There’s a snake in my belly. Wrapped tightly in upon itself, nestled in the tiny space between my intestines and my heart. I can look down and see the odd bulge it makes when it turns itself around, cat like, getting more comfortable on my pillowy innards.
I’ve slowly gotten used to its dry skin, the paper crackly sound it makes as it scales shimmer and scrape inside me. Every so often it languidly quizzes my internal machinations, pushing a flat snouted face into a lung or liver, sending a flickering tongue flitting over bones that shiver in response. Once or twice on the train I’ve been sent into full body tremors as snake’s oral examination of my interior have sent nerves uncontrollably rippling. As I pick myself up off the floor I mumble apologetically “I’m so sorry, it’s just that I’ve a snake in my belly”. I’ve even tried to let them feel it, as you would an encapsulated baby kicking.
For a while I felt sorry for it trapped in such dark, dank surroundings and took to standing outside with my mouth open on sunny days. I worried endlessly that my parasite might tire of the fare upon which it (by association) would be forced to dine, but no amount of lying face down on the floor teeth ajar would entice a tasty mouse to venture in and meet its doom.
And so we navigate these long days and longer nights, inseparable, indivisible. As I trawl the streets seeing enough for the both of us, snake ventures ever deeper into the other dark, beyond the lace of arteries, behind the veil of membranes and sees what I can not. Sometimes he reports back with a message scrawled on a train station bench, a stitch of half grasped conversation come undone, or the strains of music from another room. Always the same; just differently phrased. No sleep / No rest / No end / Just You and Me, My Love.
Some days, wearied by the walking of such treacherous mountain passes, I opt to stay tangled up in bed and ponder the babushka like arrangement we have here. If I was a doll you could break in half, you could lift out snake and break him apart too, finding forever smaller universes caged in progressively thinner walls. On these days snake makes use of the respite from the sloshing and joggling and dances in a most obscene fashion. He writhes, curls, ripples and side-winds his way into the depths of me and back again. When he really gets going its all I can do to lie as still as possible with my rib cage cantilevered open.
Snake is getting bolder. I sense his restlessness. His cave explorations have seen him span the continents inside of me but his curiosity is greater than my pink and red geography. He has poked and prodded his way through my history, fears and fear of history. He has licked the edges of my burnt sugar heart but still craves more.
I feel him heading north. Bulges appear in skin stretched tight across my sternum as his determined head forges its way ever forward. I lift my chin up as he ruptures my throat (my how he has grown) and an impossible amount of him chokes me. Politely leaving a straw width for air to screech in and out of, he presses on. If I open my mouth and look in the mirror I can see his bronze scales pulsating in the frame of my cracked lips. Pin pricks of fangs remind me not to double over at this crucial point. From my contorted position I look down expecting to see a now flatter belly. Not flatter. Still strange curves of my peculiar incubation. Did I grow another one?
Perhaps my snake is a she, not he, and is having her babies. I swell with maternal pride at the thought of our brood. I plan the nursery space inside my mouth, contemplating a quick repaint and some cute stencils. I listen for the pitter patter of tiny scales.
I’m mistaken. Snake is still a he. There is only one, and indeed how he has grown. What I thought was two was actually one, just extended to his new full height and rising fast. Grey matter is mashed against the coconut shell in my head as he fills space once occupied with the disarray of fractured thoughts and half remembrances. My temperature drops.
Perhaps I passed out, I cannot be sure. I find myself feeling as though finally waking up from a deep sleep. Drowsily my head swings down and I see my fingers splayed onto the floor in front of me. I squint as my eyes take in the fine tracery of scale pattern barely discernable through my cellophane skin. I’m still too deranged to notice that my eyelids are scissoring closed sideways. My nostrils flare as I sense on a level I am not used to. The reek of People assaults and overwhelms me. Slowly, slowly I wobble onto my feet, suddenly unsure of the mechanics of it all. It takes a moment to co-ordinate this strange amalgam of limbs. Do I really need this many fleshy protuberances? So un-economic. So hard to control.
Hips sway as joints express a new proclivity for sideways motion. I sashay my way with surprising grace from side to side. Leaning forward, I grip the door handle with my teeth and pull. An arm flops out unexpectedly. What on earth are those fleshy sticks for anyway?
A stumble, tumble, collapse and regroup later we are out on the street. This uprightness is vexing. How will we know what is approaching if we can’t feel the warning vibrations through the skin of our stomach? The forked tongue flickers out again, tasting the air. Our nostrils clench at the wretchedness of the air around us. Those people taste like a perverse combination of filth and misery. And they’re so moist.