Bedtime Stories: “Emilia, Who Was Not Like Other Snakes”
Emilia was not like other snakes. When the ancient serpents informed her their kind was the killing kind, the merciless kind, the kind that all other kinds would come to fear in the glowering nightscape, she decided she wasn’t going to be that kind. Gathered in the grove, all the ancients hissed hysterically at a young snake’s naivety: It’s not a decision to be made my dear serpent. We are what we are and that is what we shall remain. Coiled upon his throne of thorny vine and tiny rodent skulls, King Cobra stirred, sliding down to Emilia. Up close, his collection of scars and broken bones revealed a wisdom earned by many moons crossed and wars fought. Alright young Emilia, King Cobra began: You will go down to the great river then. When you get there, look into the water and report back to me what you find. So Emilia accepted her trial, crossing night toward the great river where she came across a stuttering toad, who immediately fell back in fright on his haunches. You’re afraid of me? Emilia asked. Of c-c-course, said the toad. But why? That’s when the toad led Emilia to the edge of the bank where three pearl-colored eggs lay shining. The very sight of them made Emilia’s mouth water, and no matter what she did she couldn’t shake the terrible impulse to swallow them whole. Do you s-s-see? trembled the toad. If not you, it’ll be another of your k-k-kind who c-c-claims them. The next night young Emilia was found limp in the river, having twisted her body around the eggs to protect them from a rival snake, but having failed. When one brave toad appeared before the grove’s court dragging young Emilia home with tears of gratefulness blinding his every hop, all the ancient serpents erupted in riotous laughter at a young snake’s foolishness, all except King Cobra, who lashed them with a look, ordering a hero’s burial for young Emilia. Bowing to the toad and forbidding any harm to come to him with a flash of his fangs, King Cobra retired to his dark hole, having seen the same thing once in the river many moons ago, and having tried as Emilia to change what he was, spared his life only to live out the eternal shame of his true nature.