Weredevil — Chapter Six

by Arnold Snyder

 

It happened on the day before my fourteenth birthday. I called Uncle Luke.

“Unc, the first thing I did when I got out of bed this morning was go to the fridge and eat both apples, then all the grapes. Now I’m sitting here peeling a banana and I’ll probably polish off the whole bunch.”

“When did you wake up?”

“Maybe fifteen minutes ago, maybe twenty, but I didn’t realize what was happening till just now. And I’m feeling kind of dizzy.”

“I’ll be there in five minutes. Go sit on your front porch and watch for me. I’ll stop in front of your house but I’m not going to park. Just come to my car. We’re taking a trip.”

“Where are we going?”

“Mary and Mavis’s.”

“Who’s Mary and Mavis?”

“It’s an orchard, Sebastian, a big fruit orchard. They grow apples, peaches, pears, plums, you name it.”

“Bananas? Oranges?”

“No, Sebastian, we’re not in the tropics. But don’t worry, you’ll like the selection.”

I brought the rest of the bananas with me to the porch and ate them quickly as I watched for Uncle Luke’s car. Within minutes, his big black Cadillac sedan pulled up in front of my house and I ran down and jumped into the front seat beside him.

As I sunk into the plush white leather upholstery, Uncle Luke handed me a large cantaloupe.

“What’s this?” I said.

“The canary in the coal mine.”

That meant nothing to me. “I don’t have a knife,” I said.

“You won’t need one. Just hold it until you have the urge to take a bite and eat it—rind, seeds, and all. When that happens, we’ll know your transformation has begun and you’ll be in full fangs and scales within five minutes, give or take. The melon is a warning system, that’s all. Hopefully, we’ll be at the orchard by the time you take your first bite and you can begin stuffing your face with a buffet of fresh fruit, still on the trees.”

As the city streets disappeared behind us and we found ourselves speeding along the rolling country roads, I tried to lay back and close my eyes. The smell of the cantaloupe was getting stronger, but I couldn’t imagine just taking a bite out of the rind. I wanted a knife. The thought of being a snake appealed to me but I disliked the growing queasy feeling in my gut. I felt sure a big fruit salad would fix me up in no time.

“Are we almost there, Unc?” I said after twenty minutes or so. My headache had gotten much worse. I was staring at the cantaloupe that was looking better by the moment.

“Just a bit further, Sebastian.”

“How can we ever beat God, Unc? He knows everything and he can do anything. Do you know everything too?”

“No, no, I’m not omniscient. I’m not at all like him. I’m much more like the humans. I have to think things out and learn things as I go. We devils use logic, Sebastian. We figure God out and avoid him as much as possible.”

“I’ll bet you’re better at logic than he is.”

“Don’t make me laugh. Not by a long shot. He invented logic. But he doesn’t care all that much for logic. It’s not the way he approaches things. He acts more on a visceral level. All he really wants to do is torture innocent and helpless creatures. You don’t need to use logic to be a fiend. And, unfortunately, he has the power of creation, so he can continually generate more victims. He’ll never have enough victims though. He’s a real sicko.”

“But this isn’t fair, Unc. Isn’t there anything we can do to get rid of him?”

“’Fraid not, Sebastian. This is the only eternity we have. But we’re going to make the best of it.”

And at that moment, without even a passing thought about what I was doing, I jammed that cantaloupe into my face, sunk my teeth into the rind until the juice was flowing into my mouth. I bit down hard, almost choking on the sweet flesh as I gnawed into the center, slurping the seeds and stringy pulp along with the sweet flesh into my mouth with gusto.

“Holy shit, Sebastian, I’ve gotta step on it.”

Uncle Luke put the pedal to the metal and the big old Caddy started bouncing on that gravel road despite its superior four-wheel air suspension.

“Now, Sebastian, I want you to close your eyes and keep them closed. Do you understand?”

“Yeah, Unc. How come?” I said through a mouthful of cantaloupe.

“Are they closed?”

I closed my eyes, still gnawing at the melon and slurping the sticky nectar from my fingers. “Closed,” I said. “How come?”

“You’re about to learn what Hell is, Sebastian. Your transformation is just starting. Any time you go from human to snake form, or vice versa, the only way to get there is through Hell. To transform, you just close your eyes. You’ll see Hell, you’ll hear it, you’ll smell, taste, and feel it. But when you reopen your eyes, you’ll be back on Earth, but transformed either from human to snake or snake to human. Either way, you go through Hell. Do you understand?”

