Something was wrong.
Zari knew it, even as she fought against the nightmare that had engulfed her. Thrashing about in her mind as well as in the bed, she pushed herself to awaken. She was trapped in that gauzy middle ground between hard sleep and clarity.
And she was suffocating.
The snake was everywhere: over her, inside of her, shoving itself into her eyes, her mouth, her belly. A serpent bigger than she was, it filled most of the room. Couldn’t Emmett see it? Didn’t he hear the hissing, the horrible echoing of it that was hammering her ears? The air was heavy, tangible, too thick to breathe in and she struggled for air, arching her back in a desperate attempt to suck in oxygen. The gigantic serpent slid over her, releasing a sickening slurping sound with each movement. Zari could feel the slime dripping off of her. She shuddered, squeezing her eyes shut. It was melting into her, sealing its revolting body to hers with a scalding heat that made her cry out in agony. “No!” she cried out. “No, no, no!” The snake laughed, a hideous, wheezing sound that left goose bumps on her skin.
“Zari! You are one of us! You are one with us!”
“We are Slither! We are bound together!”
“I won’t! I won’t do this!”
Zari’s eyes snapped open and watched in terror as the face of the serpent dissolved into the face of the little girl, Kayde, smiling prettily. The face stretched and changed again, this time to a face once dear to Zari, one she hadn’t seen in many years. Chocolate brown hair buzzed short enough to show skin peeking through it. Short enough that it felt soft as the first sweet locks of an infant. Narrow violet eyes set in deep sockets with puffy dark pockets of flesh sitting immediately below them. A wide red mouth with deep, puckered lines about the lips. Impossibly straight, white teeth. Square chin. Nan’s features were older and seemed to have softened in some ways and in others looked harsh and wrinkled.
“N—Nan?” It couldn’t be possible. Could it?
“Child. You’ve been gone so long. You’ve got to come home now. It’s time for you to accept your gift,” Nan said, warm and inviting.
“I don’t want it. I won’t be like you, like Mama. I want to be normal,” Zari said, insistent.
“Normal? What, like this poor excuse of a man you’ve chosen to bed?”
“Leave Emmett out of this. I love him. I’m happy. He doesn’t know about… this, and he isn’t going to. Isn’t there any way I can get out of it?” Her voice was desperate, pleading.
“Get out of it? Renounce your bloodline? How do you propose to do that?” A harsh, barking laugh escaped Nan’s lips.
“I don’t know! Just… get it out of me!” Zari cried.
Suddenly, Nan was human again. Sitting atop Zari’s chest, she set about her grim task—wrapping a transparent film about Zari’s head. Horrified, Zari attempted to reach up to stop her, only to find her arms were cuffed to the bed. Digging the back of her head into the pillow, Zari screamed.
Nan wrapped the film tightly around Zari’s face, pulling hard as she stretched the film to wrap around her head one more time. Nan grinned broadly as she worked.
Emmett, Emmett, Emmett! Help me!
She was suffocating. There was no air, no air…
Valarie Savage Kinney is a writer and Ren fest junkie. She resides in Michigan with her husband, four children, and two insane little dogs. She is the author of Just Hold On, Slither, Heckled, and short stories in various anthologies.
Slither by Valarie Savage Kinney