hell.”
“It’s time for you to learn the truth about God and Heaven and Hell and who you are and why you’re here.”
“Does this have something to do with the snake thing?”
When she clammed up, I tried to read the expression on her face.
“Like what you did last night …?” I said, but stopped myself from explaining further, seeing that she was not going to answer me.
“Let me just ask you this,” I said. “Will I be able to turn into a snake?” That was what I really wanted to know.
She took a handful of cherry tomatoes from the window sill and started placing them carefully onto the lettuce beds, waiting until she had them arranged to her satisfaction before saying, “Yes, you will.”
She said it so affirmatively I had to stop and think about exactly what she was telling me. My whole life was changing. I was a devil. I would soon be a giant snake.
She went to the fridge and got a bottle of French dressing.
“Why can’t I do it now?” I said.
When she didn’t answer, I rephrased the question, “When can I start doing it?”
She poured dressing onto her salad, then onto mine. “Don’t rush it, Sebastian. There’ll be plenty of time for that.”
She passed me my salad plate.
“But, Mom …”
“Don’t but-mom me,” she said. “It’s biology. We have no control over that.” After a few moments thought, she added, “Lola did it for the first time a few months ago. So it won’t be long for you.”
“Lola turned into a snake?” I said through a mouthful of lettuce. “You never even told me! How do you do it? Shouldn’t you give me some kind of instructions?”
“It’ll just happen, Sebastian. Within the next … few months.”
“What does it feel like? How will I know when it’s happening? Can you do it any time you want?”
“We’ll talk more later,” she said.
I’d had a fascination with snakes since my early childhood. Snakes were not common in the residential suburb where we lived. In the years we’d been in our house, I’d seen one small garter snake. It was early in the summer after fifth grade. The snake disappeared almost immediately beneath a bush beside the front porch of the house next door. I spent the rest of the summer sitting on my own front porch watching the area around that bush hoping to see it again.
I knew a lot about snakes from reading. For my eleventh birthday my parents had given me an oversize coffee table book about snakes. I’d begged them for it. It was filled with full-page, full-color photos. I had looked at the book that morning to see if I could find a snake similar to my mother. The Arabian horned viper at least had horns, but it didn’t look like her otherwise and didn’t have her beautiful scale patterns.
Then I thought about my addiction to looking at pussy, or at least, pictures of pussy. Was that because I was a devil? Did I like looking at pussy more than other guys? Everybody looked at porn, but maybe devils liked porn more than regular humans. This was not something I could discuss with my mother. I wondered if my father surfed porn.
I finished the last few bites of my salad, then said, “What other kinds of stuff will I be able to do?”
My mother stood up. In her opinion, our conversation was over.
“That’ll be up to your Uncle Luke,” she said.
“Why Uncle Luke?”
“You need to have a conversation with your father, Sebastian. I’ve already told you too much. Now go play.” She pushed a forkful of lettuce into her mouth with gusto.
“Go play? I’m not a five-year-old, Mom. I’m a teenager. I don’t go play. I …” I what? I go mope? I go wonder why I’m afraid of girls? Will girls think it’s cool if I turn into a snake? I don’t know anyone else that can do that. Will they think it’s cool if I’m a devil? It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to tell them. All the girls I knew were Catholics … Then again, they might like it …
Go to Chapter Two . . .