“What do you mean go through Hell, Unc?”

“Just keep your eyes closed. It’s the only way to transform. And remember, you don’t have to stay in Hell. Open your eyes to complete your transformation and you’re back on Earth.”

“But, Unc, snakes can’t close their eyes.” That’s a fact.

“You too smart for your own good, Sebastian. But you will be a snake with functioning opaque eyelids. You will have no difficulty closing your eyes. Just remember, it’s dangerous to close your eyes when you’re in snake form. It’s easy to fall into Hell when you’re a snake, and that will transform you back to human.”

“But how do I go to sleep at night if every time I close my eyes I go to Hell and turn into a snake?”

When you’re in human form, you have to close your eyes and really concentrate hard to go to Hell. You can’t do it accidentally. You’ll have no trouble going to sleep tonight. It’s just when you’re in snake form that it’s dangerous to close your eyes, because you can very easily fall into Hell. And when you open your eyes you’ll be human.”

In the next few minutes I pondered this as I kept my eyes closed and finished off the cantaloupe. There wasn’t much I could do about this first transformation, but I doubted I’d ever voluntarily want to go to Hell, just so I could come out a snake. How good could it be to be a snake? I was ravenously hungry for more fruit, but I knew there would be much more coming, so I sat quietly and waited. I had been excited about becoming a snake up until Uncle Luke had said anything about going to Hell. Now Hell was the only thing I could think about.

I was about to ask Uncle Luke what was so good about being a snake when I discovered I couldn’t talk. My mouth felt funny, my lips weren’t the same. I had no voice. Then, I saw it in the distance.

Hell.

Slowly coming closer, an evil black emptiness.

I didn’t dare open my eyes yet. I felt obligated to follow Uncle Luke’s instructions to the letter. But as the ominous blackness drew nearer to me I sensed the weight of it and felt that if I didn’t get away immediately, it would smother me.

And then it was upon me and it was all that there was.

My overwhelming sense of aloneness frightened me. My physical body had no shape to it, no start or stopping point. Yet I felt no physical pain.

This isn’t so bad for Hell. I’d been expecting much worse. This is dark. Lonely. But not intolerable.

I kept telling myself that all I had to do was open my eyes and Hell would be gone. But I had no more sense of my eyes than I had of any other parts of my body. I wanted to tell Uncle Luke my eyes wouldn’t open but I couldn’t mouth the words. I wanted to yell, shout, scream, anything, but I couldn’t. My body was not obedient to my attempts at controlling it.

I felt abandoned. Was Uncle Luke just going to leave me like this?

I started to experience a sensation of falling. It was unpleasant. I had no way to brace myself. It was scaring me, partly because of my fear of hitting something solid as I seemed to be falling at tremendously increasing velocity, but just as much because I knew I was going deeper into Hell, so deep I was afraid I’d never get out.

I had no working eyes. Where was Uncle Luke? Did he know I was unable to open my eyes? He’d made it sound so easy in the car. Just open your eyes and you’ll be right back on Earth. Did he know I was falling into some deep pit of blackness?

I tried to get a handle on my body. I couldn’t feel my legs or my arms. But then, was I already transformed into a snake? I tried to feel anything at all—my mouth, my heartbeat, my breathing.

Nothing.

The falling sensation started to dissipate. I was still falling, but more slowly. I must have fallen miles by this point and now the air was thickening, becoming more like a liquid. And the deeper I want into it, the heavier and more oppressive it was.

I felt panicky. Claustrophobic. What if Uncle Luke couldn’t get me out? He might not even know how to find me. Maybe he hadn’t been expecting me to fall this deep into Hell. He’d said I’d be able to see Hell, and hear it, and taste it and smell it and feel it.

I saw nothing, not even blackness anymore, just nothing. I strained to hear something, anything … nothing. I had no sensation of taste, no sensation of my mouth, my tongue, my lips, nothing. How could I smell anything? I had no idea where my nostrils were. Of course, if I was a snake … snakes don’t have nostrils; they have sensors on their forked tongues that pick up the chemicals in the air that provides them with massive amounts of information on their environment and any living creatures within their sphere. It’s the way snakes smell. But I had no sense of a tongue, let alone a new forked tongue.

