Hunting the Snake. A Beginning of a Short Story. By Pilialoha Nathaniel
It is really a symphony of sounds and smells. The scream of electrified metal clashing against metal melds with the melodious canned voices that fail to rise above the static of the obsolete sound system. The din of millions of footsteps trying to get somewhere, or away from somewhere churns up the aroma that belongs to this place alone.
Caught up in the sounds and smells that is the music of the New York City Subway, I almost missed her. The sewer Rat scurries by me in a rainbow of ratty florescent green curls and a faded torn I “Heart” NY shirt she probably bought from one of those knock off stores in Chinatown. She grabs the pole and swings back around. The metallic doors close and she peers out the window as the train begins to move. She sways. Her shorts are stained with finger swipes of spray paint over a pair ripped purple tights. The earbuds that keep her ass moving in small undulating waves are studded with shiny green rhinestones.
Her satchel is a mess. Dirty tees and jeans poke out of every available hole. Shit had been stuffed into that hand sewn piece of rag. This girl must have been in a rush to get somewhere.
Or … away from someone.
A book slips out of her bag, bounces off her boots and drops on to the black rubber floor below. It flips open in front of me. A detailed pencil sketch of a Lion stares up at me.
Still not noticing me, she scoops it up in a flash of punk pink painted nails and stuffs it back into her rag of a bag. She gnaws on her pinky nail. Most of the paint looks to have been bitten away. As she works on the rest of the toxic pink paint, she stares out the window of this A train that we have both found ourselves on.
I look back down. She is definitely not a sewer Rat. Her boots give her away. She could have stole them, true, but these babies fit her like they were tailored. These were made from the finest skins I’d ever seen. This ratty mess was no more sewer Rat than I was. I can’t imagine why or what would make this lovely girl pretend to be other than she is.
And she is special. A Snake. My special Snake.
The train slows as it approaches 14th Street. She backs up, visibly disturbed. The train stops and her head snaps down and she is absolutely still.
I glance up as the doors open. Two cops stand right outside. One cop looks in and straight at me. With all the shit that’s been going down, I’m not surprised they are on high alert.
I arch my brow and smile invitingly. The cop looks deep into my multifaceted eyes and turns beet red. He bows his head in acknowledgement. Unless necessary, Law-enforcement types rarely seek to tangle with my kind. He backs out of the train as the doors close.
With a lurch we begin our forward momentum once again.
I look up at my target. She has finally noticed me. Does she know who I am? Her now unpainted pinky is back in her mouth and her malachite green eyes are piercing.
No, she doesn’t know who I am. Maybe it is better this way.
I smile my inviting smile and she looks away, startled and terrified. She looks to the humans on the train. They are all oblivious to her. She backs up against the train car exit doors. She reaches for the handle as if to pull it open to exit to the next car.
I give my head the slightest shake and she obeys immediately. Tears stream down her face.
Good girl. Now she knows who I am. What I am. There is no escape for her.
And now I know who she is. I’ve been searching for her and after all these fruitless years she happens to stumble onto the same train car.
God, I love this city.