I couldn’t inhale or exhale. I wasn’t breathing. Was I dead?

Maybe Uncle Luke wasn’t expecting me to die. Maybe now it was too late for him to get me back.

Other than the sensation of having a tremendous weight pressing on me from all sides, of being immobilized in some thick liquid, whatever body I had was lifeless, and if not dead, then just a part of the dense liquid that encased me.

Then the liquid started to get warm. Was I imagining it? No. I felt a distinct warming that was fast becoming hot, burning hot, and for the first time since entering Hell, I started to have a sensation of my skin, my face, my internal organs.

I suddenly had the ability to squirm, but every direction I moved in to escape the heat was even hotter. I found my mouth, but when I opened it to scream the scalding thick liquid rushed in and started pouring down my throat and into my guts. I was burning up from the inside and out.

I found my eyes but kept them clenched tight to keep the fire from burning my eyes out. And then I remembered that Uncle Luke had said if I opened my eyes, Hell would be gone.

But would it? Had I sunk too deeply into the abyss to ever escape? The thought of opening my eyes, of letting that searing heat into my eye sockets, my brain, my head, made it impossible for me to do so.

Why wasn’t Uncle Luke coming to my rescue? How could he abandon me like this? At that moment, I hated him more than I had ever hated anyone or anything. I hated existence itself.

Then I remembered what he’d told me, that it was God who’d created Hell, God who was the sicko that found satisfaction in the eternal intolerable suffering of his innocent creations. And as I transferred my hatred from Uncle Luke to God, hating God with every burning fiber of my being, I forced my eyes open, prepared for the boiling heat to rush into my head, but hoping against hope that what Uncle Luke had told me was the truth.

And in that instant that my eyes opened, I saw the smiling face of Uncle Luke and the burning heat was gone.

“Don’t try to talk, Sebastian,” Uncle Luke said softly. “You won’t be able to talk yet. You’ll figure that out in time. I presume you enjoyed your brief peek at Hell? It gets much worse the longer you stay. I’m glad you opened your eyes before the really unpleasant stuff started. Right now, you’ve got to get used to your snake body. Look at yourself.”

That was a “brief peek?” The “unpleasant stuff” hadn’t even started yet?

I turned my head down to view my body. I was astonished at my beauty. I had the same iridescent coloring as my mother, though the patterns were different, more like overlapping diamond shapes than zig-zags. My clothes were still on my body. The arms of my t-shirt were empty and the neck was torn as my girth was much greater than my human neck. I was only using one leg of my jeans and I presumed my underwear which I couldn’t see.

“Normally, you would undress before transforming,” Uncle Luke said. “Your shirt didn’t quite make it, but luckily, you didn’t tear your jeans.”

I looked at Uncle Luke and noticed that his face had the faint patterns of scales, much like my mother’s and my own, though his coloring was more of a luminescent purple. I wondered momentarily if he was in the process of turning into a snake also. Was he going to accompany me on this adventure? I was hoping he would join me.

I looked around. We were still in the car, parked on the shoulder of a dirt road beside a wooden fence that ran as far as could be seen in either direction. Behind the fence were row after row of trees. Even with the car windows closed I could smell the apples. I looked at Uncle Luke again, now noticing that the patterns on his face were also on his arms and the backs of his hands.

“You’re staring at the designs on my skin,” he said. “You’ll see these designs on me from now on, even after you return to your human form. You’ll see similar designs on your parents, your sister, and anyone else who is a devil in human form. Your eyes will see a fuller spectrum of light now, including infrared and ultraviolet, among other colors unknown to man. From now on, you’ll always know a devil when you see one.”

Uncle Luke sat in the driver’s seat facing me. I was coiled tightly on the seat beside him. I couldn’t see my tail, but I knew I was very large, almost as large as my mother I guessed. It was just starting to hit me that not only had I escaped the pain of Hell, but I was literally tingling with pleasure in my snake skin.

“I know you smell the fruit, Sebastian, and in a few minutes you’ll have all you want. But I have to explain some things first. The apples aren’t ripe yet, by human standards, so you won’t find anyone out in the orchard picking fruit today … except, possibly, other devils. That’s why we came to this section of the orchard. Mary and Mavis have the largest fruit orchard in the Midwest, so devils come here from four different states. You’ll find the unripe apples to be exceptionally satisfying.

“Should you see a human, do not allow yourself to be seen. Humans are terrified of snakes, and especially large snakes, as well they should be. All common snakes found on earth are carnivores. You are a carnivore when you are in human form, but as a snake you’ll have little interest in meat. The only thing you’ll want to eat will be fruit. So, though humans have no need to fear you, they will fear you. Should a human see you, get away fast. Humans are dangerous.

“Also, since you’re going underground, don’t eat the rats or mice or any other vermin you find down there. They won’t appeal to you much, but you might be tempted to deal with a belligerent rat by swallowing him. Don’t do it or you’ll have to regurgitate the animal before you transform back to human. You do not want to be in human form with a rat in your stomach, dead or alive.

“You’ll discover many openings in the earth where you can easily escape underground. Learn where these are. You’ll find a maze of tunnels beneath these orchards, tunnels that go on for miles with caverns and even subterranean springs and streams and pools. You’ll enjoy exploring these tunnels in time, and meeting many of the other devils that find this orchard and its caverns beneath a place of peaceful satisfaction.

“The large rock just inside the fence there hides an opening in the earth big enough for a man to enter, or exit. That’ll be a good entry point for you.

“You’ll remain in your snake form for only an hour or so, then you’ll return to your human form automatically. You may have no control over this first transformation. So, don’t stray too far from an egress. If you feel yourself feeling nauseous from the fruit you ate, head for the surface fast. You’ve got about five minutes till you’ll reenter Hell and transform back to human. You don’t want to find yourself half a mile belowground in human form.

“On the other hand, if you want to return to your human form before it starts to happen automatically, just close your eyes and come through Hell. Remember that Hell is the only way back. You will be naked when you change back, so leave your clothes below the earth—but not too far below—so you can dress before emerging. You’ll find me waiting for you right here. Now get going.”

Uncle Luke opened the automatic window on the passenger side, allowing me to slide out of the Caddy and onto the ground. I understood how to move instinctively and had no trouble traversing the distance from the Caddy to the large rock where Uncle Luke said I’d find an opening into the earth.

But though the lateral undulations necessary for traveling without the use of limbs came to me by instinct, the immense pleasure of moving in this way took me by surprise. In the few seconds it took me to arrive at the rock, I’d pretty much decided to just keep going, forget the hole in the ground and just keep going into the orchard, just keep feeling that exquisite pleasure on the skin beneath my scales.

“Hey, Sebastian!” Uncle Luke yelled.

I turned to see that my tail-end had just exited the car window.

“Don’t lose your pants,” he said.

I’d already forgotten about my clothes. My t-shirt was halfway down my body and my boxers just below my shirt, but my jeans were only a few feet from the tip of my tail.

Uncle Luke held up my sneakers to let me know he had them in the car.

I discovered I could lift my tail and hold it up—keeping my pants on—even as I wound my way the remaining distance across the ground and into the dark hole that would be the area where I would hide my clothes.

It was deep, much deeper than I imagined it would be. Down, down, down, winding around the rocks and roots that fought for a strangle hold on the packed clay.

When I was no longer descending but found the tunnel traveling sideways, I stopped to wriggle out of my clothes. I saw that I’d lost my jeans. I still had my t-shirt and shorts, which I discovered were not so easy to wriggle out of. I looked around the cave as I worked on the problem.

I could smell many other snakes that had spent time in this place, and wondered how many different devils had been here. Had we been coming to these caves for hundreds of years? Thousands? I wanted to know about my ancestors. My own parents. I knew I was born from them, but how did they get here? They were among the original Cherubim before the Earth was even created.

I could smell other animals also—rats, mice, worms, beetles. And I could hear the rats scratching at the dirt and rocks. I had no fear of them. I was sure if they saw me they’d run the other way. But I had no desire to eat a rat. The fruit trees above were my sole focus of interest.

The dirt beneath me was damp, which made it cool and pleasant on my belly. In the many tunnels that branched off from this space, I could see tree roots, in some places thick like webbing. I loved the smell of the dirt. I loved the darkness.

I wondered where all the tunnels went, but I had no desire to explore. I wanted fruit.

I entered one of the wider tunnels that looked like it went deeper into the orchard. I decided to take it to an egress that was further away from the road. I had no intention of being seen by a human. I did not want to risk being shot at.

I could see a speck of light in the distance though I felt no need of light to navigate. I could follow the scent of the fruit in pitch blackness and find it quicker than any visual method.

It was a long way up on uneven terrain. It taxed my muscles.

I peeked my head up to see I was under a canopy of overgrown bushes. I craned my neck and did a 360º scan. Nothing but trees, bursting with hard little apple nuggets you could swallow whole to fill your belly and spend hours digesting.

Stop. Don’t think that way. Uncle Luke said you’d only be in your snake form for an hour or so. I’m going to take it easy, get up a tree, sample some of the offerings, keep my eyes, ears, and forked tongue open for intruders. I know two different holes I can slither into within a matter of seconds, should anyone see me.

Climbing the tree was ecstasy, screwing my body around it, expanding and contracting my way to the fruit above. I brought my entire body, tail included, up into the tree to make myself least visible to anyone who might pass by. With the way I was wound around the thicker branches, if I remained still I would not be noticed by any casual passerby.

Little green Macintoshes. A perfect specimen was right in front of my nose. I snapped it from the branch and held it in my mouth for a long moment, savoring everything about it, then swallowed it whole, as my eyes were already on another.

I could feel the one I’d swallowed traversing my body into the depths of my belly. My level of self-awareness was as acute as my awareness of my environment. I could hear the cacophony of hundreds of insects.

I snapped another apple from the branch in front of me, again savored it, swallowed, and felt a deep satisfaction, as I eyed another sour morsel on the branch above, this one larger.

Snap.

In savoring this one, I made a mistake. I closed my eyes.

Immediately I started to descend at a frighteningly fast rate into Hell.

Jesus Christ!

I opened my eyes.

The apple was still in my mouth. I swallowed it with no further savoring. I remembered what Uncle Luke had said. It’s dangerous to close your eyes when you’re in snake form if you want to avoid Hell.

That’s when I saw a snake head peek up from the ground, scan the area, stop to look straight at me, then disappear back down the hole from which it had emerged.

It was a different hole in the ground from which I had emerged, and unless my forked tongue was playing tricks on me, that snake sure smelled like a girl. A young girl. Yet mature in a way that mattered to me. She looked at me and I think she smiled and then she went down that hole.

Fuck the apples.

That was a girl.

I scanned the area for any encroachers. Seeing none, I quickly descended the tree and traversed the distance to the hole in the ground she’d disappeared into. As soon as I entered the hole, the smell of her was overwhelming. Winding down the tunnels through roots and rocks, her pheromones were calling to me through my tongue.

I remembered that Uncle Luke had said that we devil snakes had no reproductive organs. We could not mate. Yet we had sexual desires. Hormones. Pheromones. What a cruel joke.

I hesitated when I saw her. She was coiled beside a small subterranean pool, watching me intently. I couldn’t look away from her eyes. Her smell had saturated my insides. I could taste her.

I approached her slowly, feeling as if I were being drawn to her involuntarily, drawn by some chemistry that existed outside the realm of voluntary decisions. Our eyes were locked on each other’s. And as I drew within inches of her, I could see she had two small nubs on top of her head, the beginnings of horns. I could also see what was in her eyes.

Hell.

She had been there very recently, just like me. She had experienced the isolation, the desolation, the abandonment, the burning heat, the fear. And I knew she was also seeing Hell in my eyes.

Hell pulled us together. Keeping our eyes locked, we moved our bodies until we had scale-to-scale contact and began twining our bodies around each other, giving each other that exquisite pleasure of belly-to-belly surrender. In this way, we comforted each other, knowing that though we could never copulate, never attach physically, never reach the pinnacle of snake satisfaction, what we had was real and important and eternal.

I could see immense pleasure in her expression, pleasure so great it was almost unbearable. She tipped her head back and closed her eyes with an ecstatic look on her face. I did the same.

The feel of her body against mine was all I wanted in the world. I didn’t register the sensation of falling right away as anything other than a surrender to pleasure. And then I froze, realizing what I’d done. I’d closed my eyes. I was falling back into Hell.

I opened my eyes quickly and returned to Earth. We were still wrapped around each other, but her eyes were still closed. If she didn’t open them right away, she’d find herself in Hell. I hissed at her, then again louder. I squeezed her.

But it was too late. She wasn’t opening her eyes. Her body was going limp against mine, but I held her tightly, knowing the agony she must be going through.

Then I felt her moving. Maybe she was coming back. I hissed at her again, a long, slow, plaintive hiss … until I realized what was happening to her. She wasn’t moving. She was transforming back into her human form. She was in the process of passing through Hell.

Her scales seemed to be dissolving into her skin as legs and arms just grew from her. I continued to hold her until she had completed the transformation. It hadn’t taken more than a minute. I found myself twined around a naked young girl, a teenager, probably about my age. She had long black hair and her skin was mottled with the same beautiful pattern as her snake skin.

As she lay limp in my arms, I hissed at her once more and her eyes opened wide. She was startled to see me. She stared at my snake face for a minute trying to put together what was happening. Then it hit her.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to transform. I forgot what I was doing and closed my eyes. Then I couldn’t stop it.”

I started to unwind myself from her but she held me as tightly as she could.

“Don’t,” she said. “Just hold me.”

For a long time we stayed like that. I was noticing how beautiful she was, just as pretty as a girl as she was as a snake.

“Can you talk?” she asked me.

I shook my head.

“Then you should transform now so we can make a plan. I want to know you. I don’t know any other devils except my family. And Uncle Luke. I just learned I was a devil a few days ago. This was my first time transforming. I know it’s scary going through Hell, but I’ll hold you and be here when you come out of it.”

I knew she was right and I did want to see her again. And I had to go through it anyway so I could return to Uncle Luke who was waiting in his Caddy for me. I knew what to expect. I closed my eyes and immediately started falling into Hell.

But this time it was different. I again lost the sense of my own body’s shape. Again, I had no sense of my eyes, my head, or any other part of me. But I was falling in a spiral pattern, swirling around at tremendous speed in the blackness. I felt dizzy and disoriented. I started bumping into hard and sharp objects, and with each bump a bolt of pain shot through me.

Then I landed so hard on a surface that was so scorching hot the skin of my shapeless nondescript body began to boil. I wanted so badly to jump from that ethereal frying pan that was literally cooking me but I had no control whatsoever. I couldn’t even scream because I had no sense of my mouth.

The first thing that returned was my sense of smell and what I could smell was my own burning flesh. I could also smell the girl, her pheromones, and her burning flesh. She was being cooked with me. She was screaming in agony. But I was incapable of helping her or myself.

I realized I was not smelling through my forked snake tongue, but through my nose, my nostrils, and I knew then that I was returning to my human form. The burning pain became much worse as I identified my body parts that were frying. My legs, my arms, then finally my face. I felt boiling oil being poured over my face. Now I didn’t dare open my newfound mouth to scream, as I knew the oil would rush in.

The girl’s screams were getting louder. Where are my eyes? If I could just open my eyes … And then I found them, once more with the eyelids clenched tight against the heat, but I knew what I had to do. I forced my eyes open.

And there she was, calmly looking at me, her face not six inches from mine as she held me in her arms. I was human again, and I was out of Hell.

There were tears in her eyes, running down her cheeks. I pulled her close against me. I felt self-conscious. I’d never been naked with a girl before. We were sitting on the cool dirt floor of the cave, her legs straddling my hips, our arms wrapped around each other, holding our bodies close together, looking over each other’s shoulder, then looking into each other’s eyes, then looking over each other’s shoulders again, just feeling each other’s warmth in the dark, damp cave.

“Why are you crying?” I said softly.

“Hell,” she said. “It’s so ugly, so horrible, so evil.”

“But we’re not there now,” I said.

“But think of all the humans. Millions, hundreds of millions. How can God be so cruel?”

It was so much darker in the cave as seen through my human eyes than it was through snake eyes.

“What’s your name?” I said.

“Brandi.”

“Brandi, I was never naked with a girl before.”

“Your name’s Sebastian,” she said.

“How’d you know that?”

“My auntie told me. Auntie Mavis.”

“How’d your auntie know my name?”

“She knows everybody’s name that comes here.”

“But I snuck in under the fence!”

“You came with Uncle Luke,” she said.

“How’d you know that?”

“My auntie told me.”

“How’d she know that?”

“I don’t know … I guess Uncle Luke told her.”

It was quiet under there. I could hear water trickling some distance away. And the scratching sounds of the rats a bit closer, but no sounds of the city, no airplanes overhead or traffic sounds. I liked the relative quiet.

“Is he your uncle too?” I said. “Are we related?”

“He’s everybody’s uncle. Even my mom and dad call him Uncle Luke.”

“So you knew I was coming today?”

“Not until an hour ago.”

“Do you know Uncle Luke?”

“Sure. Him and my Auntie Mavis are good friends. She calls him Uncle Luke too.”

“Auntie Mavis like in Mary and Mavis?”

“Yes. This is their orchard. Do you know Aunt Mary?”

“No. Is she a devil?”

“Of course. Her and Aunt Mavis are both devils.”

“So this was all planned out?”

“No, not like this. I was just supposed to be in my snake form and meet you. I wasn’t supposed to fall back into Hell and transform back to human. I was never naked with a boy before either. I think … I think your penis is getting hard.”

“I know that!”

“Well, you shouldn’t allow yourself to get aroused by a young teenage girl. That’s perverse, according to my ethics instructor.”

“Your ethics instructor? Devils have ethics instructors?”

“Hasn’t yours been assigned yet?”

“Look, Brandi, this isn’t voluntary on my part. I’m not allowing myself to get turned on; I’m just fucking turned on! And I blame you for my condition. You got naked first. What happened to me is just fucking nature.”

“You should watch your language. You don’t have to talk like that to be cool.”

“Cool? You think I’m trying to be cool? I just learned I was a devil two days ago, and then today for the first time I went to Hell, turned into a snake, and started falling in love—no! lusting after—a girl snake—”

“Really?”

I ignored her question. “… and went to Hell again—and I had no idea what Hell even was when I woke up this morning—and now I’m all wrapped around a naked girl I never met before and she’s lecturing me about ethics. So, yes, I guess you’re right, what I’m trying to do right now is be cool. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

“Do you have any snake friends yet?” she asked.

“No. Just my family and relatives that I didn’t even know were devils and never saw any of them in snake form. My mother’s the only one I ever saw. One time. Accidentally for like one minute. Now I’ve met you.”

“That wasn’t an accident with your mother.”

“How do you know about that?”

“Auntie Mavis. Girls talk you know. We better go. She’s waiting for me. I don’t want her coming down here looking for me … finding me like this. We have to close our eyes to separate so we don’t look at each other naked. We have to save that for later.”

“Really? We can look at each other naked later?”

“If something develops. Don’t be so cocksure, pardon the pun.”

“Aren’t you afraid to close your eyes? What if we start falling back into Hell?”

“That doesn’t happen when we’re in human form. Only when we’re snakes. That’s what my auntie said. Never close your eyes when you’re a snake. When you’re human, you have to close your eyes and really try hard to fall into Hell.”

I knew that. “Okay, I’m closing my eyes.” I shut my eyes tight. “Tell me when yours are shut.”

“Okay,” she said. “My eyes are closed.”

“Okay, let’s let go slowly and keep your eyes closed.”

“Okay.”

We started to disentangle.

I weighed my options. I could open my eyes and see her naked and she wouldn’t even know I saw her, assuming she kept her eyes closed, unless I told her—which I probably wouldn’t do right away anyway. And if she opened her eyes and saw my eyes were open, she couldn’t complain because she just did the same thing.

Or I could keep my eyes closed and I’d never know if she opened her eyes or not.

I saw no upside to keeping my eyes closed. I wanted to look at her.

I opened my eyes. She was staring at me. She smiled. We continued to disentangle, drawing our bodies apart to where we really could see each other, but we kept looking at each other’s face.

Her eyes. Her smile. And Hell.

“How come you’re smiling?” she said.

“How come your eyes were open?” I said.

“I got afraid of falling into Hell,” she said. “You shouldn’t have put that idea in my head.”

“Sorry.” I wanted to look at her pussy but I couldn’t do it unless she looked down first.

“Why’d you open your eyes?” she said.

“Well, can I be dead honest with you? I wanted to see your pussy.”

“Sebastian, you’re so gross.” She drew quickly away from me with a sideways turning motion, then said, “Did you see it yet?”

“No,” I said, which was the truth. Our eyes were locked and I never looked down.

“Too bad. I’ve got to get back to my auntie. All you get to see is my fine ass.”

She turned her back and walked to the tunnel from which I’d entered her lair and started climbing up the steep and narrow dirt passageway. Wow. I got a view of her pussy from the back that made me want to follow her. But I didn’t want to meet her Aunt Mavis.

“We didn’t make a plan!” I called to her, but she never stopped or turned around. Within a minute, even her fine ass had disappeared.

Go to Chapter Seven . . .

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